Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.

Every entre­pre­neur needs a coach, because the fastest way to learn any busi­ness is to study some­one who has been suc­cess­ful at it. This per­son has already paid the price of expe­ri­ence. You must absorb all of the infor­ma­tion that you can out of him or her!

Over the years, I’ve met many peo­ple who des­per­ate­ly want to be suc­cess­ful but who are ulti­mate­ly unwill­ing to invest in them­selves. They think, “I can teach myself. I can learn this on my own.” I’m always dumb­found­ed by this atti­tude. If I can avoid mak­ing a few mis­takes, I’m going to.

Our whole lives are about learn­ing. When we’re young, we attend school. If we’re lucky, our par­ents impart a few impor­tant lessons. If you’ve ever played sports, you’ve had a coach. Edu­ca­tion is king. In the long run, find­ing the right men­tor will save you time and mon­ey.

Relat­ed: How to Make the Most of Your Busi­ness Men­tor­ship

How­ev­er, it goes with­out say­ing that some coach­es are bet­ter than oth­ers. There are so many peo­ple these days offer­ing their ser­vices to entre­pre­neurs online. Before you leap into a new rela­tion­ship, take some time to get to know a poten­tial coach. The fol­low­ing qual­i­ties are what you should be look­ing for.

1. Experience

The num­ber-one thing to look for on someone’s resume is his or her expe­ri­ence. What exact­ly have they accom­plished? Is it what you want to accom­plish? Your coach must have walked the walk.

I feel strong­ly about this. Find some­one that has tru­ly paid their dues and can speak to their real-life expe­ri­ences. Ide­al­ly, this per­son will have failed and suc­ceed­ed. Their insight will help you avoid mak­ing cost­ly mis­takes and increase your chance of suc­cess immense­ly.

The dev­il is in the details. Ask for tes­ti­mo­ni­als. What are for­mer mentees say­ing about him or her? Is what’s being said per­son­al and detailed? Always remem­ber to Google for com­plaints as well.

2. Attitude

In my expe­ri­ence, hav­ing a great atti­tude comes with time and expe­ri­ence. The right coach will have been through it all — and come out the oth­er side know­ing a sense of humor goes a long way in busi­ness. They are able to see the big pic­ture. They under­stand it’s all a num­bers game. They don’t get too upset. An ide­al coach is very patient, but also per­sis­tent and deter­mined.

3. Willing to share

A great coach is will­ing to share all of his or her expe­ri­ences with you — the good and the bad. Do you get the feel­ing this per­son is hold­ing back? That’s not a good sign. You’ll learn the most from some­one who is will­ing to be rad­i­cal­ly trans­par­ent.

4. Expertise in their field

Does your poten­tial coach reg­u­lar­ly give lec­tures? Has he or she writ­ten a book? Do reporters inter­view him or her? It’s impos­si­ble to be every­thing to every­one, and nor is it desir­able. If this per­son offers a long list of ser­vices, exer­cise cau­tion. 

Relat­ed: 7 Sur­pris­ing Truths About Men­tors

5. Accessibility

You must be able to reach your coach. A good coach will be will­ing to cus­tomize a pro­gram for you, because they know one size doesn’t fit all. Does this per­son care about your prob­lems and con­cerns? Specif­i­cal­ly ask them how much time they have to offer you. What is their sched­ule and avail­abil­i­ty like? How many oth­er projects and com­mit­ments do they have? Dis­cuss these very impor­tant details up front.

6. Connections

A great coach will have long­stand­ing rela­tion­ships with peo­ple who could ben­e­fit you. Ask him or her if they’re will­ing to open doors for you. Some­times, it is about who you know.

7. Expectations

Ask your coach what they expect from you. A good coach will keep you account­able. They will out­line what they need from you, time and action wise. If they don’t ask how much you’re capa­ble of, that’s a red flag. I would nev­er take on a mentee who told me he or she didn’t have as much time as I thought they should ded­i­cate to a project.

8. A love of teaching

Teach­ing is a skill that peo­ple get bet­ter at over time. Good men­tors love to help oth­er peo­ple. They enjoy the act of teach­ing. How a poten­tial coach treats you from the very begin­ning of your inter­ac­tions is a good indi­ca­tor of how he or she will act over time. Are they late to the first appoint­ment you set up? That’s not a good sign. You need a coach who is con­sid­er­ate of your time.

9. Holds you accountable

A great coach will not sim­ply let you dis­ap­pear. Yes, things get in the way. But he or she cares about how you’re doing.

If you’re lucky enough to find a coach that you vibe with, as I have, you will make a great friend for life. They will enjoy shar­ing in your suc­cess and feel­ing like they were part of it.

Relat­ed: Richard Bran­son’s Guide to Find­ing a Men­tor

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