As someone who is frequently approached by individuals in the real estate industry seeking a mentor, I often wish my colleagues were better prepared with guidelines and tips about how to seek to establish that relationship. Working with a mentor was a game-changer for our business, especially when we were just getting started. Our mentor worked with us to move the business forward and helped us to avoid some common mistakes, while offering a sense of stability in knowing that someone was there looking out for our best interests.
People often ask what they should look for in a mentor. I have found that experience is often one of the best teachers, and a good mentor can help you learn from both their successes and their failures. Several years of experience in the real estate industry is an important factor, as you want to learn from someone who has been through market changes and changes in the laws, and is adept at pivoting within their business when necessary.
Also consider if you are able to connect with the person you are seeking a mentorship with. Being able to work together and communicate easily are key. A good mentor is someone who can help you identify your strengths and work with you on your weaknesses.
What should you not do when seeking a mentor? Don’t contact someone you don’t know and ask to “take them to coffee and pick their brain.” As much as people think this is a good move, a real estate professional who knows what their time is worth often won’t be able to spend their valuable time with someone they don’t know for no clear purpose, no matter how well-intentioned they are. Instead, take some time to cultivate a relationship. See if there is anything that you can do that could be valuable to them, such as small tasks or business errands. If you’re a marketing whiz, offer some insight or tips that could be helpful to their firm. Assess what you can bring to the table in the relationship and use it as leverage.
A mentor relationship shouldn’t be one-sided. Remember, you are seeking them out for their valuable knowledge, so do your best to make sure the relationship is mutually beneficial. Don’t expect your mentor to give you all of the answers. A good mentor is there to be a guide, and to help where it’s needed. Make sure that you are continuing to self-educate and bringing ideas and possible solutions to anything that you need help with. When we were working with our mentor on our growing business, for example, we made sure we had found out as much as possible about the situation we were facing before approaching him with questions. This forced us to think through the problem ourselves and not just ask for someone to give us the answer.
Providing financial assistance is another way a mentor relationship could be beneficial. Our first mentor was not only an educational resource, but a financial one as well. While we did the legwork finding the deals, he was prepared with the funds to close them. Not only did he collect interest and a loan origination fee, he split the deal profits with us. Though this may seem a little unfair, we found it actually to be a great way for us to do deals with no risk on our part. It was also a great motivator to learn everything we could, which led us to do the deals on our own and retain more profit.
An effective mentor is a great resource for anyone in this business. By understanding the role they can play, not only will you gain valuable knowledge based on experience, but your business should grow exponentially.