Building Business Relationships: Top Tips To Start Strong In Your New Mentorship

Last week in our series on building business relationships, Taneka and Ashlee’s mentorship story showed us the power of a great mentorship. This week we’re covering the steps you can take to ensure the same success with your mentor by getting off to a strong start.

We recently matched our Discover Cohort graduate Kristin Mejia and community leader and entrepreneur Telisha Arguelles Cobb. Kristin’s company Exbreast Yourself provides pumping suites for breast feeding mothers at festivals in the south. Telisha, owner of Marathon Music Works and the iconic Exit/In, offers extensive experience in the music and event industry that will help Kristin pursue her growth goals.

As Kristin and Telisha look forward to their first meeting, we wanted to share some tried-and-true tips from around the web to help them – and our readers – set up their mentorship for success.

On preparation:

As a mentee, you’ll get the most help by understanding your mentor’s specialties ahead of time. For instance, if your mentor has built their career with his or her own marketing abilities, it’s more valuable to ask them about how to get started building a marketing function for your business than how to set up an accounting system.

“This is not about ego, but it’s about efficiency and honoring someone’s valuable time. The more you know about your potential mentor, the less they have to introduce themselves and the more time they have to focus on your question.” –

It’s a common misconception that the mentor will drive the relationship. It’s the mentee who should come prepared from the start in understanding the value of the time and expertise their mentor is offering and knowing what they need ahead of time.

On the importance of listening actively:

Listening to your mentor’s advice is key, even if you feel it may be difficult to accomplish at first. They’re there for you to openly discuss your business challenges and stressors and to give actionable insights into how they may have overcome similar difficulties.

Don’t worry about all the reasons why you think you can’t accomplish your next goals. Tell them exactly what you’re dealing with and ask for suggestions on how to overcome those obstacles.

Be open to learning unexpected lessons. While you should be prepared with the questions you want answered and the goals you intend to achieve, you may be required to step outside of your comfort zone. A mentor can help motivate you by putting you through exercises that help your business as well as your personal growth.

“Being open to learning new material and having someone willing to teach it made that end result possible.” – Fast Company

Above all, be respectful and responsive to feedback, whether or not you implement their advice. Take your mentor’s advice seriously, but push back when appropriate if you have additional questions or are unsure how to execute on something.

On laying the groundwork:

Once you’ve had some initial discussions, you should begin laying the groundwork for how your mentorship will operate. This will help define your relationships from the start so there isn’t any confusion:

  • Express your expectations and the specific challenges you’d like to solve
  • Establish clear communication channels and timelines – perhaps you’ll meet bi-weekly but plan to touch base periodically through a weekly phone call or texts
  • Establish the areas of business you both feel comfortable discussing, and those that may fall outside of the mentor’s experience or the mentee’s current capabilities
  • Be sure to establish mutual guidelines for confidentiality. Like any relationship, a mentorship should be built on the trust of both people.

On following through:

In order to reach your goals, following through should be a big priority throughout your mentorship. We all get busy, but entering a mentorship means you’re making a commitment to spend a lot of time and effort toward building your business. The time your put in will translate to the outcomes you see at the end of the relationship, so don’t short-change your own business.

Failure to follow through even on the smallest tasks or correspondence is a slippery slope to missing important expectations in the future. Make sure you’re carving out time each day to put in work toward your mentorship.

Boiling it all down:

A lot of the same qualities that will help you succeed in business will help you succeed in a mentorship, such as preparation, openness, and persistence. To set yourself up for success, come prepared to the very first meeting and stay open to your mentor’s perspective. You’ll gain insight into areas you may not even be thinking of in addition to solutions for your common challenges.

Read more in our building business relationships series:

Building Business Relationships Series: Successful Businesses Have Mentors

Building Business Relationships Series: A Better Approach to Networking

Building Business Relationships Series: The Numbers Behind Networking


A large portion of what we’re funded to do here at Pathway is provide one-on-one business counseling for the hundreds of people who walk through our doors each year. Along with our amazing staff, we’re able to do this with the help of the busiest and the brightest volunteers across Tennessee to help bring up the next crop of small business owners. 

Our Pathway Small Business Mentoring Program brings together successful, forward-thinking business owners and professionals with one goal: to grow participants’ businesses to new levels. Contact us today for more information about how to get started.