Who is your business hero?

Special contributor Mary Austin writes about the the importance of mentorship in the business world.

Mary Austin is a regular contributor to the Trail Times with her Business Beat column.

Who’s your hero? Occasionally, modern life can be cynical and jaded, yet many of us love to spend our downtime watching Wonder Woman, Iron Man, and other super heroes save the day. What if we found people around us who could make us better our own personal heroes?

As an idealist, I’ve always searched and found people to look up to. As a kid, my Grandma Joan and Grandma Catherine were tremendous examples thrift and determination. My Dad not only taught me to value hard work and integrity, but also practical skills like how cook a healthy meal quickly. At a high level, I admire people who seek to be excellent in whatever they do: Angela Merkel, Marie Curie and Beyoncé. In business, I strive to be like my business heroes: Gina Ironmonger of Keystone Appraisals, Ingrid Hope of Hall Printing and Judy Griffiths of JC Griffiths Notary Public. I call them my mentors.

Why is it important to have a hero/mentor? In the face of difficult situations we need to realize that other people have faced similar, or even much harder, challenges. Whatever the situation, other people have been there before. Even Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through hell, by all means keep going!”

It’s also important to realize we can always be better. Although we’ve made important gains in creating a high self-esteem culture, this can be an excuse to remain “good enough.” Surrounding yourself with people you admire can push you to be better, stronger and faster.

How do you cultivate a mentor/ hero relationship? There are two ways that have worked for me. If you don’t know your hero/mentor personally, go read their biography. Their story tells their successes, and equally importantly, their failures. It shows that no one was always the person they are today. That everyone “failed” a thousand times before taking our first step, speaking our first word, and have worked similarly hard to achieve any current success.

If you know your heroes and they live close by, tell them you would love to ask them a few questions to learn how they reached their personal goals. Inviting people out for lunch (or making them dinner) not only shows respect, but deepens the relationship. Also, people appreciate when you asked them about their journey, not simply admire where they are now. A ballet dancer has invested 10,000 hours of blood, sweat and tears before she takes your breath away on stage.

Gina Ironmonger and I also created a business club to bring even more like-minded people together to collaborate and cross-mentor each other. 5 years ago, we created the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club and still meet regularly to learn from experts and each other and occasionally, just vent challenges and share successes. We invited some of our favourite people and the club has continued to grow.

If you are not where you want to be, why not keep going? Take the time to read a biography, talk to someone you look up to or start your own awesome club. There are people out there who have been where you are in sport, business, volunteering, or other areas who took steps to change and improve themselves. Go find them, and take that first step towards becoming someone else’s hero.

Mary Austin is an active Board Member for both Community Futures and the Lower Columbia Community Development Team Society (LCCDTS). She is the Chair of the Lower Columbia Tech Club and the Lower Columbia Women’s Business Club. She is also co-owner of Austin Engineer Ltd. and feels fortunate everyday to be able to live and work with her family in this community.

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