Business Success Center prospects tell us in their initial meeting they want a “Mentor” to advise and guide them to solve a specific problem or achieve a specific goal.
I completely understand. I’ve had several wonderful mentors. My godmother, Northwestern University professor Alvina Krause, had “teas”. At these salons, I learned the fine art of conversation. My grandmother taught me the importance of family. My mother helped me find my voice and be comfortable being myself. She always said, “We grew up together”. Maybe so, but she was my guide.
There were important male mentors, too. My brother Bill (aka WC Triplett, II) has worked for Presidents and Senators, Tibet and Tienanmen, written best sellers and significant treaties. He showed me how important it is to get involved. Ed Van De Vort gave me confidence because he believed everyone was capable.
But when it comes to a business mentor, there’s been no one better for thirty years than my husband and partner Daniel Diener. That’s what I told Patricia Rogers when she interviewed me for the Austin Business Journal‘s “Journal Profile” published last December.
As a matter of fact, I met Dan because I needed a mentor for a photography project. He has always been willing to share his time, knowledge and expertise.
A good mentor is a guide, encourager, teacher, strategist, supporter — an exemplary person you want to emulate. That’s Dan.
What have I learned from him?
1. To be entrepreneurial.
Dan was selling papers on a street corner in downtown Chicago at age 10. When he lost his job, he moved south to start again. He landed at PETEX (Petroleum Extension Service at UT) made movies, wrote manuals that were translated into 15 or so languages, and became Special Projects Director. When the bug bit again, he started his own company, Dan Diener Photography. I was not a risk taker. He showed me you can succeed on your own. Dan was and is an innovator. He truly understands what it means to create assets that make financial and marketing sense.
2. To be systems driven
Dan was a teacher in Wisconsin and you never forget that you have to stay ahead of your students. That means being organized and systematic to the Nth degree. With his creativity that meant that he is always looking to improve things without being rigid. I learned from him how business systems can be very creative and rewarding.
3. To know how to fight fairly
In a business, partners don’t always agree. Just ask Marsha Vanhorn, our Client Services Manager, who’s worked with us 12 years. Early on, Dan helped us set rules of engagement. He prepared us for tough times. And, we’ve stuck by them through thick and thin. I think that’s why our business and our relationship has survived and thrived. The funny thing is though, somehow when we disagree, even strongly, he always makes me smile. He has a great sense of humor and it just bubbles out in what he says and how he says it. I also thank him for introducing me to the O’Henry Pun Off, a great Austin, Texas tradition. (Maybe I’ll see you there on May 21.)
There are so many other things I have learned from him: versatility, resourcefulness, staying curious, balance, strength, and camaraderie. I couldn’t have a better mentor and partner. He means the world to me.
Dan’s birthday is this week. I wish him many happy returns and a big thank you for helping make my personal and business life exciting, rewarding, and very special.
Here’s to you, Daniel.
If you want a mentor, look around you. That person may be closer than you think. Who has helped you learn or progress?