The Financial Times on Wednesday published a story asking five successful entrepreneurs from very different businesses who their mentors were and what they taught them (subscription required). John Ayton, founder of Links of London and Annoushka Jewellery, was one of the persons profiled. His response is below:
I was a lawyer between 1986 and 1992 before going into business. The person who taught me lessons I have used in my working life was David Macfarlane, a senior partner I shared a room with at Ashurst, the City law firm. When you see someone up close for so much time you end up absorbing some of their traits.
He would find it ironic that I see him as a mentor as, after working with him, I quit law. In fact, he was the one who sat me down and told me I had to choose between law and business – I had started a few entrepreneurial projects, including Links, while a solicitor. We had an amicable divorce, and remained in contact. From him, I learnt how to negotiate and how to see the wood for the trees.
After I sold Links in 2006 I set up Walpole Brands of Tomorrow, which matches mentors with young luxury businesses. Being a mentor is not completely altruistic, as working with small start-ups burgeoning with fresh ideas is invigorating. It also puts you in touch with new markets.