Finding a mentor to further your real estate investing goals is an important step.
This advice is written in most books and blogs on the subject.
There isn’t, however, usually a very good explanation of how one should go about finding a mentor.
This would probably explain why most people screw this step up so badly.
I’ll tell you what I’ve seen since having my blog.
WHAT NOT TO DO
I’m not even a very popular blogger or real estate investor (yet), but I’ve received hundreds of unsolicited emails that roughly read the same:
Hey, I love your blog. I loved your podcast, it really spoke to me. You might be surprised to hear this, but I’ve been thinking about investing in Alabama! Isn’t that where your houses are? What are the chances?
Will you be my mentor? Can I use your management company? Who’s your realtor? Thank you so much for your time.
No, that’s not his actual name.
I will tell you that the success rate so far of this approach, and this may surprise you, is 0%.
What a greedy bastard! He doesn’t give back at all!
To be fair, a couple of my blog posts, including my Complete Guide to Real Estate Investing, talk about how important it is to find a mentor to guide you on your journey.
Also, on my blog, I tell the story of how I found my mentor and I just kind of casually asked him if he would show me how to do what he’s doing. I probably made it look pretty easy.
That is what I will illustrate in today’s post. The proper way to go about getting a mentor. I’ll also talk about the wrong way. The email above is a good example of that.
DON’T USE THE “M” WORD
I want to give a second example of what not to do:
I had a co-worker whose wife found my blog. Co-workers find my blog quite a bit now. The co-worker asked me if I would be ok giving some advice as he pursued purchasing a property.
I said sure.
I received an email from him and his wife. He thanked me for agreeing to be his mentor, and wanted to set up regular meeting schedules to discuss his progress.
Whoever said the “M” word? Not me!!
I was fine with help guiding him on his first purchase, but I was not ok being his mentor.
The word mentor can come with a lot of baggage. It implies responsibility, time commitment, and it really is ill-defined exactly what it means.
I told him I wasn’t able to be a mentor to them, and that I had very little free time.
This made me realize something that I think is good advice, and I haven’t seen written anywhere else.
I don’t think you should use the word mentor when seeking a mentor-mentee relationship.
I think it is something that will evolve naturally over time.
I steal this analogy from Brandon Turner, from the Biggerpockets podcast.
Asking someone you don’t know well to be your mentor is like asking someone to marry you on the first date.
And, outside of Provo, Utah, asking someone to marry you on the first date has a 0% success rate.
Just like my example earlier of how I found my mentor in Montgomery, Alabama. I never said, “Will you be my mentor?” (aka will you marry me). I asked him if he could show me how to do what he’s doing with real estate. Way more natural.
I want to differentiate right now between approaches you would use for different kinds of mentors. You could either go after what I would call a peer mentor or a celebrity mentor. Both have pros and cons, and different approach tactics.
THE PEER MENTOR
I really recommend trying to find yourself a peer mentor. This is a mentor that is not already a famous real estate investor. They are not well known in the media, and not a name that many people recognize.
A peer mentor is simply somebody that has been doing the type of investing you’re interested in successfully in your area for a few years more than you. They are more experienced than you, but not massively successful.
This is helpful because their time doesn’t command the premium that a celebrity mentor does.
You can get almost everything you need from a peer mentor. You’ll certainly get a lot more of a time commitment and a tailored experience to your area than you would be able to get from a celebrity mentor.
WHERE TO FIND A PEER MENTOR
Biggerpockets Forums – I’m not someone who spends a ton of time on Biggerpockets, but it definitely has its usefulness. You can go to the forums based on city and chat with lots of investors in your area. The key is using the forum to find some kind of a real estate meetup in your city. You may also just be able to identify potential mentors and get to know a lot of about investing in the area simply through scrolling through the forum and reading the threads.
Real Estate Investment Association (REIA) – There are usually monthly meetings in many cities organized through REIA where investors get together and talk about real estate. This is a great place to meet like-minded people, learn a lot, make friends, and most importantly, find a peer mentor in a very natural way. Try googling this with your city name or google real estate meetup or something similar.
Contacts – Another piece of advice I don’t see so much on other blogs and books, but I like is meeting other investors and potential peer mentors through real estate agents, property managers, and other contacts you already have in the area. I tend to rely a lot on real estate agents and property managers for a lot of my contacts because I do lots of long distance real estate, so I’ve met lots of other investors this way. You should take advantage of this method as well.
BRING SOMETHING TO OFFER
I’m going to tell you what many books and blog posts tell you, but I’ll take it a step further. They all tell you that you must bring some type of benefit to the mentor-mentee relationship. You need to find a way to bring value. Often the advice is, ask the mentor how can I bring you value or how can I help you out?
You’ll see this a lot in the Biggerpockets forums. Lots of posts where new people are generically offering to “bring value” to people in exchange for mentoring. This is, once again, met with a 0% success rate.
This advice by itself isn’t enough. First of all, most people don’t know what skills you have that you could possibly bring them. They don’t know what you do better than others.
Next, they don’t have the time to figure out what part of their lives they should outsource to you so they have a reason to owe you something.
It’s your job to figure this out for them!
You need to spend the time to get to know your potential mentor. Get to know what they are working on, what are their needs. Only you know what is unique and special about you. You need to find a way to suggest to them what you could do to add value.
A couple of things most people will almost always appreciate is helping them run errands, drive for dollars, walk for dollars, helping them find investors, introducing them to good contacts (contractors, real estate agents, property managers, lenders, etc.) to name a few examples.
I’ll suggest one thing that will always work if you can figure it out. Find out how to bring them potential deals.
THE CELEBRITY MENTOR
Some of you may decide you want a mentor that is well known. Maybe it’s the mentor you heard on a podcast, or your favorite real estate blogger. While this is possible, this can be very tricky. Most celebrity mentors are busy people who have large demands on their time. They have lots of people asking them every day to be their mentor.
How can you compete with that?
You’ll need to stand out. I’ll offer a couple of pointers on this.
The advice I gave above about finding out how to add value applies just the same here. You need to do your homework and understand your celebrity mentor. You then need to understand what is unique about you and find an opportunity where you think you could do something to add value.
There are also ways to make it more likely that your attempt to contact them will be heard. Instead of just having your big ask through an email, build up a history of commenting on this person’s posts and social media accounts over time. I can tell you, even the A-lister celebrity real estate celebrity bloggers can’t help but enjoy some praise, and they’ll be more likely to respond if they recognize your name.
If you spend a few months reading carefully everything put out there by your target celebrity mentor, and thoughtfully comment on their posts and social media he/she will start to recognize your name. Have the goal of getting responses back from them on a periodic basis.
At this point, once you think you’ve identified your way to add value, you can pitch it to the celebrity mentor. Try by email, if that fails, maybe try through a different route, but I’ve found an email to work pretty well. Don’t ask for anything in return at first.
I’ll give an example from something I did for a celebrity blogger. I found out he was writing a book. I offered to be the editor on that book for free. He accepted. I think it was literally my first week blogging. This blossomed into a friendship. At the time, I was a nobody in blogging. (I guess I still am, but that’s beside the point). I made a connection with a well-established blogger by finding an opportunity to add value to their lives and not expecting anything in return.
Eventually, if you are able to find a way to stand out in some form or fashion to your potential celebrity mentor, you ask for some pointers in exchange for the help you are giving. I would NOT recommend using the word mentor (the “M” word). It scares people.
I’m scared to death of the “M” word.
I haven’t agreed to be one person’s mentor in the last 3 years!
And the world’s probably a better place because of it.
What is your experience finding a mentor?
Any additional pointers?
Rich on Money
Interested in how I do real estate? Read my article on the 5 Secrets to Finding the Best Property Manager