men·tor: noun 1. A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. 2. An influential senior sponsor or supporter.
men·tee: noun 1. A person who is guided by a mentor. Guided: to supply (a person) with advice or counsel, as in practical or spiritual affairs. 2. To supervise (someone’s actions or affairs) in an advisory capacity.
After 15 years as a highly successful salesperson, in 2002, I took on the job of creating a distribution channel for a startup company selling a product with which I was unfamiliar. My office was located in a remote area, far from my peers or the bustling energy of Orange County, Calif., where I was based. At that time, there was no LinkedIn, no Facebook, no blogging; people were still connecting the old-fashioned way in person at networking events and trade shows and as part of groups or associations.
Nonetheless, I was undaunted. After all, I had made my way in unsupported environments throughout my career. I was used to creating my own strategies, structures and success and figured this situation was no different. Being married to a stay-at-home dad and having two small children, I was also used to having responsibility for bringing home the bacon” and spinning multiple plates. My extended family lived across the country so my husband and I had relied on each other for support. In other words, I was used to going it alone and thought it was fine, thank you very much.
Then my new boss enrolled me in a program for entrepreneurs and suddenly I was in an environment where people were sharing experiences and learning from other successful business leaders. It was exciting and inspiring! I realized there were other people out there like me, people who had gone before me, people who were willing to help me realize my goals and dreams.
A few months into the program I learned that many of the most successful people had direct, one-on-one mentor relationships with some of the course leaders and top coaches. My boss encouraged me to try this and I began looking for someone I thought would fit best for me. It didnt take long; within weeks a session was held on sales and marketing and a new leader was introduced, Kimber Lim. As I listened to her lay out practical strategies for making business visions come to life I knew she would be perfect for me.
Thus began a mentor/mentee relationship that still exists today, many years later. Kimbers background was totally different from mine; she was highly educated at prestigious universities and had started her career in finance, and she had no experience whatsoever in the field of telecommunications. But she had something I was powerfully attracted to; an authenticity and open-mindedness in her approach to any business situation along with an obvious commitment to possibilities and the ability to articulate it all. We talked once a week. I always came prepared to the call with specific topics, situations and questions, so we could make the most of our half hour together. I wrote down everything she said and afterward would email her my summary of the conversation, including specific action items I committed to put into place the following week that would support our work.
Kimber helped me write the first business plan I was ever able to successfully follow and she held me accountable for it. Within three years the company I was at grew by more than 2,000 percent, was ranked No. 41 on the Inc. 500″ list of fastest-growing private companies in 2004 and my personal income reached a new level. The success has continued in my role here at Telcombrokers.
But there is more to our mentor/mentee relationship than that. Kimber and I have become friends and advocates for each other. She has shown me how to create to support my dreams and she has stood by me in both failure and success. She has continually encouraged me to be fully self-expressed as an individual and as a high-powered successful business woman. Today we still work together in a practical sense a few times a year, as I still value and need her input and wisdom, but we spend the rest of the year supporting each other in our various endeavors, whether it was helping me launch a peer group, Women in the Channel, or promoting her new book, Get Your Woman On,” we stand for one another. She is my guide and my sponsor. I hope to be able to pass on what Kimber has shared with me with someone else someday; it seems only right to do so.
Are you looking to try mentorship for professional or business growth in 2012? Women in the Channel is launching its mentorship program Feb. 6, 2012, and is looking for three pairs of women to help shape this exciting opportunity. If you feel that you would be a great mentor or mentee, please email Marnie Johnson of Infusion Communications Group at firstname.lastname@example.org or Catherine Lazarock of Symplicity Communications Inc. at email@example.com. Time is of the essence as teams will be chosen for a kickoff conference call on Feb. 6. Look forward to hearing more about this exciting program at the WIC mixer at the Channel Partners Conference & Expo n Las Vegas! (Please note: Membership in Women In The Channel is required to participate in this program.)
Since 2005, Nancy Ridge has been vice president for master agency
where she has focused on relationship building and process automation to drive growth of more than 300 percent. Previously Nancy was vice president of sales for ATI, where she was responsible for creating and managing the indirect sales channel. Prior to that Ridge was a vice president for a consulting firm that pioneered the TEM concept and also was a principal in a demand-side energy service company for 10 years. She also is a member of the 2011-12 Channel Partners Conference & Expo Advisory Board.