Anyone who's serious about getting ahead in business knows the value of a mentor. Not only can this person be a sounding board and treasure trove of advice, he or she can act as your advocate and a catalyst for your career goals. I checked in with more than a dozen top executives who credit their mentors with helping them achieve great things. Here's the advice they remember most.
1. If you're going to be in the room, be useful.
"It was advice my first boss gave me after he invited me to join a big client pitch, and I sat in silence taking notes the entire time thinking that was my place. It's advice I took to heart from that day on, and it's been incredibly important while building a startup where things only happen if you make them happen."
--Chris Toy, CEO and founder of Bindle, the mobile app bringing people together with shareable chats
2. Keep moving forward with eyes on your goal.
"My mentor says it's vital to communicate, communicate, communicate. Make sure everyone is on the same page while achieving your goals. This was especially useful while Memora was building its first 360-degree camera with a multicultural team, spread across multiple time zones."
--Ju-Chun Ko, one of the founders of Memora, which makes the Luna 360, the first consumer-ready, VR-optimized 360-degree camera
3. Make something people want.
"My co-founders and I were some of the first to be accepted into Y Combinator back in 2006. We applied at the strike of midnight on the night before, and the experience not only led to getting Weebly where it is today, but I received the best advice from the mantra they continued to drill into us as we shaped our product: 'Make something people want.' We still strive to do that with every upgrade, product release, and new feature that we create here at Weebly."
--David Rusenko, founder and CEO of the website-building platform Weebly
4. Take care of number one.
"Wendy Lea, CEO at Cintrifuse, told me to never forget I'm responsible for running a company, and that it's important to take care of yourself first as CEO, and then focus on customers."
--Konrad Billetz, founder and CEO of interchangeable prescription eyewear maker Frameri
5. Attract positivity and take action.
"Every time we talk about an issue or consider a plan, my mentor wants me to focus on the positive aspects of the issue or outcome and then proceed to take action. Committing to your work with positive thoughts, your passion will shine through, ultimately leading to positive outcomes."
--Michael Dweck, founder and CEO of men's innerwear and loungewear company Basic/Outfitters
6. The key to happiness is balance.
"An important piece of advice I received from one of my mentors, Richard Branson, was, 'The key to happiness is all about balance--a combination between fun and loving life in all forms, while being successful at the same time.'"
--Constantin Bisanz, founder and CEO of health and wellness brand Aloha
7. Always think about how to craft your story.
"My mentor believes in pitching your company and selling yourself. Make sure to tell a story that people are interested in and one that conveys your personality and passion."
--Emily Motayed, co-founder of online interior design platform Havenly
8. Find a job you love.
"The best advice I ever received was from my dad, my biggest mentor in life. Starting when I was young, he always quoted Confucius and told me, "Choose a job you love, and you never have to work a day in your life" and that "the greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall."
--Daniel Silberman, founder and CEO of a high-end eyewear expert and luxury goods brand, Illesteva
9. Have an incredibly solid mentor network.
"My mentor identified the toll that the isolation and frustration of the CEO role can have on anyone trying to build a business. He helped me understand the immeasurable value that a solid group of mentors that have been through the same struggles can have for an entrepreneur. He was 100 percent correct, and the continued value that my mentors have as I struggle to build PivotDesk is, without question, immeasurable."
--David Mandell, co-founder and CEO of flexible office space solution PivotDesk
10. Smile; breathe; don't quit.
"This was my mentor's best advice, plain and simple."
--Jean Brownhill Lauer, co-founder and CEO of Sweeten, a renovation matchmaker between consumers and general contractors
11. Your success is defined by what you say no to.
"The best advice I ever got was from an ex-Harvard Business School professor and best-selling business author, David Maister, who was a client of mine for a number of years. He told me that your career and success would be defined by what you said no to, not what you said yes to. This was very counterintuitive to me as a young entrepreneur, but it's wisdom that has really proved true through the years."
--Justin Evans, co-founder and chief creative officer of cloud-based audio postproduction software platform Landr
13. Take short-term discomfort for long-term gain.
"Some people find success overnight, but you should never assume that's how it will work out for you. As a PR guy, I'm acutely aware usually there is a long backstory of hard work and failures behind every 'overnight success.' I really value this advice, and when life as an entrepreneur gets hard, it's always comforting to remember."
--Elliot Tomaeno, founder and CEO of PR agency Astrsk
14. This too shall pass.
"This applies in business and more broadly in life. It is a reminder to keep in mind that when everything seems to be going your way, we need always to be prepared for adversity, and similarly when challenges and setbacks seem to arise every day that there will inevitably be better times around the bend provided we persist."
--Colin Darretta, founder and CEO of customized nutritional supplement service WellPath Solutions
15. Learn something from everyone you meet.
"Something Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, told me years back was the importance of continuous learning. Everyone is superior to you in some way. There is always something that can be learned from each person you speak with. Humility is more than niceties; it's a pathway to perpetually learning from any experience."
--Healey Cypher, co-founder and CEO of Oak Labs, maker of the interactive fitting room currently being piloted at Polo Ralph Lauren