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Updated: January 6, 2023

Words of wisdom: Maine business leaders reflect on the 'best advice' they received

Top row from left: Brad Moll, Andrew Butcher, Nate Moody and Lucie Hannigan. Bottom row from left: Randy Albert, Margo Walsh, Fred Forsley, Abdikhadar Shire and Andrew Marden.

There are always ups and downs when it comes to a person's career path. And whether it's graduating from college or starting a new job, along the way others share their advice about how they've succeeded.

Whether you're just starting out or you're a seasoned professional, we kick off 2023 with some words of wisdom from Maine business owners, entrepreneurs and movers and shakers.

Mainebiz asked leaders, "What's the best career advice you've received?"

Nate Moody, a retirement plan advisor, director of business development and marketing at Lebel & Harriman Retirement and one of Mainebiz 2022 40 Under 40 honorees, shared a quote he heard from Mike Lebel, co-founder of Lebel & Harriman: "Surround yourself with people smarter than you, and get out of their way."  

"It is such a simple statement but so true," Moody said. "Especially early in your career, I think people often feel like they need to take control to gain recognition from their leadership, but being able to operate within a team, trust your teammates, and be willing to learn from them, will serve you many times over throughout your career."

Abdikhadar Shire, a Mainebiz 2022 40 Under 40 honoree and founder of AK Health and Social Services, said, "To be successful, you always need to remember the primary reason why you started the nonprofit organization."
"This advice came at a time when I was worried about the nonprofit organization going anywhere," said Shire. "We had not been receiving contracts or any funding, and I was getting discouraged.

"So I went to speak to a community leader who is also the Imam of the Mosque in Lewiston and I told him how I was worried ... He asked me, 'Why did you start the nonprofit when you could get any job you want with your two degrees?' I said I wanted to help people, and his reply was to focus on that more, help people [who have] nothing, and the rest will come later."
Andrew Butcher, president of Maine Connectivity Authority, said one of his post-college mentors introduced the concept of "affirmative inquiry."  
"To me, it was a way to both learn, put my assumptions in check and foster strong relationships," Butcher said.

"We often engage in new relationships feeling pressured to dominate with what we know ... as opposed to what we could learn, or even how we could relate. This further helped inform additional advice offered by then-state representative and now mayor of Pittsburgh, Ed Gainey, when he told me that it was possible 'to be smart and not wise.'"

"Even smart ideas can falter if not considering common sense, conventional wisdom, and relevance to the people who are most affected. Balancing good-smart ideas with an awareness of people and their needs/priorities has been a critical orientation I have tried to maintain ever since."

"Persistence, persistence, persistence," said Fred Forsley, founder and CEO of Portland-based Shipyard Brewing Co. "Don't be afraid to ask questions or ask for help." Forsley said he received this advice in his 20s from the real estate broker he was working with at the time. 

MaineWorks CEO and founder Margo Walsh, a 2014 Mainebiz Women to Watch, said, "If you don't know what you're doing, go to people who do, especially concerning finances." 
The best advice I remember receiving was this: "The journey to a successful career is not a straight road; you will make mistakes, and you will fall along the way — the key is to get back up, learn from your mistakes and keep persevering," said Mainebiz 40 Under 40 honoree Randy Albert, vice president of finance, operations and analytics at Northern Light Health. 

The one thing that always sticks with Brad Moll, the co-owner of the original Brickyard Hollow, is, "always treat people as you would expect to be treated." 

Andrew Marden, one of the principal owners of Maine's bargain store Marden's Surplus & Salvage, echoed that sentiment, saying two things come to mind about treating everyone with respect. 
"Everyone is important no matter what they do, whether we are sweeping the floor or running an organization. Long-term, it doesn't work without everyone's contributions," Marden said. "Also, keep a narrow focus and do what you do the best that you can.

"Trying to wear too many hats or spreading yourself thin is a recipe for a lot of things mediocre and nothing great."

Lucie Hannigan, a senior vice president at Machias Savings Bank, may have put it best when she said, "Do you. And be the best you! Not only do you have to be the right candidate for the position and employer, but the position and employer need to be right for you. Remember, this is not a rehearsal, so be happy at what you do!"

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