But are they driving or riding shotgun?
Mentorship comes up a lot when you talk with entrepreneurs. Founders and CEOs often credit their mentors, at least in part, for their successes. And many entrepreneurs call their mentors their heroes.
But what if every entrepreneur had a chance to pick any mentor, living or dead? Who would it be, and what would they hope to learn from them?
We asked the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year finalists which entrepreneur or leader they would like to take a road trip with and why.
Quite a few finalists said they’d like to sit in a car next to Teddy Roosevelt. “I’d love to better understand what drove him. Was it just natural curiosity and desire? Was it insecurity and a need to prove himself? Or was it supreme confidence?,” says Ivanti CEO Stephen Daley. Executech CEO Eric Montague wants to spend time with Teddy for a different reason. “The following 1910 quote has inspired me my whole life: ‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust, sweat, and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds, who knows great enthusiasm, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’”
Lucid Software CEO Karl Sun chose another old timey politician to tour the country with, the very father of our country. “I think George Washington was an inspiring, and inspired individual, and it would be fascinating to understand him as a person. But perhaps most intriguing to me is why and how he decided to step down as president — at a time when not only did the constitution not limit the president to two terms, but everyone expected leaders to go on serving.”
Matthew Rissell, Executive Director of TSheets.com, chose yet another president, Calvin Coolidge. Rissell says, “My favorite quote [from Coolidge] is, ‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination are alone omnipotent. The slogan press on has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.’” Rissell says, “I would love to know what caused him to write that quote. What barriers he faced and/or what challenges he was planning to face.”
And then there’s a fourth president to be mentioned as an interesting road trip companion, though Malouf CEO Sam Malouf isn’t looking to learn, instead just kind of observe. “I love going to Mexico. I speak Spanish, and I love the people and the food. If I’m in California, I almost always drive over the boarder to get good tacos. It would be interesting to take Donald Trump,” Malouf says.
Walt Disney is another figure more than one finalist chose. “He revolutionized the art of providing experiences as a business. I have a long list of questions for him,” says CircusTrix CEO Case Lawrence. Operation Underground Railroad CEO Timothy Ballard also wants to ride with Disney, saying, “My friend recently showed me the original prospectus for Disneyland. It was the same prospectus Walt Disney used to try to get loans for Disneyland, an endeavor that brought rejection after rejection. Lenders thought it was a bad idea and a sink tank that wouldn’t make money. Walt Disney believed that the lenders were wrong and wasn’t afraid to look outside the box and create something that had never been created before.” Ballard adds, “I had a similar experience with O.U.R. because a non-profit dedicated to going undercover and rescuing children is not something you see everyday. The experts told me not to do it and that it wouldn’t work, but I knew we could make it work.”
Other finalists chose Alexander Graham Bell, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard, Elon Musk, Jessica Alba, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet, and more. Each finalist has a unique reason for their pick, and each response demonstrates how willing and eager these finalists are to learn from successors.
Mentorship is necessary to entrepreneurship, but so is a willingness to be mentored, something each EY finalist has.