Opinion: Marius Zürcher on mentors

Mentors can serve as a source of knowledge, provide us with growth opportunities, give us feedback, hold us accountable and help to expand networks, says Zürcher

Those of you who have read my articles over the last two-plus years might have noticed that I regularly refer to what my mother – a lifelong hospitality veteran – had to say about whatever topic I wrote about at the time. The reason for that is a lot of the things I know, or believe to know, about the hospitality industry and its best practices, I learned from her. Some might call her my mentor. That is what this month’s article is about: mentors.

I use the term mentor loosely. There is the more traditional mentor, a person you interact with and, through that, learn from (I will call them ‘mentors’), and then there are people you more or less only observe from afar, but whose words or deeds nevertheless strongly impact your point of view on something (let’s call them ‘idols’).

Mentors are often industry insiders that are close to you, be it personally, professionally, or both. They are generally very useful, as they can serve as a source of (practical) knowledge, provide you with growth opportunities, give you feedback and hold you accountable, help you expand your network, and just generally have your back. They can even be a shoulder to cry on. Being a mentor has advantages too, as your mentee will no doubt provide you with some fresh perspectives.

If you are in a leadership position, being a genuine mentor, rather than just a boss, will also ultimately improve your results.

The value of learning from other industries

Not all mentors are industry insiders, however. In fact, it can be very valuable to have mentors from other industries. Not only can they provide you with unique and valuable outsider perspectives that allow you to generate ideas for your industry that others wouldn’t have developed, but many business principles are also quite universal.

As someone who is at home in many industries (marketing, hospitality, culture, education), I can attest to both. If you cannot be (or do not want to be) active in multiple industries, having mentors from multiple industries is a viable alternative.

It should be noted that the concept of mentorships can have its downsides too, mostly because of the uneven power balance, which mentors might take advantage of. To avoid this, we should be open to the idea of the mentor-mentee relationship being a relationship of equals. Remembering that mentors too learn and profit from such a relationship should help get us there.

Learning from failure and comebacks

Like mentors, idols – people you more or less only observe from afar, but whose words or deeds nevertheless strongly impact your point of view – can be a valuable source of knowledge and inspiration that can help you improve professionally (and, of course, personally).

They can be from your industry, or from a completely different one. They can be people you occasionally interact with, such as a hairdresser whose entrepreneurial instincts and tightly run ship make you want to clean up yours, or people who don’t even know you exist, such as the celebrity hospitality entrepreneurs whose spectacual failures and comebacks teach you something about perseverance.

To use myself as an example: my perspectives on the hospitality industry have been shaped by both mentors that are industry insiders, such as my mother, as well as idols that ostensibly have nothing to do with the industry, such as the marketing entrepreneur Steve Stoute, whose insights on authenticity have made me rethink the concept in relation to not just the hospitality industry, but every other industry  – until another idol, hospitality insider David Chang, made me completely rethink it once again.

The latter fact is a good illustration of what will be my closing argument in favor of having a mentor (or indeed a mentee) or an idol: they are a great tool for lifelong learning, which is something we should all strive for.

Marius Zürcher

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of start-up 1520 in Apeldoorn, Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA 2018.




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