Gary Short was facing a very tough time in his business a few years ago and was looking at failure. Luckily for him, he hooked up with a mentor who helped him see his way out.
Short, president of Sys-tek, an engineering consulting firm in the Kansas City area, spoke to a group of Wichita State University students about the value of mentoring as part of a group that included former Helzberg Diamond Chairman Barnett Helzberg and former Hallmark executive Bob Brush.
They appeared as part of the Helzberg Entrepreneurship Mentoring Program, which Helzberg started after selling his company 18 years ago.
“If I’d have had a mentor when I started, I’d probably be 10 years further ahead in my business,” Short said.
A mentor can be an adviser, a sounding board, a truth teller, a source of encouragement, a connection to expertise and, sometimes, just a shoulder to cry on.
“A mentor makes you verbalize, makes you figure things out,” Helzberg said. “They’re not a consultant.”
Helzberg was promoting the value of mentoring, along with a book he wrote called “Entrepreneurs + Mentors = Success,” rather than his program, which largely exists only in Kansas City.
A business owner can recruit a mentor by contacting business people they admire, but Helzberg cautioned against choosing someone who is in the same business.
Be prepared for some rejection, he said – mentoring can be hard work – but also be prepared to have people volunteer to help you. Helzberg understands why they do; he has donated his time as a mentor for 18 years.
“I’m not generous; I’m being selfish,” he said. “I’m having more fun doing this. It beats being around people my age who are complaining about their hip and knee replacements.”