Mentoring: Good for you. Good for your business. Good for others.

By Mark G. Auerbach

I’ve been an advocate of mentoring since I got into business. Whether I was working for someone else or working for myself, mentoring has been part of my culture. I’ve written about mentoring twice for Succeeding in Small Business. In 2014, I wrote about my mentors, and how they shaped me. In 2017, I went back to update my earlier article about a mentoring experience that changed me.

Let’s update the 2017 story. Benjamin Jacek, the high school student I’d mentored, got into 9 out of 10 colleges, chose The University of Wyoming, and went to work for me while still in high school, handling social media and other projects from The Capitol Steps to Berkshire Film and Media Collaborative, and The Jazz Ensembles of Mount Holyoke College. He still works for me, or should I say, with me, while he goes to school and more.

Ben is a volunteer firefighter in Wyoming, where he now mentors new firefighters. “The most important skills I can give them are my knowledge of the job and the skills to deal with what they will encounter,” he says. “They can learn a lot by reading, but they need the guidance of the mentor in training to make sure they have their techniques down and are able to correctly do the job they are assigned.”

“From my mentors,” Ben says “I learned to always have patience and to have people check work as they go. It takes time to learn and change, and the only way you are going to do that is with support of mentors.  I developed a few strengths. I learned a lot about the mentoring process and how it is not as easy as it seems. I learned that it takes patience to teach and learn and that is something I have tried to carry over to my mentoring.”

As I mentored Ben and as he joined my team, I realized that the employer/employee relationship had morphed into the colleague relationship, and then, the friend relationship. Ben, in some ways, mentored me. He proposed that The Capitol Steps should have an Instagram presence in a well-considered, well-delivered presentation. After speaking with the client, I gave him the full responsibility of building and maintaining the program. I learned about a different methodology in social media, and he’s become my “go to” for social media questions. Maybe it’s generational, but it comes easier to Ben. He’s very patient when he mentors me.

Keeping your name top of mind

I’ve mentored or coached three groups this year. Call it pro-bono consulting or mentoring, but all three relationships have reaped rewards. One is a music series in a local town that needs entertainment options. I’ve worked with the two partners before. I’m coaching them in media buying, marketing plans, and general public relations. It’s good for me. I get to renew my relationships with local media buyers, media people, and vendors that I don‘t always converge with and it “keeps my name in lights.”

I’m coaching a childhood friend who handles public relations and development for a local non-profit that provided services to me while I was recovering from my accident. The satisfaction for me is the good feelings one gets from giving back. I’m coaching a third non-profit that initially wanted to hire my company. We didn‘t have the capacity to add a client at that time, but I’ve been able to match them up with people who can, and I’m on standby, so to speak, when they have questions.

And, when I do workshops on public relations, media, or marketing for area colleges, I always end my remarks with “If anyone has questions now or down the road, please reach out.” And these students do. I’ve critiqued resumes, video reels, and connected them with others who they can learn from. The schools appreciate that, often promote my appearances, and give my name recognition a balance of being “approachable, accessible, and willing to listen”…good qualities for a PR pro and qualities that set me apart from the others.

Another perspective

Michelle van Schouwen is principal of Q5 Analytics, which provides strategic planning, advocacy and communications for stakeholders working to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Previously, she was founder and longtime president of Massachusetts-based van Schouwen Associates, LLC, which provided launch and strategic marketing for business-to-business and related clients. Michelle and Q5 Analytics are based in Sarasota, FL, and Eastham, MA. Michelle and I, both columnists for Succeeding in Small Business, ran the only two full service public relations and marketing companies in our small town, and we often mentored each other, because we didn’t see each other as competitors, and most of our accounts were regional and/or national.

Michelle says, “I’ve been mentoring individuals and teams for years, via university business and engineering programs, small business and entrepreneurial associations and environmental organizations. I got started because I wanted to ‘pay it forward.’ I’ve received invaluable career and business support all through my working years. Now I feel compelled to share some of what I’ve learned. Mentoring keeps me fresh, too. What can be more inspiring than collaborating with an enthusiastic – sometimes even visionary – entrepreneur, engineer, change-maker, or student? Incidentally, mentoring adds sparkle to my business, too, mostly because I’m inspired to think new thoughts and make new plans. Mentoring prevents me from getting insular.”

So, a good resolution for the new year and the new decade: Reap the reward of mentoring, and pay it forward for the people you mentor.

Some mentoring resources

Forbes: Mentoring Matters.

Harvard Business Review: What The Best Mentors Do.



Mark G. Auerbach is principal at Mark G. Auerbach Public Relations, a Springfield, MA, based marketing, public relations, development and events consultancy. You can find more information about Mark at Facebook and LinkedIn. Mark also produces ArtsBeat in print in The Westfield News, on radio for Pioneer Valley Radio and 89.5fm/WKB, an on TV at WCPC15.

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