Spencer McClung Discusses the Lasting Impact of Mentorship

Spencer McClung is an investor, advisor, entrepreneur and executive in digital media and technology. He is currently a Principal at Advisory Firm Three, a firm that makes special situation investments through its fund Advisory Firm Three Holdings, LLC. The firm also specializes in management consulting and advisory work, with a focus on early through growth stage businesses. 

Spencer McClung helps entrepreneurs build and accelerate the growth of their companies, advising them in areas such as fundraising, strategic planning, revenue planning, operations and team-building. 

We had the chance to connect with Spencer McClung and talk about the role a strong mentor had in his life and how he’s giving back by doing the same thing today. 

How did you get started?

My career started well before my first job. I was inspired by a mentor early on in college – an elderly man named Dr. Wayne Stark. Dr. Stark made it clear to me that if I wanted exciting career opportunities, then attending a top MBA school would create a solid platform from which to do so. And in order to do that, I had better stop spending so much time socializing with friends and start spending more time on creating a roadmap for how I was going to get there. 

The early years are so important in influencing a person’s path in life. The decisions a young person makes about goals, work ethic, attitude, faith, family, friends, school, activities, etc will impact their life trajectory profoundly. I was blessed to receive an early wake up call from Dr. Stark when I was about nineteen.

He quickly convinced me that things like discipline with how I spent my time and how I approached my social life, grades, summer internships with the right companies, and ultimately where I worked in my first job out of college would be the things that would work together and influence whether or not I would attend a top graduate school. 

Thanks to Dr. Stark’s advice, I became a very focused college student in my last three years of school, got great grades and landed summer internships in NY and overseas. This led to two great jobs post-college as a financial analyst at an investment bank and at the Walt Disney Company.

These jobs set me up to learn some incredibly useful skills that I have used my entire career, like financial modeling, critical thinking, strategic analysis, engaging with clients, and overall self-confidence in high pressure environments. 

Ultimately, I was a solid MBA school candidate, thanks to Dr. Stark and some hard work over several years. I was admitted into Harvard Business School where I received my MBA. I have been fortunate enough to have had many great job opportunities post-HBS, but it was the early years in high school and college, and decisions that I made early on, that created a platform for me to have opportunities. 

Today, I spend a lot of my time mentoring young people – with them I can’t stress enough how the decisions they make, even the little ones in middle school like their choice of friends or whether or not to give their best in school and activities, will profoundly influence the path their life will take. 

People can rebound from bad decisions and difficult times in life – it happens all the time and I am most inspired by people who have overcome obstacles in life. There are many things in life that we can’t control, like who we are, or who our parents are.

Having said that, I have learned that young people can control some things in life through the choices they make. They can make a positive impact on their life and increase their opportunities by understanding that what they do at a young age matters, and the choices and decisions they make today will profoundly affect their future.  

Tell us about your experience with mentoring.

I love mentoring young people – teens through mid-twenties, in particular. Many of the decisions young people make during this time will impact them for the rest of their lives. 

Reflecting back on my life, I can truly say that the ages between 13-22 set the course for where I am today. Choices made then about friends, faith, school, activities, sports and your attitude and motivation will have lifelong implications. 

For me, helping young people navigate those years is one of the most rewarding things I do. At any given time, I typically have a handful of young people I mentor, usually four to six at a time.  It is part of the way I give back – although I think I gain more from it than I give. 

What advice do you give the people you mentor?

1 – Pay attention to your passion vs ‘follow your passion’ 

Take risks to follow your dreams, but be careful not to have ‘tunnel vision’. Frankly, most young people do not have a broad perspective on all the amazing potential career and life opportunities. Be open to other experiences that may come your way, perhaps when you least expect it. 

Be curious, take risks, and explore.  

2 – Ask for help 

Be humble and ask for help when you need it. Great leaders know there is way more they don’t know than they do know, and they are their best version of themselves when they get help from others. 

Help can come in many forms – I love to get ‘help’ from others by grabbing a coffee or lunch once a week with someone who is knowledgeable in areas I am not – I love hearing people’s story and learning from their perspective. 

3 – Build your community 

Your community is one of the most valuable assets you will have in your life. I don’t just mean nurture the relationship with your CEO, I mean nurture relationships with everyone you work with. Any of them can or will be in positions of influence, and all of them have a unique perspective. 

Building a community is not rocket science, it’s more about using common sense in your relationships. Treat everyone with respect, value their opinion, care about them as people before you think of them as co-workers (‘people don’t care what you know until they know that you care’), help people when they ask for it, and find creative ways to stay in touch with people – LinkedIn and Facebook make that part easy. 

The key is the first part – help others and expect nothing in return. The right people will help you when you least expect it. 

For more on this, I love Adam Grant’s book “Give and Take.” 

4 – Pay it forward 

Offer your energy and strength to serve others, particularly the vulnerable and less fortunate. Do you want to experience true joy in your life? Then help others and give back. It works much better than chasing the dragon of happiness by living a life of self-indulgence. 

Published January 2nd, 2022