Help you help me

5/365

I connected one my friends in VegasTech with an advisor/mentor who is absolutely amazing and knows a ton about her market and business. But, he is also neck deep in his own company and projects. Which, is ideally true about any great mentor… I mean, I am probably not scrambling to get business advice from someone who is sitting around their apartment working on manually updating their episode guide to Yu-gi-oh cartoon reruns. I digress…

The best way to get help from busy mentors is to make it as simple as possible for them help.

1. Get your head right: Simply remind yourself that they are excited about your business, have offered to help, and want to help. (They did actually opt-in to this, right? Right?)

Which means, don’t waste more of their time apologizing or feeling bad or rehashing how amazing they are. We’ll get to the appreciate part at the end, don’t shove another paragraph in their face at the beginning.

2. Keep it simple: You are most likely to get input when you tee them up for a simple “yes”, “no”, “maybe but…”, response.

3. Keep it actionable: If you’re looking for an action instead of an answer, ask for a very specific action, like “Can you forward this to someone who has done x?”

4. Split out updates from actions: Sometimes you just want to keep them in the loop on changes, or share results from some previous advice. If they can just hit archive when they’re done, tell them upfront. “Just wanted to let you know about y, no need to respond unless something jumps out and makes you think I’m crazy.”

5. Spell out deadlines: Need an answer by Thursday at noon? Tell them, “We’re going into this potential partnership meeting tomorrow (April 7th) at 12:30. If you catch this before then…”

6. Say thank you: Probably goes without saying. But, you shouldn’t go without saying it. Always say thank you at the end of every email. Especially if your thank you is specific about the results of a previous exchange. “As always, I deeply appreciate your help. Thanks to that link you sent me last month, we decreased our churn by 8%! Cheers,”

leave-you-hanging-bonus-thought: How many of these tips can implemented in the subject line itself?

  • grahamkahr

    I think this is really helpful, whether you are working with a mentor on a startup or just dealing with your manager. Thanks for posting this Thomas.

    • http://thomasknoll.info/ thomasknoll

      Oooh!! Good call, Graham! I didn’t even think of that!