Written by ever talented Jo Burston – Founder and CEO of  Inspiring Rare Birds

*4 min read

The best mentors have a combination of expertise, integrity and your best interests at heart. They bring connections, practical knowledge and values that have the potential to fast-track your business success.

These are the 8 traits you’ll find in life-changing mentors.

1. They’re completely honest with you and expect total honesty in return

Great mentors are industry leaders, who you usually can’t afford to have working inside your business. They set you up to succeed by: giving you the skills to correct mistakes you’re making, enabling you to overcome hurdles, connecting you with people in their network and allowing you to access resources you couldn’t otherwise tap into.


In order to best benefit from their amazing ongoing advice you need to be honest with them. They can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on! When you’re completely honest and vulnerable they can give you the help and guidance that benefits you the most. That also means they need to be honest, sometimes the truth is hard to hear but is ultimately the best gift you can be given. For this honesty to work a deep amount of respect, trust and confidentiality needs to ground the conversations that take place.

2. They’re not afraid to ask you uncomfortable questions

Entrepreneurs are often upbeat and optimistic by nature. They tend to focus on their successes rather than their failings. A great mentor won’t shy away from asking you challenging questions about your personal life and your business, and the impact one is having on the other.

They do this to uncover the deep-seated issues in your business that even you may not be aware of because you’re too close to the problem. When questions make you wriggle a little nervously that usually means you’re getting into the good stuff!

3. They guide you but accept that it’s your decision to act on their advice

Great mentors give you the best possible chance to succeed by working to reduce the number of hurdles you face, so you’ll have the stamina to focus on the bigger challenges that lie ahead of you.

They don’t try to run your business for you by subjecting you to a tick-box mentality of things you must achieve. Their wealth of knowledge and business experience enables them to advise you, but decisions about what you do and how you do it will always rest with you. They are teachers not fixers.

4. They’ve experienced the hurdles that lie ahead of you

Entrepreneurs face universal challenges in their business journeys that you can learn from, regardless of the industry either or you are in.

Challenges are often around marketing, HR and funding but can also be found with such things as strategy and execution, working ‘in’ the business and not ‘on’ it, networking, partnerships and building external support.

Having grown one or more successful businesses, an experienced entrepreneur has already faced these challenges and can anticipate the next ones you’ll encounter, preparing you for them so you have the resources and processes in place when they happen (because let’s be honest there’s no smooth sailing only wild adventure in the life of an entrepreneur!)

BlogBannerAds_15. They operate in a different industry to you

A mentor from another field can give you a fresh perspective of the industry you’re in, providing more clarity of its ‘big picture’ challenges, the major players within it, your value proposition, and opportunities you might be struggling to see if you’re operating in an industry bubble.

Perhaps best of all, a different way of thinking conveys opportunities you haven’t considered before and the connections a mentor in another industry provides are usually completely different to those you’re already tapping into.

If you’re tempted to get a mentor from the same field as you, think again. Having a closed mindset about who is right for you and your business is dangerous, because you are limiting what you perceive you can achieve from a mentor. Remember, you’re in the relationship to learn, rather than be the expert.

6. They show a genuine interest in you and have your best interests at heart

You mentor should want you to succeed and be willing to invest the time and energy into ensuring that happens. This means committing every month to help you work through your challenges. They should come prepared with things they want to discuss with you and ask for an update on how you’re progressing with the goals you discussed last time you met.

If they’re repeatedly too busy to meet with you or they’re using you to deepen their own knowledge of your industry, do competitor research or to direct you and your business at their rivals, then it’s time to look elsewhere for the support you need.

7. They offer you shortcuts to success

One of the greatest things a mentor can do for you is to fast-track your success. By helping you focus on areas of your business where you’re weakest, such as the financials, for example, they can quickly make a difference to the day-to-day management of your business, affecting your bottom line and helping you reach your strategic goals faster. Having a cheerleader is wonderful but having someone point out areas which need work is even more valuable. You don’t know what you don’t know!

8. They have an insatiable curiosity

A thirst for knowledge means great mentors are always learning and have energy and passion for trends, news, and developments. Their knowledge is current and doesn’t hark back to the way things were done in the past. They are always looking for better, faster and more sustainable ways of achieving their goals and yours.

Tell me more about share space… 

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Are you looking for a mentor to help grow your business? Inspiring Rare Birds’ Mentoring Program can match you with an industry leader who can help fast-track your success. 


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