Why Mentors Matter - Property Mentoring: The Complete Guide (2019)
Last updated 02/10/2019
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” — John Crosby
Mentoring has become a bit of a buzzword - but does it really deliver real benefits for both parties?
If you want a mentor to guide you through, do you understand how to find them while avoiding the sellers and scammers?
And if you want to become one, do you know how you’ll need to go about it or what it can offer you?
Why a mentor is important
Whether they help complete beginners with the fundamentals of property while they’re learning at university, or they help investors understand a new area to go into, mentors give great insights into the tips and tricks of the trade.
They’re not the same thing as coaches, who will often motivate you and hold you more accountable by using open ended questions.
Instead, mentors give you information about what they’ve done, what they think about your project concept, and give you more direct advice.
You may even decide you want both, but for now we’ll go through the top benefits of using a property mentor:
You're never too old or too clever to make use of a mentor.
Don’t think you don’t need a mentor just because you’re far past starting out.
In fact, some people would say that you might even get more out of a mentor when you’ve got some experience than when you’re new to the game!
Some of the biggest and best would credit their mentors with giving them more insight into their industry.
Alan Rickman mentored Colin Firth, Steve Jobs mentored Mark Zuckerberg - and the top property experts often mentor each other.
You can learn new tricks
If you’re a more experienced investor, no matter how well it’s gone in the past, you don’t want to be 5-10 years in the future watching everyone else move onto new strategies, with rising new profits, while you’re left behind in your old ways.
That’s why you should look into getting a mentor to teach you more about the areas where you’re less experienced - for example, if you’ve only been a residential investor so far, why not get advice from someone in the commercial property sector?
Or even find a mentor to help you navigate the emerging importance of proptech.
Even if you’ve not got any big plans for expanding into a certain sector, or learning about a new approach, you might just change your mind once you’ve heard some expert enthusiasm.
Limit costly mistakes.
Hopefully you use an accountant to help you figure out your finances so you don’t have to worry about maths and taxes.
In the same vein, having a mentor can also be a great way to limit your risk.
If you choose wisely, you’ll have a relationship with someone who’s honest about the mistakes that they’ve made and can tell you what they wish that they had done when they faced them and what steps they took to make things right.
They can even point out the flaws in your strategy and the mistakes you risk making before you even make them.
A kick into action
If you’re risk averse or often procrastinate, using a mentor can be a great way to find faith in your strategies and remind yourself that this isn’t an impossible journey - after all, you’re talking to someone who did it successfully!
They can also be a good motivational support if you’re doubting your skills or ability to transition into a property career.
They can also be a great source of optimism or realism to counteract the gloomy headlines.
Extend your contact base
Hopefully you’ll have found your mentor from a good existing base of contacts anyway, as we’ll explore later, but mentors can certainly help you find more.
You should always verify the expertise of a prospective mentor by checking who used and liked - or even disliked - them.
You can talk to all the people you’ve found in this vetting process as well as your main mentor.
If your mentor is very generous, they may even point you towards some of their own contacts, especially where their own knowledge is lacking.
That’s not even all the benefits of finding a mentor!
Each one will bring their own unique skills and experiences to the table.
If you have the time, money or need, you may even want to have multiple mentors, each segmented to a different part of their business.
Where you can find a mentor
So, you’re interest has been piqued.
But where’s the best place to find a good mentor?
Here’s a short list to get you started:
- We’d recommend that you avoid starting with the usual search engines.
They’ll usually just be full of people promoting their own paid for services - which as we’ll discuss later, are often not value for money.
Instead, social media such as LinkedIn or forums such as Property Tribes will likely offer a more balanced picture.
While you’ll still see recommendations on prospective mentor’s profiles, people on forums are more than happy to voice their complaints about anyone who hasn’t worked well for them!
Going through LinkedIn means that you can scour your contacts for someone who is interested in what you want to know and you can create more organic conversations over this platform.
By commenting on people’s posts and shares, you can get a better idea of their personality and if you’d make a good fit together than if you just dived straight into asking to be mentored.
- Professional networking meetings and events are also a great way to meet potential mentors.
You’ll know exactly who to avoid - because they’ll be over-zealously selling themselves as the best thing since sliced bread and the perfect person to mentor anyone to success.
The people who really deserve to be taken on as mentors are just the ones who have advanced to where you’d like to be in the future, or who share a particular interest with you.
Again, it’s best not to dive straight in.
Just get a feel for each other and make sure you’re remembered as a friendly face by keeping to more casual chit chat about the events of the evening or any interesting developments they have seen or had a hand in.
Make sure you leave with them as a LinkedIn contact, or with their email address neatly jotted down.
Then the bulk of the relationship should be built afterwards - by keeping up your comments on a regular basis, they’ll remember who you are and the transition into mentorship will go so much smoother.
- In general, avoid anyone selling themselves.
The best mentors often rely on a referral scheme.
How to find the best
So, you know where you can find them - and you’ve already had a bit of an insight into what to avoid.
But you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket.
With that being said, what can you look for to differentiate the best from the rest?
Think about your strategy first
You shouldn’t expect your mentor to spoon feed you advice about the best strategies.
Instead you should think about your strategy first.
Do you want to make the most of your current buy to let strategy?
Is flipping not working as well as you thought it would, and you want to know how to do it better or whether you should call it quits and go into another area?
Or are you thinking about diversifying your portfolio with commercial or unusual properties?
You should always look for a specialist in your area, or at the very least someone who has proven experience of whatever you’re interested in.
Share with you, not steering you
Their primary purpose is to share their experience and tips with you.
They aren’t there to force you to go in any direction - and stay well away from anyone arrogant enough to think that they have that power.
While they should feel able to tell you where you’re going wrong, they should also be able to think about your strategy in a rounded manner, relying on the facts rather than just their own opinions.
Enthusiastic about the job
You should always look for enthusiasm in a potential mentor.
No one loves every minute of their job, and you should definitely be wary of anyone who pretends that they do - but equally, why would you want to take tips off someone who doesn’t enjoy the industry?
If even their best yielding strategies haven’t made them happy, there’s probably something pretty seriously wrong.
A compatible contrast
You have to have compatible personalities, or the whole relationship can feel forced.
You shouldn’t write anyone off too quickly, as a good relationship isn’t usually made instantly, but you should be wary of any potential personality clashes that could jeopardise your relationship.
You need to find someone who you’d be comfortable voicing any concerns with.
It might feel awkward, but your mentor will probably sense if any issues have arisen.
If you don’t feel comfortable enough to voice your concerns, that means you don’t think you can work together to overcome them - and that’s the biggest problem of all.
But on the other hand, a mentor should help you to overcome your comfort zone, so their personality should also be a bit little out of yours.
Maybe you’d benefit from someone who is more direct than you are or someone who’s a bit more casual and can help you loosen up when networking.
If you have someone who’s exactly like you and agrees with everything you say, you’ll have nothing to learn and have wasted both your time.
You should want to see things from a fresh perspective.
Don’t be put off if your mentor’s from a different background - a different gender, younger than you, or has a different way of thinking.
That just means you’ll be able to learn more from another angle.
Expands their own knowledge
If you’re looking for a mentor, you’ll want them to pass on the most relevant knowledge possible.
But the best mentors recognise that they don’t have a monopoly on knowledge.
A great sign is when a mentor can tell you what they’ve been reading, listening to or what conferences they’ve gone to.
If they’re still researching at the top, it means that they’re not just resting on their laurels and have a lasting commitment to growing their business as the market changes.
It’s also a good sign if they ask you what you’ve learned so far - not only does it show a genuine interest in your relationship, but suggests that they want to understand the newbie perspective.
They should also still keep setting goals for themselves.
If they don’t want to continue changing and growing, why would you trust them to help you change and grow your business?
They’re not a ‘yes man’
Watch out if it seems that they always agree with you.
If you wanted constant nodding, you’d get a bobble head, not a mentor!
They should be happy to challenge you when they think you’re going wrong.
Otherwise you’ll just keep on doing the ‘same old, same old’, and never improve your business.
While you might feel awkward or embarrassed in the short term, sharp insights can save you from any profit plummets in the future.
Another good sign is if they ever tell you that they don’t know how to help.
While that might feel disappointing initially, acknowledging their weaknesses means that they won’t lead you into slapdash advice instead of staying silent.
Besides, anyone trustworthy enough to admit this will usually go away and do some research for you - which will provide you with even more thorough answers!
Is actually invested in you
Make sure that they see you as more than an ego boost or money in their pocket.
When you’re talking to each other, they should listen just as much as they talk.
That’s a good sign that what they tell you isn’t just some marketing spiel, but is actually a carefully considered answer based on what they’ve heard of your circumstances.
Something else to look out for is someone who asks just as many questions as they give you advice.
That means that they’re willing to take a deep dive into what you need rather than offering you a ‘one size fits all’ sort of answer.
Top Tip - Can they talk about their own mentors?
This shows that they know the value of a good mentoring relationship from their own perspective and have more wisdom to hand on from what they have learnt in the past.
Don’t make excuses
While mentors can be great for motivating procrastinators to ‘get into the action’, they can also do the opposite.
Some people might sit around waiting for a mentor to guide them before they ever start.
This is totally counter-intuitive.
This industry - and any other - doesn’t just require great knowledge.
It also requires the ability to take action too.
You shouldn’t rely on a mentor, course leader, or anyone else to spoon-feed you.
And if a mentor really is necessary before you take action, e.g if you’re moving into a completely new sector of property, then you shouldn’t sit around waiting for a mentor to come to you.
You should be proactively looking yourself - it’s relatively easy to do some quick research and you should put yourself out there at networking events anyway.
You can ‘make your own mentor’
Don’t be fooled by the idea that you need just one direct mentor to take out to coffee every so often.
You can ‘mentor yourself’ by finding great information in podcasts, videos, books or websites, and looking at as much of your favourite content as you can.
While this won’t be as direct a relationship as one where you meet face to face, it can still be valuable and you can still chat one on one through comments and emails.
Define it differently
You should also challenge yourself to stretch your definition of a mentor.
They’re not just one person sitting opposite you or even one person creating a content empire online.
Mentors will come in all different shapes and sizes throughout your career and life in general.
If you’re great at the specifics but just need a bit of a motivational push, you might not even need a traditional mentor.
Your friends and family may be happy to encourage you along your journey and give you some moral support whenever it gets tough.
If you still want a professional, maybe you’d benefit more from a coach.
Or you could ask a property colleague to be your accountability buddy.
You could even create a Facebook group especially for mentoring - where everyone will have the benefit of having multiple contacts and have access to their ideas 24/7.
Every professional you hire should also ‘mentor’ you in their specialism, so that you have good context for what they’re doing, instead of just trusting them blindly.
Picking good staff doesn’t mean just finding someone who can get their head down and do the job well.
You should also find people who are willing to explain what they’re doing and give you tips and tricks for getting it done better - whether they’re an architect or an accountant.
Buyer’s agents can also work very similarly to mentors, advising you on what properties will make the most of your investment - with the added benefit that most casual mentors can’t offer - direct action.
As ever with anything that’s being done for profit, you’ll need to double check their advice and motives so that it’s not just to line their pockets.
Can get the very basics for free
If you’re just getting started and want a mentor to show you the ropes, you might want to hold your horses.
You can get a lot of the basics for completely free, through podcasts, forums and books.
While we wouldn’t recommend starting your journey armed with just a property pdf, you need to do your own research before you look around for any mentors to help you - otherwise what will you be able to ask them?
Know your limits
Before you ask about the best way to use a particular strategy, you have to know that you’re actually able to use it.
Check with a mortgage broker that you’re actually eligible to use your financing strategy before you ask anyone to mentor you about it - you don’t want to invest time or money in a mentor who just fundamentally can’t help you.
Make sure they’re not a one trick pony
There’s plenty to vet when you’re looking for a mentor - we’ve covered some of it in contrast to the positives, and will tell you what to look out for when dealing with paid mentors in particular.
Alongside making sure that they don’t over promote their services at every event that they go to, you should make sure they challenge you, have a commitment to gaining even more knowledge and skills in their field and you should also make sure that they’re not just a one trick pony.
If they seem to push one strategy more than the rest, it’s highly likely that they’re not singing the praises of their favourite strategy - they just don’t know any other way to work!
Most of all, you have to remember that nothing’s guaranteed.
Even the best mentor can’t build your business for you - and you shouldn’t want them to!
Paid or voluntary?
If you go to Google, you’ll probably notice that there are LOADS of mentors ready to give you ‘the best advice of your life’ - for a price.
It can all feel pretty overwhelming.
Shouldn’t mentors just be doing this to ‘pass it on’ to the next generation?
While it doesn’t take a genius to realise most self confessed ‘gurus’ want to take your money and run, there are some mentors who are genuinely worth the money and some great potential benefits of paid mentors.
So let’s take a deeper look:
Some would argue that you just get what you pay for.
They’d say that being able to offer their services for a fee proves that they know their field - otherwise people wouldn’t be paying for them.
Another advantage of going for a paid for mentor over a more informal one is that they’re likely to build a much more consistent relationship with you.
While a kind hearted contact might be able to offer the occasional chat in a cafe, or a bi-monthly Skype, you’ll pay for organisation, structure and efficiency from a mentor and your level of investment in them will control how often you see each other.
As you can expect, a lot of people are looking to take advantage of newbies.
Some of them offer very little value at a hefty price and they might even be using their mentor service as a last ditch attempt to squeeze money out of the industry when all their other ventures have gone bust.
Paid mentors are usually more reluctant to tell you about the ‘problem side’ of the industry and might be reluctant to share their worries about the market.
How to avoid a scam
You should always check how long these mentors have been operating if you’re willing to pay for them - it’s a lot more suspicious than impressive if a newbie has a ton of great reviews - they should always price themselves according to their experience.
Always look at their level of experience - if they’ve got no experience, they’ve got no business being a mentor!
But that’s probably obvious.
You should also look at the quality and volume of their experience.
- How many developments have they been involved in?
- What different types?
- How successful were they?
You can forgive the odd blip or 2 in their career, as no one strikes gold every time - but if there’s a track record of under performing, you should definitely strike this mentor off your list.
The information that your mentor puts out on their platform can also be really telling.
If they’re transparent about all their investments and are open about the mistakes they’ve made, then they’re probably a lot more trustworthy than someone who says their career’s only ever gone upwards.
And if they’re not - ask yourself what they’ve got to hide.
Avoid anyone who wants you to pay before you even have a chat.
You should always be offered an initial chat to establish your goals and financial situation before anything else happens.
This lets the both of you have a ‘2 way interview’ to establish whether the relationship is a good fit and your mentor can see if they’re actually in a position to help you.
What can you do when you look at a mentor’s recommendations and they all seem too good to be true?
Sorry to be cynical - but you assume they are!
Anyone can cherry pick their best comments or even, if they’re really unscrupulous, fake a recommendation.
So where can you get more a more realistic look at what their customers think?
If they have written any books, take a look at the reviews.
You can also type their name into a property forum - members are usually very vocal when someone’s sceptical or got a complaint!
Be super cautious if you get the feeling that they’re just trying to sell you something.
Whether it’s questionable deals or dodgy services, a real mentor shouldn’t be pushing you into buying add ins that will just offer a further knock to your bank account.
If a pricey recommendation pops up now and then, it might be genuine, but be on the lookout for anyone on constant sales mode.
Go with your gut.
If anything about your conversation makes you feel uncomfortable, or just feels slightly ‘off’, then you should definitely steer away from them.
With all of this information in mind - and seeing just how many potential traps there are to using a paid mentor, you might think that a voluntary mentor is automatically the better option.
But you should definitely look at the facts first.
The biggest benefit of using a volunteer mentor is that they just seem far more trustworthy.
They’re taking time out of their busy schedule to talk to you - it’s hard to think of any ulterior motives they might have if they don’t want any money from you.
Your relationship is likely to be a lot more organic.
Rather than sending an email to a total stranger, there’s a greater likelihood that you’ll know your mentor already.
Whether you’ve hit it off at a conference, or shared your opinions over social media, you’ll already have cut through the awkwardness of your initial meeting.
They’ve probably got a lot less to lose by being honest about the business
Volunteer mentors might voice their frustrations with the industry or some of the mistakes they made at your point in their career.
If nothing else, they’re less of an investment
If the relationship doesn’t work, you won’t be out of pocket or have wasted a substantial amount of time.
They might make less time for you
No matter how well you get along, you’re still not on their books as part of their business, and they might just not have enough time to create a lasting or meaningful relationship.
How much can you really get out of their advice if it’s offered 3 times a year on a spotty Skype call?
Just because they’re not selling their mentorship services, it doesn’t mean that they’re not selling anything at all
They might have realised that any direct sell will put people off, but still use this voluntary mentorship as an opportunity to push you towards certain products or services.
Or maybe they’re selling themselves, and just once you think you’ve established a great relationship - they’ll give you the hard sell for that new book they’ve just written, where they’ll be able to tell you more.
How to become one
So you’ve looked at all the benefits for mentees and decided that you’d like to help others earn their chops in this industry.
You may even have seen that you could pitch your services for a profit - which might appeal if you’ve been mentoring a large range of people for free - so why not make it another source of income?
Why not start with a friend or family member?
They’re probably extremely curious about your property career and would be happy to hear more!
They might also be more blunt about where your advice or communication skills need polishing than your mentees would be.
Once you get the thumbs up, you can start to offer some mentorship online
You can start small by posting an ‘ask me anything’ thread on Reddit or LinkedIn, or ask if anyone wants advice about your speciality in particular.
You can even create a specific Facebook page for your mentoring where you live stream Q and A’s.
Think about blogging or vlogging
You don’t need to be particularly savvy - you just need to have some advice and a phone camera at hand.
This will help you reach a wider audience and gives your mentees a quick ‘preview’ of what you can offer them.
Offer to write articles for property publications or even just for any property businesses that you’re familiar with.
Ask to speak at conferences or events - these experiences will get you to a more professional level and give you extra credibility with your potential mentees.
What skills will you need?
You’ll need to motivate your mentees to stay part of property through the bad times and the good.
You should be able to pick up on their strengths and encourage them to make the most of their skills and talents.
You’ll also need to offer a sympathetic ear when things go wrong.
Hands off approach
Mentoring isn’t a job for control freaks.
You need to be willing to relinquish control and let your mentees make their own decisions based on their own research and gut feelings, as well as what you’ve told them.
Even if they agree with you that a certain strategy is a bad idea only to go ahead with it in the next few months, they’ve probably double checked and chances are they still took your words pretty seriously.
You need to be humble enough to accept that your way isn’t the only way that works.
Have some time on your hands
Be realistic about how much time you have to offer.
You might well be really passionate about mentoring, but if you’re in the middle of one development and still trying to finance another, you should probably leave mentoring for when you’ve got a bit more down time.
Take a good look at how much free time you have after your workday and how much of it you’re willing to spend - your mentee will be able to sense quite easily if you’re getting grouchy or resentful.
Chances are that neither of you will get anything really worthwhile from a couple of Skype calls spread across the year.
Make sure you’re not just raring to go with a 100 different pieces of advice at the start of your relationship with your mentee.
At this point, they’ll need to be listened to as much as they want your advice.
And anyway - how are you meant to give any of it if you don’t take the time to understand their situation?
Respect for other people’s views
Everyone has opinions.
And there are going to be times that you and your mentee disagree over them.
But you shouldn’t ever say that even your least favourite strategy is doomed to fail.
After all, your mentee will have looked into it for a reason.
Plus, you should try and leave your more personal views at the door.
While getting to know each other outside of work is a good idea, it’s probably best not to risk straining the relationship by getting into political differences or asking anything too personal.
Know how a small business works
It might have been a while since your business was at its smallest stage.
Perhaps it’s been years since you were working with your colleagues day to day and you now play a more advisory role from afar.
But you should still be able to tap into what you remember from being part of a small business.
Not only should you understand the mechanics and pressures at play, but you’ll be a much more sought after mentor if you understand multiple parts of the business - for example, marketing, management or hiring knowledge on top of your property know how.
What should you share?
Tips and tricks
Teach your mentee one off ideas that pertain to a particular area of their business.
For example, you could tell them that they could offer a deposit replacement program to attract tenants once their property goes on the market.
Your mentee might want help with starting some of the more bureaucratic processes in the industry.
This could include teaching your mentee how to set up their business as a limited company, or how they can go about paying stamp duty.
If you’re following a systemic approach, you’ll be able to give your mentees tips for every step along their growth process.
You could help them grow their investor base from their first investor, to a few interested contacts, to a much bigger portfolio of investors.
How can you benefit?
Okay, so you’re doing this out of the goodness of your own heart - but there must be something other than altruism that makes you want to give up your precious time to tutor property newbies.
Maybe you want to leave a lasting legacy in the industry long after you’ve retired.
Or maybe you want to play your part in expanding the amount of property professionals to the level we need to tackle the housing shortfall.
Other benefits include:
Expanding your network of professionals
The more you help others, the more they’ll want to help you in return.
Once your mentees turn pro, not only can they recommend you to the newest starters, but they can also introduce you to their contacts.
You become an industry leader
Once you’ve built up a reputation as an expert, more and more people will seek you out for advice.
If you get good enough, and have enough demand, you can even make mentoring your full time job, or something to keep you occupied through retirement.
You’ll also become a ‘thought leader’ - meaning that people will value your opinions highly, and see you not only as an industry expert, but someone who can also accurately predict new trends.
You could even find yourself being quoted in articles or interviewed for videos quicker than you’d think!
You’ll perfect your own craft
Researching for all your mentees questions and queries, and making sure that the advice you give is up to date with a changing market, will mean you’ll just keep on learning where some of your more arrogant peers might be making big mistakes because they think they’ve learnt it all.
You’ll want to hone your own expertise and retain more of what you learn, just so that your own motivation can inspire motivation in your mentees.
Can you share any stories of people who have helped you through your property journey?
Let us know, we might even feature our favourite ones in a new post!