Entrepreneurs Need Mentors, Role Models—and to Always Be Listening for Gold

Emma Isaacs + Naomi Simson celebrity

“We all need role models — someone to lead the way, and drag others along with them.”

Back in 2011, I attended an Ernst & Young Young Women’s Entrepreneur Workshop and the words of Avril Henry still resonate with me. She explained that one of the traits of entrepreneurs is that “we are there for the long term.” We do not give up easily – we are fiercely opportunistic, and are forever looking at the next success story. Success is in our blood. We are undoubtedly attracted to others who share this trait…

I am not sure I fit the conventional mould when it comes to having “mentors” in my life. I like to think of my role models as inspirational people whom I have drawn wisdom, experience, knowledge, and life purpose from along the way. One could easily argue that it was my parents, who consistently and relentlessly nurtured and supported me.

My mother had a long career in computing; she worked for one of Australia’s great entrepreneurs.

As a young girl, she was a role model to me. My mother spent much of her career as a systems analyst with the business Lyndsey Cattermole founded, Aspect Computing (acquired by KAZ Group in 2003 for $215 million). Mum had said to me when I was at University, “If Lyndsey can do it, you can too.” I guess that’s where my mantra has come from — evolving into “If it is meant to be, it is up to me.”

I am not alone in thinking that Lyndsey is one of Australia’s most successful (female) entrepreneurs. At the age of 25, she had founded her business, the largest Australian software and services company, which went on to become a major force in Australian ICT with 1.300 employees. She remained on as the Managing Director before selling the business — she was a Director until 2004. She has won numerous accolades and awards, including the EY Champion of Entrepreneurship.

My mother was one of Lyndsey’s longest-serving employees and during that time, Mum would ask me along to some of their events. I remember Lyndsey being larger than life and very effervescent — she was always talking loudly and full of enthusiasm. Most of all, she was engaging. She would give me little gems of wisdom such as “study hard, work hard and follow your passions.”

                                                                                                                                                                            Catching up with Lyndsey Cattermole: 20 years on

Role models are people that you observe from a distance, you learn from, you read what they write, watch them speak, or observe their behavior. They are different than mentors.

Since writing the post “The day that Richard Branson turned me down,” I have been collecting gems of wisdom from hundreds of role models… most of whom I will never meet. But their words come to me when I need them…

We are all inspired by other people, (including Emma Isaacs, above — we are really reciprocal mentors — peers learning from each other’s experiences). I am inspired by many, many more than I can list. People who run big businesses and small. But they all have something in common: they had an original thought, a vision, or a desire to simply do things differently. They share the entrepreneurial spirit I have — and my intention is to be a role model to others, as I have been fortunate to have been led by such wonderfully inspiring entrepreneurs along my journey.

There are hundreds of outstanding female role models if we choose to look… Here is some of my collection:

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