Who is your mentor? Janine Allis and others reveal

We all need advice and guidance, and many successful entrepreneurs can count mentors as key influences in their business journey. Here seven figures in the franchising sector reveal who has inspired and guided them and share some of the top tips they've learned.

Janine Allis, Retail Zoo

Going on the business journey, there is no way you can know everything. One thing that is guaranteed is that you will make mistakes and those mistakes will cost you money and time.

One way to minimise those mistakes is to find someone to guide and mentor you through the pitfalls that is called business. The idea of a mentor, who has already treaded the path that you are taking, is to assist you enormously on making sure you avoid some of the pitfalls.

I sourced out people who had already established a food business, bought them lunch and picked their brains. I always took a pad and pen and wrote notes on all the gold nuggets that they threw my way in the form of advice and learning.

Geoff Harris was an early mentor and now a dear friend. Being the co-founder of Flight Centre and starting the business from an idea, he had a wealth of knowledge and ideas to help me navigate my way through business.

My advice is that if you do have a mentor, take notes and respect their time and their experience. Most successful people in business are happy to assist and help and get great joy in seeing someone they mentor be successful.

John O’Brien, Poolwerx

I’ve chosen my mentors very carefully over the years; I’ve been selective and kept a narrow field.

In my early franchise days the FCA Queensland state chapter provided fantastic camaraderie and mentors. In particular, Bruce Peters, the BumpaTBumpa founder, who encouraged me to take leadership positions in the FCA; Bob Peterson, chair of FCA and Captain Snooze, who helped me as both a mentor and in consulting when putting PoolWerx together; and Graham Bauer, my long time marketing/creative/PR genius and good friend, who drove me to ‘think deeply’ about the important issues in franchising.

In the 1990s, a group of Queensland CEOs got together as a best practice swap club and support team. We had a great bunch of founders like Tom Potter, Eagle Boys; Paul Bardwell, Lenard's; and Murray Dalmeida, Donut King.

In the 2000s, I moved to a formal external board that provided great business guidance and forced me to have structure, plans and accountability.

Finally, Rod Young (DCS) has recently joined our board as chairman. I’ve known Rod in franchising since 1984, and I’ve long regarded him as the most knowledgeable guy in the game. He provides great advice and guidance, and is an amazing sounding board and questioner regarding best practice. For me, after leading Poolwerx for over 20 years, this is a breath of fresh air.

Sara Pantaleo, La Porchetta

Being the CEO can sometimes be quite solitary, so a few years ago I began networking in the franchising and family business spaces.  I now belong to two forum groups, attend selected events and enjoy formal and informal mentoring from a small group of valued colleagues.

The Family Business Association Forum monthly catch up with nine other senior executives has given me powerful insights into family business practices. These include the importance of not doing all the talking and make sure you’re listening to others.

The FCA CEO group has taught me a great deal about franchising and best practice and helped me improve many of our franchising processes.  Most important, I’ve learned that you get the franchisees you deserve, so it’s vital to accredit well.

Our legal and financial advisers understand our business very well and sometimes I call on them to discuss ideas. 

I also have a trusted franchising consultant and a colleague who is a major franchisor and woman in franchising. Over the years, both have provided me with different and valuable perspectives on various business issues and both have reinforced my own conviction that it’s so important to love what you do.

Ian Martin, Noodle Box

I believe it is important to differentiate between a mentor who generally has little or no direct influence over your career but provides a sounding board, shares knowledge and experiences and has ability to ask the right questions. This is as opposed to a personal coach who can add value in developing specific skill sets but are often part of a company “mentoring” program.

I have been extremely fortunate to have three mentors each of whom have contributed significantly in different ways to the person and executive I am today: Art Rautio, Graeme Seabrook and Jack Cowin.

For me mentors have had a far more significant and lasting impact than the business coach. While the business coach certainly help develop certain competencies, I found I had a much higher degree of trustworthiness with mentors and thus able to have more open discussions.    

Their best advice? Never guess. If you don’t know say so and say you will need to confirm and get back (this is the quickest way for an executive to lose credibility).

Always try to evaluate matters through the eyes of all stakeholders ( you will make better decisions and the Law of Unintended Consequences will be mitigated.

Greg Nathan, Franchise Relationships Institute

Earlier in my franchising career the people who mentored me were Bob Justis, Professor of Franchising at Louisiana State University; Bryce Bell, executive director of the FCA; Jim McCracken, CEO of the FCA; Jack Collis, best-selling Australian business author; Bob Peterson, chairman of the FCA; Ray King, managing director of Snooze; Paul Bardwell, director of Lenard's; and Rupert Barkoff, partner at the US law firm Kilpatrick Stockton.

In the early 1990s my work on the psychology of franchising was regarded as a "bit out there" but these people took me seriously, actively supported my research and encouraged me to write.

More recent mentors have been Dr Bob Dick, author of Helping Groups to Become Effective, who has helped me develop my facilitation skills; Louise Broekman, who chaired my advisory board and is today my business partner; and Professor Chris Jackson, head of business psychology at the University of NSW who has supervised my ongoing research.

It's not so much what these people said, but more their belief in me and my work that has been a powerful motivator that has helped me to keep going at times when I may have started to question the value of what I was doing.

Stephen Spitz, Xpresso Delight

I will always listen to and take advice from different people within the industry depending on the subject matter. These two spring to mind right now.

For franchising relationship building it would have to be Greg Nathan, from when I first introduced the Nathan Profiler system into my recruitment process in 2008.

And for legal matters I have used DC Strategy lawyer Timothy Mak since 2009.

I have always made time to listen to their advice and their experiences. However day to day I seek out mentoring from all areas of business and personal growth which is a constant learning process.

The best comment I heard about this was from Warren Buffet, Berkshire Hathaway. “Thankfully we are born stupid so we need to learn every day to be more intelligent.”

Jane Lombard, The Franchise Shop

I am inspired by so many people in the franchise industry but am going to pick up a few of the women that I have identified with. First is Trish Rogers from TRC Consulting who first inspired and mentored me into the franchise industry many moons ago when she was my regional manager at L.J. Hooker; she inspired me through her commitment and belief in the essentially strong connection between franchisees and franchisors and how she conducted herself in that role.

The other person I would like to mention is Sara Pantaleo from La Porchetta who has always been warm and welcoming, offering inspiration and great advice about the industry and always offers the hand of friendship to those around her without ever expecting anything in return.

  • So who are your mentors?