How you approach a prospective mentor will depend largely on what kind of guidance they are to offer, and in what kind of environment and context they give it.
Informal mentoring can take place at any time between you and somebody you look up to for advice. Perhaps you have a former colleague or employer that you casually turn to for advice every now and then. With this kind of mentoring you’ll probably approach them for business advice in much the same way as you would approach a friend or family member for any other kind of guidance.
For a more formal and structured mentoring process you’ll probably have to go through the appropriate channels to set something up and get in touch with a mentor. There are a number of organisations you can go through to be placed with an individual or group of business advisors, details of which can be found here.
The important thing to remember when approaching a mentor is you need to be clear in your mind what you’re hoping to get out of it before you meet. That’s not to say you won’t achieve unexpected or unplanned results from the relationship. You should always keep an open mind about what they have to offer you, but don’t walk into your first meeting expecting them to do all the work. You’ve got to be able to explain to them where you feel your weaknesses are and what you think they may have to offer you.
If you’ve been assigned a mentor by a mentoring organisation such as those listed here, do some research on the person before you meet. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of their career, but it’s a good starting point if you can show you’ve turned up fully prepared. If you have an idea about their area of expertise you’ll have clearer understanding of what they can help you with.
And remember, for mentoring to work you have to be able to maintain a good relationship. Not all relationships can work though, however hard you try, so don’t be put off if the first person you talk to isn’t right for you or your business.