Mentors are critical to professional success — everyone can benefit from the advice of an experienced individual.
Lynne Brick, Joe Cirulli and Frank Lawrence, all veterans and leaders in the industry, have each benefited from the guidance of mentors throughout their lives. Here, they share the best advice they’ve ever gotten from mentors and their insights into identifying the right mentors:
Can you share some of the best advice you got from a mentor?
Lynne Brick, co-owner, Brick Bodies and Planet Fitness Growth Partners: We met our mentor at a CEO Club meeting. Dan Pena made his millions in the oil industry during the gas crisis in the 1970s. Here’s what we learned from him:
- Hire A+ people to build the business, rather than grow the person to the business. This was critical for our growth.
- Hire a world-class CFO. This was a game changer for us.
- It’s all about the size of the dream. As Ted Turner’s father told him, set big hairy audacious goals (BHAG) that you may not be able to achieve in your lifetime — goals that are really a stretch.
Joe Cirulli, owner and CEO, Gainesville Health & Fitness: The truth is when I began 45 years ago, there were no mentors. What I learned was more of what not to do, than what to do. Then I picked up a book called “The Power of Positive Thinking” by Dr. Normal Vincent Peale, and I found a new source of mentors. First books, then tapes. That first book led to many more mentors:
- Napoleon Hill — “Think and Grow Rich and The Laws of Success”
- Earl Nightingale
- Brian Tracy
- Michael Vance
I read books and listened to tapes constantly. And in 1996, I came across the REX Roundtables. The entire group, led by Will Philips, became a new source of mentorship.
Frank Lawrence, CEO, The Athletic Clubs: I learned the rotary four- way test, which challenges anything we think, say and do:
- Is it truth?
- Is it fair to all concerned?
- Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
- Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
And probably the best thing I learned is this quote from James Michener, which helps sum up my life:
“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”
What should fitness professionals look for in a mentor?
LB: Here’s what to look for:
- Someone you respect and admire.
- Someone who has “been there and done that,” like no other.
- Exemplary characteristics: someone who has integrity, someone who is genuine, someone who is a great listener, and someone who is willing to mentor you. Mentorship requires time and a collaborative commitment.
JC: Credibility — you have to find people you trust. They have to be people who have already done what you want to do. You’re looking for a guide, and a guide can only be credible if they have already accomplished what you want to achieve. The purpose of a mentor is to give you the path toward success. I have found you want to have a teacher who can help you skip all the mistakes that were made in the past — someone who can give you a beeline toward what you want to accomplish. Trust is so important.
FL: The mentors I’ve had in my life tended to have very similar values to mine, personally and professionally. They tended to, in general, be good people who treated others fairly and worked hard. Those are the people I identified from whom I could gain knowledge going forward.
How can one go about identifying a good mentor?
LB: These are the best ways to find mentors:
- Recommendations from other people you respect from within the industry or outside the industry. May be best to have a mentor from outside of the industry to gain different perspectives.
- Join a roundtable. They act as a board of advisors and can help you find a great mentor.
- Network with other organizations, such as a CEO Club, the Chamber of Commerce or non-profit boards.
JC: It’s easy — find those people who have already done it, and do exactly what they say.
FL: Never stop learning. I’m constantly engaged with those people in my past who were significant to me, and it helps me encounter new people who add value to that.