Monday, September 24, 2007

Mentors: Answers or Guidance

Recently I've been juggling several open orders, sales visits, a marketing push and my usual hectic home life. On my drive home today after a string of sales visits, I was reminded of a previously overwhelming point in my life when a great mentor had invited me to start up a new venture with him, and I was also facing a promotion at my current employer.

The new venture was a dream opportunity, and a chance to work with a great group of industry visionaries. It was a huge compliment for my friend to ask me to join him. But as is true with any start up, I would be taking on a high level of risk, both financially and professionally.

The promotion was a logical next step for me, but would require more travel and more responsibility for me. The company had always treated me very well, and I knew that as long as I could handle the job, I would be rewarded financially. But juggling travel, staff management, and a busy home life was a concern. I could stay in my current role and continue to enjoy my job--although always wonder what "could have been"

Feeling overwhelmed, I asked an experienced female entrepreneur to dinner to discuss my situation. She had been a good sounding board in the past, and I thought she might be able to shed some light on my predicament. Over a meal and a good bottle of red wine, we talked about our families, our career accomplishments, and aspirations. She had built a successful career while raising three daughters and maintaining a strong relationship with her husband. She had opened new companies, headed business groups and consulted on new opportunities.

I asked her what I should do, and as maddening as it was, she wouldn't just tell me what was the best option. She did say that starting up a new company was a big endeavor, and that my children wouldn't be young forever. She said I was sure to have plenty of great opportunities down the road, and not to feel like I was passing up on my one chance to do something special. She also said that I was probably ready for more responsibilities, as long as I had strong systems in place at home to handle situations when they arose.

Heading home I was disappointed that she hadn't of told me what to do. But I also realized that a true mentor can't simply tell you what makes the most sense. A mentor is there to show you the road ahead, help you understand the challenges and also how to overcome obstacles. So go out there, build some relationships with mentors, and listen to their advice. Then make your own decisions.

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