Daymond John: Why Everyone Needs a Mentor

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Daymond Garfield John, entrepreneur, investor, TV personality, author and motivational speaker is best known as the founder, president, and CEO of FUBU, and appears as an investor on the ABC reality television series Shark Tank.

In an exclusive interview with Inc., John explained why all entrepreneurs–even himself–need mentors to educate them on everything from fashion trends to acquiring digital skills. “Technology is moving so fast, and it’s so vast, that having a mentor and someone who’s teaching you the fundamentals–where things are going and how to move accurately and spend your time–is essential,” he says. “That’s where you have to start depending on some of the younger individuals who are really educated on where this space is going.”

Daymond’s mother was his first mentor, followed by her boyfriend and a man who operated the corner store nearby. Daymond’s first lesson is to take an affordable step towards finding a mentor. According to him, it’s best to try and get mentorship from people around you who you can get an audience with. His reasons? – “People shouldn’t aim too high, not that they shouldn’t have high expectations, but just because someone’s perceived status is “higher” it doesn’t mean that they are at a higher place in life.” He says that you can learn so much from a successful individual who operates a corner store and you never know, they could often be a pillar in the community. Finding a mentor that will speak to you on a weekly basis holds a different and perhaps higher value compared to a mentor you can only access every few months.

While John acts as a mentor and strategic partner to the business owners he backs on Shark Tank, he says they in turn provide him with valuable insights about digital trends.

“I’m noticing how they’re doing business and I’m applying it to my businesses,” he says. “You can’t move to the next series of your life or your company without [knowing] where we’re going digitally.”

A good example of how young people are using digital skills to launch fast-growing businesses comes from an episode of Shark Tank, when John and co-host Lori Greiner invested in scholarship app Scholly. Founded by college student Christopher Gray, the company helps teenagers find and apply for scholarships they might not otherwise know about.

So what made John and Greiner invest in the company, aside from the fact that the app had gotten 100,000 downloads prior to Gray’s appearance on the show?

“All it was about was this kid being literate in the digital space to be able to aggregate all of these scholarships and put it on one platform,” John says. “The information is out there. [He smartly figured out how to] go out and acquire it.”

Knowing all this, how then do you get a mentor you could get real value from? Merely thinking of approaching someone to ask for mentorship is frightening, but normal. If you get a proper plan, you can approach potential mentors and succeed in getting their assistance. Here are some things Daymond considers when he is looking for a mentor – yes, even Daymond John has mentors he learns from.

  • Do you think that person can add value to you and your business? If they don’t work in the same area of have experience that will guide you in the right direction, then it won’t necessarily be the best partnership.
  • Have you looked at their LinkedIn page? Be sure to find out more about them including the causes and organizations they support. You can glean more information about their values and experiences so that you can determine if your own values coincide well.
  • Have you considered a trade? If you don’t personally know the person you are considering as a mentor, then you have to make this appealing to them too. For example, if you can find a foundation they support, then offer to volunteer at that foundation for a few days if they are willing to talk with you on the phone for 15 to 20 minutes.

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