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Today, Troy Ferguson is president of Redrock Camps, a Calgary-based industrial services firm which nabbed the #74 spot on the 2014 PROFIT 500 Ranking of Canada’s Fastest Growing Firms. But 35 years ago, he was a kid learning the ropes of entrepreneurship from an inspiring mentor.

Ferguson met Chris Neals when he was nine, through a Big Brothers and Big Sisters program for kids. “I was a poor kid who grew up in a single-parent family on the other side of the tracks,” says Ferguson. “But I got lucky in life because I had Chris who gave me the confidence to be an entrepreneur.”

Neals took Ferguson to the restaurant he owned every Saturday, as a way to spend time together. It became Ferguson’s first introduction to work—he’d help with the operations. Today Ferguson runs kitchens of his own—40 of them. Redrock provides hospitality, and camp management and maintenance services to industries operating in remote areas of Western Canada.

Ferguson  calls it “the business of building a village in the middle of nowhere,” and credits Neals with teaching him about hospitality, which makes up 80 percent of Redrock’s business. Last year, Ferguson received 18,000 applications for 500 jobs at Redrock Camps.

Today, Ferguson mentors other young entrepreneurs. Here are three things he learned from Neals about being an effective mentor.

Build their confidence

“If I were a young guy looking for advice, I want to hang out with someone that made me feel good and feel like I can get things accomplished,” says Ferguson. As a child, he looked up to Neals. Meeting a busy and successful entrepreneur who was willing to take the time to hang out with him even though he had nothing boosted his confidence.

Do things together

“I’m all about doing things together with the people I’m trying to teach to get them going in the right direction,” Ferguson says. “Letting them fail is also pretty important—you break down a great athlete to create a great athlete.”

In addition to their Saturday restaurants visits, Neals also organized other activities with Ferguson, like rebuilding an old sports cars. “He made it fun and certainly went out of his way to make sure we did it all together, despite his busy schedule,” Ferguson recalls.

Teach them patience

“If you want to have everything, you have to do it one step at a time,” Ferguson recalls Neal telling him. As a seasoned entrepreneur, Ferguson now understands what Neals meant, and advises young entrepreneurs to cultivate their patience.

“In everything you do, my advice is to just plan a couple of steps ahead and don’t try to go for it all in one shot, because [that] never seems to work out,” he says.


Have you had a mentor or mentee? What made this person so special? Share your mentorship tips using the comments section below.

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