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How—And How Not—to Find a Mentor

By: Tim Berry


So you want a mentor to help you start or grow your business? 

Never ask somebody to be your mentor.
Instead, ask a person who might be a mentor a specific question. Find a question an expert can answer quickly without having a lot of specific knowledge about your case in detail. Make it a question that’s interesting or even fun to answer. 
If you get an answer, follow quickly with thanks. And follow not so quickly with another question, ideally a follow-up to that first question. After that, another question. Find a way to show thanks—testimonials are nice—and keep asking. But go slow.
The best mentoring I’ve seen happened without the formal label “mentoring.” Nobody asked anybody to go steady, nobody gave anybody a ring. Thoughts were shared and advice given, and it was clearly helpful.  
And my apologies to the exceptions. I’m sure some formal mentorship programs work. Volunteer mentors always have good intentions. There are exceptions to every rule. Still, what I’ve seen in practice is this: 
Mentorship is far more likely when it isn’t formally packaged as mentorship
This article was originally published by Tim Berry
Published: December 23, 2013

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Tim Berry

Tim Berry is co-founder of Have Presence, founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software, founder of bplans.com, and a co-founder of Borland International. He is author of books and software including LivePlan and Business Plan Pro, The Plan-As-You-Go Business Plan, and Lean Business Planning, published by Motivational Press in 2015. He has a Stanford MBA degree and degrees with honors from the University of Oregon and the University of Notre Dame. He taught starting a business at the University of Oregon for 11 years.

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