Successful mentoring relationships are about more than the “one-off” approach, it’s about building a long-term relationship, instead of just asking for one piece of advice.

Why focus on building relationships? Because the better you get to know someone, the more likely they will be willing and able to help you.

I recently spoke about the importance of mentoring relationships with George Vukotich, Founder of Fintank, a fin-tech incubator for startups. Here’s what we spoke about…

To get started there are things that you need to do…

Before You Meet

You need to be prepared for each mentoring meeting. Take two steps back and really analyze that specific problem that you’re trying to solve. Just saying, “I need to grow my business faster” isn’t enough. WHY do you need to grow your business faster and WHY isn’t it growing as fast as you would like? What specific hurdles are you facing?

Once you know what problem you’re asking for help with, research the person that you’re going to meet. How did they get successful and how does their life and business experience relate to your business? Find some common ground to kick off the conversation.

Successful people are busy and don’t have a lot of time to offer. The more prepared you are, the more successful your meetings will be.

During Your Meeting

Here’s an outline for your meeting agenda:

Mentees should share:

  1. Here’s the specific problem I’m facing
  2. Here’s what I’ve tried so far to solve it, and here’s what IS and ISN’T working.
  3. Here’s what I THINK might help solve it

Mentors should also be prepared. They need to help the mentee clearly articulate the problem they are facing by asking questions like:

  • “What are you hoping to get out of this meeting?”
  • “What are you trying to accomplish?”
  • “How do you plan to reach a solution, and how can I best help you get there?”

After your meeting THANK the person that helped you and take action with the advice that they shared.

Follow up by telling them what new results you’re getting and where you still need help. That will create an ongoing relationship.

Leverage Events to Find Mentors

There are a lot of networking events out there, many of them with hundreds of random people in a bar. Those aren’t the best ones to attend.

Pick events around the topic that you need help with. Chances are that other people at the event are also interested in the same topic.

Connect with the speakers and sponsors at the event and let them know that you’re looking for (insert problem/solution here) and that you’d like to talk with them about it after the event, even a 20-minute phone call would be great. Busy people are more likely to connect for a 20-minute phone call vs. a one-hour in-person meeting for coffee. (If they accept an offer for coffee, great – but don’t insist on it.)

With these guidelines you’re ready to start creating productive mentoring experiences!