• Mentoring

Mentor Rock Star John Stevenson

Futurpreneur | December 19, 2012

As part of the Canadian Mentorship Challenge, hosted in partnership with Startup Canada and CATAAlliance, a callout was made to the national community to nominate Canadian Mentor Rock Stars — the local leaders and passionate individuals who inspire others in their communities. We’re pleased to showcase one of two CYBF mentors who made the Top 10 Mentor Rock Stars for 2012.

John Stevenson, Mentor, Canadian Youth Business Foundation


What his nominees said:

“John’s positivity is contagious. His emails always end telling me to keep smiling, he celebrates my wins with me at each of our meetings, and he spins everything as an opportunity, which gives me no excuse to ever give up… He steps in and breaks down walls when there are times I just don’t know what to do. He uses his network, his expertise, and even seeks resources to help me overcome my biggest challenges.”

“Simply put, John is the reason I am still in business. When there are walls I just get around, John has been there to get me through. He has kept me going as an individual and has been that 1 person I need to just listen. We work on a business that fundraises for hospital maternity wards. Among all the discussions, challenges, and ideas, John keeps me focused on this singular purpose and helps me realize the potential impact we can have. If it were not for John, I would not be developing my full potential but rather on the job hunt for something that would just make me miserable.”

Startup Canada Q&A with John:

1) How does it feel to be nominated as a Mentor Rock Star?

This is the first time that the phrase “rock star” and the name John Stevenson have been used in the same sentence. Our young granddaughters complain that I can’t even dance gangnam style. This nomination is very flattering and gives me a feeling of relevancy and currency when working with young entrepreneurs.

2) We’ve heard about the impacts you have on your mentees’ lives…. what sort of impact do your mentees have on your life?

The impact that mentees have had on me is best described as one that builds my awareness of the hard work and sacrifice that young business owners must contribute to their enterprise, particularly in the early going. Mentees generally have a strong knowledge base in a specific discipline. By being able to rely on my professional experience, the mentee and myself can engage in a knowledge transfer in which there is mutual benefit. It is a fulfilling experience to participate in a small way in the development of both the mentee and his or her business.

3) Do you have, or have you had, a mentor in your life? Who are / were they and what is one thing they taught you that has stuck with you?

I like to think that I learn a little from most people in my life. During my early career, Pat Harriman, a senior manager with Procter & Gamble was my direct report. As a young man I was somewhat impulsive and driven by a desire for quick results. Pat invested much time teaching me a business development approach that focused on the examination of credible options as problem solving strategy and less on instinct and impulsive decision making. His selflessness and example were important factors in my development.

4) In your mind, what are the top 3 qualities of a great mentor?

To me, the top 3 qualities in a great mentor in order are:

  • Being able to look at things from the mentee’s point of view. If you can’t identify with the problems / opportunities, the value of your advice is diminished.
  • Be a good listener. Leave personal experience behind and make sure you fully understand each of the business components that the mentee is attempting to address before offering opinions.
  • Be optimistic. Create an environment in which opportunities are identified. Provide critical thinking only in the context of examining solutions to problems.

5) What do you think needs to be done to help connect more entrepreneurs with mentors?

The one thing I have a strong opinion on regarding entrepreneur–mentor connections is that the process is mostly limited to one-on-one relationships. It would be a great addition to the program if every six months a mentee could sit with a group of three to four mentor volunteers simply for the chance to get input from people with backgrounds in a variety of disciplines.