When you are part of the start-up world, one of the things everyone will tell you is that in order to succeed in your career, you must find yourself a mentor. Someone who can help guide you through the trials and tribulations you will endure in your business because they have been there themselves.
I grew up a daddy's girl. I am the youngest of two girls and there was no bigger hero to me then my dad. He ran multiple companies and when he came home he ran the household. I never wanted to hear my mother say, "Wait until your father comes home," but when he did come home, I jumped from the highest stairs into his arms. Make no mistake though, when he was mad, the entire house shook, as did my world.
He was the stereotypical baby boomer boy, a first-generation American born to parents whose parents and siblings perished in the Holocaust. He was born in a time when hitting and whipping was appropriate but a discipline method he never ever believed in.
He was an army man, a Vietnam War veteran. He had a passion for science and got himself through college by working odd jobs waiting tables. He never told me his war stories, as he wanted to protect me from the evils of the outside world. I wasn't allowed to watch movies about Vietnam, since he lived through it and nothing could be as bad...except for apparently having my sister and me. My dad, the man with the strangest sense of humour but growing up, no one could be funnier than my dad!
When it came to business he was a self-educated man. He read every book and listened to every cassette. My dad lived through Vietnam -- he didn't understand the power of can't or won't. So when this Brooklyn kid moved to Montreal to marry the woman of his dreams, he taught himself French via audio cassette and worked his way up the ranks of the needle trade industry. He was determined to succeed and that he did.
When it came to life my dad instilled in me the fundamental belief that you must treat everyone as an equal: "You are no better than anyone so don't think you are and I assure you, the person everyone is making fun of today will be their boss tomorrow."
I never planned on going into business -- I was going to be a teacher and change the world through educating youth but circumstances put me in different heels. When I decided to open a recruiting firm my dads' words were simple. Nothing. Not a single word. His support was in his silence.
While I had people providing unsolicited advice asking me questions like: "How long are you going to do this for?" "Are you sure?" "How will you even start?" "What's your plan?" He said nothing. He didn't call. He didn't ask questions. He didn't offer financial support. He gave no opinion and offered zero guidance.
Now that may seem like an odd mentor but deep down he knew something I didn't. About four months into my business there was a day that came where I turned to my dad with questions and LOTS OF THEM!!
"Dad, how do I do my bookkeeping?"
"Dad, how would you handle this?"
"Dad, what's the best approach to that?"
"Dad do you know anything about this?"
And just like when I was a kid, my dad had all the answers:
"Get an accountant with a designation because if anything happens, you are protected but do your own bookkeeping, you'll save yourself money."
"Do what your gut tells you to do, as you know the difference between right and wrong and 'that guy' is a piece of work trying to take advantage of you!"
"When you earn a dollar, invest back in your business and donate the other half. It will all come back to you, so don't worry."
"Now is not the time to grow with people, it's time to grow with numbers. Enjoy your time with your family. You built a steady company, keep building it but remember your children. As much as they will always be your children, they won't be kids forever. You must enjoy this time with them."
Like any mentor he triggers my creative juices but unlike other mentors he does so without even realizing it and without a scheduled meeting. My father doesn't just hear my trials and tribulations, he hears in my voice when I am breaking down and helps me understand what needs to be done before I crack. As my father, he knows me better then I know myself and as my mentor he doesn't make it about him.
But something even better emerged, my father introduced me to his evils without realizing it. In fact, his Vietnam War stories are a dime a dozen. He tells me his war stories, as he believes it's something that will make me laugh or annoyed but either way it makes me determined to succeed and closer to my dad.
Although I know life isn't always a competition, my mentor is greater than any other mentor out there as it has allowed me to not just improve in my business but see my father in a professional manner and in a different light. Mentors are usually busy, they have their own lives and they don't always have time for you. It doesn't matter how busy my father is, what client he is waiting for or where in the world he is on business because I don't just have a mentor I have a man-tor, my dad-tor and there really could be nothing better!
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