8 Qualities to Seek in a Business Mentor

Hey, thanks for taking the time to meet with me. I have a favor to ask.

Owning my own business is relatively new to me. I’m figuring things out as I go. And since I work from home, I don’t have the chance to seek feedback and discuss options with coworkers. So I was thinking that I could use a business mentor. Someone to help me avoid some of the pitfalls of entrepreneurship.

Maybe that someone could be you.

Here are the 8 qualities I’m looking for in a business mentor:

1. Has a genuine interest in my success.

The mentor must be willing to commit to helping me. You are interested in seeing me do well. And I’m asking you to make an investment in my future.

So you’re not looking for compensation. You’re not a coach or a consultant, and I’m not a client. Not that there is anything wrong with that. The mentor is a long term, career development resource. Coaches are hired to supervise specific performance goals. We’re working toward something bigger.

2. Demands an investment from me.

I will make the commitment as well. I don’t want to waste your time and effort. The best way to ensure that is to give me a list of deliverables or benchmarks. Assign me tasks to accomplish with deadlines and hold me accountable to them.

I’m not recruiting someone to work for me. It is on me to do the heavy lifting required to be a successful business owner.

3. Can agree on a framework.

We need to define this relationship. In addition to the deliverables you assign me, we need to figure out how often we’re going to meet. And we should have some rules surrounding what to expect from each other. Finally, there should be some way to tell if this is working for both of us.

4. Meets my definition of success.

You have been running a business on the Internet for a few years. You’re not rich — and I want to be able to say (at least) the same thing about my business. That is how I define the success of this venture.

I know other people have a different definition of success and look for someone who’s aligned with them on that. Fair enough. That’s just not what I want right now.

5. Has the right personality.

There is not a singular “good mentor” personality — although being a skilled observer and strong listener count for a lot in my book. But I’m not sure if I need you to tell me the answers I need or if you need to coax them out of me. Let’s see how this works. Of course, what works for me may not work for another person.

There is a chance we’re not right for each other. That doesn’t say anything about the quality of either personality. It’s just that mentoring is a tricky relationship. Sometimes you need to move on. So let’s try to leave our egos out of it when we assess how it’s going.

6. Can be honest.

I know I said there isn’t really a single personality type that fits the mold here. But being able to deliver honest feedback is a must. I have to be able to trust your advice. And I have to have the guts to hear it and absorb it even when it isn’t what I want to hear.

Of course this won’t work if I’m not honest and open with you, either. It’s disrespectful to you and won’t yield any advice worth following.

7. Can be outside my industry.

Right now I’m seeking someone doing the same work I do. But I recognize that business owners of all sorts have experience and insights that I would find valuable. It is possible for me to have more than one mentor. To maximize the benefit, other mentors should bring different experiences and qualities to the relationship. This can work if the other mentors match my definition of success and fit with my personality.

8. Will not make my business successful.

That’s on me. This is why I’m working for myself. I have control over my success and failures. As a mentor, you can be part of that success with your feedback and direction.

So…when can you start?


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Carl Natale is a freelance blogger who writes about tips and advice for small businesses. He runs the site Expensiccino.com - a site about how top brands set their prices.


  1. Arnór on the 17th November

    1., 3. and 6. Those are my favorites. Great post. I’ve never looked at it this way.

  2. Bryce Christiansen on the 17th November

    Hi Carl,

    I really liked the perspective you gave. I couldn’t agree more with your points. I have some powerful mentors and each of the qualities you mentioned are present in them.

    I think another quality to look for could be “They are a researcher/reporter and results maker” I guess it’s more like two qualities, but those two can really help you find the true experts that can help mentor you.

  3. Pengar att Tjäna on the 17th November

    Interesting read, I’ve been thinking a lot about getting myself a mentor lately. Don’t know where or how to find one though…

  4. Karen on the 18th November

    Any advice on where to find such amazing people?! I sure could do with one of these!

  5. Killer on the 18th November

    I’ve been mentoring a writer, and sometimes it’s hard to keep enough distance to let her do the hard work. As a mentor, I want her to succeed so bad, and my gain in this is confirmation that I didn’t just get lucky. If I can help her recreate my success, well, I guess I’ve got a book to write, haven’t I? So pulling back to remain objective and only serve as a guide is challenging. The hardest thing to teach is patience and one step at a time. You can’t start at step six because you’ll suck at it if you don’t do steps 2,3 and 5 first…

    #5 is a great way to look at every business relationship you have.

  6. Killer on the 18th November

    Stay connected, ask lots of questions and always keep a positive attitude. Sooner or later you will impress someone enough that he or she will take an interest in you. I became a mentor for a textbroker writer when I kicked her off my favorites list. She wrote to ask why and if she could do anything to improve. I wrote back that it just didn’t meet the style I needed. She persisted in asking if I would mind reviewing a revised version, which I did, which was much improved. I gave her another shot and the relationship just developed naturally. Right now we’re working on getting her profile site and samples in shape so she can move on to better-paying jobs.

    The relationship has to benefit both sides, though. Because I have been wanting to write a book on how I established my career, she was the perfect person for me to test my ideas on. That way, I could tweak my plan and find out if what worked for me will only work for me, or if it is a good formula for anyone to accomplish what I set out to do.

  7. RIkki on the 22nd November

    Hello Carl,

    Love you post. What you are looking for sounds very reasonable. My company has a consulting program you may be interested in. Our philosophy is, your success is our success, so we may be just what you are looking for. Please let me know if I can answer any questions for you.


  8. Mike on the 27th April

    Carl, did you ever end up finding a good business mentor? I’ve heard a lot of horror stories recently that make me hesitant. Like anyone, I guess, I just want to be sure I’m not spending like $600 per hour for no reason. Any tips?

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