The Key to Cultivating Lasting Business Relationships

I once heard a colleague say, “You don’t look for a mentor, you strive to become one yourself.” The logic is flawless, however, proper guidance and wisdom from a trusted friend can speed you through the process. Just having an outside opinion on something you’ve been racking your brain on can offer the perspective needed to make a tough decision.

Leadership is a trait shared by most great entrepreneurs, but the man (or woman) behind the curtain is often what helped them achieve success. A mentor offers guidance, support, and authenticity when it’s needed, and is also ready to provide a stern dose of reality. In short, a mentor is someone you can turn to in times of need and rely on to be honest, even when you don’t want to hear it.

They’re a necessity for any budding entrepreneur, and a good mentor can shave years off the learning curve as well as prove crucial for success or failure. You should indeed seek to become a mentor, but first you need to find a good mentor yourself.

Finding a Mentor

We sometimes get caught up in looking for mentors. While finding one is great, we often end up in these relationships by chance. Call it serendipity, but the best mentor/protégée relationships are often cultivated by accident rather than sought.

One of my mentors, for example, didn’t come out of my own industry at all. Instead, I met him while volunteering for a fire department in college, and we hit it off immediately through common interests. In the following years, he taught me about business and life, and provided a sounding board when I had problems that I needed outside advice to solve. I had no intention of seeking out a mentor and was lucky that this opportunity fell into my lap.

Since then, I’ve made it a point to learn all I can about my own mentor, all while attempting to better cultivate relationships with people I can help. I don’t seek these people out, but I’ve still managed to see them everywhere: coffee shops, networking events, the airport. A simple conversation with a random person is all it takes to learn about the challenges they face, and you’d be surprised at how often you can provide the solution–or at least help them navigate the right direction.

These relationships aren’t built in an office. It’s about finding a person you connect with and cultivating a real, meaningful relationship.

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Drew Gurley is an established executive in the financial services arena and co-founder of Redbird Advisors. Drew has developed hundreds of successful financial services agencies from the ground up and he has worked one-on-one with nearly 1,000 financial professionals across the U.S. Drew’s work with Redbird has helped thousands of agents and advisors build a stable foundation for their personal businesses. 

BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.