14 Top Lessons These Leaders Learned From Their Business Mentors

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For those lucky enough to find one, a mentor can be an invaluable ally when starting a business. Their expert guidance and leadership can help provide you with the tools and knowledge you need to push past obstacles and build something truly sustainable.

The members of Rolling Stone Culture Council have each had their own role models and mentors throughout their business journeys. Below, they each share the top lesson they learned from their mentor and how that lesson impacts the way they lead their businesses now.

‘Focus on Yourself and Not What Others Are Doing’

I have had the fortune of having multiple mentors throughout my career. I do believe the one lesson that had the most profound impact on me was not to focus on what everyone else was doing and to just hone my own unique strengths, and that will help me grow in any organization. For me, that was teaching and helping elevate others. I just never realized how that would come to define me over time. – Heidi Pellerano, CONCACAF

‘The Hours Count’

“The hours count.” — I learned that from my dad. Starting at four in the morning puts you four hours ahead of any average competitor. That puts you almost a thousand hours ahead of any competitor that you can slowly but surely crush. Working smart helps, but working hard unlocks an incomparable, gut-wrenching thrill that is tempered only by your ultimate success. – Anthony Katz, MPT Agency

‘Make Yourself Indispensable’

I haven’t had a singular mentor in business, but the best advice I ever received was from a guest speaker in college. Her advice? “Find ways to make yourself indispensable.” I’ve carried that with me for years and use it in my decision making when considering new clients, new tools and new skills I want to learn. – Cynthia Parkhurst, Teammate

‘Rest Is a Professional Strategy’

The biggest lesson a business mentor taught me is that rest is a professional strategy. I thought this was not only absurd, but also unfathomable; however, as my business grew, I learned that this was a cornerstone to success. Why? Rest allows us to recharge, replenish, nourish and return to a thriving work environment. The hard part isn’t actually resting; it’s giving ourselves the permission to. – Ginni Saraswati, Ginni Media

‘Hire Better Than Yourself’

My upper management told me to always hire better than myself, and I have taken this advice into my own company. She told me it is a sign of authentic leadership and would encourage others to follow. This strategy will help you learn from your employees while moving the business forward. – Kelley Swing, Head Case Hair Studio

‘Stay Focused on What You Do Better Than the Competition’

A mentor taught me to really activate the story of David and Goliath. As a startup, you’re always David — you can’t out-muscle Goliath. Rather, you have to figure out what you can do much better than Goliath, and — just as David does with his slingshot — aim there, staying focused and steady, adding enough strength (resources) to execute well. – Alen Nguyen, MainStem

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‘Collaboration Is Key in Leadership’

Early in my career, an exec I looked up to noted that I am a “connector” of people, ideas and potential relationships, saw I was able to get things done in a complex matrix organization because I formed strong alliances and suggested it was time to move me into a wider role with more influence. It underscored that being able to collaborate is worthwhile for leadership. I look for that now in teams I build. – Cate Rubenstein, Toluna

‘Success Is Determined by What You Feed Your Mind’

I had a business mentor who taught me that your level of success is determined by what you feed your mind. This led me to consume material that focused on planning effectively, exhausting all options, forecasting problems, functioning under pressure and staying motivated. These very things are the foundation of my leadership style and continue to help me avert failure and disappointment. – David Castain, David Castain & Associates

‘Dream Big and Then Put on Your Overalls’

A former employer used to say, “Dream big, then put on your overalls.” It meant to dream big but be prepared to work for that goal. Show up early, work late, be productive and then take time to recharge so you are ready for the next round. – Sheila Dedenbach, Heavenly Sweet

‘Never Ask Someone to Do Something You Wouldn’t Do Yourself’

I once had a boss who never asked an employee to perform a task he wouldn’t do himself. The man owned a multimillion dollar company, but was always willing to roll up his sleeves in every facet of the office. From giving televised speeches to making sales calls, there was no job he couldn’t handle. From him, I learned never to ask a member of my team to do something I wouldn’t perform myself. – Todd McFliker, JustCBD

‘Always Make a Decision’

The greatest lesson I have learned from a business mentor is to always make decisions. It was suggested to me that I could always change my mind later if necessary, but being recognized as decisive was an important step on the path to success. – David Lucatch, Liquid Avatar Technologies Inc.

‘Learn From History’

Learn from history (all of it). The past can tell you a great deal, and you have the ability to see the ultimate outcome from the decisions made. I have a mentor who just turned 89. His perspectives gained from his own experiences are extremely helpful, and I can see how the landscape back then has impacted what I am dealing with today so I can better plan for the future. – Skip Meador, marQaha

‘Success Is Not a Given’

The greatest lesson a business mentor gave me was that success is definitely not given, and earning it isn’t that simple either. One must hustle through blood, sweat and tears to climb the ladder of success. – Jenny Ta, GalaxE by HODL Assets, Inc.

‘Work on the Business Rather Than in It’

The best lesson a business mentor ever gave me was to work on the business rather than in the business. At the time, I was a small PR firm and was still handling just about every aspect of the agency — new business, account management, recruiting, finance and billing and more. I took their advice to heart and started delegating more and trusting my team to take ownership and lead. It was a pivotal realization. – Harrison Wise, Wise Collective Inc.

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