I SEE IT OFTEN in the press releases that come my way. XYZ Events proudly announces they have just hired New Employee. And in just a few years, New Employee becomes Former Employee, having left XYZ Events to form his or her own event company.
With a steady supply of potential competitors so close to home, why would any business owner deliberately invest the time and talent to mentor yet another?
I think the people who do this have remarkably rich, generous spirits, and I saw such generosity of spirit at work last month. Mary Micucci, founder of longtime catering powerhouse Along Came Mary in Los Angeles, took on the task of counseling a struggling caterer.
CNN's business program “The TurnAround” had asked Mary to serve as mentor to L.A. caterer Emma Tate. The program pairs the owner of a fledgling small business with the head of a successful big business. Mary invited me and the president of the local chapter of the women business owners association to sit in during one segment of the taping to share our advice.
Although the show's producers wanted enough tape to create a one-hour show, Mary had much bigger ideas. “Once I was told about Emma's story and watched her videotape, I was very moved and inspired, and I wanted to be a part of helping her turn around her business,” Mary says. Rather than limit her contribution to handing Emma a business plan, Mary wants to continue coaching Emma over the course of a year, with the association leader and me joining in on meetings once a month as Emma's unofficial “advisory board.”
Mary sees her role as going far beyond serving as Emma's food-cost analyst. As Emma's mentor, she hopes not only to sharpen Emma's business skills, but to bring her life goals — financially, socially and spiritually — to fruition. Mary says, “My role in Emma's life would be as a trusted counselor and, I hope, friend.”
Adding a yearlong commitment to her schedule isn't anything Mary needs to do. Her company produces some 200 events every year, most notably movie premieres, and consistently ranks as one of our “50 Top Event Planning Companies.” But helping others is nothing new to Mary. Her company is one of the largest contributors in town of surplus food from events to social service agencies.
Watching successful business owners over the years, I'm convinced that often the bigger they are, the more grateful they are. Grateful for great clients. Grateful for great opportunities. Particularly grateful for the talented people they employ. Mary told me in an interview five years ago, “I'm grateful every day of my life that I have so many amazing people working for me.”
Grateful people are great enough to help others.