We asked business leaders, "Who has influenced your career?" and we received a wide range of terrific answers. Here is Part 1 dedicated to the family member and friends who have made a difference.
Alex Savy, CEO and Founder, SleepingOcean
A lot of people and things have inspired me in my career journey. But without doubt, my greatest inspiration came from my Dad, who despite only being present for a few years of my life, created the greatest impression on me. He instilled in me a warrior mindset; that I can overcome anything that life throws at me and that I should always strive to be the best. He worked hard and made even the most difficult moments seem like a breeze. With my perspective towards life, I have been able to navigate tough situations in my career and personal life. I would not be half the person I am without the foundation that my father gave me. And that’s what drives me from strength to strength.
Srilakshmi Mahidhara, Chief Editor and Senior Content writer, Yogic-experience
When I speak of an inspiration for my success, I would like to mention two people. The first one is my Ex-employer, a female with great vigour, talent and attitude. She was hardly in her mid 30's when she owned a company with maybe around 250 to 300 employees. I was very inspired by her and the smile she always wore on her face irrespective of the issues that she had to encounter everyday. The second person in my life is my Mom. She was married off at a very young age (17 years) and she couldn't really do anything with her life. So she has always taught me to live life wisely and emerge into a strong woman by all means. She always reminds me, Do not become like me!. It's sad but a constant trigger for success.
Chris Gadek, head of growth, AdQuick
My mom has influenced my success and made a difference in my career. My mom is one of the hardest working people I have ever met and she taught me the meaning of hard work and perseverance. She raised our family, worked a full time job, and encouraged us to be the best versions of ourselves. She always pushed me to dream bigger and made me believe in myself. She has been the greatest positive influence on my career.
Lauren Picasso, CEO, Cure Hydration
Someone that has influenced my success is my father. My dad is the hardest working person I know and has been my rock throughout my life. He has been a great mentor and has encouraged me to get my MBA from Harvard Business School and start my own company. Without him in my life, I wouldn't have been able to accomplish everything that I have accomplished and I'm very grateful for all that he has done.
Shyam KrishnaIyer, Founder, SKI Charities
The specific value of team empowerment shared with me by my mother has been invaluable to my success. As a small business owner of a medical practice, she modeled and communicated to me the importance of thoughtful management and delegation to staff. My mother demonstrated that while a boss/founder may drive some success, successful entrepreneurship is far more bottom up as team ownership and buy-in will determine the long-term sustainability of any enterprise. By including her staff in decisions and devolving control, her team was strengthened and her employees (and patients) thrived. Using her model since founding my organisation on her birthday in 2010, SKI Charities has helped hundreds of beneficiaries in Zimbabwe and Chile to achieve personal and financial independence.
Amy Ries, Founder & Executive Coach, Retreat
My three young daughters undoubtedly are my biggest inspiration, always inspiring me to do more. More specifically, they were the ultimate inspiration in my decision to walk away from the corporate world and my 20+ year successful career to find more balance, more joy and a career rooted in purpose and passion. How could I encourage them to live a life of passion and joy, prioritizing their own happiness, when I, their primary female role model, was not? Yes they see me struggle and make mistakes, but they also see me take risks, trust my instincts and try. At the end of the day, that's what I want them to learn from their mom.
Julian Goldie, CEO, Goldie Agency
The best mentor anyone could ever have: My dad was my greatest mentor. He was a great provider and a good role model. He is someone and was never a nobody. I was really inspired by his words of wisdom and his line of work as I was growing up. Life is full of hurdles and I am guided by his teachings.
Alan Katz, Presiding Officiant, Great Officiants
When I was growing up my father told me I would never amount to anything, I couldn’t do anything right. So I’ve made it my life’s work to prove him wrong every minute of every day. I decided I would win every award in my industry that would be the top person in my industry and I have done so. A few years ago when I won the top award in the industry, I called him to let him know and for the first time he was proud of me. Maybe it was senility but it made me realize it all the work that I did wasn’t for him it was for me. I will continue to strive to be the best and when someone tells me I can’t do something I will work that much harder to prove them wrong.
Amy De Wolfe, Freelance Presentation Designer, Presentation Design Pro
I have been super lucky to have had 3 pivotal influences in my career that have led me to where I am now. The very first influence on me and my career were my parents, who both had successful independent businesses. My father as a self-taught artist of note, Richard De Wolfe, and my mother Mary, who had a well-respected riding school. Both worked hard and figured things out to create the life that they wanted by pursuing their passion. This laid the foundation for my belief that the best job is to get paid for your passion. My second major influence was a blogger online around 2000-2001 called Alex the Girl. Alex Beauchamp made a career out of writing and travelling and sharing her experience building her creative career on her blog. Although I have never met her, she inspired me greatly in the pursuit of making a career in freelancing. My third and most recent influence has been Adrienne Johnston. Adrienne is a successful presentation designer and her mentorship has not only helped me turn my general graphic design business into a vibrant niche business, but her guidance has been the absolute key to me discovering my ability in this niche, which has proven to be the perfect fit for my skills and experience. I am forever grateful.
Paul Walker, Founder, FNX Media
I never used to believe in coincidences but 25 years ago, I was riding the underground (the subway) in London. Completely randomly, a woman I knew got on and when I asked her how things were, she told me she was jobless and searching for a role. I commiserated but she cut me off, saying it was her own choice. The thing was, she had decided to make a career change. Instead of being in sales which she hated, she wanted to move into marketing and while there were a million sales roles in London at the time, marketing positions were difficult to come by. She didn't have any interviews but she was going to hold out and it was marketing or bust. No Plan B. Because she knew she wanted marketing, not sales and that was all she was going to do. I nodded sagely, wished her well, thought she was a little crazy for not taking a perfectly good sales job and when she got off, I continued doing whatever I was doing. Scroll forward 20 years and I was again, riding the underground and as a complete, total and utter coincidence, ran into the same person! Turns out she was a marketing director, loved her career and while it had been really tough to get there, she was loving every minute of what she was doing. And that got me thinking. Rather than my career which I was pursuing for the money, not for happiness, why not instead do what I wanted? It was going to be tough starting at the bottom again at the age of 45 but if she could do it at 25, I figured I could do the same. Just go for what I wanted. No plan B. So I did it. I gave up my job and simply went for it. And sure, opening my own business has been tough. It's a roller coaster ride but while it's painful and challenging and crazy and every cliche about startups you can imagine, it's what I love. And because I genuinely love it, my business is growing. And bizarrely, work is 'fun.' It doesn't even seem like work half the time and this has been an absolute revelation. To do work that just puts a smile on my face. It's an incredible feeling. Anyhow, as even more of a coincidence, I bumped into that woman who inspired me, one more time. Only this time, it was in a business meeting and as a total coincidence, she also became a customer. Funnily enough, she has absolutely no recollection of our chance meetings or how much her words impacted me. But she did. And that's the nature of inspiration. It can come from anyone, anywhere at any time. And we just need the courage to go for it because life is too short to do anything other than love what we do.
Sonia Khemiri, Owner and Founder of Beautyque NYC
I won't be able to name only one. The first people who helped me indirectly are my mom and dad. My mom is a very detailed oriented person and my dad a hard-working entrepreneur. Even if I had that in my DNA, life didnt go without bumps and sometimes big ones. When times are tough or there is doubt these two people are there for me, my daughter who gives me the continuous drive with her contagious energy and my partners trust, his belief in me and the fact that he never judges me. I didn't like to have bosses, but one boss had a large influence on me and he was always saying to me, method, discipline, precision. Did not forget that. My dad helped indirectly because he never encouraged me; but, led by example. He always focused on the solution as soon as he faced problems. My dad did not tell me much, I just saw him doing and talking about his own experiences. I always saw courage in his actions facing adversity with strength and I have never seen him depressed or complaining. This had a huge impact on my personality and who I am today. One day I came back from school crying because I had received a 90% on an exam that I was expecting 100%. My dad surprisingly was home and was worried seeing me crying he probably thought someone bullied me or something like that, but when I told him he laughed out loud. It annoyed me and he saw that. Then he stepped back and told me something I will never forget: If you want to succeed you will face failure many times and without that, you won't succeed. I did not understand right away what he said but it made me think each time I face a result lower than my expectations. Life lesson from my dad: If someone can do it, then I can do it! That comes from my dad. It was relevant for me as I learned to study what people do to get where they are and I do the same if that's what I want, but different in my way. It just gives me the confidence to do it. I didn't like having bosses, but one of the bosses I admire told me rigor-method-discipline, and it stuck with me. He called me a thoroughbred. I did not know what he meant at that time but he saw the entrepreneur in me. He was a successful real estate developer and he was always telling me to never assume, and always work with method and discipline
Paige Arnof-Fenn, Founder & CEO, Mavens & Moguls
I started a global branding and digital marketing firm 20 years ago and have had great mentors and champions throughout my career. In my corporate life I had bosses, senior women or alums from my alma mater who took me under their wings to help me advance and show me the ropes As a small business owner mentors can also be invaluable sources of inspiration, advice, encouragement and can help you avoid rookie mistakes (with hiring, fundraising, etc.) when you are starting out. They can also make key introductions so that you avoid getting burned by service providers or potential investors who have mixed reputations. I have seen several situations where a lot of time and money could have been wasted but was not. Expectations have to be managed, for me I had mentors who I counted on for tough love and others to help me expand my footprint and elevate my profile in the community. Mentors have different strengths and connections that can help. I think everyone even established entrepreneurs can benefit from strong mentoring. The world is always changing and we can all learn new things along the way. My biggest mentors include: My dad — CEO of a public company who showed me that leaders can be compassionate, strong and successful Former boss — made me defend my point of view and be tough, not to be scared to fail or speak up Senior woman colleague — grace under pressure, always be best prepared and kill them with kindness Their advice has helped me be thick skinned, brave, kind and smart which has helped me succeed both as an entrepreneur and within organizations. I am eternally grateful for their support and advice.
Emily David, Owner, Wiringo
It’s difficult to point out just one person who influenced my success in my career. Many teachers, mentors, strangers, family, and friends have contributed to my success as a businesswoman in one way or the other. As married women, we face more obstacles when it comes to establishing a career, especially a time-demanding business. The biggest credit I would give for bringing me where I am would be my husband. Seeing his motivation and dedication to building a business of his own, is what motivated me to try something of my own and get my skills to use. He guided me through the process of building a business, teaching me how to market my products, and most importantly believing in me enough to invest in my business. Not only that, he helped take away the stress and guilt of not being able to manage my home with running a business full time. He took over half the chores and ordered take-out whenever I was having a stressful day or needed to work overtime. Without his help and support, it would have been near impossible to not just be successful in my business but also manage my house simultaneously.
Mark Beneke , Owner, Westland Auto Sales
I cannot attribute my current success to a single person. My parents had a huge influence on my outlook of life. Watching them pick themselves up multiple times throughout my life showed me that failure is only the beginning of anything great. We left our home country, abandoning everything that we ever knew, in search of something better. They showed me how easy sacrifice is when you have something that is worth sacrificing for. My brother has been a huge inspiration for me as his work ethic is like no one else’s I’ve ever met. He constantly urges me to strive for more without ever having to tell me anything. During times when we have struggled within our company, seeing him continue to work hard has kept me grounded and working even harder. When I married my wife, I felt a newfound desire within me to take care of her and our puppies. Before this, I could veer off and it was okay because I was only letting myself down. Now, failure due to lack of effort is no longer an option. I feel as if I can never let them down in a way that motivates me to achieve more. There are also plenty of people in the world that provide a huge level of inspiration. Technology has opened up our chances of being able to see what people in our lifetime are achieving now. Hearing or watching them, even just reading about them gives me a perspective of how much more capable we all are as long as we push past the discomfort. People all around the world are accomplishing big and small things that make it so much clearer to see how possible it all is. There is no one person, there are many. So many opportunities open up to you when you are willing to be flexible and accept that there is enough out there for all of us.
Eropa Stein, CEO, HyreCompany
I have a Masters in Applied Psychology. My BAH thesis concentrated on Industrial Organization, focusing on Burnout and Eustress in the workplace. I consulted at a well-known staffing agency in their HR, Finance, and Business Administration departments. I currently operate an HR software company that helps shift managers in industries such as Hospitality, Logistics, Long-Term Care, etc. manage their staffs' schedules and overall HR needs. Being a founder of a startup can be difficult and extremely stressful. I don’t have a co-founder to bounce ideas off of, so, *my mom’s support and her acting as a sounding board, has been absolutely vital to my success*. Without my mom, I may not have even started my business. Ever since I was little, I would tell her all about my business ideas and inventions. While others dismissed my ideas and labelled them as a kid’s fantasy, she would truly listen to me. My mom was the only person who didn’t question me when I chose not to pursue my PhD and instead, start my company, Hyre. She has always been my biggest supporter. Whenever I encountered difficulties in my life and career, she would help me through them. In 2020, my company’s sales dropped to $0 because of the pandemic. I was at my lowest point. *I could not have gone through it without my mom’s daily support phone calls. Her faith in me helped me stay motivated as I pivoted my startup to a new industry. Now, my company is thriving! I have my mom to thank for believing in me and encouraging me to move forward
Tony Grenier, CEO, Instrumental Global
The first person who influenced my success was my dad's personal driver. Without him, I don't think I am where I am today. It was him who sparked my interest in music, who inspired me to play musical instruments. I still remember the day when this happened. On weekends, my dad invites people who work for him personally to the house so they can all relax after a week of hard work. So while they were having their afternoon siestas, his driver was playing the guitar and singing. My young heart was so impressed by the way he played the guitar. I asked him what makes him play it so well, and he said it was because it's his own way to connect t his family even though he lives very far from them. And that really stuck into my heart. Music binds people in a way that distance can never break. From then on, I asked my dad to enroll me in music lessons and the rest is history. My dad's driver is now back in his home country, enjoying his retirement. I was able to visit him there once and true enough, everyone in his family knows how to sing and play the guitar. Such an inspiration.
Carter Seuthe, CEO, Credit Summit
My mother always dreamed of starting her own business as an interior designer. She had a plan, a portfolio, and real passion for her work, which she did in addition to raising her kids, but it never quite worked out financially for her to really launch her career. One of the things that would have helped her succeed is a small business loan, which she tried multiple times to get. Part of the reason I'm in the business I'm in is to help people get the credit they need for what matters in their lives.
Jeremy Yamaguchi, CEO, Lawn Love
I owe my blueprint of success to my father, absolutely. He was a small business owner from the time I was quite young. I saw his struggles, saw him almost fail several times. He was basically learning the hard way and he passed on a lot of those lessons to me. I was able to see his persistence and dedication pay off and could apply what he learned to my own business. Mostly, I learned how to treat the people who work for and with me. My father was a firm believer in never asking anyone to do something you wouldn't do yourself, and I think that kind of viewpoint allows for a lot of empathy in business.
Thomas Hawkins, Entrepreneur, Electrician Apprentice HQ
Although I have had several influencers and mentors in my career, I would have to say that my father has had the most impact. He always encouraged me to think creatively from a young age, and he absolutely supported me in every way possible once I decided on a career as an entrepreneur. And during that journey, he was there for me as far as answering questions that I had, directing me in the right area when I needed assistance he couldn't provide, and of course moral support as well. I wouldn't be where I am today were it not for the advice and support from my Dad.
Sean Dudayev, Founder, Frootful Marketing
The person that has influenced my career the most is my mother. I come from immigrant parents and they both worked really hard to provide for us as kids. Growing up I saw my mom raise three kids while working two to three jobs, while also going to and successfully graduating from college, all while learning English. This was something that left a lifelong impact on me. Any time I think I'm tired or am doing a lot, I just think of her and it propels me forward. She managed to come from a war-torn country, to the USA, and absolutely go through hell to eventually build her own business. If she had the opportunities that she provided me, she would be on top of the Forbes list. She continues to be the driving motivator for me and is the main reason behind my work ethic.
James Sun, Founder, Beauty Tap
Many people look at Seoul in South Korea, where I'm from, and they see a gleaming and modern city with luxurious neighborhoods. But few people know that during the Korean War, Seoul was leveled, and at war's end in 1953 people were living in dire poverty amid rubble. My family is from Seoul, and my grandparents and their generation worked tirelessly to rebuild the city, which they did in an astoundingly short span of time. I thought about my grandparents a lot when I was starting my businesses. There were times I'd be tired or discouraged, and I'd have to say to myself You're sitting in a hotel room with room service and feeling bad for yourself? Really?? Knowing the stories of my grandfather's generation has shaped my work ethic, which is essential to have as an entrepreneur.
Saurabh Jindal, , Talk Travel
The biggest influencer to my success has been my wife. And I am highly thankful to my fate and God for bringing her to my life. She has been an *unflinching pillar of support* as I have gone through many difficult times while trying to build my start-up. She is one of the smartest persons I have met and has an uncanny ability to look at any situation or facet from multiple angles. She makes me question my thoughts and even negate them when I cannot be convincing. As an entrepreneur, I sometimes work on my own and with small teams - and with her help I am able to achieve much more than what I would otherwise. She makes me question my thoughts and even negates them when I cannot convince myself. She looks at the hidden things which may influence the processes, for e.g. the market forces or any kind of variability involved which I have realised is more than often right and hence helps me better plan. Add to it the fact that she is always there for me whenever I need, makes her the most important mentor for me.
Patrick Crane, Founder & CEO, Love Sew
My best friend has been the biggest influence on my career to date. We have known each other since we were kids, and as we have grown older, we have managed to scale our respective careers together. One of the biggest ways he has influenced my success is through his constant encouragement to take more risks in my career. His mantra has always been, 'If it does not scare you, why do it?'. I've used this mantra to start successful businesses even when I was so unsure of myself. I have also used this mantra to invest in startups that intrigued me even when the business is in a field I am not well versed in. I credit my best friend for helping me find the courage to push my limits.
David Adler, Founder & CEO, The Travel Secret
One of the factors that contributed to my success was the influence of my wife and family. Entrepreneurship is full of both challenging and happy moments. Keeping going and learning from failures is the key to success. Throughout this process, my wife has been very supportive of me, as she has been living this process directly with me and has always provided the best advice. Sometimes mentors are aware of the issue but don't experience it themselves. To put it differently, a family understands context as well as situation, which has been crucial to my professional success.
Jaya Aiyar, Founder & CEO, Créatif and Créatif Franchise.
My kids are my source of inspiration and strength. When I look at them, I find my reason to persevere and work harder. Whenever I see them, I feel the need to live longer so I can provide them everything they need and spend more time with them. I dedicate my success to them because I want them always to be proud of their mama’s accomplishments.
CJ Xia, VP of Marketing & Sales, Boster Biological Technlogy
My grandfather has made a significant difference in my career. I learned a lot from him, and he inspired me throughout his life. He started his company in 1993 and developed the first product in a room no larger than a small household garage. His friends and other people made fun of him and gave him the nickname “he who converts science in the lavatory.” However, he didn’t lose courage and started his small company and developed various products related to biotechnology. In the late 90s, his company developed hundreds of primary antibodies and became the biggest catalog antibody company in China. As I completed my master’s degree in business management and marketing, he motivated me to join his company. I worked as a marketing manager in the company for almost three years and now working as a VP of marketing and sales in the Boster Biological Technology. His dedication and work ethic inspired me a lot and influenced my success. He is older now, but he is still a hard worker, and the work that I watch him do inspires me to work harder as well and to explore more opportunities. In 2016 our company was rated the fattest growing antibody company in the world by different websites. To date, more than 20,000 publications cited our products, and the number is accelerating. It is all due to my grandfather’s hardworking, and consistency. I proudly say that my grandfather is the most influential person in my life, and he inspired me to do more.