Are You Looking For a Mentor? Are You Sure?

10 Replies

At least once a day these days, I'll get a PM, email or phone call from someone who starts the conversation with something like this:

I'm very interested in getting started in real estate investing and am looking for a mentor...

Typically, the next line is a request for me to mentor them.

To help all of the new investors who have done this (or are planning to do this), I thought I'd take a few minutes to clarify a few thoughts I have on this topic...especially given that I'm sure there are plenty of other BP contributors who deal with the same exact thing on a daily basis...

Let me jump right to the point:  

The vast majority of people who ask me this question aren't really looking for a mentor...they're looking for a coach.  

There's a big difference between a coach and a mentor:

  • A coach is a teacher -- it is their job to provide the insight, education and skills necessary to take someone who is new and inexperienced at something to the point where they are proficient and successful.
  • A mentor is a guide and strategic resource -- it is their job to help those who already have the basic skills/knowledge and who have already started to take action, but who need help getting "to the next level."

I've been both a real estate coach and a real estate mentor.  As a coach, I've spent hundreds of hours taking new investors from square one (not knowing anything about investing) to doing their first deals.  As a mentor, I've spent anywhere from 10 minutes to dozens of hours helping guide new or experienced investors to overcome roadblocks, create strategic plans, scale their business, etc.

Just to clarify, some of those I have mentored hadn't done a single deal when I started mentoring them; but that doesn't mean that they were looking for me to *teach* them the business. They had already taken it upon themselves to read books, talk to other successful investors, create a plan and -- hopefully -- start trying to find money and deals.  They weren't looking to me to teach them the business; they have already done that and are now looking to me to help them when they encounter a problem.

When someone starts a conversation with, "I'm new to REI and I'm looking for a mentor," what they almost always mean is that they are looking for someone to teach them the business -- start to finish. This is not a mentor; this is a coach. While I'd love to coach everyone I meet who is interested in real estate, that's just not realistic. I don't charge for my time, and being a coach is tremendously time intensive and the responsibility is great -- a coach is generally responsible for his students being (or not being) successful.

If you're looking for someone to spend the time it takes to teach you the business and hold your hand throughout the process (i.e, a coach), expect to pay for it.  While I don't believe coaches are absolutely necessary in this business, there are some good ones out there who charge reasonable fees and will give you the time you need.

This is not what a mentor does.  A mentor will guide you, will help you get through a roadblock, will help you overcome a specific issue, will help you deal with a specific situation, etc.  But, if you don't know anything about investing, haven't decided on a specific strategy, haven't figured out where your financing will come from and haven't figured out how you'll find deals, you're not ready for a mentor.  

If you're a new investor, before asking someone to mentor you, ask yourself, "Am I really looking for a mentor?  Or am I actually looking for a coach?"

And btw, if you really just need a bit of mentoring (i.e., have a specific situation that you need help with), feel free to shoot me questions via PM or email anytime.  I'm even willing to schedule a phone call if that's absolutely necessary.  But, if you're looking to to have someone hold your hand through the entire process -- beginning to end -- it's unlikely that I (or anyone else here) is going to have the time/energy to help you.

Well written @J Scott ! 

I would love to come work for you on a new development project unpaid, and do anything you need done.  Need some help?  I need a coach ;C)

Mark in ROC

Well said @J Scott. Its good that you did clarify this, because just reading some of the posts, I can really categorize different people on how they are talking. I don't think coaching is bad at all, its just like going to college. The point to focus on is this, if your "coach", somewhat like the more reputable, expensive universities and colleges, is going to charge you a nice amount of money to go through their program, then just like more reputable, expensive universities and colleges have a reputation and commitment to making sure you have success upon finishing their program, they should be held accountable and be able to show success through the students that go through their programs. So many "coaches" charge exorbitant amounts of money to "teach" students, but the number of students that report being successful from going through their programs are very low. Same with some of your more reputable colleges and universities, how many successful people are alum from schools such as University of Michigan, Harvard, Saint Xavier Uni., etc.  I recommend taking the time to educate yourself to the best of your ability, and if you still don't get it, but want to still learn the trade, then maybe a coach would better suit you. If you are capable of self-educating yourself, and if you just encounter certain situations or problems within the field, then a "mentor" would be a better fit. There is a big difference, and I think it was a nice job here breaking down the difference between the two. IMO......

@J Scott You said it very well.

I actually consider the BP community to be both coach and mentor. 

And I have found your coaching (on this site and on your sites) to be one of the things I really admire. The way you freely give of your time and knowledge is truly inspiring. I've taken the better part of a year to get myself educated on the ins and outs of investing. I looked at several options for where I would invest my money and more importantly, my time. 

From notes to REITs and wholesaling to NNN. I finally settled on my initial arena and am finishing up my planning.

Very soon, I'll be proudly asking members of this community to help mentor me on my investing ideas with the hope that they can help me get that 10-20% or so that I am missing in my initial education. "Initial Education" is what I term learning by studying.

I soon hope to get the better education by having some real investments under my belt.

Thanks for everything BP!

My day job is teaching and I whole-heartedly agree there is a difference between a mentor and a coach. My question is - how do you (the newbie) know when you've learned enough? 

I am interested in notes - which is very complicated! But I don't know when my knowledge base will reach an acceptable level to dive right in. I keep reading forums that indicate you need a pretty deep knowledge space and it's not a good area for newbies and there are so many pitfalls... and and and... 

Honestly I'm less reassured and more petrified to proceed the more I read posts (sometimes it seems more can go wrong than right). But I am determined and will keep forging ahead. Eventually I will make my 1st deal and I won't stop calling myself a newbie but maybe then I'll feel more inclined to reach out? 

Originally posted by @Vanessa Garcia :

My day job is teaching and I whole-heartedly agree there is a difference between a mentor and a coach. My question is - how do you (the newbie) know when you've learned enough? 


Here's my recommendation:

- Read, study, learn

- Make a list of the biggest risks you perceive with your investment

- Make a list of ways you can mitigate those specific risks

- Look at your list of risks/mitigations and ask yourself, "Am I comfortable with these risks given my ability to mitigate them?"  If the answer is yes, move forward.  If the answer is no, go back to the top...

@JScott that's simple and direct :)

Great timing as always, @J Scott! I was just plotting how I might approach someone - ok, by "someone" I mean you - for mentoring to reach the next level... ;-) 

Seriously, thanks. Excellent clarification and guidelines. I can't imagine how many requests you and some of the other BPers here get, and I hope this post helps the requesters to focus.

@J Scott

and if you want to be a good mentee, here is an excellent article written by Fast Company that can make your mentor want to work with you more:

If you offer your mentor something of value, you'll be more likely to get them to agree. I was able in the past to get my mentor a couple of good deals, as well as a new investor. As long as you can bring something to the table, the relationship can work. 

But yes I agree with J that many folks are just looking for an easy path in REI and want someone to show them everything. It does not usually work that way! You need to know what area you want to invest in and yes have some financing lined up.

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