mentor

After graduating from the University of British Columbia, I was set on launching a business that would make a difference through technology. I wanted to create jobs around the world and contribute to the global economy; it was clear to me that there was huge opportunity in the online video space. After having a taste of success with a number of early ventures, I launched BroadbandTV in 2005. Today, we operate the third-largest multi-channel network on YouTube and work with more than 15,000 partners around the world.

And I can say, without a doubt, that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of a fantastic mentor.

I’ve always been vocal about how important it is for entrepreneurs to surround themselves with amazing people. When I launched BroadbandTV, I met with numerous businesspeople: owners of large corporations, strategists for startups, investors and everyone in between. I ensured that I absorbed as much information as possible in order to learn from others and develop.

Read: Richard Branson on Mentorship

It’s during this period that I met with my mentor: Hamed Shahbazi. Hamed has played a huge role in getting my business to where it is today. He’s taught me a lot, not only about business and myself but also about what a great mentor can be.

Here are five qualities I think you should look for when seeking someone to help you develop professionally:

1. Selflessness

You should look for a mentor who is focused on helping you and your company—not on furthering his or her own agenda. A good mentor develops and guides others, and more or less excludes him or herself from the equation. Many of the best mentors operate almost completely in the background; they’re not constantly striving for credit. You don’t want someone advising you who is manipulative toward their own needs.

2. Knowledge

Be aware of your potential mentor’s strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur, and ensure that they complement your own skill set. Understand their strengths and look at where they have demonstrated them previously. After you are clear on where one another’s strengths lie, you should look at focusing on the strongest attributes between you. (Pro tip: it’s immensely valuable to go for an expert in an area that you need to develop.)

Read: How to Find Your Mentor

3. Persistence

Successful entrepreneurs have strong passions, and tend to have an insatiable drive and determination to do more. But even the most self-motivated of people can use a little prodding from time to time. A mentor should push you to go outside of your comfort zone and beyond what you thought was possible. The ideal mentor will keep challenging you—even when you don’t want to be challenged—and they’ll do it in a supportive way.

4. A strong personal brand

Ultimately, you need to have a very clear understanding of what a potential mentor stands for. Entrepreneurs will often look to other successful leaders as mentors, which absolutely makes sense. But you should go for a mentor whose personal values mirror your own. A successful business isn’t only about the bottom line, after all; a good mentor stands for more than just driving profit. Elon Musk is a great example: he builds and operates companies to solve environmental, social and economic challenges. Now, you may not be able to secure someone of Musk’s stature as your mentor, but you can look for someone who has a great personal brand that isn’t just about making money.

5. Availability

As I mentioned earlier, entrepreneurs have a natural tendency to go after successful people. But incredible mentors are often incredibly busy people! Be sure to choose someone who actually has the time to work with you. I’ve seen numerous people go after “big names” instead of working with successful mentors who actually have the time to really develop their skills and provide useful guidance.

Whether you’re a young entrepreneur looking to launch a global business, an ambitious executive looking to move up the ranks or a part-time worker looking to move into new territory or learn new skills, you will only benefit from seeking support and guidance from others. Remember, no one knows it all. If you find a great mentor that truly has your best interests at heart, you’ll be able to draw from their expertise (and learn from their mistakes); in so doing, you’ll develop one of the most rewarding relationships of your life.

Shahrzad Rafati is CEO and Founder of BroadbandTV, an innovative media and technology company that drives success for its clients and partners in the online entertainment sphere. Shahrzad has been recognized with a number of accolades, including Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, Digi Awards Executive of the Year and Ernst & Young’s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year—Pacific.

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Have you had a great mentor? What did he/she do that made them so terrific? Share your thoughts below.

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