Today’s post is about how to make the most of meetings, specifically with mentors and consultants.
Take a stroll around the internet and you’ll see TONS of articles that talk about how entrepreneurs shouldn’t try to do everything alone and that finding the right mentors, coaches, and/or consultants is key to success. Some of those articles are right here in the New Venture Mentor blog. What you don’t see as much of, however, is what the heck an entrepreneur should be doing to make the most of any time he or she actually gets with said mentors or consultants.
In the case of a consultant, you’re likely paying by the hour, so you want to get the most bang for your buck. In the case of a mentor, you obviously respect this person and value his or her opinion, so it behooves you to also value his or her time. Heading off to a meeting with nothing in your head other than either, “I hope this meeting goes well,” or “I hope I get some good advice,” isn’t going to result in you getting the most possible out of the relationship. Instead, try using some of the following tips to make sure you can suck every bit of amazing insight possible out of any of your mentors, consultants, or coaches:
Tip #1 is to be prepared. When you go into a meeting, you should be ready for it. Even if I’m going out to cocktails with my girls I have an objective – relax, catch up on their lives, make plans for our next weekend trip, whatever. When you go to a meeting with a mentor or consultant, you should know what you want to accomplish in that meeting and “catching up” isn’t a good enough goal. Have specific issues you’d like to discuss and specific questions you’d like to ask. Be ready to present any facts or figures that would shed light on what’s going on and to provide follow-up information if the other person needs more detail to be able to give you a good answer to a question. When you have an objective for your meeting, you’ll be much less likely to waste time on unimportant stuff and much more likely to get to the meat of it right away – and that’s how you get the most benefit from these meetings.
Tip #2, however, is to make sure you do leave some time to let this mentor or consultant comment on whatever he or she wants to comment on or ask any questions he or she wants to ask. Yes, you should go in with an objective, but you should also recognize that you may have blinders on to some things that really should be discussed, so be sure you leave enough time during your meeting to just listen to whatever the other person wants to say and discuss whatever the other person thinks is important.
Whether you’re focusing on your objective or discussing what your mentor or consultant thinks is important at any given moment, tip #3 is to be sure to take notes. Don’t try scribbling down every single word so you’re really just note-taking and not listening, but do be prepared to jot down the overarching themes and any choice nuggets that come out of the conversation. If you’re really getting the most out of your meetings, you’ll cover a lot, and it will be difficult to remember it all if you don’t write it down.
Finally, tip #4 is to create action items immediately. You probably want to do this while you’re still with the other person, at the end of the meeting, but in the worst case you can create these action items immediately following the meeting. It’s really important that they are created right away, however, so do not wait saying you’ll create your action items tomorrow, because it won’t happen. Close the meeting creating action items that all have clear steps and solid deadlines so that you can immediately get to work putting all of the amazing advice you just got to use. Bonus points if the mentor or consultant knows about all of the action items and their deadlines and will hold you to them.
Mentors and consultants can be incredibly valuable resources for entrepreneurs to lean on and these four tips should help you get the most out of any meeting you have with one.