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Old School mentoring: the missing ingredient in business today

Today’s job culture is far different from the hands-on privilege once offered to new professionals in the form of legitimate, Old School mentoring. Is this what today’s business culture is missing? The short answer is yes.

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What passes today for mentorship

If you are under 35 years old, ask your parents, or better yet your grandparents, if they were mentored. If they were, especially your grandparents, listen to all of their stories. I suspect you’ll be hungry to live their experiences yourself. Being mentored back in the day meant being taught a trade or profession by an experienced, and yes, trusted advisor. Over the years, I’ve spoken with dozens of recent high school and college grads who have given me an understanding of what now passes for mentorship.

On the positive side, those who go into most of the construction trades are often the best trained, relatively speaking. Back in the Pliocene Epoch, I was once a brick tender. That was the guy who ensured the brick layer was always sufficiently supplied with mortar, called mud, and the brick or block with which they were workin’ that day. There were two basic ways to learn brick tending. You hired on as a below market rookie, working for a non-union company and learned on the job at half the pay of the guy showin’ you the ropes. That’s how I learned. Or, you applied for membership in the local union, which had a very effective training program. Either way, you ended up a very competent brick tender.

Who’s being mentored in today’s job culture?

According to most industries, everyone is. Having been mentored myself within an inch of my life, I can tell you first hand, that today the concept has been thoroughly bastardized. Part of the agreement with my many mentors was to eventually pay it forward, when I was qualified to do so. In the last 15 years or so I’ve been blessed to have made good on that promise.

Mentoring 2,000 years ago:

Back a couple thousand years ago, being mentored was not only pivotal to success, if not survival, but a serious privilege. It often took several years, resulting in the universally respected title of Journeyman. It denoted that your work’s product was worthy of pay and of the highest quality, and that you were no longer indentured to the ‘master’ as their apprentice. It was a very sober undertaking, the implied contract being between the master and the apprentice, both of whom took their obligations very seriously. Back then the only reason for a union’s existence was to ensure the highest quality of workmanship — as it should be.

As a mentor, I prefer the Old School approach

As the owner/broker of a real estate investment firm, those who I’ve mentored have been young agents aspiring to open their own investment brokerage at some point. Their first job is to learn the most basic activities of an assistant. This entails learning the various players involved when investing in real estate. Then, there are the forms, which are endless. Being mentored means you’re with me at least 80% of the time. Clients meeting me in the office? You’re there. Five year after tax cash flow analysis? You’re doin’ yours on the same property, but separately. Those are but two of the myriad tasks and skill sets to be learned, or rather, mastered.

My mentors? They didn’t understand grading on the ‘curve.’ What they understood was that either I got it, completely, or I didn’t. Don’t get me wrong, it definitely wasn’t pass/fail, it was master it or you failed and started over. Were they brutal? I was ridiculed often. Two of ’em employed the occasional back of the head slap. No, really, they did. To them, ensuring I was always learning was a deadly serious undertaking. They cared. It showed. I learned.

The other side of the coin — my experience as a mentor

Of those mentees who swore on their momma’s life to be ‘all in’, a total of, count ’em, four have stayed the course. Three were nuclear, glow-in-the-dark rookies. One is an established brokerage owner who, as I did, transitioned from homes into the investment side. I’ve easily had over a couple hundred begin the difficult journey apprentices must travel. Four were dead serious. So, when we constantly hear and read about lousy training programs, understand there’s another side. Hundreds, more likely thousands around the country who were offered the chance for wicked good mentoring by highly qualified professionals, didn’t even slack off, they completely flaked out.

In plain English, my batting average for mentoring success, when viewed objectively, sucks. I began offering to mentor serious agents back in 1996. In over 15 years, that means I’ve successfully taken four of over 200 agents to the point of earning a pretty good living. The rest? Most are doing something else, completely out of the business. The irony is that almost all of ’em came to me asking to be seriously mentored. Yeah, I know about human nature. But, to seek out the mentor themselves proactively, then flake out? The average flake out time was less than a week, sometimes less than a work day.

On the other hand, those four who stayed the course? The first two did well. One became a full blown real estate investment agent. In fact, he made $15,000 his first month on his own. The second guy not only succeeded, he later opened his own brokerage exactly as he’d planned. Of the latter two, one ended up coordinating my operation from the inside. That meant being ‘operations manager’ for tax deferred exchanges involving multiple properties/multiple states. It mean handling all transactions after they were negotiated. No, he wasn’t a transaction coordinator. He literally ran the business for 90% of what needed to be accomplished. TCs from three states reported to him. Brokers, lenders, escrow, title — everyone called him first, not me. That’s how good he was.

The fourth guy was a house broker, a one-horse operation, more or less. Since he was in another state, the ‘mentoring’ takes place online, on the phone, and in person whenever I’m in his state. Fortunately for him, he’s a whole lot smarter than I am. He’s significantly increased not only his real time operating knowledge, but enhanced that immeasurably by attending some very difficult, highly sophisticated, and rather expensive training I strongly ‘recommended.’ Each year, his income has increased impressively. The guy can take a new concept and take it to the street faster than most I’ve known.

I believe this and told him as much — he’ll experience what I call a 2-comma income year before he’s 40. He’s 32 now, I think. ‘Course, by then he’ll be mentoring others, paying it forward just as he promised. I also suspect he’ll be a bunch better at it than I ever was.

Old School mentoring assumes that mutual responsibility is the glue for success, bonding the mentor and the student together. Once that responsibility has been embraced, the relationship is almost assured of success.

Finding a mentor

Need mentoring? Find one. Are you highly experienced at what you do? Let it be known you’ll mentor the right person. I look back on my mentors, some of whom were literally icons, and wonder how I came to be blessed so many times. There are very few of us who are successful without being mentored, whether it was formal or not. We all owe them to pay it forward. Why? Simple — what we were taught was priceless. Without them. I would have been trapped doing something I hated. With them, I was given the key unlocking the door to a life I only dreamed of back then.

Old School mentoring — get it — give it back.

Related: Mentorship Report

Business News

Proven, clear-cut strategies to keep your company’s operations lean

(BUSINESS) Keeping your operations lean means more than saving money, it means accomplishing more in less time.

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keeping operations lean

The past two years have been challenging, not just economically, but also politically and socially as well. While it would be nice to think that things are looking up, in reality, the problems never end. Taking a minimalist approach to your business, AKA keeping it lean, can help you weather the future to be more successful.

Here are some tips to help you trim the fat without putting profits above people.

Automate processes

Artificial intelligence frees up human resources. AI can manage many routine elements of your business, giving your team time to focus on important tasks that can’t be delegated to machines. This challenges your top performers to function at higher levels, which can only benefit your business.

Consider remote working

Whether you rent or own your property, it’s expensive to keep an office open. As we learned in the pandemic, many jobs can be done just as effectively from home as the workplace. Going remote can save you money, even if you help your team outfit their home office for safety and efficiency.

In today’s world, many are opting to completely shutter office doors, but you may be able to save money by using less space or renting out some of your office space.

Review your systems to find the fat

As your business grows (or downsizes), your systems need to change to fit how you work. Are there places where you can save money? If you’re ordering more, you may be able to ask vendors for discounts. Look for ways to bring down costs.

Talk to your team about where their workflow suffers and find solutions. An annual review through your budget with an eye on saving money can help you find those wasted dollars.

Find the balance

Operating lean doesn’t mean just saving money. It can also mean that you look at your time when deciding to pay for services. The point is to be as efficient as possible with your resources and systems, while maintaining customer service and safety. When you operate in a lean way, it sets your business up for success.

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Business News

A well-crafted rejection email will save both your brand and your time

(BUSINESS) Job hunting is exhausting on both sides, and rejection sucks, but crafting a genuine, helpful rejection email can help ease the process for everyone.

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Woman sitting at computer with fingers steepled, awaiting a rejection email or any response from HR at all.

Nobody likes to hear “no” for an answer when applying for jobs. But even fewer people like to be left in the dark, wondering what happened.

On the employer side, taking on a new hire is a time-consuming process. And like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get when you put out ads for a position. So once you find the right person for the role, it’s tempting to move along without further ado.

Benn Rosales, the CEO and co-founder of American Genius, offers an example of why that is a very bad call.

Imagine a hypothetical candidate for a job opening at Coca Cola – someone who’s particularly interested in the job, because they grew up as a big Coke fan. If they get no response to their application at all, despite being qualified and sending follow-up emails, their personal opinion of the brand is sure to sour.

“Do you know how much effort and dollars advertising and marketing spent to make [them] a fan over all of those years, and this is how it ends?” Rosales explains. This person has come away from their experience thinking “Bleep you, I’ll have tea.”

To avoid this issue, crafting a warm and helpful rejection email is the perfect place to start. If you need inspiration, the hiring consultants at Dover recently compiled a list of 36 top-quality rejection emails, taken from companies that know how to say “no” gracefully: Apple, Facebook, Google, NPR, and more.

Here’s a few takeaways from that list to keep in mind when constructing a rejection email of your own…

Include details about their resume to show they were duly considered. This shows candidates that their time, interests, and experience are all valued, particularly with candidates who came close to making the cut or have a lot of future promise.

Keep their information on file, and let them know this rejection only means “not right now.” That way, next time you need to make a hire, you will have a handy list of people to call who you know have an interest in working for you and relevant skills.

Provide some feedback, such as common reasons why applicants may not succeed in your particular application process.

And be nice! A lack of courtesy can ruin a person’s impression of your brand, whether they are a customer or not. Keep in mind, that impression can be blasted on social media as well. If your rejections are alienating, you’re sabotaging your business.

Any good business owner knows how much the details matter.

Incorporating an empathetic rejection process is an often-overlooked opportunity to humanize your business and build a positive relationship with your community, particularly when impersonal online applications have become the norm.

And if nothing else, this simple courtesy will prevent your inbox from filling up with circle-backs and follow-up emails once you’ve made your decision.

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Business News

Ageism: How to properly combat this discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Ageism void

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities, and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

Unfortunately, age discrimination lawsuits aren’t uncommon. We have covered cases for Jewel Food Stores, Inc., Novo Nordisk, Inc., AT&T, and iTutorGroup, all alleging age or disability discrimination in some form or fashion. This could be from using vocabulary such as “tenured,” hiring a younger employee instead of promoting a well-season veteran, or pressuring older employees with extra responsibilities in order to get them to resign or retire early.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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