It’s good to have friends who’ve walked a mile in your shoes. If you don’t have a strong mentor group, try to find or create one.

I had the honor of being involved in a closely knit, professional peer group for many years. And when I say close, I’m not exaggerating. We shared everything – business ups and downs, financial insights, HR challenges, changing client bases – the works. We were placed together by an advertising-industry consultant who knew all of us and thought we would be a good fit. He rightly believed that we had something to teach each other and enough shared experiences to have a whole lot in common.

bell buckle mentor group

Come Ready to Learn – and Teach

And, eureka, we hit the jackpot. We’d all been agency owners for a while and had achieved a certain level of success. In fact, I joined because one of the firms I looked up to was also invited to the group. I’m so glad I did. The input, advice and mentorship helped all of our businesses grow and evolve.

We met twice a year in person at one of the agency’s hometowns and another couple of times through catchup conference calls. We structured our meetings to let everyone download what was going on in their firms and to allow time for brainstorming around challenges presented.

We were there for each other and really dug deep. Sometimes we were painfully blunt. But it came from a good place and feathers were rarely ruffled. Or didn’t stay that way long. The feedback was delivered with honesty, heart and a sincere desire to be helpful.

bell buckle friends

Open Yourself to Others’ Input

So, if you ever have a chance to join a group of peers (that you don’t compete with), that have diverse viewpoints, solid experience, and you have a thick skin, it will be one of the best experiences of your career. It was for me.

Don’t Make My Mistakes

Newfangled owner Mark O’Brien was one of the Bell Buckle members I became close friends with. He interviewed me for this podcast focused on lessons I’ve learned over my 30 years as president and creative director of Greteman Group. I tried to be as open and frank as possible in the hopes other business owners would relate to and learn from my experiences. My ride has had its bumps, but it’s a journey I would make again.

Click here to listen to the podcast.