Published on July 1st, 2011
Taking your business to the next level requires that you gain knowledge and more importantly wisdom. Do you have the right connections? Are you spending time getting the correct resources? Who are you taking your advice from? These and many other questions are the keys to the success of your business.
In this article I’ll be covering the steps I’ve taken to find what I call the “The Silent Virtual Mentor.” I’ll discuss this new concept in mentoring and what you need to look for to allow this practice to accelerate the growth of your business.
- Learn Like and Entrepreneur
- The Silent Virtual Mentor Program
- What to look for in a Mentor
- Unwritten rules of virtual mentors
- My Virtual Mentors
- Be Yourself
- Awesome Reads
Learn Like an Entrepreneur
Many entrepreneurs have the mindset to learn everything for themselves. In essence, its really just part of who you are as an entrepreneur. You really can’t help it because it’s in your blood. This isn’t always a bad thing because its what allows you to learn and grow in your current endeavors. However it does become unproductive when you’re not learning the correct information, at the correct time, from the correct resources. Take, for example all the get rich quick schemes that even smart people fall for and the vast amounts of junk articles on the internet that provide almost no value.
Your desire to learn as much as you can is very important. Also learning many of your own tasks up to a certain point can be beneficial and make you an expert in your field. It helps to give you an appreciation for your strengths and weaknesses and isolate what you enjoy most.
However, being an expert doesn’t really make you an entrepreneurial success. There are lots of experts simply trading time for money. They may be experts in their fields but they don’t think entrepreneurial or strive to create financial freedom. If they did then they would take their same expertise and begin to create passive income giving them the freedom of time to learn and produce even more. There are definitely several responses to why this is the case. It may be fear, no desire, lack of know how, and the list goes on. One of the major reasons really boils down to who they know and let mentor them.
For example, I have learned that being able to delegate or outsource can be even more important and fundamentally expand your workflow and your business than trying to do it all yourself. How do I know this? Well, it’s not because I have a team of crack troop Indian programmers working for me (at least not yet), or because I’ve been able to find the best programmers on E-lance. It’s because I’ve learned how to find mentors that have already experienced these challenges and have seen success in their own lives, so when I meet these same hurdles in my business I will know what to do.
The Silent Virtual Mentor Program
The traditional sense of mentorship has always been a real one-on-one, back and forth, Master Jedi to Padawan interaction where the mentor would always shadow and give feedback as to what the one being mentor was doing. It really involves a lot of communication and time from both parties.
Well times have changed significantly and the ability to call up Bill Gates or Steve Jobs is definitely out of the plan. Even successful entrepreneurs in your own community are not just going to open up their arms and say, “Hey, this guy asked me to mentor him, I think I will.” Those who do find a mentor will still find that getting the quality time and direction is difficult. It’s only when the mentor really wants to see his student succeed and has an abundance of time that the student will really be able to get the most from their mentor.
Let’s face it, most of us don’t have this direct one-on-one luxury of a good personal mentor. Why go through all the hassle of working for that type of relationship when there are many people online who have completely opened up and given away tons of useful information. Many of them even lending communication threads such as e-mail or community groups.
Enter. “The Silent Virtual Mentor Program.” The term “Silent” implies that the mentor isn’t giving you direct one-on-one feedback, but is providing you with such phenomenal content that you practically become mentored through their systems. This is where you choose who you want to mentor you and then you become engaged in the art of studying and mastering the skills and techniques they provide. This style of mentoring in my opinion is even more powerful because you can be mentored by several individuals all at once and create yourself a super mentor.
Things to look for in a Silent Virtual Mentor
Strength in numbers
Having several virtual mentors is a must! No one person is going to have all the answers you need; however, there is the law of diminishing returns where by following too many people you will not be able to really stay engaged with the content they are providing. If I decide that my business is taking a different direction then I might possibly transition one of my mentors out and pick up a new one if it made sense.
Content is King
Make sure the mentor has solid content on a regular basis. It doesn’t have to be every day or every other day, it just needs to be consistent and continually challenging you.
Choose Your Genres
I personally like to have somebody who will motivate and encourage, help with my marketing techniques, help bring technological innovation to my workflows and someone who has already accomplished what I’m trying to do. The categories that you choose will be particular to what you’re trying to accomplish, but be sure you have a fluent mixture of elements so that you’re not getting too much of any one thing. Just being encouraged all the time is not going to help your business work-flows.
Openness and Honesty
Be sure that people are willing to talk about their successes and failures. Lots of times we can learn more from someone’s failures that we can from their successes. Also be sure they’re authentic and not just out to make a quick buck. Be sure they engage with their communities and have a channel for you to ask questions they may have not already answered.
Is the content or resources that your mentor is providing actually changing the way you’re working? Has it helped you increase your workflow and look at your processes from a completely different perspective. Has it fundamentally advance your skills and knowledge?
Encouragement and feel-good articles are good in moderation but they don’t provide true, proven work-flows and techniques that help you expedite and enhance your business. This is where the beauty of many come in because you might have one mentor who is a great encourager and another one who is just full of great business structuring ideas. It’s going to be your responsibility to make sure you shift the available time slots for each mentor into the correct area of your life to make sure that you get the most out of your silent virtual mentors. Here is my breakdown and who I try to allocate my learning from:
How does this translate into actual time spent with the mentor?
- Motivation: 10%
- Marketing: 20%
- Workflows: 15%
- Automation: 15%
- Process: 15%
- Outsourcing: 10%
I spend around 2-4 hours per week consuming information from my mentors (see below), so I need to allocate these given percentages to my mentors. I know that Jon Acuff tends to talk mostly about motivation and process (10+15 = 25%); however, all the other mentors also talk a little bit about process(15% / 5 = 3%). So, if I have five mentors then that means I will allocate around 3% of “Process” to Jon and 10% on “Motivation” totaling 13% which is about 12-24 minutes a week with Jon.
Now some of my mentors like Cliff Ravenscraft have most of their content in audio form so I can easily get mentored by Cliff as I drive to and from work. Just know that the metrics for this don’t have to be exact, they just need to be allocated so that you’re getting the correct amount of information that you need.
Being very honest with yourself is critical in this area, because it’s very easy to think you need to be motivated 80% of the time, when what you really need is to improve your processes, or vice-versea . Successful entrepreneurship requires that you self evaluate and monitor your own business processes and yourself regularly. Only you can push yourself in areas you know need improvement.
Unwritten Rules of Silent Virtual Mentoring
Don’t be a Stocker
There are some important rules that I like to follow in finding a silent virtual mentor. First and foremost be respectful and have courtesy. Most people who give back to the community in great ways can be overwhelmed by people trying to get their attention, especially people who have seen any level of success. Therefore, respect their time and just get to the point and be polite when communicating with them.
If your virtual mentor has a community such as a comments system, discussion groups, forums or anything that lets everyone share in the conversation, please use this avenue to communicate with your virtual mentor. You are doing them a favor and the community in which they are trying to support a favor.
Don’t be a CopyCat
The next rule is to study and learn without copying your virtual mentor. Be yourself! Nobody likes to see a copy cat. I’ll discuss this later on in the article.
If you’ve chosen your virtual mentor correctly then they will have plenty of free information that they are forking your way. They may also have training kits or affiliate links that they use to try and create income. Spend the time to invest in some of these materials that your mentors have created. This is what keeps them in business and allows them to continue mentoring you. Without this much-needed income most would be forced back into a corporate job and would not have the time to provide you with the information that you need. So reinvest in them and their products and allow them to continue mentoring you.
Be diligent about your allocated times for each mentor. Stay engaged with what they are saying and doing. If you start spreading yourself too thin over the internet only trying to find answers by Googling them, then you will not see any consistent patterns or trends that come only from following a mentor.
My Virtual Mentors
Jon Acuff: www.jonacuff.com
Jon and I share many of the same values. His posts are always a breath of fresh air and include great motivational and down to earth topics. He has mentored me through encouragement, goals, and forcing myself to ask, “Why am I doing, what I do.
Darren Rowse: www.problogger.net
Andy Stanley: www.northpoint.org
Cliff Ravenscrafft: www.podcastanswerman.com
Googles HTML5 Team:www.html5rocks.com/en/profiles
HTML 5 rocks is a website by Google that pulls together some of their best authors to create a blog site around this particular topic. I visit this site just like I would a regular mentor for ideas and topics that will help me in this area.
Daniel Stringer: www.thenewceo.com
Spend some time reading through Daniel’s articles and you see quickly that he’s not only a great writer, but he really interacts and networks with people and knits them into his posts.
Gary Vaynerchuk: garyvaynerchuk.com
Sometimes Gary is a bit over the top for me, but I really like his drive and his honesty about crushing your fears and making it happen. Gary’s story is very inspiring.
Other Mentors Include:
The last point that I would really like to drive home is be yourself! The world doesn’t need another Pat Flynn or Daniel Stringer, it needs a unique you. So while you are allowing individuals to virtually mentor you, always remember to try to be yourself and keep things unique. The web is already full of way too many copycats and the thing that most people want is good, strong, original content that comes uniquely from you, not a rehashed story from your virtual mentor or some other website.
While the mentor is there to provide a sense of structure and even a basic layout for you. It’s your job to culminate all the advice from your mentors, funnel it through your own thoughts and create something different that ads to and benefits the rest of the world.