I was asked recently who my greatest teachers and mentors have been in business. My mind goes directly to a time in my entrepreneurial life when I was overwhelmed, flying by the seat of my pants and afraid, because I really did not know what I was doing!
I have learned that there are times in our lives when someone will show up at just the right time, for the right reason, to teach us. I am always happy to relive and share the story of my first experience of an angel showing up for me. My first business mentor was Bob.
To set this story up allow me to share some background. The first business I owned fell in my lap when I was 21 years old. Willing to accept the adventure, and naive enough to not understand that I did not have the business acumen that could have helped me succeed. I did not have a business plan, or defined goals or a vision for the future. I just said YES to an opportunity and then I was the owner of a delicatessen.
My business grew rapidly, and I struggled to keep up. Flying by the seat of my pants was all I knew, and I kept busy learning through my mistakes and putting out the fires I created. I did not realize that there was any other way to be in my business. I was the proverbial entrepreneur, working “in my business and not on my business”, so the business was running me.
In the late 70’s small business advisers and coaches were not available. Business Coaching was a concept that was to enter the arena years later. So, when Bob first entered my life, I really did not have a context to hold that relationship. I now find it ironic that Bob did not have a college degree, so he did not arrive with the knowledge of how to create a solid business plan or marketing strategy. His accounting philosophy was simple and lacking spreadsheets or formulas to follow for proper accounting principles. When it came to a sales process, he may not have known that sales had a formal process. Bob did not have the answer to the business knowledge that I felt I was lacking to succeed. What Bob did have, that I did not realize I needed at that time, was wisdom and heart.
Three days a week I looked forward to his smiling face, a pat on my back, and a sit down to check the pulse of Laurie and her business. Bob was seemingly a simple man but a genius in his lessons. His lessons were simple, so simple that as I grew as a successful business woman, I wanted to dismiss them thinking that the answers to what I was facing had to be more complex. Yes, his lessons were simple, yet they have continued to unfold at deeper levels over the years as I continue to grow.
Bob awakened me to important business and life skills. I’ll share three with you today.
Bob’s Top Teachings
1. Listen – Take the time to be with someone in need. Lend them your ear without trying to fix anything. Look beyond profit or business relationships and just be there with them. As busy as Bob was, he saw in my eyes the fear and confusion that I was experiencing. He would stop and take time to be with me. His calm demeanor helped ease my stress and I could vent and question and doubt and then come back to my power, moving into the day or week ahead. Because of Bob, today, as a business and personal coach, I enter each session open to what may be going on for my client. If they are struggling to meet their business goals, there is likely a personal obstacle keeping them from reaching that goal. When we sit and I am open to help them move through that obstacle, they are able to get back in the game.
2. Believe – Bob believed in me like no one had believed before, and I knew it. I knew it because he told me and he assured me that I was fine and doing well. He knew I had the answers within me. If my family and friends are reading this, l want to state that, I did have family and friends who cared about me and believed in me but having someone outside of that circle believing in me and my abilities was magical. It allowed me to tap into my own creativity and instincts for my solutions and to seek professional help and knowledge when I needed it. As a coach, I can see what my clients are not able to see within themselves. I get to believe in them and remind them of their greatness.
3. Be Courageous – I could have quit several times, but honestly, I was too naïve and moving too quickly to know that quitting was an option. And, Bob helped me to settle down and settle into my evolving role as a business owner and leader of my growing business and team. It took courage for me to admit that I needed help and to reach out for help when I needed it. It took courage to show my vulnerability, when I was at my low points. At those times, I would hide on my 1-person island, hiding from the world. Bob rowed out to that island, listened, allowed me to regain my courage and rowed back in with me to get back in the game. Quitting was not an option and it took courage to lean into the learnings and challenges I faced daily. I know the courage it takes to be an entrepreneur, to put yourself out there and risk everything to live your dream.
This angel who entered my, life at just the right time, for just the right reason, played two roles in my life. Not only was Bob my mentor/coach, he was also my Coors Dairy delivery man! What Bob taught me was far more valuable than anything a Business Coach or Consultant or Business School could have imparted on me at that time in my entrepreneurial career. Having owned my first business at 21, and growing it to two locations over 17 years, then moving into corporate management positions, and now owning Now & Next Business and Personal Coaching, Bob’s foundational teaching of heart before head have been at the center of my being.
Here is a quote of the day that helps me define my life experience, having known Bob.
A good heart is better than all the heads in the world.
– Robert Bulwer-Lytton