I’ve always believed that it’s important in business to not only have mentors, but to be one. It’s the responsibility of those who have benefitted from a mentorship relationship to also guide others down the path. But there’s also an unspoken reciprocity that comes from sharing guidance with those just beginning their career or starting a business. I have learned over the years that no matter how much experience or wisdom you have to offer someone, it is very rare to embark on a mentorship journey without learning some valuable lessons yourself.
Earlier this year, I was asked to be one of three business leader panelists for a WCCO radio competition called “Hey! We’re Building a Brand.” I was excited for the opportunity to mentor small business owners and pass along some of the lessons I’ve learned — both failures and successes. We met the owners of four local businesses who were looking to solidify their message and business strategies and were open to our constructive criticism and advice.
I was impressed by our contest winner, Elyse Ash, owner of Fruitful Fertility, a mentorship service that helps couples struggling with infertility. Elyse was very open to evolving her strategy and what stood out most for me was her ability to step back and realize she didn’t have all the answers. Too often leaders miss opportunities for growth because they let their ego get in the way, and they don’t acknowledge when they need help. Elyse embraced having mentors and was eager for our counsel.
As President and CEO of Starkey, I openly admit to not having all the answers, but I also know I don’t need to be the smartest person in the room. That isn’t my job. My job is to bring on diverse minds with the best talent for each role and facilitate a strong team. Just like Elyse sought out feedback to better run her business, I seek out the counsel of my team on a regular basis. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of awareness. When you’re aware of your own limitations, you are better equipped to surround yourself with people who fill in the gaps and compliment your strengths.
Elyse was open to change. It was a good reminder for me that asking for help is sometimes the only way growth happens. This is a lesson we can all learn, whether we’re a business owner or not. It’s important to have people around you whose counsel you can seek when you are faced with a challenge or you are not sure of the next move. It’s also important to pay it forward and be that mentor when someone else needs it.
We are all facing unique challenges during this trying year, and no one expects you to have all of the answers. Right now, it’s amazing to see the business world come together to ask how we can help those who are struggling, but there also needs to be a conversation about the importance of asking for help in the first place. Ask for the help you need, and offer the help you can give. It’s simple advice, but it can have a tremendous impact on your business, on you, and on others.