Published on February 27, 2019

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

I was fortunate enough to have a number of great mentors who helped guide me and set me on the path to success when I was starting out in my career.

One of them, in particular, stands out because our relationship highlights a number of important points about finding the right mentor. We met after I spoke at a Rotary event and he decided to reach out to me. He was from Europe and his wife happened to be Swedish, as am I, so we were able to connect fairly quickly. Shortly after meeting him, I asked, “What can I do to help you?”

Now, this guy was incredibly successful. He had built two huge companies that he sold for millions. What he didn’t know how to do, however, was build a website. I did. So, I built him a website for free and told him he could just owe me one. It turned out his next door neighbor was a VP at Sony’s record label, and to “pay me back,” my mentor invited me to have a drink with his neighbor.

Next thing I knew, I was working on a project for Sony.

I’m not saying that you should automatically expect your mentor will connect you with someone important or give your career a major boost. But if you never put yourself out there and look for someone to have a mentor relationship with, you’re ensuring you’ll never have that opportunity.

Here’s how I’d recommend going about finding a mentor who will actually make an impact on your life:

1. Look for Someone Who Challenges You to Challenge Yourself

A great mentor doesn’t give you homework. They don’t sit you down, tell you exactly what you need to know and then send you off with some specific problems to solve. That’s more of a coach.

A mentor is someone who pushes you and opens up your perspectives. They help you perceive problems in new ways, so you can solve them on your own.


Let’s say you have a difficult decision to make. A good mentor doesn’t necessarily say, “Do x, y, and z.” They tell you about a time they experienced something similar and what they learned from the situation. They talk about the different ways you could approach this decision.

The way I look at it, if I tell someone something, I could be wrong. So if I’m mentoring someone, my job is to help them realize what they want to do, or how they can go about doing it.

The best mentors make you think by offering a point of view you didn’t already have.

2. Find a Mentor with Experience in Whatever You’re Trying to Achieve

Ideally, a mentor should have experience in the field you’re interested in—sales, marketing, corporate management, law, medicine, whatever. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time for both parties.

For instance, I have a couple friends who are plumbers. They’re great guys who are good at what they do, but I wouldn’t ask them for advice on building a software company.

That’s why before you even start looking for a mentor, you have to know what you want to achieve. You need clear goals that someone can actually help you with. Otherwise, you’ll connect with someone, they’ll ask how they can help you, and all you’ll have to say is, “Hm, I don’t know.”

It goes back to the old saying, “When the student is ready, the master will appear.” Once you have clarity on what you want to achieve, and you’ve set goals to work toward, it becomes much easier to find someone to help you.

3. Consider What You Can Offer Them Just as Much as What They Can Offer You

The mentor relationship isn’t a one-way street. No one, in any scenario, likes to continuously give to someone else without getting anything in return.


The big issue here is that most people who are looking for a mentor are young, and they feel like they don’t have anything to offer. I’ll say this a thousand times—you have something to offer. It just may not initially cross your mind that it’s something a potential mentor may need.

Take the example of the guy who introduced me to his neighbor at Sony. There’s no way I could have helped him with scaling a company or selling it, and it’s not like he needed my help with that in the first place. But he was an old school kind of guy—I don’t even know if he has a smartphone. There’s no way he could have built a website for himself.

You shouldn’t have to jump through hoops or make this into a transactional relationship. But you should attempt to offer something in return, even if it’s just your energy, enthusiasm, and hunger to learn.

4. Seek out People Who Are Successful Without Needing to Show It

Many people think of the “ideal” mentor as one of the many inspirational people they see online—someone like Gary Vaynerchuk or Tony Robbins.

Yes, those guys are very successful and would likely be great mentors. But they also get 10,000 emails a week asking them for advice and mentorship. Your message is going to be a drop of water coming out of a firehose.

Here’s the secret:

There are plenty of people out there who have been just as successful in life, but don’t have an Instagram account. They don’t have a Facebook profile because they have $300 million in the bank, and they’re not seeking any external validation. Their business isn’t necessarily built around a personal brand.

It may be a little more difficult to find these people online, but that’s the point. If they have a blog, read it. If they do regularly post on a specific site, follow them. Comment on their posts. Share what they write. Learn about what they’ve done and whether they might be a good fit for you as a mentor.

And then, once you’ve put in the effort to learn about this person, reach out to them.


5. Don’t Be Afraid of Reaching out or Being Rejected

So many people are terrified of reaching out to someone and asking for advice. And unfortunately, they allow the fear of being rejected to control their decision-making.

Never, ever, let fear rule anything in your life.

A former mentor of mine had a unique take on rejection. He told me,

“I actually love rejection because I look at it like harvesting pearls. Sometimes I have to open 99 oysters to find a pearl in the 100th. Which means every ‘no’ I get brings me closer to a ‘yes.’”

Start your search with something quick and easy. “Hey, I really enjoyed your article. I had a question about something you wrote. Can I email you?” If they say yes, ask away. Maybe send them an article on the topic you think might interest them.

And like that, you’re having a conversation with someone you admire.

The important thing to remember is that when people do reject your outreach, it’s almost never about you. It may simply have been the wrong time — maybe their dog was sick, maybe they had a big family vacation planned, or maybe they were just busy.

There are so many variables in people’s lives that it’s crazy to beat yourself up because someone didn’t want to be your mentor.


6. Realize the Best Mentorships Turn into Friendships over Time

When I was younger and building a career for myself, I had what most people think of as a classic mentor relationship with older people in my field.

Now that I’ve had some success and gotten a little older, the relationships I have with people have changed to a degree. It’s no longer a formal mentor relationship—I think of it like having very successful friends that I ask for advice from time to time.

Successful People Attract Other Successful People

Instead of seeking out mentors, it becomes more about surrounding yourself with people that are much smarter than you and showing them you actually have something to offer.

And as you get a little older and more successful, you’re going to start seeing familiar emails show up in your inbox. Except for this time, you’ll be the one answering:

“Hey, I really liked that article you wrote. Would love to pick your brain on something if you’ve got a few minutes…”

More Resources for Entrepreneurs

Featured photo credit: NESA by Makers via

More by this author

Sami Rusani

A serial entrepreneur with several multi-million dollar businesses

Advice for Entrepreneurs: How To Find A Mentor Worth Listening To

Trending in Smartcut

1 How to Be a Leader Who Is Inspiring and Influential 2 How to Use Sticky Notes for More Productive Reading And Learning 3 How to Lead Team Meetings in the Most Productive Way 4 8 Critical Skills for Workplace Success and Career Advancement 5 How to Use Debt Snowball to Get out from a Financial Avalanche

Read Next


Last Updated on March 12, 2019

20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated)

20 Inspiring Vision Statement Examples (2019 Updated)

There is normally a lengthy list of things you need to consider when starting a business, and if you don’t manage them properly, your excitement can quickly turn into overwhelm. What can support you to stay inspired and on the right track when starting out? You guessed it: this is your vision statement.

What Is a Vision Statement?

A vision statement is like a photograph of your future business, which gives your business shape and direction.

A vision statement provides the direction and describes what the founder wants the organization to achieve in the future; it’s more about the “what” of a business. It is different from a mission statement, which describes the purpose of an organization and more about the “how” of a business.

If you were to take a photo of your future business now, what would it look like? What do you want your business to be recognized for one day?

You need to have a crystal clear vision when you start out, otherwise you can get easily lost in deciding the best way forward. When you are making strategic decisions for your business and even daily operation decisions, your vision statement will give you the inspiration and targeted direction you need.

The Importance of a Vision Statement

Without a vision statement, your business will lack motivation to keep going.

If you don’t aim for anything, you might not hit anything. The more specific and clear you are, the better your chances are at seeing your vision turn into reality.

The importance of a vision statement cannot be overlooked; not only does it provide long term direction and guidance, but it also gives you the inspiration and the necessary energy to keep going when you feel lost.

Always keep your vision statement alive by revisiting it regularly and communicating your vision with other members of the team, to inspire and motivate them as well.

How to Craft an Inspiring Vision Statement

1. Dream big and use clear language

An inspiring vision statement should inform a clear direction and priorities for the organization, while challenging all the team members to grow together. Based on our expert sources’ advice, we’ve got some great tips for you:

  • Imagine how you want the business to be like in five to ten years.
  • Infuse the business’ values in the statement.
  • Make sure that the statement is implying a clear focus for the business.
  • Write your vision statement in the present tense.
  • Use clear and concise language.
  • Ensure the statement is easily understood.

There are many different types of vision statements and there is no wrong or right way to do it. The most important thing is to resonate with it. It will always inspire you and give you a clear targeted direction.

2. Get inspirations from the successful companies.

Having researched on a number of successful companies’ vision statements, I’ve shortlisted 20 good examples for the new startups:

Short vision statements made up of a few words only:

1. Disney

To make people happy.

2. Oxfam

A just world without poverty.

3. Ikea

To create a better every day life for the many people.

Quantitative statements are based on numbers, quantities:

4. Microsoft

Empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

    5. Nike

    Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world. (*If you have a body, you are an athlete.)

      Qualitative statements are based on qualities that you want to have:

      6. Ford

      People working together as a lean, global enterprise to make people’s lives better through automotive and mobility leadership.

      7. Avon

      To be the company that best understands and satisfies the product, service and self-fulfillment needs of women—globally.

      Competitor based statements – this type is becoming less common, but famous examples are:

      8. Honda – in 1970

      We will destroy Yamaha.

      9. Nike – in 1960s

      Crush Adidas.

        10. Philip Morris – in 1950s

        Knock off RJR as the number one tobacco  company in the world.

        Role Model Vision Statements – using another company as an example:

        11. Stanford University – in the past

        To become the Harvard of the West.

        12. Reach for Success – in the past

        To become the next Tony Robbins in self development.

        Internal Transformations vision statements:

        13. Apple

        To produce high-quality, low cost, easy to use products that incorporate high technology for the individual.

        14. Giro Sport Design

        To make sure that riding is the best part of a great life.

        15. Tesla

        To accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

        16. Sony

        To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.

        17. Facebook

        To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

          Longer and more detailed vision statement:

          18. Walmart

          To give customers a wide assortment of their favorite products, Every Day Low Prices, guaranteed satisfaction, friendly service, convenient hours (24 hours, 7 days a week) and a great online shopping experience.


          19. Coca Cola

          To achieve sustainable growth, we have established a vision with clear goals:

          Profit: Maximizing return to share owners while being mindful of our overall responsibilities.

          People: Being a great place to work where people are inspired to be the best they can be.

          Portfolio: Bringing to the world a portfolio of beverage brands that anticipate and satisfy peoples; desires and needs.

          Partners: Nurturing a winning network of partners and building mutual loyalty.

          Planet: Being a responsible global citizen that makes a difference.

            20. Heinz

            Our VISION, quite simply, is to be: “The World’s Premier Food Company, Offering Nutritious, Superior Tasting Foods To People Everywhere.” Being the premier food company does not mean being the biggest but it does mean being the best in terms of consumer value, customer service, employee talent, and consistent and predictable growth.

            The Bottom Line

            Remember, always keep your vision statement up-to-date to direct your company’s actions.

            Remember, once you reach your vision, it needs to be changed. General Motors overtook Ford as #1 automotive company in the world because once Ford’s goal was reached, they never updated it.

            Keep your vision statement alive and visibly in front of you, revisit it and let it help direct your actions and activities. This is the fun part: this is where you get to dream really big and allow your imagination to fly as high as you want.

            Don’t hold back, let your creative juices flow and give yourself permission to explore what is possible for your business.


            To your success!

            Read Next