Monday, September 8

5 Tips for Mentor Relationships that Produce Positive Results

Certificates from the County of Los Angeles, California State Assembly, California Legislative Assembly and the City of Los Angeles for "Businessperson of the Year" and "Small Business of the Year"
When I started my business, there was no Internet - to speak of. That is, unless you could call CompuServe (a modified CB simulator chat service), the Internet. It wasn’t until the early 90s and AOL that we could send email. It was a dark, dismal, lonely time.

At the Los Angeles Daily News, I had developed what I called a “renegade revenue” department of the newspaper, the Special Projects Division. There, I could come up with ideas, present them to management along with a business plan. If it was approved, we could run with it. We did some really off the wall projects and were very profitable. I should have known right then that I was an entrepreneur, but the word never resonated with me.

The Tribune Company was forced to sell my employer due to FCC issues and I had to take my fate in my own hands. I had no close relatives who were business kingpins, so I had to search for someone I trusted. This mentor had to be someone who had no skin in the game, a neutral third party who could give me advice. Luckily, I knew of a c-level newspaper executive whom I had met at conferences that just moved to Southern California .
Tip #1: You never know where your mentors will come from or when you will meet them. When networking, always be at the top of your game.
I didn’t know if he would remember me, or even take my call. I called his new office. He did remember me and I explained my situation. He invited me to lunch to talk - I assumed it was because he didn’t know many people in his new city.
Tip #2: Find someone to mentor you who is not a self-proclaimed expert. Find someone who is (or was)  a success in your field and is respected by others in the industry.
We’ll call him Howard. Howard (surprisingly) knew a lot about the work I had been doing and had great advice. He asked me if I wanted to be ‘another small fish in a big ocean, or a big fish in a small pond.” Message received, I decided to strike out on my own.

My background in renegade marketing would pay off. I presented my ideas to several regional shopping centers and I got five big clients. Now all I had to do was start my business. I had no concept of how to start a business.
Tip #3: Get business structure help from licensed professionals; someone who doesn’t have a disclaimer at the bottom of their website.
I went to the EA (EA is an Enrolled Agent - someone licensed by the IRS as an authorized tax practitioner) who did my personal taxes for references. I walked away with her advice, the name of a good accountant and a lawyer. I also found out that I’d have to get a loan to bankroll my exploits.

Many long, lunches later, I had everything in order. My business was set up legally and I had fulfilled all government requirements. Today the Internet would make things much easier.
Tip #4. Finding good mentors, those you can trust and resonate with is not an easy task. Don’t attach to the first person you meet; find someone who “gets” you.

By the way, I did get that bank loan and paid it back. My business powered on and was featured in Entrepreneur Magazine. You can read the actual article here - which gives my 1986 "Formula for Success." I was so successful that, in 1990, my company was named Small Business of the Year by the California State Assembly.

Because I have never been one not to take notice of cultural trends, I researched and devoured books. As the world changed and my business progressed I went deep into the writings of by my favorite futurist, Faith Popcorn. The turning points for my business and career also came from the many mentors I worked with during my career, especially Clay Felker, founder of New York Magazine; advertising and marketing genius, Tom Culligan and the engaging Peter Glen, author and customer service advocate for whom the Retail Advertising & Marketing Association's annual Peter Glen Award is named.
Tip #5: On your way up, you may be lucky enough to meet people who become “the greats” of the future. Be sure you keep in touch with them.
My business has morphed in different directions over the years and I still look to those who succeeded for advice. The fact that they will still get on the phone humbles me.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Through a relationship with Pitney Bowes Small Business, they have invited me to be a part of their latest initiative the Pitney Bowes Smallbiz Mentorship Contest which starts today and runs through September 22, 2014.

Pitney Bowes is the perfect example of a business born through mentorship and partnership. Arthur Pitney needed a mentor when he worked as a clerk in a wallpaper store and invented a machine to imprint envelopes with postage. Luckily, he found Walter Bowes who sold a letter-cancelling machine to the Postal Service. Together, they invented the postage meter. 

You can win a customized, one-on-one mentorship with me or my colleague Brian Moran, a small business expert dedicated to helping small businesses owners run better businesses. I’ll work closely with you to help tackle the biggest obstacles you are experiencing, or ones that are keeping you from the success you imagined. We’ll  review your business plans together. Then, I’ll make some actionable recommendations, and follow through with you until the end of the contest period. Hopefully providing some useful guidance to help you ignite your business.

To enter and win a mentorship, all you need to do is "like" the Pitney Bowes Small Business Facebook page and post a comment of less than 200 words letting us know us why your company would benefit from a mentorship program. Then, tell your friends and co-workers to like your post. Every Like helps your chances. Visit this page for the complete (and official) Terms and Conditions

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