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Starting to write something on a blank piece of paper is always the hardest place to begin. Most of us find it easier to edit than to write something from scratch. What most don’t recognize is that’s how our life begins, and we can take our directions anywhere we want to go.
I start here, because when I think about mentorship, I think of ways we are mentored, where mentorship comes from or even signals that we might miss and come back to when someone provides us counsel. Some provide you with their gut instincts, some provide you with knowledge and some tell stories about how they have learned lessons the hard way.
When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was asked to open a public relations office for Connors Communications, the agency Scott Allison, Andy Hardie Brown, Jonathan Heit and I worked at together before Allison+Partners. I still remember my conversation with Scott when he asked me to open the office. I shared my fears of building something new, in a location that I had never lived and in a space I was not yet comfortable in. As a true friend and mentor, Scott told me not to worry, and that he would surround me with great people.
Two of those people came out from Connors’ New York office. One of those was Jonathan Heit who, today, has grown to become our company’s global president and a good friend. Another person was a gentleman named Jeffrey Bollinger. Jeffrey asked me if I had heard of his father, a famous entertainment publicist. I had not. So, he brought his dad to our office. You never know how one meeting could change your life and how being open to new opportunities can lead you down new trails. Just like the blank piece of paper, Henri asked what my goals were to build our office. I shared that we wanted to be the leading firm that helped build entertainment and tech companies as they began to transition content onto the web and other platforms, not yet knowing how mobile was ready to blast off.
Henri said he could help. He introduced me to the Entertainment Publicists Professional Society, which he had started with industry friends. Less than a year later after chairing a technology committee, I became the president of the organization. Over the next four years, I helped grow the membership from 200 people to more than 600. Networking with industry leaders, helped build a solid foundation of relationships that I still have today. Henri also introduced me to UCLA Extension, where I taught for more than 17 years in his shadow.
What I remember most about Henri’s mentorship, is his ongoing personal counsel. He was the father of three kids, and understood the balancing act of juggling work and a large family. His advice was always on mark. He never provided answers, just stories, and let his experiences help guide mine. He saw each choice as an opportunity to do something new. He inspired me greatly, contributing so much to who I am today. And through our recently established scholarship program at UCLA in his name, I know he will continue to have an impact on others for years to come.
At Allison+Partners, we recognize the importance of mentorship and developed a program many years ago that empower our team members to find peer-to-peer relationships or even outside mentorships in areas that they are passionate in. Each is a blank piece of paper waiting to be shaped and groomed for a career that can take them anywhere. I will miss Henri, as my paper is only halfway done. Yet his guidance and positivity will continue to direct me.
Scott Pansky is a co-founder at Allison+Partners.