Many people ask me how I’ve been able to achieve such success without a formal education. Well, my answer is that I always ask a lot of questions of those people who are where I want to be. Mentors are important in each and every industry, and more so in real estate. It is these experts with real life experience and their amazing expertise that you should carefully sort out from the lot and follow wisely.
So in today’s blog, I’m going to talk about the importance of getting a mentor and the advantage it has over other ways people typically learn. This one is especially close to my heart as there are many ‘expert courses’ out there which I consider to be BS, as they charge a lot and make all kinds of crazy promises to wannabe real estate investors. I also want to go into how to choose a mentor and what to expect from one. Not all mentors are created equal, but each one can give you loads of value, one way or another.
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Step #1 Know why you need a mentor
When you’re sick you look for the best doctor around, and when your car breaks down you go to the best mechanic in the region. You don’t buy DVDs or attend courses on how to do open heart surgery, or, for that matter, repair your car’s clutch. These experts you go to are invaluable because they have a lot of knowledge and experience. And if you want to do, say, your car repairs yourself, you would go out and learn from a buddy mechanic or get someone to show you, not buy a DVD. In the same way, real estate is a very dynamic kind of business. So, getting a mentor to guide you through it all is like getting a mechanic to help you out.
Off the shelf is generic BS: Many people would recommend you to go to boot camps or buy books, CDs and DVDs or invest in one of those millions of courses that promise to transform your life. But these materials can never get you the real thing. In fact, many people who invest in these kinds of things will tell you how the DVDs and courses they’ve sometimes spent thousands on, offer the same information that’s available for free online, especially today.
People are real: So, if you really have the money to spend, I’d recommend that you spend it on meeting real people who can give you real solutions. They’re the ones who’ve tasted failure and know what it’s like. They can be more specific and help you polish your strengths and work on weaknesses, something a generic course could never do. More importantly, unlike an inanimate DVD, they’ll give you feedback. So, I strongly recommend that you spend your money on networking lunches, coffees and even consulting if you want to go all in. Everything else is just a money pinching gimmick that you will never follow through with.
Duration: Many people make the mistake of assuming that mentoring should be long-term. And you know what, that’s simply untrue. Short-term mentoring can also work well, so make your choice based on what you need, and of course, what works out best for your mentor as well. It’s ok to just have a couple of meetings and that’s it. Sometimes you just need advice on one particular thing and other times you might want guidance for a longer time.
Step #2 Identify the kind of mentor you’d like
Understanding why you need a mentor and getting a mentor that matches that need are two different things. When you set out to find a mentor you’d like to work with, start identifying the kind of mentor you’d like. Choose people who know how real estate markets work and who have been there and done that. They should know the market and be able to give you advice on what the right thing to do is. They should also help identify pitfalls.
To find those kind of people, it’s important to keep your eyes open and network your A$$ off. Often, people you already have a working relationship with are a good first choice. Think about the first “mentor” you had. It could have been your teacher in school, a parent at home, or even a friend’s brother who taught you how to make your first paper airplane. For those who’ve taken up a day job, mentors could often come as superiors, supervisors or managers at work. So when you go about choosing someone to mentor you in real estate, consider the exact same things that had you choose these people before.
Geographical reach: Mentors during your childhood worked great because of one reason: they were easily accessible. So, when you’re picking someone to mentor you in the real estate market, it’s a good idea that you pick someone in the same geographical region. This way you can reach out to them whenever you want. Now, if you really don’t have anyone to look up to in the neighborhood, then widen your reach. You can even go online, where people may be willing to mentor you over a call, email or a chat. I’m based in Toledo, Ohio and even in a smaller city like Toledo, I have still found some local folks that I look up to.
People you admire: Not everyone is perfect in everything and if you don’t find the ‘perfect’ mentor, don’t despair. In fact, look for qualities that you’d like to have but you lack right now. For example, if you’re good at identifying markets, but your negotiation skills need work, then look for a mentor to help you with that. If you’re still unsure about the kind of mentor you’d like, I’d suggest you check out the people you admire for their work. Think about why you admire them and whether you have those qualities or not and then approach them. Remember that mentoring in real estate isn’t just about the technical details. Knowing how to be a people person, how and when to negotiate, and deciding on an action at the right time, are important aspects of real estate that a mentor should help you with.
Real life lessons: Opt for mentors who won’t just put you in some kind of a classroom setting but will let you see what they do and how they do it. Look for someone you can trust your future with.
Be ready to rough it out: Many people who look for mentors often make the mistake of thinking that a mentor will do all their work. That isn’t the case and it shouldn’t be like that even if mentoring is a paid exercise. Be ready to rough it out, do the hard work and be open to criticism too.
Step #3 Check out your mentor
Once you have found someone you really admire in real estate, my first recommendation is that you get to know them a bit better before you approach them.
Online search: Do an online search on them. This way, if any negativity or shady business about that person is out there, it will come out into the open before you ask them to mentor you. Check out their work ethic and try to find out if there are elements you’d rather not associate with. If they’ve worked as mentors before, you could check with the people they’ve mentored. Finally, look into their social media profiles to understand what kind of people they are and how they operate. These steps will help you understand what you’re getting into.
Read their blogs: Once you’ve ruled out all the bad things, I recommend you read their blogs and see either their interviews or what they’ve written online. The way they deal with a topic will help you understand whether they are easy to follow when they’re explaining things and if you’ll be able to benefit from their mentoring or not.
Step #4 Reach out to the mentor for mentoring
This isn’t always as easy as it sounds. In fact, when you really find someone you’d like to learn from, asking them to teach you can be really tough. And then there’s the aspect of whether money would be involved. And if they do agree to mentor you for free, would it be a good match or not? For those looking for a mentor, here is my advice.
Relationships: Your relationship with your mentor is what matters the most. This means that you need to treat your mentor like your best friend and trust them completely.
Paid or unpaid: Another concern that many ask me about is payments. How can you find out if your mentor would expect money for his/her services? Most mentors don’t accept anything in return for their mentorship, however, you may want to confirm that before entering into a commitment. Some even do it professionally.
Give and take: Mentoring is not just about taking from the mentor, but it should be a win-win situation for both of you. So I recommend that you make yourself meaningful and useful to your mentor as well. You might have contacts he’d be interested in for example. Introductions go a long way. Also, don’t expect them to put everything aside and spend their entire day on you because they will have other things to handle as well. And finally, keep in mind that mentors can be harsh with criticism, but don’t let that trouble you too much because you chose them as mentors so that they not only help you improve from where you are but also to help you identify pitfalls.
While hard work and persistence can get you anywhere, mentors are experts who can take you to your goal quickly and with fewer pitfalls. They can provide insights that are rare and teach through example.
And don’t forget that, “You become who you’re with.”