Main Mentors

Whether it’s a former boss, a family member, or a trusted friend, a good mentor is an invaluable asset in business. Just about every successful business person will say that they benefited from the advice of a mentor. Even the most successful have been advised by trusted mentors. Steve Jobs sought the advice and guidance of Mike Markkula. At Google, Larry Page and Sergey Brin relied on Eric Schmidt (who eventually became CEO) for advice and counsel. The five leaders here share the best advice they ever received from a mentor.

Kim White
President and CEO, River City Company
The best advice I’ve received was about the importance of community involvement and how vital it is to the success of our city. When asked to volunteer, knowing when to say “no” is just as important as knowing when to say “yes.” If you aren’t commit- ted or passionate about what you are being asked to do, you won’t be doing yourself or the organization any good.

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Michael N. “Mike” St. Charles
Managing Shareholder, Chamblis, Bahner & Stophel, P.C.
I’ve been fortunate to have mentors both personally and professionally. Some were not formal mentors, but I learned a lot through their words and actions. My family demonstrated the value of treating each person, even someone you disliked, with respect. Everyone has value. My law partners have taught me that honesty and transparency will lead you in the right direction. Making a decision you can stand by if made public is an excellent standard by which to evaluate your decision-making.

Mike Kramer
President and CEO, FSG Bank
Barney Frisch was a combat bomber pilot in WWII, and served as lead navigator for his squadron on D-Day. After the war, Barney’s career with GE Jet Aircraft took him all over the world. For 15 years I had lunch once per quarter with my friend Barney. His wisdom could fill a book, but the counsel that I try to live up to was this: “Your reputation and your integrity are built over decades but can be destroyed in a moment. Measure the actions you take in a moment against the balance of what you have worked decades to build.”

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Mike Sarvis
President and CEO, Cohutta Bank
One of my first bosses always encouraged me to think of myself as a leader. Regardless of what your position is, you can be a leader within your organization or within your unit. Leadership isn’t about how many gray hairs you have or what your title is—it’s about making others successful and making your team successful. Being a true leader is taking ownership in helping others succeed.

Alison Lebovitz
Author, Television Host, and Speaker
My mother once told me that relationships are 50/50: 50% how you feel about someone, and 50% how they make you feel about yourself. While this was actually dating advice she gave me in my twenties, I have applied it to all facets of life, both personal and professional. Recognizing that success isn’t simply dependent on my experience, but also on making others feel valued, is ultimately the key to fulfilling relationships and meaningful outcomes.

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