Throughout my years in business, I have been fortunate enough to have various mentors specializing in different areas of life and business. Whether it was my therapist to help with life challenges, a social media consultant for social strategies, or a photographer to aid with the development of photo and business techniques. All of these people have influenced unique perspectives in their areas of expertise. It has always proven to be a valuable experience whether they provided their time and wisdom out of the kindness of their heart or through some sort of paid relationship. A mentor can carry a variety of defining titles such as coaches, therapists, consultants, friends, and family. To simplify things, I will refer to all of those people using various titles as a mentor.
I’ve heard many times before, mentors are a scam or are there to tell you what you already know. I’ve even referred to a business consultant as one of the most expensive coffees I have ever had… but, not everyone is out to make a quick buck. There are many who look at the opportunity to educate as their legacy and find fulfillment in helping others successfully live the life they dream of. So, I wanted to write this article to summarize my perspective and experience working with various mentors in different aspects of life and business.
Someone to Hold You Accountable
Running your own business can open up the doors to freedom and sometimes we can get a little carried away with that which leads to procrastination. The more we procrastinate, the worse our problems become. Working with a mentor can help to hold you accountable leading to increased productivity. You are still your own boss but, there is something behind the psychology of having to report to someone else that you still have not completed a task or goal. Your mentor isn’t there to call you on it but, more to question “What is keeping you from completing the task?” This can help identify why you keep putting things off. The common reasons for procrastination are “fear of failure” or simply that you are taking on too much. A mentor can help you to strategically identify the problem so you can move forward, progress, and accept the narrative.
Get You Out of Your Comfort Zone
Who doesn’t appreciate comfort? But, with comfort, we lack the opportunity to experience new things and grow in life. Often some of the best personal and business developments come from trying something new and stepping outside of our comfort zone. Even if you feel that you have failed, the real failure lies in not trying at all. When we put ourselves out there and allow ourselves to be vulnerable we will find those unique opportunities will come our way. When I stepped out of my comfort zone and started to open up about my experiences in business, I was recognized by Lexi Taciak to write for Architecture Photography Almanac… if I didn’t I wouldn’t have had this opportunity to share with you what I have learned. A mentor can be the one to challenge you and as an outside observer, they have the advantage of identifying where you are limiting yourself. This is an investment on its own unless you don’t want to experience your life to the fullest. And, who doesn’t want that?
Questions What You Believe Are “Industry Standards”
Working within an industry, we learn about best practices and what people are doing to successfully run their businesses. But, some of the most successful businesses became what they are by being disruptors. Let’s look at Uber as an example, they came in out of nowhere allowing the average person with a full driver’s license to essentially become a cab driver and avoid all of the licensing and certifications involved. Cab drivers saw Uber as a threat to their monopoly and tried to fight what was inevitably changing their industry. At the time of writing this article, Uber is worth approximately $57.04 billion USD. Not only did they change the transport industry forever but, they created more opportunities for individuals to thrive financially while working their day job and for the rest of us, an easier and more cost-effective way to get from point A to B. There have been many times that I have taken an Uber only to learn through conversation that the driver previously drove a cab… this clearly tells me that through disrupting the industry norm, they won over some of those people who didn’t believe in the change that was happening in front of them. A mentor will help you look at what you believe is considered “Industry Standard” and challenge you to change your perspective because you can guarantee that someone will eventually find a way to disrupt your industry and change it forever. Whether you believe it is good or not, change will always come.
Someone to Play Devil’s Advocate
- a person who expresses a contentious opinion in order to provoke debate or test the strength of the opposing arguments. “the interviewer will need to play devil’s advocate, to put the other side’s case forward”
This is personally one of my favorite things to do with my friends. They may not always share the same love for it but, when someone’s perspective is challenged, they are forced to justify their beliefs and provide physical evidence because feelings are not evidence. It can begin to help you understand why things happen and if you are never questioned by your beliefs your mindset may never shift.
Typically, you are your own worst critic. There are pros and cons to this because criticizing yourself can lead to pushing yourself to do better. On the flip side, it can lead to a lot of negative thoughts and beliefs. Working with a mentor, they are on your team and will be your biggest cheerleader. So when you start to get carried away with your self-critique, they will be there to help lift you back up, motivate you, and remind you of what you loved most.
Learn From Their Experiences, Successes, and Failures
Why learn things the hard way when someone else has already lived them for you? Through all my experience I have avoided potentially huge mistakes in business and life. This is through listening closely to someone else’s story. While we will still make some mistakes through the guidance we receive from others, we usually admire a mentor because of their greater success. Clearly, they did something right to get where they are today so, let them help you avoid unnecessary challenges. Someone else’s mistake can be the key to your success.
I love to refer to mentors as business therapists because that is really what really are! They allow you to talk about your experiences and challenges and will ask the right questions to help you come up with your own answers. Although, it may seem very easy to ask questions, asking the RIGHT questions is a skill. Sometimes you just need someone to confidentially vent about a client who was a pain to work with. Other times you need to get something off your chest and find a solution. We are stronger together was an expression shared often throughout the pandemic and there is a lot of truth to that. You aren’t able to do it all on your own so don’t be afraid to ask and accept help.
A New Network
Through every business mentor, I have found a new network to work and collaborate with. They will know you well and because they understand you more deeply, they know whether or not they can vouch for you as someone to work with. The people you meet through these new networks become your best referrals. So through your investment not only do you gain a new friend but, you will often gain a new network. One that you wouldn’t have otherwise connected with.
Insight Into How Others May Perceive You and Your Brand
We are always “in our business” and because of that we often see it the way we understand it. But, that could be very different from the way your customers see it. A mentor can easily pose as a buyer and look at your business without a personal connection to it. Therefore, they have the advantage of seeing how your business is actually presented. This is why it is also beneficial to work with various mentors. All of them may see something slightly different from the other, use that data to better understand how you can more accurately present yourself and your business.
Learn Something New
Every mentor I’ve worked with has been in a different field of work. Often something complimentary to my industry such as web design, digital marketing, etc. Through those conversations, I have gained insight into other sectors that I work closely with. I’ve learned various techniques and creative skills in different sections of the industry that I wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. That is a huge advantage when it comes to growth and understanding how you can better serve your client’s needs when working on marketing material, closing new clients, and further developing your overall skills.
Become a Mentor
Probably one of the most important points of this article. Without people being willing to provide mentorship and guidance to new photographers, our “Industry Standards” will soon be forgotten. For new photographers, this industry can seem very “exclusive”, secretive, and competitive. This can lead to more creators undercutting each other without intending to. We’ve all come across a photographer who blames the “newbies” for “ruining the industry” but, the real problem lies with those who are unwilling to educate others on what is considered fair. Don’t be a part of the problem, be one who can provide a solution and encourage positive change.
Some Things to Consider
Selecting the right mentor can be a bit daunting. After talking about this subject with my colleagues I have compiled a list of some details we have found to be red flags:
- If a mentor has a sales rep for their services and they are the ones doing the discovery call, be sure to see if you can speak directly with the mentor. You should be able to connect directly with the mentor prior to working with them so that you can determine if it is a good fit. You will instinctively know if your personalities align.
- If they “Guarantee” results… there is no guarantee with anything when it comes to business! What worked for them may not work for you and it is up to you to do the work.
- If you are following a mentor and their focus seems to be solely monetary-based rather than educational you should look further into speaking with a previous mentee to determine the validity of their intentions.
- If your discovery call is more about them than you… RUN!
- Do they still practice what they preach? This is how they stay relevant in the industry.
- Have they successfully been in business for over 5 years?
- If the mentor is only charging in the hundreds they are in fact a newbie, a seasoned mentor’s investment will be in the thousands. Knowledge is priceless.
- Testimonials may look great but, why would anyone show a negative testimonial on their site? Do some external research on the person/program before jumping on a call with them.
While I may sound like a broken record at this point, these experiences have always led to challenging my perspective and helping me get out of my own way. There is a reason for this repetition as it is often the primary roadblock we create for ourselves. If you are stuck in your own ways and fear the idea of change, you will eventually feel a lack of progress. Don’t be your worst enemy and don’t be afraid to try something new. Not all mentors will be the right fit so, explore and find someone who feels right for you. Even the worst mentors can teach you what not to do, remember to “shift your perspective” not just in the field but, in life and business.
*Image designs courtesy of Your Designer Ash