Most successful business leaders have had one or more meaningful mentor relationships.  A mentor is someone who cares about and draws personal satisfaction from helping others to succeed. Benefits from an effective mentor relationship include having the ability to tap into someone you respect’s knowledge and experience, gaining insights into your business  from an outside perspective, and feeling the confidence that comes from having a trusted individual as a sounding board.

In order for leaders to take their businesses to the next level, they need to ask the questions: Where do we want to go? Can we get there with what we have? And if not, what do we have to do? Who has to do it and when?  While an executive or owner may be able to answer many of these questions, having access to someone who has done it before, who is willing to share experiences, both good and bad, can be a real advantage.

While the last two to three years have been economically challenging for many businesses, an effective mentor who has seen tough times before can help put things in perspective and find solutions. One piece of advice I have been sharing with the executives I work with is to understand that a company can be compared to the military. In peace time, an army can be successful with good management up and down the hierarchy and good leadership at the top. A war time army, and we are currently in an economic battle, needs competent leadership at all levels because you cannot manage people effectively into battle. They must be led.  A company must have leaders at all levels to be successful in the current economic environment A good mentor can give input on how to build the required structure and leadership to meet the challenges of today.

Sometimes, when we think we have a tough problem, even simple words from a mentor can make all the difference. I vividly remember one experience I had as a very young manager. We had some difficult manufacturing challenges and my mentor gave me a simple piece of advice that allowed me to organize my thinking and resolve the problem. He said, “First you need to get the cow out of the ditch, next you need to determine how the cow got in the ditch, and then you have to make sure it does not happen again.”  This is the kind of simple third party input that can help us figure things out for ourselves.

Not only does finding a good mentor give you a strategic advantage, I believe it has more far-reaching effects. If your company experiences growth and profitability, so will the companies in your eco-system – suppliers, service providers, even the deli down the street – as you increase your sales, manufacture higher volumes, and employ more people. In turn, the entire business community prospers. Multiply your success to multiple companies in multiple cities and it’s an economic recovery in the making.

If you don’t already have one, now is the time to seek mentorship. You do not have to continue to feel alone in the process. Start by simply contacting someone in your industry that you admire. If they are not interested in being a mentor, they may recommend someone who is. Ask a friend, colleague or service provider if they know of anyone that might be a good fit for you. Turn to a trade organization or a group like the local Chairmen’s RoundTable who have a roster of potential mentors. Secure the strategic advantage that a good mentor can bring, and help all of us turn this economy around, one company at a time.

Steven Mendell is Past Chair of the Chairmen’s RoundTable. Active in CRT since 2005, he brings to every conversation experience as President of an international medical supply company; CEO of a genetics firm; Chair of a biotech royalty aggregator; president, marketing director, foundation trustee, and one of our most consistently active members of CRT.

Working both domestically and internationally, Steve is always on the lookout for business executives looking to take their organization to the next level. His generosity of time and talent is legend, and everyone who’s ever worked with him instantly recognizes he’s dedicated to helping them succeed.