The biggest catalyst on my path to success has been mentorship.
Since I found my first mentor in 2008, my businesses have grown exponentially.
Sometimes mentors give you new ideas; more often, they remove roadblocks. Sometimes those roadblocks are in our business, and often they’re in our head.
For example, my first mentor told me “Don’t buy advertising; you’re not ready for it.” he meant that my business wasn’t something I should be proud to show off to potential clients. Even if I figured out how to advertise well, I’d probably turn off my best clients as soon as they walked into my front doors. So first, we removed the barriers to good business. We stopped doing the stuff that turned good clients off. We systemized everything to make sure I was delivering at a high standard all the time, even when I wasn’t there. Then we started building trust in the marketplace. It was another decade before I spent a dollar on advertising. By that point, I was testing strategies for other gyms.
For the last 15 years, I’ve almost always had a 1:1 mentor. I’ve participated in masterminds, had specific coaches, but always paid someone to help me set goals, build a plan and stay on course. I pay between $100,000 and $250,000 per year, but the ROI is unmeasurable (though it’s in the millions.)
Working with a mentor is a two-way street. These are professionals whose time is almost always worth more than my time; who have done the hard (and sometimes boring) work to get where they are. They are not my personal assistant – they are not going to do the work for me. They are not Google–they’re not going to go seeking answers that I can easily find myself. They see things that I don’t; they remove obstacles in advance; and they stop me from taking wrong turns that would waste time and money. But to get that benefit, I have to be a good client. Over the last 15 years, I’ve learned that, to get a great return on mentorship, I have to be a good mentee. I have to be coachable. Here are my top tips:
- Focus. Show up to mentor conversations in your best possible state. I used to take a skipping rope with me when I drove to our meetings. I’d skip for 3 minutes in the parking lot to prime my brain. Obviously, if you’re driving while talking, or listening to a voice message while you’re working out, you are distracted. You’re probably not going to get anything out of that conversatoin, and you’re wasting your time and theirs.
- Plan the work. When you commit to mentorship, you’re committing yourself to their schedule. You’re not going to work in their assignments – you’re going to prioritize their assignments. I once killed a whole weekend writing my staff playbook. I didn’t want to do it, but I didn’t want to disappoint the mentor – or waste my money.
I usually set aside 1 hour every day to grow my business. This hour is often spent on specific instructions from my mentor, because nothing else I do will have greater effect than the work they give me.
- Ask. When I’m unclear on a step, I ask. When I’m not exactly sure what they mean, I ask. When they say “do you understand?” and I don’t understand, I ask. When I’m not sure how the assignment connects with my ultimate goal, I ask. Sometimes I ask for an example or a story or a template or a connection that will make the work easier. I keep asking until I understand exactly what I have to do, and why.
- When I know what to do, I go do it right away. If I’ve booked a 40-minute call with my mentor, and I get clarity and direction at the 20-minute mark, I end the call and start working. I use the call to give me momentum, not to fill the time. Good mentors understand and encourage this practice; bad mentors want to “fill the hour” with more brainstorming, ideas or small talk.
- Take good notes. Ask the mentor to stop talking while you write, if you have to. They will absolutely understand; they won’t think you’re dumb.
- Ask for referrals. Nobody is an expert at everything. When I was rebuilding our curriculum, I asked my mentor (Carrie), “who is the best in the world at this?” And she sent me to someone she knew. I worked with him on curriculum while I continued to focus on the big picture with Carrie. Good mentors aren’t encyclopedias; they’re rolodexes. They don’t know everything. They do know a lot of people.
- Adopt a “beginner’s mind”. At this stage, my business is larger than most mentors I hire. However, if I carry the attitude that I know more than they do, or that I’m better than they are, I will get zero return on my time and money. I’ll basically be paying to exercise my ego.
Instead, I cultivate a Beginner’s Mind, because I know that if I learn ONE thing, or make one little connection, it’s worth the price of mentorship ten times over…and I can keep that thing forever.
Every entrepreneur can benefit form mentorship. The best entrepreneurs do. And the ones who get the most from mentorship are the most coachable. If you want to find a mentor, click here and select “Find a Mentor”.