Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Lunch with a Guru

In the last two posts we examined ratios you need for appraising your business; the Pareto principle and efficiency ratio. This week, we’ll be taking a short break from ratios to examine an important relationship every entrepreneur must have to succeed in business. Thereafter we would return to our business ratios.

The world’s most expensive lunch is served once a year. Some years it’s a table for two, other years it’s for more; but one of the customers is a constant. His name is Warren Buffett, the second richest man in the USA. “No wonder”, you’d say until you find out that he doesn’t even pay for the meal; that honour falls on the other customer(s). Then you’ll begin wondering why on God’s green earth someone will shell out so much ($3.5million in 2013) to eat with a money-bag who won’t pick the tab.

I assure you that they don’t pay that much to have their pick of a buffet; it’s the brains of Buffett himself they are out to pick. His vast investment experience, particularly in picking winning stocks, is their sole aim and the delicacies are merely icing on the cake. They recognize that to sit, for an hour, with one so astute is worth decades of personal study and equivalent to years of hands-on experience. (It must be noted that Mr. Buffett auctions the lunch to the highest bidder and gives the proceeds to charity).

That brings us to this focus of my post….. How much are you willing to part with for mentoring? What will you give to stand on the shoulders of those who've gone ahead? How far would you go to get sound judgment? Think about it!

To start with, who is a mentor? A mentor is not an adviser, although we seek their advice; neither is a mentor a friend, although we love to have them on speed dial. A mentor doesn't micro-manage you, hold you by the hand when times are hard or give you the occasional pat on the head when you do it right. What a mentor does is to point you in the right direction. Period.

A mentor separates the chaff from the wheat but leaves you to mill it and bake the bread. Having a mentor is like reading a text with bookmarks on the pages containing the exam questions. You still gotta read it! Reminds me of my university days when I joined other students in chorusing “AOC! AOC!!” after the revision classes. AOC stands for Area of Concentration and it was our way of telling our lecturers to give us a hint of the chapters to focus on in preparation for the upcoming examinations. That’s what mentors do. They give you the AOC, nevertheless you must be prepared to read it. That’s why you don’t need more than the occasional lunch with these busy people.

We all need mentors for the important things we do in life. But not all of us have the money to pay for large ticket meals with a Mr. Buffett. Some entrepreneurs are even still struggling to raise the capital for their dreams and have none to spare for a business lunch. But I will show you two simple ways to get quality time with the mentor you have in mind, with little or no dent to your wallet.

a. Offer to do something for them, for free of course! Do something for their kid in school or their family. I have done this many times and it’s always worked. The world is full of ‘Gimmes’ that being a giver is one way to make yourself unique and prove to a mentor that you are worth his time. But ensure that it doesn't seem like you’re stalking them.

In secondary school, a friend wanted to take a picture with a big shot invited for their Founder’s Day celebration. Being a good artist, he made a lovely pencil-work of the guest and handed it to the school principal. When the man was leaving, he was given the artwork and he asked to meet with the artist. My friend was sent for and, sure enough, he got his picture. If mentoring was what he needed, he would have also gotten it.

b. I've seen this second method work ten out of ten times. It’s simple but very effective. Ask a mentor about his work; don’t ask about the issues bogging your mind.

Have you ever seen the grumpiest of persons talking about the things they are passionate about? They do with a sparkle in their eyes! A mentor can give you connections, he can make necessary referrals for you and his complimentary card can even open many doors for you. But asking for any of these will never do the magic of getting him hooked like one who sits at his feet and is all ears. Stroke the ego of your desired mentor by showing interest in his passion and then you can easily get all the mentoring you need from him (and of course the connections and referrals too).

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