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As an eBay seller, there are several places you can turn to learn new skills to grow your business: your fellow sellers on social media and at Meetups around the country, eBay’s Seller Center, seller Facebook groups and YouTube tutorials, and even this blog. But sometimes, you need more than that.
Enter, the mentor. A mentor is more than a colleague who offers advice. He or she is a source of wisdom, guidance, and support, counseling you, sharing hard-earned knowledge, and helping you tackle challenges or navigate the sometimes choppy waters of entrepreneurship.
For many business owners, a mentor relationship helps them grow in ways they never expected and can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Here’s why you should consider finding a mentor and how you can get the most out of the relationship.
Why You Need a Mentor
“Having a mentor is like having a fast-forward button,” says Rob Kessler, a salesman, real estate investor, startup CEO, and the inventor of the Million Dollar Collar. “The reason to find a mentor is to get advice from someone who has been there and done that. They can usually bring an outside perspective that you aren't seeing. As a businessman, I intentionally put myself in rooms with people that are way smarter than I am.”
A mentor can be part coach, part guru, part teacher, part sage. While their role can vary depending on your needs and the relationship you’ve established, in most cases, a mentor is there to help you grow and succeed in your work. To do that, a mentor can offer you perspective and understanding, advice from their own experience, assistance with networking, or accountability to ensure you follow through on your goals and plans.
“The biggest value of a mentor for me is accountability,” says Tim Brown, owner and marketer at the Hook Agency. “Yes, I may set aggressive goals for myself, but I need things like mentors and mastermind groups to keep myself constantly thinking about key goals, why they matter for my business, and my progress against them.”
How to Find a Mentor
First, think about what you want to get from your mentor, as this will impact who’ll be the best fit. For example, if you’re confident in your selling skills but want to expand your business and need to improve your managerial abilities, it’s less important that you find a mentor who sells on eBay and more important that you find one skilled in building and managing successful teams.
Your mentor doesn’t even have to live close by; you can meet virtually via Facetime, Google Hangouts, Skype, and other tools.
As for where to look, there are numerous places to find the perfect mentor. Many experts recommend starting in your industry—even looking at your indirect competition—or asking your family, friends, community, and extended network for recommendations. You can check with your college alumni group, search the Senior Corps Of Retired Executives (SCORE), or reach out to other sellers, business owners, and entrepreneurs you admire.
Social media is another great place to find a mentor. If you’re in a group of eBay sellers, look to those who’ve offered you great advice in the past.
“I went about looking for a mentor through social media,” says Deborah Sawyerr, a money literacy educator for kids. “I contacted and engaged with entrepreneurs like myself, but very specifically with those who had been in business for more time than I had been."
The best mentor/mentee relationships are built on trust, commitment, and honesty. A little chemistry—feeling like you click—is also good, but some mentees even suggest you find a mentor whom you have little in common with so that you’re exposed to a wildly different perspective. And some people find that it’s best to have a few different mentors for different areas of focus.
Experienced mentees also recommend that you take your time in developing the relationship. It’s wise to have a few informational meetings before you dive right into a formal mentorship agreement.
“Not every mentor is going to be the perfect fit and sometimes it can take a few different mentors to find the right one for you,” explains Joe Pardo, author of "Sales Won't Save Your Business" and host of "The Business Podcast."
How to Get the Most of Out of Working with a Mentor
It’s important to remember that your mentor is not your boss, your friend, or your therapist. They’re not there to tell you exactly what to do and solve your problems for you; they’re there to give you guidance, advice, and tools that help you figure out how to solve your own problems. They should inspire you and motivate you, and they should be willing to give it to you straight—no sugar coating—when you need to hear the hard truths.
Many mentors and mentees say they feel the most productive when they work towards specific goals.
“Come to the session with your successes and failures from the past week, as well as one set goal you’d like to accomplish in the upcoming week, “ says professional women's counselor Heidi McBain. “We’ve learned that setting one goal was better than setting a bunch because we were able to be super-focused on that one goal and make it happen.”
Experts also suggest that you set very clear expectations around your relationship. You don’t need a legal contract, but outlining your commitment and expectations ahead of time ensures everyone is on the same page. An agreement should include the expectations for time commitment each week or month, the expected length of the relationship, and what you each want to get from it.
“In order to make the most of the mentoring relationship, there must be clear guidelines on what the expectations are,” says Deborah Sawyerr, who is also a mentor. “These expectations by both parties must be clearly written in an agreement/contract.”
And don’t skimp on your responsibilities, she adds. “I would also say that the mentee must complete any assignments given by the mentor, whether it relates to doing desktop or fieldwork research or reading books.”
What Your Mentor Wants You to Know
Once you’ve found a mentor willing to generously share his or her time, knowledge, connections, and hard-earned wisdom, it’s your responsibility to be a good mentee.
Be teachable; you don’t always have to take your mentor’s advice, but if you’re going to ignore any guidance they give you because you think you know better, there’s no point in having a mentor.
Remember, a mentorship is not a one-way street, and you need to offer something to your mentor as well. "Take a genuine interest in their work, and apply the insights they have shared with you, and then update them on the progress or lack thereof," said entrepreneur Syed Irfan Ajmal.
Respect their time, and don’t waste it. Come to any meetings or calls prepared with what you want to talk about and any updates or “homework” from last time. And, be enthusiastic and appreciative; no one wants to mentor someone who doesn’t seem engaged or excited about the relationship.
“It's often misinterpreted that the mentor is the individual driving the conversation, but I see that responsibility as falling onto the mentee,” said Jane Scudder, a certified leadership, personal development, and career transition coach. “Keep in mind, your mentor is offering you their time and thoughts for free, so be mindful of that and thoughtful about your engagement.”
How You Get Some of the Benefits of a Mentor Without One
While a one-on-one relationship with a mentor can be extremely valuable, sometimes it’s just not feasible. If time or other factors preclude that possibility, there are other ways to get some of the benefits of a mentor.
Find an “accountability buddy” or group. Make a plan to check in with one another on your goals on a weekly basis so that you are accountable for your progress.
Ask sellers you admire to meet for coffee (virtually or in person) a few times a year. In as little as 20-30 minutes you can get meaningful advice about a particular problem you’re facing.
And, of course, participate in the eBay community by attending eBay Open or local meetups, exchanging advice in the eBay Community forums and on social media, and checking out our new YouTube channel, Selling on eBay, for more great tips, tutorials, and inspiring stories to help grow your business!
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