Business Mentors and Entrepreneurial Success

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“Everybody wants a good life but not everybody gets it. Imagine for a second. If, right now, today, how much more successful would you be if you started a company with Bill Gates as your business partner and he was using every trick of the trade that he used to build Microsoft into one of the biggest companies in the world?. Imagine, how much more money you’d have in your bank account today if Warren Buffet was teaching you how to invest in the stock market, showing you how he used to build Berkshire Hathaway into a $140 billion company. Imagine how much you’d be happier today if Dalai Lama was your guide, showing you how to find fulfillment in life in the little things that most people overlook. Imagine how healthy you’d be today, if when you woke up, went down to your gym and Arnold Schwarzenegger was waiting there -who was your trainer showing you how he built his body into the fittest body. Mentors can transform our lives. Life is short. You cannot experience everything. Learn from others wherever possible” -Ta Lopez.

Bozeman and Feeney (2007) define mentoring as a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development(from

While growing up as a teenager in Lansing, Michigan, Johnson strongly desired to become a successful businessman though he loved basketball career. He idolized two successful businessmen ‘Joe Fergusen’ and ‘Gray Eden’ who showed him that African Americans could own buildings and car dealerships. They encouraged his dream of becoming a businessman one day. They told him that he could become a businessman after finishing his basketball career.

The first advice Carl Fergusen gave Johnson was to educate himself about the business before venturing into it. From the age of 16 years, Johnson began taking business lessons from them. Carl directed Johnson to put in as much time in learning the business fundamentals as he puts in playing basketball. He also gave him a part-time dealership job to help him to understand the nuances of the business. Even while Johnson was playing NBA, Carl and Grey advised Johnson to continue the learning. They showed him how to save money while playing NBA that could be useful for business at a later time.

After his retirement from Basketball, Johnson had another mentor-Dr. Buzz, Laker’s CEO who taught him everything about the Sports Business and the general business.

The mentors not only shared their intimate knowledge but also boosted his morale. He felt confident in starting the business. All those learnings bore fruit when Johnson started his company.

Carl had apprised Johnson that thinking from a customer’s perspective would solve most of the business problems. So, he requested him to acquire ample knowledge about his customers. Johnson’s customers were mostly African Americans and Latino Americans & he developed a strong understanding of their likes, dislikes, needs, wants and desires. It was one of the significant reasons for his success.

The mentors helped him in building networks, defining strategies, managing people, and overcoming obstacles in the implementation of ideas.

The mentors also offered emotional support during the crisis and helped him in clearing his thoughts.

Magic Johnson says that without his mentors, he would not have succeeded as a businessman.

Steve Jobs had mentors as Bill Campbell, Robert Noyce, and Mike Markkula.

Bill Gates had mentors as Paul Allen and Warren Buffet.

Satya Nadella had Bill Gates as a mentor.

Not only entrepreneurs, everyone needs the help of mentors to grow in their careers.

Lee Iacocca had his mentors as Murray Kester, Charlie Beecham, and Robert McNamara. They played an enormous role in his career growth.

In 1977, Gerard R.Roche surveyed top executives to understand the impact of mentors and also to confirm the 1967 study results of Eugene Jennings.

Roche shared the following findings in his HBR article

  • Nearly two-thirds of the respondents had a mentor, and one-third of them has had two or more mentors.
  • Executives who have had a mentor earned more money at a younger age, are better educated and had a career plan.
  • Although both groups worked the same long hours, those who have had a mentor are happier with their career progress and derived greater pleasure from their work.

Roche further adds that a majority of mentor relationships started when the proteges were at the age of 20–30 years, particularly within the first five years of their careers.

Anthony Tjan writes in HBR, “Too many mentors see mentoring as a training program focused around the acquisition of job skills. However, the best mentors go beyond competency, focusing on helping to shape other people’s character, values, self-awareness, empathy, and capacity for respect. They don’t seek only to uncover mentees’ strengths but also look for their underlying passions and help them find their calling. The mentors don’t just criticize the mentees’ ideas despite being unrealistic. They would consider why an idea might work before he or she considers why it might not.”

Jack Welch adds a cautionary note, “Getting attached to one person as a mentor might be a dangerous idea if we end up with the wrong person. Explore multiple mentors and grab good things from them. One mentor might be a good public speaker, another can articulate the case well, a third mentor might be good at laying the strategy well, a fourth mentor might be the one who knows about the hiring”. So, learn from a variety of people.

“Everyone who succeeds has had a mentor or mentors.” -Donald S. Perkins.

The above content is part of the following book -

Essential Leadership Lessons from Top CEOs by Shah Mohammed M.

References: Ted Talk by Ta Lopez, Jack-Straight From The Gut by Jack Welch, Stanford Video Interview-Magic Johnson, HBR Article by Gerard R.Roche.

Secular Humanist, Business Growth Consultant, Design Thinker, India. Reach me at or

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