In order to grow in the small business world, having a mentor is key to navigating toward success. Lendistry’s own Janet Perez insists that, “Having my own ‘personal board of directors’ has made me a better leader and individual. They allow me to see things from different perspectives and, as my CEO would say, ‘skip steps.’ Leaders and mentors are truly the key to success.”

A mentoring relationship can evolve organically with a teacher, a boss, or a relative. But you can’t just go up to someone you admire and say, “Will you be my mentor?” That’s just awkward.

What if you don’t have any naturally-occurring mentors? Fortunately, finding and bonding with a mentor refines and specializes a skill that all small business owners already have: relationship building.

Here are some tips to keep in mind as you search for a mentor.

  1. Don’t use the word “mentor” when interacting with possible mentors.
  2. To make connections online, try LinkedIn’s new Career Advice tool.
  3. Nurture relationships with business leaders you already know. Attend their events, introduce yourself, frequent their business, and have honest conversations.
  4. Widen your scope at networking events, paying attention to possible mentors, not just business connections.
  5. Pay attention to the quality of the person, not their title or position. You can learn just as much from someone on the same ladder rung as you as you can from someone with more experience. You want to invest time in someone who is honest and frank, who isn’t just feeding you empty words for the sake of networking.
  6. Give as much as you get. Everyone has something to teach, yourself included, and a mutually-fulfilling relationship will last longer and be more fruitful for both parties.
  7. Don’t expect to be besties. Someone who helps you grow and learn may not look like you, sound like you, or match you socially.
  8. You can have more than one mentor, and more is better in the early stages. Different mentors may have different areas of expertise. You also may someday want a second opinion.

Most importantly, no matter who you meet or where you are in your mentor/mentee relationship, don’t be afraid to reach out and ask a specific question about something you want to know, and you know they know a lot about. Even if you just met. People love sharing their knowledge. Besides, that’s the whole point of finding a mentor in the first place.