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August 14, 2006

Three Duties of a Mentor

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Jesse Brown
A mentor, like a good Board of Directors, offers the CEO (that would be you, the mentee) three talents:

Contacts

Consulting

Capital

Black Belt Productivity reminds us that,

The word "Mentor" originally comes from Homer's epic The Odyssey. When Odysseus went to fight in the Trojan War, he handed the reigns of his kingdom to Mentor. One of Mentor's most important duties was to oversee the education of the king's son, Telemachus.

So what does this education look like in today's business climate? How can you help your mentor help you?

A seasoned mentor has a fat rolodex (whatever that is) and an extensive list of contacts and links in the good ol' boy network. A phone call or two and the best mentors can introduce you to anyone, anywhere you need. If an advisor won't open his data base -- he is not a mentor. I've dealt with this; the non performing mentor, as you will also someday. Don't bother to train. Leave.

A wise old man, an experienced guide makes the best teacher. I like my mentors old and gray and grizzled. If your company or personal data-base doesn't have one of these, go buy yourself one. Warning: They are frightfully expensive, if purchased on the open market. Try exchanging favors in your warm body network. For example, one of my mentors served on the Board of Avis in its early days. His advice was so good, I married his daughter. What a deal. Now I get free consulting.

Access to capital is a necessary trait for a board member -- especially a start-up. But a mentor doesn't necessarily mean money; a direct cash transfer. What a competent mentor does is to guide the mentee on the strategies on how to get bigger bucks: How to earn W-2 $'s. And how to negotiate the office politics to get a bigger budget to advance your agenda within your company.

Your Business Blogger has been blessed with a number on mentors and advisors over the decades; some were paid, most not.

One of my all-time favorite mentors was Jesse Brown.

Jesse Brown, passed away 15 August four years ago. He was my friend and business partner. He was only 58. I dedicated my inaugural post on Labor Day 2005 to honor his memory and his work.

He was wounded by enemy fire in Vietnam leaving his right arm and hand partially paralyzed. This never slowed him down. A Marine who knew how to make a buck.

I once asked him when he was at the pinnacle of his career what drove him to work so hard. Money, I thought; status, celebrity? No. "I just want to help my friends," he said.

His passion for service helped him become the Veteran's Affairs Secretary for Bill Clinton.

And yet he helped me, a nobody who worked for a Republican governor.

Jesse is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, not far from my dad. Two warriors to whom I owe so much.

Semper Fidelis

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Thank you (foot)notes:

See Reasoned Audacity for more on the Arlington National Cemetery.

Posted by Jack at August 14, 2006 04:01 PM

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