One of the common questions that comes up on this site and in many of the meetings with investors that I attend is the topic of mentors. Many people, especially those getting started, want to find a mentor. Some of the common questions that I hear are:
- What is a mentor?
- How do I find a mentor?
- What qualities should a mentor have?
- Should I pay for a mentor?
In this post, I’m going to walk through an answer to these common questions. Hopefully it will help you decide if a mentor is right for you and give you some ideas for how to find one.
What is a Mentor?
men·torˈmenˌtôr,-tər/an experienced and trusted adviser.
How Do I Find a Mentor?
If you are in the middle ages, a blacksmith might be a good place to start. But if you are in the 21st century, there are many great places to find one. One common piece of advice that I offer people is to look at the places where successful people who are doing what you want to do hang out. For real estate investors, below are a few good ones.
Real Estate Investor Association (REIA) Meetings
I’m not sure why I make these correlations, but I see REIA meetings as the equivalent to the source of water in the animal kingdom. All the animals come to the water to drink, then disappear off and do their own thing. But every so often they come back for another drink.
To be honest, when I started off in real estate investing, I attended our local REIA every month. As I became more knowledgeable and more focused on actually doing deals, I attended less often. I recently attended again and am trying to make a more focused effort to attend in the future. This is not uncommon. Many of the successful real estate investors will be out doing deals and won’t always be at the meetings. With that said, most meetings are made up of some very experienced investors, some mid-level ones and many newbies. So it could be a great place to find someone to mentor you.
I think of BiggerPockets as a virtual REIA meeting. There are lots of investors with various levels of knowledge. We as a community get together to share information with one another with the podcasts, forums, blogs and various other tools. This is a great way to find investors who are doing what you are doing, but also local investors using the BiggerPockets Meet tool.
Most people have pretty big networks, especially if they consider their second level network of friends of friends. There is a good chance that someone either in your 1st or 2nd level network is doing what you want to do and may want to be a mentor.
What Qualities Should a Mentor Have?
- Willingness to share information – Your mentor must be willing to share information, experience and guidance. If they are not open to that, move on. All the information in the world will not help if it is kept from you.
- Experience in your area of interest – It is important for your mentor to have experience in what they are mentoring you on. One of my biggest complaints about some college professors was that they had spent all of their time in the classroom and very little time in the real world. What is good in theory may or may not work when actually implemented.
- Success in your area of interest – I look at mentors as being where I want to be and helping me get there. As a result, I like them to be a few steps ahead of me and doing what I want to be doing and showing success while doing it.
- Failure in your area of interest – This one of often overlooked but probably my favorite. We all fail and successful people often fail more often. A ton of learning and growth can come from failure, and I believe you don’t truly know someone until you have seen them fail. In terms of real estate, everyone looked like a genius before the 2007/2008 real estate crash. All you had to do was purchase a house at market value and wait a few months. The truly successful people are the ones who survived the crash (even though they probably had some failures) and were able to rise up and still succeed with their business. If your mentor has not had some major failures, be vary.
- Trust & Honesty – A relationship between a mentor and a mentee is very important. I have mentored countless people over the years, and I always start out by being completely open and honest with my mentees. I share my successes, my failures and some personal details. To have a successful relationship, it is important to have trust and honestly. There are times where I have to disagree or give brutal feedback to a mentee, and if there is not trust then the relationship can take a downward turn pretty quick,
- Ability to Inspire – Your mentor should inspire and motivate you. If you do not look forward to talking to your mentor or if they do not make you want to achieve success, find one who does. This inspiration is crucial to driving towards success and achieving your “Why”.
Please note that there are many other great qualities for mentors, but those are some of my top ones.
Should I Pay For a Mentor?
There are strong thoughts on both sides of this argument. I believe that more often than not it is beneficial to pay for a mentor, and here are some reasons why.
- Personal Accountability – Why do lenders typically require 20% down payment on a house? It’s so that you have some accountability and “skin in the game”. The same goes for having a mentor. If you are not paying for a mentor, you may not be as accountable. If you have to pay, you will be more likely to take action and focus on getting mentored.
- Your Mentor’s Time is Valuable – If your mentor is successful, then their time is probably very valuable. I only dedicated a certain portion of my time to work, and the rest is spent with my family. If a mentor is spending an hour mentoring someone every week, that is an hour that they are not making money working on my business. Be cognizant of this and pay them for what they are worth because they are taking time away from their business.
- What You Bring to the Table - In most cases a mentor is someone who is “further ahead” than you. Especially if you are just starting out, you will most likely not bring a lot of value to a mentor/mentee relationship. As a result it may be difficult to find someone to take time away from their business to mentor you. Paying for a mentor is a way to bring some value.
- Investing in Yourself – A trait of successful people is constantly learning and investing in themselves. These investments can be with traditional college, reading books, purchasing online courses, etc. The important thing is to set aside time and money each year to improve. Paying a mentor to learn is no different than paying for any of these other mediums of learning.
- Business Write-off – Just like other expenses that are needed for your business can be a tax write-off, money spent on training and education can be as well. Look at this money as the cost of doing business and growing your business.
With that said, not everyone needs to pay for a mentor. Some mentors may offer their services for free, especially if they are successful and do not need the money. They may benefit from giving back and paying it forward, especially if someone helped them. Additionally, you may be able to have a free mentor if you can provide them some value back. For example, you help your mentor run some aspect of their business for free in exchange for mentoring. Not only are you learning about how their business is run, but you get direct mentorship from them. Other times, especially as you become more experienced, you can join a Mastermind group. A Mastermind is like a group of mentors, with each person bringing value to the group and helping other members of the group.
Full Disclosure: I do charge my mentees. I didn’t used to, but for the reasons I listed above I decided to switch. I feel like it has been a win-win scenario for the reasons mentioned. One of my goals in life is to be financially free enough that I can mentor various students without charging and help them achieve their dreams, but I am not there yet. If I did not charge, it would be taking time away from my business and money out of my pocket, and I am not sure that I could be able to mentor people and focus on it like I do. Even at that point, I may charge them, but then invest the money back into their business. There is a lot of power to having skin in the game.
Do you have any tips/experiences from working with mentors that you can share? Do you think you should pay for a mentor?