Finding mentors is so important and it is a key skill that many people often overlook or haven't developed. And as much as real estate seems like an independent venture, it is actually a team sport. Going it alone can be futile. Now I'm not saying you have to get a co-investor, but what I am saying is that it's important to build your team of professionals who will support you in acquiring, maintaining and possibly offloading your properties. Anyone who helps you in this process could be considered a mentor in one way or another if they do their job extremely well. So hopefully this blog post will help you develop the team you need to help bounce ideas off of and guide you throughout your first real estate acquisition and beyond. The quicker you build your team, the quicker success will follow.
I also find that many people don't necessarily know how to go about finding a mentor or, in many cases, are simply afraid to ask someone to be mentor them out of fear of rejection. I know I have these thoughts myself. I constantly think: Well, someone who is doing successfully is probably already so busy, they would never have time for me. Or I think: What do I have to offer someone who has a portfolio of 100 properties already? Nothing. I'm just starting out, a very small fish in a very big pond. As tough as it is to shoot these negative thoughts down, you must. They are damaging. They are limiting. And they are simply not true.
Most mentors that I've had in my life, and I have many, enjoy being able to share their knowledge. They often don't get asked about their successes or even acknowledged for being what they have achieved. It feels good to us all when someone recognizes how hard we've worked and how well we've done. Mentors are no different. So when you identify who you would like to become your mentor, make sure to let them know how much you admire them and/or their work. It will build the relationship and prime them for wanting to help guide you as you take your first steps on your journey.
Plus, I am a curious bastard and I often ask questions that my mentors have never been asked before. Sometimes it throws them for a loop, but most of the time it's something they enjoy talking about and are eager to share. I ask about business, money, fear, strategy, overcoming challenges and anything else that comes to mind. And I do so from a genuine place of wanting to learn more. More than anything else, I want to learn how to be successful and when I see someone who is successful I try to pick their brains as much as possible if they are willing because I benefit directly form their experience. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most often they find it flattering and feel good helping someone like me, who is not as far along in my journey. Be confident knowing that most people will be willing to do the same for you.
Now there will be some people who won't be interested, and often it is for reasons that have nothing to do with you. It could be some of the reasons that we hit on earlier, like they really are too busy and they are declining because they are attempting to maintain their own work/balance life (a skill most of us struggle with and can relate to). Or perhaps the project you are offering may not be a right fit for them or the timing may not be right for them.
It is okay if someone says no or doesn't respond to your email or IG message. It's definitely not personal. Just as you deserve to reserve the right to say no to a project or request that is not a fit for you, others should be allowed to do the same as well. Akin to dating, there are always more fish in the sea! If this mentor wasn't meant to be, another one, who is a better fit, will come along. Just be patient. The universe always provides...
So to distill it, here are some of the "Do's" that I would recommend when looking for mentors to help guide you professionally:
This one is tough for me. I'm a shy person by nature and I am more introverted than extroverted (I know, it's hard to believe). It's difficult for me to put myself out there and I'm not good with small talk at all. However, if I meet someone I have something in common, I can talk for hours and go deep (sometimes too deep, lol). So what I've learned about myself is I have to create opportunities for me to interact with people who are interested in the same things I am and then it becomes more enjoyable for me. And when I create or find those opportunities, I have to commit myself in a way where there is no backing out so that I actually push myself to do go do those things.
You may be different. You may love to meet new people. If so, excellent! It will make this step easier. Either way remember starting any business requires meeting and getting to know new people. Figure out the situations that work best for you in order to be able to do that. Put yourself out there. Networking does not need to carry the negative connotation that it normally does. When two people with mutual interests meet and hit it off, and someday are able to help each other succeed in one way or another, that is a win/win for all, including you!
Do Attend Meet Ups.
I've been really pushing myself lately to attend real estate or design meet ups. There you meet a lot of people who want to do the same thing: talk about real estate and interior design. Someone attending this event is primed for building a relationship with you because they are passionate about the same thing you are and also want to build their network and connections. The event is specific. It draws a very targeted crowd. It's the reason why someone put it on their calendar and showed up. You can't go wrong by attending it.
Each time I attend one of these I benefit in a multitude of ways. I learn more about the topic at hand, but, more importantly, I also build confidence in being able to talk about my growing business, which can be a very intimidating thing when your business is in it's nascent stages.
These meet ups are where I tend to meet people whom are strong candidates to be potential mentors. Recognize that it is okay that some people you will be drawn to more than others. Some people you will keep in touch with, some you won't. Just the exercise alone of attending is good practice in expanding your network and you never know what can come out of it. You may meet your next business partner or someone whom you will be lifelong friends with. If I meet someone who I would like to keep in touch with, I always try to find some way to stay connected, either through Instagram, Facebook or old fashion email.
I also never just openly ask someone to become a mentor. That's awkward and I'm already plenty awkward enough. :) A mentor/mentee relationship grows over time. It evolves organically and emerges from a series of interesting conversations and common interests. So don't rush it. It will happen naturally with the right people whom you connect with.
Do Leverage Social Media.
This sounds silly, but I have found some amazing mentors through Instagram. This past week alone I have started following 6 new friends, all amazing women, who are killing it in real estate all over the world. Seriously. Two are in Canada (different parts of course), one in Australia, one in New Zealand, one in Nashville and one in California. Literally, all over the world.
I just stumbled across their work through a hashtag like #womeninrealestate, liked their pictures and stories, and struck up a conversation in the message section. It's been amazing! And despite their being in completely different locations, and having never met them in person, I consider them to be my mentors because I am already learning so much more from them!
I underestimated the power of Instagram before because I didn't know how to use it to network properly. Now that I know a bit more, thanks to reading the book The Zen of Social Media Marketing by Shama Hyder (more about this book in a future blog post), it has become easier to connect with people with have similar mindsets and interests.
Do Attend Trade Shows and Conferences.
Trade shows is another awesome way to make connections and find possible mentors. This spring I have few different design shows in my calendar and I'm super excited to attend them! Usually trade shows are free to visit (well, at least parts of them). There tend to be a variety of events which include checking out vendors, attending panel discussions and hearing key note speakers. Even if you don't get a chance to speak to some of the key note speakers directly, you do get to gleam their wisdom from what they share. And maybe I am odd because I do consider that to be a form of mentorship.
Plus, if you do have questions or want to learn more, often you can reach out to them later through Instagram or Facebook and you would be surprised how often they answer a question when you are genuine in the way you reach out.
Do Share What Your Business is With Anyone Who Asks.
Talk to anyone and everyone about what you are interested in and the business you are building. You never know who will end up being a mentor because you spark their interest.
Mentors come from unexpected places! One of my mentors is the custodian at our school. He is an incredible man. When you first meet him you would never know that he is a multimillionaire due to investing in residential properties and laundromats all over Queens and Brooklyn. He is humble, shy and oh so kind. He works hard and often flies under the radar. He's the type of guy that would do anything for anyone.
One day I discovered he was into real estate is when I started talking to him about how I was nervous after putting in my first offer on a property upstate. As soon as I said that his eyes lit up and he immediately began to flood me with his own experience and knowledge of investing. Ever since that day we now we talk regularly. I share with him listings on potential properties I'm considering purchasing and together we talk through ideas for ways I can add value to the property. He always has amazing suggestions that save me money and increase my efficiency in getting a property rented out. Additionally, he keeps me abreast on changes in tenant laws and taxes. He's just an incredible man and I am so grateful that he takes the time to share his knowledge with me.
So do not hesitate to speak to people about your business. It will build your confidence and lead to connections that will become invaluable to you.
Do Read Lots of Books and Listen to Lots of Podcasts.
Read a lot. The knowledge contained in books is like having a mentor distill their best advice to you in a thoughtful cohesive manner. People don't take the time to write books about investing or real estate if they don't really want to help you out. Books will only be sold if the content is worthy and valuable. Same thing with podcasts. People don't listen to podcasts that waste their time.
Always keep your critical thinking cap on and your bullsh*t radar should be set to high. If a book or a podcast makes real estate investing seem super easy and implies you will be a millionaire over night, then being the sensible person you are, you know they are selling you a load of BS. Make no mistake about it. Real estate is hard work and will take time, but it is worth the effort. Reading books though can expedite your learning curve and help bring your awareness to risks and challenges you may not have anticipated. By learning from someone else's mistakes, you avoid costly mistakes yourself.
Now there are some Don'ts that I would caution you against when looking for a mentor...
Don't Hire a "guru"
Here's what I'd steer clear of: Hiring a coach or consultant just because they say they are qualified and promise you the world. You know this in your gut, but in case you need a reminder (cause some sales pitches can be quite alluring, I admit): if it seems too good to be true, it is.
If you are insistent upon hiring a coach, remember, you don't have to use them forever. You may decide you want to do this as you get started to build your network. Be super skeptical though. I think the best mentors come for free because they have a vested interest in seeing you successful. Paid coaches or gurus have a vested interest in continuing to have you pay them for your services. Not all, but many. So proceed with caution.
Also, if you are considering hiring someone to start think about this: If they haven't proven to you that they can add value to you before you hire them, there is no guarantee they can add value after you have paid them. Again, there is no quick fixes. They are not going to build your business for you. They will not do the heavy lifting for you. That is you one hundred percent.
And to be honest, you can do that already without them. You have the resources at your finger tips already. So check out what materials they publish for free. See if they actually are beneficial. Ensure they are quality. Ensure they add value to you and if you still feel like you should do it, go for it cautiously.
Don't go straight up and ask someone: Will You be My Mentor?
I touched on this before but please don't do this. It is awkward and sure to send someone running. A mentor relationship evolves organically. In fact, of all the people who I considered to be my mentors I have never once called them that directly. I have thanked them for their wisdom, shown gratitude and appreciation, but I have never said, "Can you be my mentor?" or "Thank you mentor!" I find that it goes without saying when they really are your mentor.
Also keep in mind that being a mentor means different things to different people. Some people may consider that to be a huge time commitment and if you ask them directly to be your mentor, it may scare them away. Some people may just assume that means checking in once and awhile here an there. If you insist on the defining the relationship, you will have one set of expectations in mind, and there is a strong possibility the experience will let you down because they are working from a different set of expectations. Again, use the analogy of dating. No need to put pressure on the relationship by defining it in the beginning. Let it evolve and see where it leads.
Don't take someone's "No" personally.
We also touched on this earlier, but it's absolutely important enough to mention again. Taking things personally is a trap. It tends to send people down a spiral of insecurity that they struggle to get out of. The sooner you get comfortable with rejection and adapt to the mindset of, if not this one, then the next, the happier and more successful you will be.
People say no for many reasons, and most often they have nothing to do with you. Usually it has more to do with them. Maybe they are trying to keep their life balanced, maybe they are insecure and feel that they can't offer you what you need, maybe they feel like what your asking doesn't align with their personal interests or values, whatever the case may be it doesn't and shouldn't limit you from going and finding someone else. So quit wallowing and go!
I'm curious to hear from you where and how have you have found your most impactful mentors? Any suggestions that I haven't considered? Please commend below so we can all benefit from YOUR WISDOM too!
Happy mentor hunting! And remember, when the timing is right, and the person is right, the universe will provide!