Find and engage the right mentor

Posted by in Leadership, Pharmacy, Retail, Small Business

As I’ve gotten older I’ve reflected on the random twists and turns in my life. I’ve thought deeply about exactly how I arrived at my current circumstance, and trusted mentors are a common element that have influenced each twist and turn I’ve taken.

While there is no doubt that I’ve done the work, taken the risks and pushed myself to the brink, it would be both insincere and inaccurate to say that I’ve done it completely on my own. I’ve been influenced by many great people who have, and continue to have, a significant impact on my thought process and decision-making. It actually boggles my mind to think about the generosity and helpfulness provided by these people, whether advice and counsel on a specific issue, valuable contacts they’ve shared or just a kick in the ass to say “keep it up”. They have without question had a positive impact on my personal and professional life for which I feel incredibly fortunate and grateful.

So, how should you engage a mentor and secure their support?

  • Be clear when articulating your objectives. Targeting a mentor for assistance is fine, but without focus the relationship will fall flat. Most great mentors are extremely busy and you should give them a clear story with a well-defined ask and purpose. Be sure that you choose someone who has experience and connections within your area and level of business.  Explain what excites you about your service or product, be honest about your fears, and ask for feedback.
  • Make sure it is a two-way relationship. While there is generally a power imbalance in the mentor relationship, there is no reason why being mentored can’t deliver value to their mentor. It can be small stuff, like referring business opportunities, presenting ideas, or it can even be simply taking their advice and keeping them posted on your progress. Whatever it is, the point is that you should be considerate of the mentor and their sacrifice and be helpful however you can be. The great mentor never asks for such things; you just deliver it.
  • Sweat the little things. Always say thank you. Never burn a relationship that the mentor has initiated for you. Be considerate when something the mentor has done yields great gains for you. The mentor gets great satisfaction from hearing of their mentee’s wins. Make sure you share the victory with them.
  • Remember the “karma boomerang.” If you are successful identifying and benefiting from great mentors, remember the value they have brought to your life and give that to others. The greatest gift is to learn how to give. If you are in a position to share the skills you have learned, you should give back by becoming a mentor yourself. Finding success is hard work, and entrepreneurs could use a little help along the way.

Words are inadequate to describe the benefits to those who work with great mentors. Life in all its aspects is complex, and having the coaching and support of those more experienced than you can be the difference between making smart, well-informed decisions and poor decisions. And these relationships can follow you throughout your life. Take control. Admit your weaknesses. Build lasting relationships to help augment that “white space” in your experience base. As Zig Ziglar once said; “A lot of people have gone further than they thought they could because someone else thought they could.” So get out there and find the right mentor to help you along the path to success.

Gerry Spitzner

I help Pharmacists, Doctors and healthcare practitioners develop winning business and practice management strategies so they can focus on patient-centered care. Gerry Spitzner is the principal business consultant of, a Vancouver-based business management consultancy. For more information: