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I met my mentor, John Dessauer, about five years ago.

Not only is he still my mentor, he's a valued friend. Our relationship began when I founded my company, because I knew an entrepreneurial venture was too much to take on alone. Looking back, my mentor's advice was not only helpful, it was vital, and it still is.

Mentees gain valuable insight beyond their own education and experience. Every entrepreneur should have a mentor to give themselves the gift of guidance.

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What is a mentor?

A mentor, as John C. Crosby said, is "a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction." Mentors can provide fresh perspectives, and in most cases they are experts in their industries. No matter how you meet them or who they are, it's important to understand the benefits and the many ways they can help fuel your success. Life is too short not to learn from the mistakes of others and to leverage their experiences.

One of the biggest lessons I learned from my mentor is that every entrepreneur should learn to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Today I am a mentor to many Canadians and I share the same advice with them. I encourage my mentees to push themselves outside their comfort zones. Whether you need advice or a sounding board, it takes time to find the right mentor for your needs and goals. As a mentee, you can afford to push your limits – once you're out of your league, you have your mentor's experience to lean on.

How to choose a mentor

It can be tricky. In any relationship, chemistry is important, but so is having the right experience, background and knowledge. Before you start mentor hunting it is important to determine what you are looking for and how you want to be helped. This might include selecting a mentor based on similar goals or career paths.

Most importantly, mentoring is a two-way relationship where both parties should receive benefits. The role of mentor and mentee will often change as the relationship develops. As a mentor, I see these relationships as an opportunity to both teach and learn.

Clearing the minefield

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A mentor has walked through the minefield and can tell you what to step around and what to look out for. Learning from others can save an enormous amount of time and effort. Not only do mentors lead the way, they can also help you learn from your mistakes. A mentor's accumulated knowledge is yours for the taking.

The value of shadowing

Shadowing your mentors can amplify their verbal advice. I try to get out in the field with John as often as I can. For example, I recently went to Phoenix with him to scope out prospective real estate investments and I was blown away by how much I learned, even though I have more than a decade of experience under my belt.

Who you know and who you want to know

Mentors can hook you up with reliable members of their network, whether you need help finding a web developer or with your business development. Time is money, and the less time you spend researching resources, the more time – and cost savings – you have to drive your business forward.

The insight garnered from my mentor has had a deep impact on my success. John always tells me to pick myself up and keep pushing. This advice continues to have a positive affect on my business. For all of these reasons, every entrepreneur should have a mentor, regardless of the type of business or industry they're in.

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Steve Martel is the president and founder ofMartel Group of Cos. Inc.He has dedicated his career to building real estate related companies and coaching Canadians on how they can invest in U.S. property.

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