When to Say “No” to Richard Branson

If you are a bold entrepreneur, your dream mentors may be Elon Musk, Richard Branson or Larry Page. While they may be amazing mentors, are they the right ones for you at this moment in time?

*I talked to people in my industry and met Mr. Takrao, owner of a $2 billion company, and got him as my mentor. But then I realized that my business was too small for him to offer proper advice. What I needed is advice from helicopter’s point of view. What he gave was advice from God’s point of view. I’m thinking about how to make my first million, while he is thinking about how to sell for $100 million- says Moonshi Mohsenruddin, Founder of CommGate and Director at Echelon Minds.

Despite dropping out of school and starting out as a toilet cleaner to support his family, Moonshi has become a celebrity entrepreneur in Asia in 2010, and has since received countless requests from young entrepreneurs for mentorship. Of the 26 company he took under his wing, all have achieved a minimum of 700% revenue growth.

Moonshi shares his advice on the best mentors for entrepreneurs:

*If you are a start-up, your mentor should at least have a business that had achieved $1 million and hired 10 people. We need to get a mentor who is 2-3 times the size of our business and someone who has been there done that, preferably in the same industry or someone is in business and can ask you very deep questions. If it goes beyond that, the mentor may not have time for you or his advice may not be relevant.

So, if you are an entrepreneur seeking mentorship, here’s what you should start doing instead:

Make a list of 50 people who have started companies in your industry that are 2-3 times the size of your business. When your list is complete, reach out to them asking for 10-60 minutes of their time to ask for advice.

As an entrepreneur, you may be tempted to get mentors who are successful on paper, but whose values may not fit with yours. Melody Ward, a serial entrepreneur who started her first company at the age of eighteen, shares her experience with getting successful mentors:

*My best mentors are not all rich or famous. I’ve been lucky enough to sit at tables with well-known and influential people who have taught me a lot, but I’m selective when I choose someone in a position of authority over my life.

You are not looking for someone who is going to give you a handout or a magic trick. You are looking for someone who recognizes where you are in your career and is able to give you advice. A really good mentor works to know who you are and will easily give you advice that fits.

It’s easy to mistake someone who seems to have what you are looking for as an automatic mentor. When you see someone on CNN or with a million followers online, you know they are ambitious and have probably worked hard to get where they are, but that doesn’t tell you anything about their personality or social tactics behind the projection, and that’s really important if you are going to work with someone to mould a life you’ll feel comfortable and proud of living.

My aim is not to inherit status-by-association. I look for someone who has a track record of success and adversity, and especially someone who has attained their notoriety through direct practice of their expertise.

My best mentors never needed my money because they were more interested in similar goals, and that typically evolves into friendship, which is what you keep.

Take a look at this list of values and pick the most important ones for you.

You can now make yourself a checklist to assess if the potential mentors you contacted are the right fit:

Do they have a company that is 2-3 times the size of yours?
Do they have the direct practice and experience that you’re looking for?
Do their values match with yours?
Do they understand what you need?