Entrepreneurs are known for their leadership and drive, but behind every successful business owner there’s usually a host of mentors and supporters offering words of inspiration and encouragement.
ShopTalk asked local entrepreneurs to share the advice that has helped shape their careers. Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Randy Mitchell, franchisee and franchise coach
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Henry “Hank” Donaghy has been a mentor to me over the 11 years I’ve been in business. His advice to me – “First earn my trust, then you’ll earn my referrals” – was important as I began building a referral-based business.
He said that trust could be demonstrated through reports from clients he referred, but also through observing how a businessperson gets involved in the community, without expecting a direct return on the time investment. His encouragement led me to leadership roles in the Matthews Chamber of Commerce and other nonprofits.
Mitchell runs the local The Entrepreneur’s Source franchise, a group that offers guidance in franchise options, career transition and self-employment.
Stephanie Nelson, social media marketer
My friend Roy Morejon of digital marketing agency Command Partners, knew I wasn’t happy at my job and suggested I start my own social-media marketing company. When I asked him why he was advising me to become a competitor of his, he said, “There’s enough business for all of us.” I started my business a year later, andnow, when I’m not a good fit for a job, I remember this and suggest one of my trusted social media colleagues. I’ve built a great reputation among other social media marketers and potential clients because I'm not clawing for every nickel and dime.
Nelson is the founder of SBN Marketing.
Taylor Hayden, attorney
My father, who passed away a couple years ago in a flying accident, had a successful legal practice in Cincinnati, Ohio, told me to never offer someone a deal that you wouldn’t take yourself. This perspective leads to better deals, longer-lasting relationships and increased trust, all making for better business in the long run.
Hayden is the founder of Boost Business & Legal Advisors and the inventor of the WineShark, a red-wine hyper-aerator.
Evan Kettler, consultant
My favorite advice came from Bob Branflick at Springs Industries, one of the last managers I had before I became a serial entrepreneur. Bob, now a biotech exec in Madison, Wis.,knew I would not be fulfilled as anyone’s employee and gave me his business-school textbook on entrepreneurship. His advice: “You never have to recover from a good start.”
Kettler is the president of business advisory firm Kettler StrategyWorks, and the group chair of Vistage International, an organization that uses peer mentoring to develop grow company leaders.
Amber L. Matthews, retailer
“Advocate unabashedly for yourself.” This advice came from a Forbes Magazine article about strategies women entrepreneurs share with their corporate counterparts. As one of many soap artisans, I needed to find a way to stand out, so I turned to popular bloggers who already had my target audience’s attention. They fell in love with my products and are helping me reach my niche market, while keeping my marketing costs very low.
Matthews is the owner of Creamed. Gourmet Body Treats, an all-natural handcrafted soap shop.
Cary Bernstein, nonprofit director
Trip Wheeler, who is on our board, advised me to always ask: “Is the juice worth the squeeze?” It has become one of my mantras. About 10 months after the clinic opened, my medical director and I were trying to decide if we should hire an additional staff member to help with cleaning kennels and day-end surgery tasks. We weren’t in a financial position to afford another staff person, but we decided that the juice would be worth the squeeze because of how much time and effort it would end up saving for our medical team. That employee ended up being one of our best.
Bernstein is the executive director of Spay Neuter Charlotte.
Andrew Sobel, entrepreneur
“Get back up, boy!” My father, Howard Sobel, told me this in 2001 after the economy turned and my company lost almost all of its business. The true test of a person comes in the bad times. Will you learn from it? How badly do you want it? If Brixton did not fail early on, we may not have made it to where we are today. We used failure to make us stronger.
Andrew Sobel is founder of the Brixton Group Inc., a company that recruits and matches contract information technology professionals with Fortune 500 companies and one of Inc. Magazine’s “Top-500 Fastest-Growing Companies.”
Sharon Lachow-Blumberg, consultant
“Everything can look like a failure in the middle.” When I was relaunching my consulting firm I came across this advice from Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a Harvard professor. It reminds me that business growth is not a straight line. Transitions can be messy and difficult and take longer than you think, but it doesn’t mean it is a waste of time. It is a process.
-- Lachow-Blumberg is the founder of I'm Not Done Yet, a coaching and consulting firm for individuals and organizations in transition.
Stacey Randall, productivity coach
About six years ago, I heard Kati Tyler, a local general contractor, say that she stepped down from boards and committees while she focused on getting her company going in its early years. Then when the business started to sustain itself, she jumped back into the Charlotte community to give of her time, talents and treasure. I was a new entrepreneur at the time, and it was as if she gave me permission to focus on my business, knowing that I would give back more later if I have a sustainable business in the making.
Randall is the founder and chief consultant of Randall Research and a certified productivity coach and consultant.
Terry Cox, entrepreneurial advocate
My father’s advice to me was “always do your best, just don’t let anyone know it’s your best.” I would always chuckle when he said that. I became an over-achiever!
Cox is the founder and CEO of Business Innovation Growth (BIG) Council, a peer-to-peer advoacy group for Charlotte-area entrepreneurs.
LaMonte Odums, life coach
The best advice I got actually came from myself. I was seeing my business world around me crumble and could feel fear creeping in. I had mentors who’d spoken so many words of wisdom to me, but it seemed as if those words went into one ear and out the other. One day I walked past a mirror and stared at myself for a long time, and said: “As long as you see yourself as insignificant, you’re hurting yourself and the people you were created to change.” That moment began a road to new beginnings.
Odums, known as Coach LaMonte, works with clients on personal development and is a motivational speaker.