by Jeff Carter, managing director and founder of Grand Coast Capital Group
Early in my career, I found myself bouncing from job to job, unhappy with where I was headed and unable to figure out what was wrong. I decided to seek advice from a highly successful guy I greatly admired: my dad.
After determining what you’re passionate about, he said, the key to success is to get a mentor — and not just any mentor. Find someone in the line of work that you want to pursue who’s not only successful but also willing to mentor you and take a vested interest in your career. Then, go work for him or her.
This advice from my father, who directly attributes his success to having a strong mentor when he was younger, could not have been truer. I credit all of my current success to following it.
Thanks to the mentorship of several people in my field, I was able to start and build a company that saw almost immediate success. I wouldn’t have been able to do this without mentors who taught me everything they knew about investing in real estate, running a business, and pushing myself to be better and to do more every day.
Same Old Song and Dance?
One problem with Dad’s advice is that it’s become so common that it’s almost a cliché. There are articles all over the Internet urging you to get a mentor — and even more telling you how to do it. Yet, despite the omnipresent refrain, few people seem to follow through and find mentors of their own.
Perhaps they’re too shy to reach out and connect because they’re intimidated by the right person’s position, place, and power. Or, worse, they’re just not willing to put in the time and effort it takes to actually learn from a mentor after making that invaluable connection.
Being mentored requires a bit of humility; unfortunately, this is a trait that aspiring entrepreneurs rarely consider important to their success. My mentors helped me realize that, although I may not be the smartest guy in the room, I could meet my professional goals more quickly by seeking out partnerships with those who can teach me. You don’t know what you don’t know, but a good mentor does.
Here are some steps for finding your own professional guru:
1. Surround Yourself With A-Players.
First, at all stages of building your business, surround yourself with people you respect and admire who share your core values. That includes what my father and I called “the drive” — the desire and gumption it takes to thrive. Such like-minded people will push you to achieve when your own motivation lags.
From this group, you’ll probably recognize a prospective mentor or two.
2. Heed Their Advice.
It may seem obvious, but the willingness to listen and learn is a key ingredient. If you aren’t willing to study your mentors’ mistakes and apply their advice, you won’t advance. A mentor is there to give your career a jump-start. That can’t happen if you insist on reinventing the wheel.
3. Pay It Forward.
It won’t be long before you’re in a position to mentor the next generation. Take the opportunity; you’ll be surprised by how much you can learn by teaching. You may even stumble across new approaches or ideas that you’d never thought of applying to your own business.
While father may not always know best, my dad’s advice was spot-on. Ask any successful person how he got there, and he will almost always mention a cherished mentor or two that he found along the way. There’s no rationale for a young entrepreneur to not have a mentor. Finding the right person takes time, thoughtfulness, and “the drive” my dad spoke of, but it will pay off by making your growth exponential.
Jeff Carter is the managing director and founder of Grand Coast Capital Group, a national private lending firm that provides creative short-term financing to real estate investors, builders, and developers across the country.