David Zaslav, Mar­la Beck, and oth­er busi­ness lead­ers share what they learned from their men­tors.


6 min read

Opin­ions expressed by Entre­pre­neur con­trib­u­tors are their own.


Behind every suc­cess­ful entre­pre­neur is some­one who influ­enced and guid­ed them. We asked these busi­ness lead­ers and Advi­sors in The Ora­cles to tell us about the pow­er­ful per­son, or men­tor, who helped them get their start. These are their sto­ries and their advice.

1. Spend time with people you admire.

David M. Zaslav

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

Suc­cess is about find­ing great men­tors. For me, those lead­ers were for­mer Gen­er­al Elec­tric chair­man and CEO Jack Welch and Lib­er­ty Media chair­man John Mal­lone. You become the peo­ple you admire if they let you spend time with them. The more you spend time with them, the more you think like they do, see the world as they do, and ask ques­tions they would ask.

Choose to spend time around peo­ple with good val­ues whom you admire and can learn from. Then it just comes down to work­ing hard and try­ing to learn as much from them as pos­si­ble. David M. Zaslav, pres­i­dent and CEO of Dis­cov­ery, Inc., par­ent com­pa­ny of the Dis­cov­ery Chan­nel, Ani­mal Plan­et, TLC, HGTV, Trav­el Chan­nel, Food Net­work, and more

2. Listen to those who see something in you.

2. Listen to those who see something in you.

Mar­la Beck

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

When I was decid­ing what I want­ed to do after grad school, my pro­fes­sor, Dick Dar­man, told me, “Don’t go back into pri­vate equi­ty. I see you as an entre­pre­neur; you have to start some­thing.” I saw myself as a leader and always knew I want­ed to run some­thing or be the CEO of a com­pa­ny, but I didn’t see myself as an entre­pre­neur.

You nev­er know where you’ll find some­one who sees you for who you real­ly are and can see the path you should be on. My professor’s words stayed at the back of my mind, and he end­ed up writ­ing one of the first checks to fund Blue­mer­cury. He was a real cham­pi­on of mine from the begin­ning. —Mar­la Beck, co-founder and CEO of Blue­mer­cury, which was acquired by Macy’s for $210 mil­lion; cre­ator of M‑61 Skin­care and Lune+Aster cos­met­ics

3. Treat everyone with respect.

3. Treat everyone with respect.

Jocko Will­ink

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

When I joined the SEAL teams, I got hazed or picked on as the “new guy.” It didn’t both­er me — I just kept my mouth shut, did what I was told, and tried to build a good rep­u­ta­tion. One day in train­ing, I made a deci­sion that I thought was right, but an old­er, more expe­ri­enced SEAL dis­agreed. He called me out dur­ing the debrief and made me look bad in front of our pla­toon.

But anoth­er SEAL, who was high­ly respect­ed and even more senior, called him out and defend­ed me in front of every­one, which was pret­ty cool. That’s when I real­ized that abus­ing your author­i­ty is not the way to go about things. Treat peo­ple like humans, with respect, and you’ll have it bet­ter in the long run. Jocko Will­ink, retired U.S. Navy SEAL offi­cer, No. 1 New York Times best­selling author, co-founder of Ech­e­lon Front, part­ner in Ori­gin USA, and host of the top-rat­ed “Jocko Pod­cast

4. Be willing to adapt.

4. Be willing to adapt.

Tom Albert

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

When I worked at his bro­ker­age firm in my ear­ly 20s, Dr. Charles Smith took me under his wing and taught me how to build a suc­cess­ful busi­ness. I’ve always been inspired by his dri­ve to real­ize his poten­tial and his jour­ney from grow­ing up in pover­ty in South Africa to edu­cat­ing stu­dents at some of the best account­ing pro­grams in the Unit­ed States.

I once asked Char­lie why a man of his stature worked on the week­end, and his response has res­onat­ed with me for 20 years. “Young Thomas, pro­fes­sion­als don’t keep hours,” he said. He also told me the great­est advice I’ve prob­a­bly ever received: “Your abil­i­ty to adapt and adjust will define your life.” This has been true in my per­son­al and pro­fes­sion­al life. So, nat­u­ral­ly, I pulled him out of retire­ment when I found­ed Mea­suredRisk, and he has served as our CFO ever since. —Tom Albert, cyber­se­cu­ri­ty and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence expert and founder and CEO of Mea­suredRisk, a lead­ing enter­prise risk man­age­ment com­pa­ny; con­nect with Tom on LinkedIn

5. Heed others’ advice.

5. Heed others’ advice.

Bedros Keuil­ian

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

When I was in my ear­ly 20s, I had two side jobs while work­ing as a per­son­al train­er, which I want­ed to do full time. One day I was com­plain­ing to a client, Jim Fran­co, who blunt­ly told me that I lacked the abil­i­ty to sell my ser­vices and trans­fer my feel­ings about fit­ness to oth­ers. I replied that I was anti-sales and thought peo­ple should make their own deci­sions based on my knowl­edge, expe­ri­ence, and fit­ness. He explained that sell­ing is noth­ing more than trans­fer­ring feel­ings and that if I was real­ly pas­sion­ate about fit­ness, health, and help­ing peo­ple, I would con­sid­er it my duty to sell. That’s how you help peo­ple who oth­er­wise might be cry­ing them­selves to sleep, won­der­ing how to lose weight and become healthy.

Jim took me under his wing and gave me a new per­spec­tive on entre­pre­neur­ship, which boils down to one thing: If you believe in your prod­uct, you have to sell it like your life depends on it. Every­thing changed for me when I did that, which led to the Fit Body Boot Camp fran­chise we have today. —Bedros Keuil­ian, founder of Fit Body Boot Camp, author of “Man Up,” and host of “Empire Pod­cast Show”; read how Bedros built his dream life; con­nect with Bedros on Insta­gram, Face­book, and YouTube

6. Don’t limit yourself.

6. Don’t limit yourself.

Bryce Welk­er

Image cred­it:

The Ora­cles

When I was attend­ing San Diego State Uni­ver­si­ty as an account­ing major, my pro­fes­sor, Will Sny­der, quick­ly became my favorite and an extreme­ly influ­en­tial fig­ure in my career. Although he made enough mon­ey from the sale of his suc­cess­ful account­ing busi­ness that he nev­er had to work again, he came out of retire­ment to teach because of his love for edu­ca­tion and desire to help future pro­fes­sion­als.

This pro­fes­sor taught me that I didn’t have to define myself as just an accoun­tant and the only lim­its on my pro­fes­sion and career tra­jec­to­ry were self-imposed. His enthu­si­asm for edu­ca­tion was infec­tious and inspired me to push beyond pub­lic account­ing and rein­vent my career as a test-prepa­ra­tion thought leader and entre­pre­neur. I’m not exag­ger­at­ing when I say that I wouldn’t be the per­son I am today with­out his influ­ence. —Bryce Welk­er, CEO of online edu­ca­tion com­pa­ny Crush Empire and founder of Crush The CPA Exam; con­nect with Bryce on LinkedIn

Want to share your insights in a future arti­cle? Join The Ora­cles, a mas­ter­mind group of the world’s lead­ing entre­pre­neurs who share their suc­cess strate­gies to help oth­ers grow their busi­ness­es and build bet­ter lives. Apply here.

For more free busi­ness insid­er advice, fol­low The Ora­cles on Face­book, Twit­ter, and LinkedIn.

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