Young grasshopper, who guides YOU?

When I posed this question to myself I realized the answer wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.  As I sat down to begin to write a description of who my mentor was I realized I had several.  So, allow me to introduce you to those people who have most influenced my life.

My very first mentor was my grandfather.  He didn’t teach me business principles but he certainly taught me life principles.  He had 9 brothers and was raised on a farm.  That meant he knew the value of hard work, how to fix just about anything mechanical that broke and truly enjoyed a hearty breakfast.  He had more patience than any one man should possess and he shared that with me through the years.  He’s where I get my ‘measure twice, cut once’ personality.  He also taught me only to gamble with money I had to lose, there were times I wished I remembered that one…

My Uncle Bill was my next mentor.  He wasn’t really my uncle but rather he was married to my mother’s cousin.  But, my mom told me to call him Uncle so I did.  Uncle Bill made his first fortune as a distributor with Amway and always cared about my future.  He was the first figure in my life who taught me the success principles.   In 1987 he gave me my first copy of Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill and Lead the Field by Earl Nightingale.  Those two pieces of information have literally changed my life.  I still have Earl’s program but sadly, I loaned Hill’s book to a friend and never got it back.  I did however keep the knowledge and have used it to make myself into the man I am today.

In many ways I can count Nightingale and Hill as mentors in my life as well as the other thought leaders of our time such as Jim Rhone, Tony Robbins and Wayne Dyer.  I’ve listened and re-listened to their advice for decades.  As I drive down the road attending Automobile University they are there, dispensing their wisdom.  They are constant reminders of how you should live your life and run your business.  I’m sure without the influence of these great men my life would have ended differently.

My Uncle Brian was next.  He actually is my uncle.  He’s my father’s only brother, and the 4th generation in the family business, he taught me what no one else had, discipline.  Working for him was similar to working in the military, in a good way.  I remember one time he found me sacked out on the couch on a Saturday only to lay into me about how he’s not paying me to watch football on Saturday afternoon, and that I should be sure to remember that.  When I told him I was out of things to do, a list appeared on the wall the very next day of all the items I was to do any time I found myself finished with my current task.  I actually completed that list, several times over.

Brian McCarthy, the 5th largest independent retail florist owner in the America, taught me to never forget to remind your customers what you do for them.  Brian and his partner at the time handled a portion of the flowers for our wedding.  The florist who handled a different portion of the wedding screwed up and there was Brian standing in the back of the church fixing it, gratis.  It’s been nearly 18 years since that day, and I promise you if I were to see Brian tomorrow, he’d remind me of that story.  Like he said, never, ever, stop reminding your customers what you do for them.

Richard Parker, the owner of DIOMO, and the author of “How to buy a good business at a great price”, offered to be my mentor when I was 32 and looking to purchase a business that would diversify my interest apart from the funeral business.  He’s the man, who taught me, what gets measured gets done.  And, that as a business owner, you should never wear the $5/hour hat by doing work you could pay others to do.  This only steels time away from you doing things that make the company money or save the company money.  While Richard and I worked together, I reviewed hundreds of financials and under his tutelage I learned to spot the truth behind the numbers.  His lessons have served me very well for a number of years.

Although I’ve only recently started to work with Dan Kennedy, (I’m actually on a plane to Cleveland as I write this to spend two days with Dan) I have counted on his council for nearly a decade.  He’s dispensed marketing and business advice through his newsletters, books and monthly recordings.  When it comes to business and marketing, he’s “been there done that” and has a way of presenting his information that hits its mark every time.  I’m forever grateful for the creation of his local chapters where I have met and become very good friends with the local Kennedy Business Adviser, Chuck Trautman.  He too has a wealth of experience and a no B.S. way to deliver his message.  We often share war stories and thoughts about where to take the next step with our prospective business.

Although there are too many to mention here, I consider every member of the mastermind groups I have belonged or currently belong to be mentors also.  Your growth as an entrepreneur is rarely found on your own.  Rather you learn by reading, spending time with and subscribing to true thought leaders who inspire you.  Personally, I read roughly a book a week, subscribe to 5 different newsletters on marketing and business advice, subscribe to a dozen magazines, attend at least two seminars each year and I am a member of two Mastermind groups that meet three times per year.

People often say to me ‘you are so lucky to know what you know, and think the way you think’.  While I do believe I’m a lucky and a fortunate individual.  I believe, what I know is a result of a purposeful search for information since age 17.  I cannot remember a time in my life since its start that I haven’t been on this journey and I expect I never will.  The downside to this is I tend to know an awful lot about an awful lot.  To my true friends, they are sure to let me know that I’ve let them know just how much I’ve learned through the years and often times don’t let me get away with it for very long.  Those who pay for my advice seem reasonably happy with my bank of knowledge, right up to the point it doesn’t perform as advertised.  Personally, I’m happy to have taken this journey towards gaining knowledge and getting better at understanding when to dispense it.

As you can see I’ve had several mentors through the years and I expect I’ll have a few more in the coming years.  I’m always on the search for people who can inspire me.  For me, next to love, inspiration is one of the greatest gifts God has granted us.

So, who has inspired you through your career?  What do you do to in a search for continual inspiration?  I’d love to hear from you about it.

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