When looking for a mentor, find someone in a business just like yours or someone who is running a business that you want your company to resemble. Often, when you emulate other businesses, you will have the same or similar success.

Frequently, too, when you train with someone better than you, you will become better yourself. Take, for instance, Tiger Woods, tennis pros, and trainers around the world who train the brightest and biggest stars in sports. Just because we view them as the best does not mean they are not trying to get better. With coaching, the best can get better.

Mentoring game plan

Find someone whose footsteps you can walk in and who will allow you to learn from first-hand experience. The times when I viewed other people in my business performing at much higher levels than I was have been among my greatest experiences. To see what they were and were not doing, and to realize how and why I was being held back and what I needed to do to get to the next level, were highly instructive.

Mentors can offer many things to help you grow your business. Make sure the one you choose can help you with advertising, marketing and sales support initiatives. The mentor should also be able offer guidance on how and when to grow staff, and who should train new hires. A mentor should not only help you with your personal business, but also with the business of running your business.

Being a personal producer in the financial services industry, I realize one thing: I don’t want to be a manager or a trainer of staff. My job is to invest money and help people with financial planning issues, and that’s all I do. Everything else is outsourced to others, including the training of those people. That said, I do make sure these key individuals are properly trained before they’re allowed to train others.

McDonaldizing the process

Follow someone who has a proven track record and can show you how to do what they do–something that can be McDonaldized (repeated for success). Brian Tracey, my mentoring coach, once told me long ago that he went to the wealthiest neighborhoods and knocked on each door to find out what people did for a living. Many middle-aged parents were at home watching their children or washing their cars. Brian wondered how all these people with their big homes made their money.

It was simple. He asked them. Undoubtedly most people were in sales. Being in sales, you control your own hours, you can set your own income, and you can achieve any height. However, some people are better at sales than other people.

Those skills, and a work ethic, can be learned. The only question you need to ask yourself is, “Am I willing to make the painful changes needed to change my business and change my life?” One of my favorite sayings is, “Change your mind. Change your life.” And it is so true.

A few years ago, I started mentoring other financial advisors, helping them market their businesses and allowing them to learn from my business–and from my mistakes. The mentoring is analogous to training for a marathon: To run a marathon, you may need proper coaching; to win the marathon, you may need ongoing coaching.

Where to start

For more information on coaches, contact your local financial planner association. Be sure the prospects you gather are specific to, and will have the most impact on, your business. That mentor should be someone who can help you streamline your business, create more time for you by delegating more tasks to others, and watch your business flourish.

Most importantly, always remember to be the fly on the wall. Learn from others. Listen to others who are doing better than you are. Pick a mentor who is performing at very high levels and achieve those levels by playing the game the way he or she does.

As Zig Ziegler would say, “Every once in a while, we need a checkup from the neck up.” So go get that checkup and find someone with whom you can partner with to help you take your game to the next level.