My Unofficial Mentor Opened My Eyes to my Potential as an Entrepreneur

August 13, 2015 LinkedIn Influencer

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In this series, professionals thank those who helped them reach where they are today. Read the posts here, then write your own. Use #ThankYourMentor and @mention your mentor when sharing.

Be present to appreciate mentorship moments. 

I understand that an interaction with a boss or colleague can lead to doors being opened, a pivot in your career goals or a newfound clarity that helps you get on the right path.

That being said, I’ve always found “mentorship” to be a difficult topic to navigate…

  1. Are you coaching someone?
  2. Is it a formal relationship?
  3. Do you have to ask to have someone be your mentor or not?

When I consider mentorship, I see it as a series of moments with key individuals over the course of my career. Have I always had one individual guide me along the way? No, that wasn’t my experience. But there are multiple people that have offered advice or a sounding board along the way and for their consideration and feedback, I’m extremely grateful.

I’ve mentioned one of those individuals before — Warren Avis, founder of Avis Rent a Car. He was the first person to tell me that I was way (and I mean WAY) off base in my approach to sales, and I’ve never forgotten the lesson. At the time he took me to the window in our office and asked me to look at the hot dog vendor selling at the edge of our parking lot. He told me that I was acting like the vendor – pushing product, and doing all the work to make a living. He followed that statement with, “You need to be the guy supplying the dogs to all the vendors if you ever want to scale.”

 At the time his words took me by surprise, because I was so focused and determined to succeed. But I had the wrong approach. That day was a turning point in my professional career. I realized that I couldn’t do it alone. I needed to leverage the resources around me and dedicate myself to an opportunity that had the potential to scale. 

Had it not been for Mr. Avis taking the time to help me realize the true opportunity in front of me, I don’t think I would have fully grasped my potential as an entrepreneur.

Was Warren Avis my mentor? Not formally.

Did we meet every second Tuesday over coffee to catch up and review my personal and corporate goals? Certainly not.

But he was a phone call away and someone whose advice and guidance shaped the career I continue to develop.

As you consider mentorship, I encourage you to take the pressure off.

Stop the “will you be my mentor?” emails and start being present to embrace the learning opportunities all around you. Ask your colleagues and executive team members for their points of view. Seek advice from your direct leader or leader once removed.

Start having conversations and soaking in the mentorship moments.

To your success,