Today’s Biz Ladies post comes from Jackie Trepanier, the founder of Cultivated Coaching, a leading executive coaching service for professionals. Jackie works one-on-one with those ready to develop a plan for the next chapter of their businesses, careers and lives, and today she is sharing some of her expertise on how to establish relationships with business advisors and mentors. Thank you, Jackie, for this helpful advice! — Stephanie
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Building a business is an exciting, challenging and fulfilling journey. For many entrepreneurs, the road is filled with lessons that only experience and time can bring. While you can’t fast forward through every lesson, establishing relationships with advisors and mentors can go a long way toward expanding your business savvy. The experience, expertise and insight shared by business advisors can be invaluable to starting and managing your business or breaking through growth ceilings.
The first step to establishing a relationship with an advisor is to cast your net to identify the right candidates. To find the right advisor for you and your business, consider the following:
1. Ask friends, family and colleagues to open their network and make introductions.
Friends, family and colleagues are a rich source for introducing you to other successful business people. The people who know you best will very likely have great business contacts. Identify the type of experience and expertise you’re looking for in an advisor, share that information with your contacts and ask people in your network to make introductions to the people in their networks.
2. Follow local trade publications, magazines and newspapers to identify potential advisors and mentors.
Local publications are a rich source for helping you to become familiar with key people in your area. Subscribe to local publications and watch for trends, causes and people of interest. Once you’ve identified people who would be valuable mentors to you, investigate to see if you may already belong to similar organizations or share mutual contacts. Leverage your existing connections to make introductions.
3. Connect with business people of interest through social media channels.
You’re already using social media channels to grow your business, and the same channels are great ways to connect with potential advisors. Once you’ve become familiar with key people in your area, connect with them through social media. Reach out to them and make an introduction. As you may have already experienced, established business owners enjoy connecting with and supporting other business owners. They appreciate support and new “follows” just as much as you.
What to Look for in an Advisor
1. Find someone you genuinely like and trust.
This is the most important criteria for selecting an advisor. You have to want to work with your advisor, and you should be excited for your next meeting with him or her. The recipe for a great advisor match is one part “investor,” as you and your advisor will both be investing time in your relationship, one part “confidant” and one part “advocate.”
2. Similarity in skill set and background isn’t required.
If you’re a visionary and your strengths include coming up with the BIG ideas, seek out an advisor who is great at the details. If you’re a detail diva, seek out someone who has great vision. There is tremendous benefit to seeking out an advisor who is a different gender and ethnicity than your own.
The key point here is to establish a relationship with an advisor who possesses strengths and background unlike your own. Complementary skill sets and diversity in background will allow you and your advisor to look at your business and challenges from unique perspectives. You will benefit from working with someone who sees your business from an entirely different vantage point than your own.
3. Similar industry and niche expertise is valuable but not required.
While it can be valuable to work with an advisor who shares experience in your business’s industry or niche, it shouldn’t be a requirement. Business is business. An advisor who comes from an industry or area of expertise different than your own can lend you fresh perspective.
4. Seek out an advisor who will challenge, inspire and champion you.
Selecting an advisor who pushes you outside your comfort zone can be a great thing. Focus on finding someone who is at the level you aspire to be, not where you are now. You will learn faster and grow in bigger ways as a result.
How to Develop a Relationship with Your Advisor
1. Design the relationship with your advisor by sharing what you need from each other.
I like to describe the process of forming the relationship as “designing.” In the early days of becoming acquainted with your mentor, you should both openly share why the relationship is important to you, how you would like to see it develop and what areas of focus are most important to you. I also recommend that you share with each other your communication styles, including how you like to receive feedback. Your mentor will be a trusted source, and the relationship should be one where you can talk openly about business and personal matters. If you design the relationship in this way right from the start, it will be easy to share personal experiences.
2. Nurture the relationship as you would your business, and give it time to develop.
As with any important relationship or business, it takes time to develop. The beginning stages of a relationship are both exciting and, at times, awkward. The most important thing to remember is to be YOU. You most likely went into business to be the person you most want to be. Show up the same way you would for any important relationship, and give it time to grow and develop.
3. Consider your advisor’s guidance and feedback with an open mind and heart.
As part of a strong advisor relationship, there should be room for you both to challenge and champion each other. You don’t have to put all the advice you receive into action; however, it is beneficial to thoughtfully consider the guidance you receive. While we may not be able to see our own blind spots, we can leverage others who can.
I am always interested in hearing from other business owners who work with mentors, advisors and coaches. Please feel free to reach out to me to share your experience! You can email me directly at email@example.com, or you can find me on Twitter at @JackieTrepanier.