Sometimes You Can’t Make It on Your Own

“You’re crazy! Why would you schedule meetings that early in the morning?” Ted asked. “You’re the president of the company… Why don’t you make it easy on yourself?”

Ted’s reaction was not unusual when I mentioned to colleagues that I had a standing phone meeting with my top copywriter/marketing strategist at 7:30 a.m. every day, Monday through Friday. The two of us had those conversations for about three years straight.

Like Ted, most people thought I was crazy. However, I was well aware of the benefits those morning meetings had for my business. Just as important, that one-on-one time was critical for my own knowledge and expertise. More than marketing strategy discussions, the meetings were personal mentoring sessions with one of the smartest and most successful direct-response experts in the world.

Did I HAVE to do it? Of course not!

Did I WANT to do it? Of course I did!

In fact, 7:30 in the morning was the perfect time for me. Why? Because any time when I can get specific, useful advice and information is the perfect time.

The Power of Collective Brilliance

I’ve always been serious when it comes to building my knowledge base. I make it a point to try to learn something from every person I meet and every experience I have. I seek out people who could help me grow my business or advance my career. I ask for their advice. And the lessons I’ve learned from these personal success mentors have had a profound effect.

When I’ve had the chance to team up with or learn from successful people in my industry, I’ve been able to skyrocket my knowledge, my earnings, and my business revenues.

Here are a few examples…

Success Mentor #1: Dick Benson

From the start of my career, I attended conferences and seminars as often as possible. In New York City, there was a plethora to choose from. In 1985, when I saw that Dick Benson — a legend in the world of direct-response marketing — was holding a very intimate roundtable, I knew I had to attend.

Well, wouldn’t you know it… the company I worked for had recently hired a new VP of Human Resources who wanted to show the higher ups that she could save them a boatload of money. She thought that $500 for a two-hour session was excessive and would not approve the expense.

This was my first job out of college. I was making a whopping $12,000 a year. But I had a gut feeling that meeting Dick Benson would have a powerful impact on my life. So I paid for the seminar myself.

Sure, I had read every book that Dick Benson had written… In a sense, I’d already read much of what he had to say. But when you are able to ask a guru questions that pertain to your specific situation, the advice takes on new meaning… and you can more easily take action and implement what you have learned.

That is exactly what I did.

I took one little idea I’d learned from Dick back to my employer. The idea was to include an 800 number on renewal offers. (Until then, we had only included a self-addressed stamped envelope (SASE) in our renewal letters.) And that one little idea brought in so much extra revenue that I was promoted and my salary jumped to $20,000 a year.

But going to see Dick Benson was not only life-changing in that it helped boost my salary and advance my career. It taught me the tremendous value of getting — and implementing — advice from already-successful businesspeople.

Success Mentor #2: Jeff MacDonald

My career in NYC went along fantastically for years. Then, sadly, I suffered a devastating personal loss. My father passed away. Though he had been ill for quite some time, I was not prepared for the pain. My desire to escape New York was overwhelming. So when an offer came my way to become vice president of a publishing company in Boca Raton, Florida, I grabbed it.

Little did I know how much I would learn from my new boss, Jeff McDonald. He taught me about business. He introduced me to the works of Peter Drucker, Jim Collins, and Stephen Covey. He showed me how the principles they taught applied to our business.

Each evening, we would review a lesson together. And it was on one of those evenings that Jeff spoke one little sentence that has stayed with me: “A good executive has the ability to face the facts.”

This is a mantra I’ve repeated to myself for years. Whether I’ve had to face up to a partnership that wasn’t good for my business… or kill a product that wasn’t making money… or fire an employee I really liked… Jeff’s words helped me make the hard decisions.

Success Mentor #3: Clayton Makepeace

It was master copywriter and direct-response legend Clayton Makepeace who taught me the anatomy of advertising copy. It was Clayton who showed me the importance of digging deep to understand the emotional needs and desires of my prospective customers. It was Clayton who taught me to concentrate on the end result and not get caught up in the reasons why something can’t get done. It was Clayton with whom I spent morning after morning on the phone, going through the needs of our company and how our marketing plans and advertising copy would exceed those needs.

Together, we made beautiful music and our company flourished.

Success Mentor #4: Michael Masterson

I’m one of the lucky ones. For nearly four years, I’ve been spending time with business builder and marketing expert Michael Masterson. Michael is the person who helped me become a better thinker, a better writer, a better marketer, and a better businessperson. He’s the one who helped me put it all together. And he’s the one who taught me the concept of tipping-point ideas. Not only how to recognize them, but how to develop them and implement them in a business.

Success Mentor #5: Richard Branson

When I made the decision to start my own business, Working Moms Only, my friend Joe Polish invited me to a brainstorming session with Richard Branson.

That invitation did not come cheap. However, I knew I needed to be there. So I paid $10,000 to attend. Yes, $10,000 for 60 minutes! And you know what? I would do it again!

There were about 10 of us at the session, and we all got to ask Sir Richard for advice about our businesses. When we discussed my business, not only did he give me great advice, he offered to review some of the materials I was using. He also directed me to a few people who could help me going forward. I have since contacted those people, and they have, indeed, been extremely helpful.

The Push You Need to Succeed

As you can see, I have had the opportunity to learn from some of the best marketing and business minds in the world. Each of these men contributed a critical piece of advice or information that helped me climb the ladder of success.

That’s why I take mentorship so seriously. It is 100 percent worthwhile to have a phone conversation at 7:30 each morning or spend $10,000 to get advice from someone who can help you expand your knowledge… build your expertise… and grow your business.

[Ed. Note: MaryEllen Tribby, ETR’s former publisher and CEO, followed her lifelong dream and started a new company, Working Moms Only, to help working women balance work and family life. Keep an eye out for her columns in ETR on the challenges facing working moms, on marketing, business building, and more. And check out the Working Moms Only website and sign up for her free e-letter, here.

Looking for your own mentor to help you reach your most treasured life goals? Bob Cox, creator of our Epiphany Alliance personal success program, has coached thousands in his own unique brand of goal achieving — including four billionaires. And he has dozens of success techniques he wants to share with you. Find out more here.]


Mary Ellen Tribby

MaryEllen Tribby is a business consultant and coach to entrepreneurs in the information publishing and digital marketing arena. She led Early to Rise from May 2006 to January 2010 as Publisher & CEO. She has also served as President of Weiss Research, managing divisions of Forbes, Globe Communications, Times Mirror Magazines and Crain’s New York Business. She currently heads up The CEO's Edge and