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Navigating the Mentorship Maze

Ever heard of the term ROMI? No, it's not a new flavor of gelato or a TikTok dance. It stands for Return On Mentoring Investment. I only stumbled upon this gem a few months back during a webinar. As a proud Taurus, I'm all about the numbers.

“Show me the money,” right? But even if you're not a finance freak like me, the stats are mind-blowing.

According to a study by Mowgli – now known as the Human Edge, having a mentor boosts your annual revenue by a jaw-dropping 83%! Meanwhile, flying solo only gets you a sad 16% increase. It's like the difference between getting a high-five, and “a pat on the back” from Lady Luck herself.

And get this: according to the same study, 70% of mentored business owners survive the tumultuous five-year mark. That's like making it through five seasons of a reality TV show without getting voted off the island. Impressive, right?

Now, let's rewind to seven years ago when I was giving a keynote at my alma mater, the University of Missouri. My co-speaker dropped some wisdom-bombs on me about being intentional with connections.

She aimed to cultivate nine deep relationships, including three people who were mentoring her, three people she was mentoring, and three peer-to-peer mentors. Nine? I barely have time for nine episodes of my favorite show, let alone nine deep relationships! But it got me thinking—maybe it's time to shake up my Rolodex and take a closer look at the folks in my circle.

So, what types of mentors are lurking in your midst? Let's break it down:

  • Formal Mentors: Think corporate-sponsored guidance. It's like having a built-in GPS for your career path.

  • Informal Mentors: These are the unsung heroes who drop wisdom bombs over coffee or happy hour. It's like getting career advice from your favorite bartender.

  • Subject Matter Mentors: The gurus in their field who can unravel even the most tangled professional knots. It's like having a cheat code for your career.

  • Peer Mentors: Your partners in crime, navigating the same stormy seas of careerhood alongside you. It's like having a squad of career confidants.

  • Surprise Mentors: Sometimes, wisdom comes from unexpected sources—a friend, a book, or even your pet goldfish (just keep swimming…)

Now, onto the fun part: picking your mentor squad. Think of it like assembling the Avengers, but with less spandex and more business cards.

  • Identify Your Goals: What do you want to achieve, and where do you need guidance? Think of it as plotting your career course on Google Maps.

  • Research: Hunt down mentors with the skills you need. Similar to stalking your favorite celebrity on Instagram, but without the restraining order.

  • Compatibility: Find someone you click with. It's like swiping right on Tinder, but for your career.

  • Reach Out: Don't be shy—slide into their DMs and make your intentions clear!

  • Mutual Benefit: Remember, mentorship is a two-way street.

  • Assess Availability: Make sure they have time for you. It's like booking a table at a Michelin-starred restaurant—you don't want to show up and find out they're fully booked.

  • Trial Period: Test the waters before diving in. It's like trying on shoes to see if they fit before committing to a marathon.

And voilà, you've got yourself a mentor! However, it’s important to have ground rules. Here are the ones I usually suggest:

  • Clear Communication: Lay it all out from the start. Like my dad always said, “It’s important for you to be understood, but more important for you to not be misunderstood.”

  • Mutual Respect: Treat each other like the business rockstars you are. This relationship should be like any other work thing: Don’t cancel, and don’t kick it into next week.

  • Feedback: Be honest, but gentle. It's like critiquing your friend's cooking—constructive criticism, not Gordon Ramsay-style roasting.

  • Goal Setting: Get specific about what you want to achieve.

  • Confidentiality: Remember that first rule of Fight Club? Same thing here. What happens in mentorship stays in mentorship.

  • Flexibility: Roll with the punches. It's like doing the Cha-Cha Slide—two steps forward, one step back, but always moving forward.

  • Have Structure: If you don’t have an outline of how each interaction is going to go, you can end up wasting the other person’s time, and yours.

There is really no wrong or right way to start – except if you don’t. Life is a journey, and finding a mentor can be the difference between wandering aimlessly, and navigating with purpose.

A friend of mine, Ron Williams, shared this with me: “people can come into your life in so many different ways, but one thing seems to hold true, they can be the wind in your sail or be an anchor on your tail.

I urge you to reflect on the power of mentorship and having wind in your sails. Embracing the role of mentorship is not just a transaction of knowledge, but a catalyst for growth, connection, and shared success.

Now, go out there and make mentorship happen!

About Susan Combs:

Susan L. Combs is President of Combs & Company, a full-service insurance brokerage firm based in New York City. Susan started the company at twenty-six years old with a drive to “Do more, better.” This internal mantra has resulted in numerous successes and firsts, like being named the youngest National President in the over eighty-five-year history of Women in Insurance & Financial Services (WIFS) and the first female Broker of the Year winner for BenefitsPro.

Susan is “a Missouri girl in a New York world,” and it’s the lessons she learned during her Midwestern upbringing and two-plus decades in New York City that are the basis of her best-selling book, Pancakes for Roger.  The insights contained in these pages come from family, friends, colleagues, and life in general. But the most important teachings are from her late father. It was his steady guidance in life that set Susan’s foundation and it was his passing that inspired her new movement, Pancakes for Roger (

When Susan’s not running her business or trying to help others through their own challenges, you can find her flipping tires at her beloved CrossFit gym, supporting the Missouri Tigers, KC Chiefs, and Royals, or slaying the dragons that have come her way.


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