This month, we asked our members the following: Who do you turn to for advice?
Here are some highlights from the responses we received.
The Brooklyn Brewery designer, Milton Glaser, is one of my most thoughtful advisors. Not only does Milton do great design work for the brewery, he also has a wealth of experience with start-up businesses, having co-founded Pushpin Studios, New York Magazine, and Milton Glaser, Inc. He knows New York very well, and is a great judge of people. He is a very wise man.
While many would say that their board of directors is probably the first go-to-place for advice, in my case I find that directors have potentially different interests than the CEO. Investors want to protect and maximize their investment.
Personally, I’ve found that my old boss, a current venture capitalist, is a great sounding board for issues and problems. He has years of experience from seeing so many deals and deal dynamics, as well as pattern recognition for many obstacles that entrepreneurs face when running their businesses. Since he doesn’t have millions on the line when he suggests a course of action, it’s truly unbiased advice. I also reach out to a friend, a former entrepreneur, who successfully sold his business. I get his input on operational challenges and solutions. Lastly, my father ran a large company and gives me good, candid advice on managing people. Better yet, his judgment isn’t clouded by the internet world and he cuts right to the chase when it comes to profit and loss.
One of the main reasons I sold my company to The Engine Group was to have daily access to mentors, something that happened much less frequently in the nine years prior. Two specific mentors, Martin Puris and John Bernbach, have given me several decades worth of insight about the advertising business—insight that, when married with the constantly evolving state of the consumer, give me and Deep Focus a marketplace advantage.
And when all else fails, I go to my wife, who always seems to be right.
I get advice from many sources. I love asking the opinions of people who are entrenched in my business as much as I love the opinions of people who are completely outside of it. My first source of advice is usually from my husband and business partner, Alex. Because of our different roles and life experiences we often see things from very different perspectives. This is fantastic, because it forces us to defend our points of view to each other; work through what is best for the business, the people, and the clients; and come to a solid decision. For other internal sources, I turn to the management team here at Morpheus. I’m a big believer in buy-in and trying to get everyone on the same page before we roll things out. That can sometimes slow down the process, but I find when we don’t get buy-in we spend just as much time hashing it out after it’s done and sometimes have to retrench.
For external sources of advice I go to my parents. It’s amazing what I can still learn from their careers and life experiences. I also turn to a host of mentors that I have collected over the years, some of them may not know they are my mentors, but I love picking their brains. And Google—I’m often surprised by the answers I can find in business books and other online resources.
When all is said and done, you can take and absorb all the advice in the world, but you still need to have your own filter and make your own decisions. No one person or book is going to be able to solve your challenge, only you as a leader will be able to know what is right for your business. By owning the decision you can then also own the implementation.
Although I have always thought about seeking out a mentor, for some reason I have not been successful in doing so. However, when faced with challenges or embarking on new initiatives, I reach out to the many successful individuals that I have met over the years. The combined experience of these “virtual mentors” has been invaluable to me. The list ranges from successful corporate executives to serial entrepreneurs, and inspiring community leaders to people I respect because of their personal qualities. I believe that there is something of value to learn from anyone we interact with if you take the time to observe and reflect. And sometimes you learn what not to do.
Over the past 15 years I have developed an extremely strong network of contacts; from clients to attorneys/accountants and industry experts and it is this network that I go to first for advice.
Daria Meoli is the Executive Editor at The New York Enterprise Report. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org