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From Obstacles to Opportunities: The Power of Mentorship

By: Keith Orlean

Businessman helping others on their team

When I reflect upon my life in sales, I can't help but think back to the early days when I was just starting out as an apprentice in an optical store. It was the 1970s, and I was a young and eager 19-year-old, still grappling with the loss of my father four years prior and the recent tragedy of losing my best friend in a head-on collision on New Year's Eve. These events, although painful, played a crucial role in shaping my sales career and teaching me valuable lessons along the way.

I had always been told that I had excellent communication skills, and even before entering the world of sales, I had a natural ability to persuade people. During my apprenticeship, I quickly gained a reputation for closing deals and selling high-end products fearlessly. Selling became my passion, and I thrived on being the first person customers encountered when they walked through the door.

As an apprentice, I didn't even know what a mentor was, but the owners of the optical store, an optician and an optometrist, became my early mentors. They had their own successful selling methods, but one thing they all had in common was likability. It reminded me of my father, who was a salesman in the garment center and had the same inherent gift that I inherited. Unfortunately, his untimely passing when I was just 15 years old deprived me of a mentor who could guide me through my entrepreneurial journey.

Driven by ambition, I jumped headfirst into building a large business without seeking external mentorship. I believed I could do it all on my own, but that overconfidence led to a series of avoidable failures. If only I had been willing to seek guidance from experienced individuals, I could have spared myself unnecessary hardships. Business is a team sport, and success requires continuous learning and experience.

At 65, with a lifetime of entrepreneurial experience, I now understand the value of mentorship. My early life tragedies shaped my understanding of the value of effective communication, empathy, and likability, teaching me the importance of connecting with others and showing compassion. These skills became invaluable in my sales career, but the absence of a mentor resulted in impulsive decision-making and missed opportunities for growth, especially after losing my father.

Today, I seek experts who complement my skills and fill the gaps in my knowledge. I no longer shy away from seeking advice, learning from others' experiences, and incorporating their wisdom into my decision-making. As a team, we form a collective force that helps propel my business towards its goal.

If you are already an aspiring entrepreneur you realize that success isn't easy, but it becomes even tougher when you neglect the power of mentorship. Don't fear seeking help as it's not a weakness. For continuous growth, you need an experienced team to navigate the ever-changing world of sales and entrepreneurship. It's never too late to seek guidance from those who have paved the way before you. Their insights and guidance can make all the difference in your journey to fulfillment, both personally and professionally.


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