Mentoring changes course of three careers
By TALI ARBEL AP Business Writer
NEW YORK One chief executive tutors another. A mother on flex time shows her younger counterpart how to mesh career and family. Working together on a short project leads an older man to push his younger self to follow in his footsteps.
Young people flooding into the work world often need someone to advocate for them: guidance on how to navigate office politics; how to balance work and a personal life, and direction figuring out a career path. "Look for somebody that you can connect with," and who you can help too, said Kim Post, vice president at management consulting firm Global Lead LLC, who has been helping companies develop and retain employees for 20 years. "You can't expect a mentor to own your life or career....Their job can be to advise you, advocate for you, help you meet the right people."
The three relationships below illustrate different ways these relationships are formed and what benefit they gave to those involved ...
THE MENTOR TURNED INVESTOR
LENGTH OF RELATIONSHIP: 10 years
KEY LESSONS: Be your own best salesperson; Look for an advisor who has done something similar to what you want to do.
HOW THEY CONNECTED: At a workshop for socially-minded entrepreneurs
In 1999, Seth Goldman had recently struck out on his own with Honest Tea, an organic bottled-tea company. He spent sleepless nights worrying over cash flow and how his family was going to make ends meet—until he found a guide in Gary Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm, a 10-years-wiser organic dairy entrepreneur.
"He's been through a great deal of what I've been through," Goldman said of Hirshberg. "He saved me some of the pain and misery he went through."
After repeatedly running into Goldman, now 43, at various conferences and workshops, Hirshberg, 54, became intrigued by Goldman's product, his charming manner and his willingness to answer tough money questions. He signed on board as an advisor, helping Goldman convince a difficult buyer for Whole Foods Stores Inc. to carry the brand nationwide. Whole Foods is now Honest Tea's largest distributor. Hirshberg also carried Goldman's tea in his O'Naturals restaurants and taught Goldman how to fend off venture capitalists who could have poached control of the company.
Hirshberg became more than just a guide, however. He had Stonyfield Farm invest $900,000 into Goldman's fledgling company in 2002 and he joined its board. Then in 2007, Group Danone—a French foods conglomerate which is Stonyfield's majority stakeholder—and a private equity firm invested $12 million more. The following year, Honest Tea struck a $43 million deal with Coca-Cola Co., giving the soft drink maker a 40 percent stake in the company. Goldman said the deal was largely modeled on his mentor's relationship with Group Danone. An important plus was that the deal allows him to retain control of the brand for now, even though Coca-Cola has the option to completely buy Honest Tea by 2011.
Hirshberg has been Goldman's "kick in the pants," the Honest Tea chief executive said.