I thought I’d share my story of the four women who have had most influence on my career to date. In chronological order, I’m going to share an intimate view into ‘how I see them’ and what has made these women invaluable to me (and James)! Before jumping straight to that, though, I thought I’d share my top 5 tips on how to choose your advisor:
- Success: Look for someone who has been successful – if you’re looking for your place on the road, find someone who is already on it!
- Personality style: Be open minded – understand your personality and communication style and what drives and inspires you.
- Reciprocal mentoring: Mentoring goes both ways – they add value to you, but you should also add value to them.
- Availability: Make sure whoever you pick has the time and availability to be present and support you through your journey.
- Pay for good advice: Good things never come for free.
On that note, I use the word advisor; however they might be a mentor, business partner, life partner or friend. Anyway, I’ll start with the first person who I encountered on my journey:
James and I first came across Lee in 2009. With Au Pair Link becoming government licensed, we were desperate for strong governance in the business and looked no further than Lee. She taught us about the true value of excellent governance, and of transparency and of fiduciary duty (sexy stuff, huh?). As the business went through tough times, Lee never let us take short cuts and always encouraged us to put the business first. She kept us grounded and provided a steady hand in the earliest days of my entrepreneurial journey. We always knew that Lee’s motives were to ensure the best outcome not only for us, but for the business. She provided what can only be described as a very cost effective Master’s Degree in business, life and entrepreneurship. For that, we are eternally grateful.
I came across Theresa (TG) at a speaking engagement about a year after meeting Lee. Meeting TG was one of those pivotal moments that you later look back on in your life and you realise just how drastically that meeting changed your journey. Once on the Forbes Most Influential Women in the World list (#49), and the former CEO of Telecom, TG initially became our 2nd Au Pair Link board member. Most importantly, she went onto found My Food Bag alongside us. Over the years, TG has moved from a mentor and trusted advisor, to a business partner and one of our closest friends. In fact, of all the people in our life, I struggle to think of anyone who better understands James and I both individually and as couple. TG doesn’t only have one of the most brilliant minds I’ve ever come across, but she’s also pragmatic, quick and has a terrific knack for understanding people. Simply put: she knows how to spot talent and how to cultivate it. On a personal level, TG has stood by us through thick and thin, and when we recently suffered some serious personal loss, she was the first person whose call I answered. For us, TG is no longer a business partner, but she is part of our family and will forever be part of our life.
I met Deborah in 2012, when we began our plan to pursue the My Food Bag project. Deborah and her firm Pead PR had been recommended as the top food PR firm in New Zealand. When we launched the business, Pead formed a pivotal part of our launch strategy. Over the last 4 years, I’ve worked closely with Deborah across numerous projects and it’s never ceased to amaze me how insightful and fast she is. I love Deborah’s direct and firm, yet unassuming, approach. There is nothing that gets past her (best not to try). If I ever have a concern, I call Deborah and we talk it through and agree on an approach. Sometimes I feel as if I am the boxer in the ring and Deborah is the trainer in the corner, ensuring I recover and drink enough water, and of course, keeping spirits soaring. I consider Deborah one of my most trusted advisors and there’s rarely something that is about to happen that Deborah isn’t made aware of well in advance. More than PR, for sure.
My most recent addition to this list only crossed our path 18 months ago, but I wish it had happened sooner. In late 2014 Trisha (recommended by TG) joined My Food Bag as our business advisor. Trisha’s focus in My Food Bag is our people and ensuring we get the right people on the bus, in the right seat and at the right time. To be frank, at the time I didn’t think I needed advice on team appointments but boy how wrong I was. Over the past 18 months, Trisha’s advice has proved absolutely invaluable. In fact, if you looked at my phone, Trisha’s phone number would continually be in the top 7 most dialled numbers (right up there with James and TG). I’ve never come across anyone in my life or career who is more insightful when it comes to human beings. She truly understands the ‘ins and outs’ of people – taking the meaning of ‘strengths and weaknesses’ to a new level. I have a huge amount of respect for Trisha, so if you;’re about to go to an interview with My Food Bag and Trisha gets rolled out – you know you’re in for a challenge because without Trisha’s rubber stamp you certainly won’t be getting mine.
So, how do I sum this up? It’s pretty simple really – I’ve chosen to surround myself with people who I understand at a gut level and who understand me at a gut level. The operative word here? Chosen. Pick your mentors – don’t just see someone, think they’re impressive and decide that’s your new mentor (they actually have to agree first). My advice – think about who you are, what you support you need to get where you want to be, and the kinds of personalities that you know will see you get there.