A Conversation With: The Mentor

Betty Wood sits down with David Carter, the man who’s made 50 multi-millionnaires thanks to his business-style of mentoring
When a copy of Breakthrough — a personal development book penned by business mentor David Carter  — landed on my desk, I have to admit, I was more than just a little skeptical about its contents. And it wasn’t just the colour spotted cover (thankfully changed upon publication) that made me wary. Like many people of my generation (and older), I’ve read my fair share of “self-help” titles in an attempt to “better myself”. Sadly, it’s just never worked for me. But when I was invited to meet The (self-proclaimed) Mentor David CM Carter himself, my interest was pricked — would the man be different from the book?

Carter cuts an impressive figure as I meet him in Mayfair: he’s impeccably polite, and begins the conversation by asking about me about myself. Perhaps it’s this that catches me off guard — as a journalist, it’s not often questions are turned back on yourself, and (surprisingly) I feel rather exposed. As I stammer through my career to date — university, working as a TA, my time at Port — his PR partner joins us at the table and the interview gets underway, though I barely get my first question out before he’s off-and running with his answer.

What’s almost as interesting as Carter’s response to my question is the response he elicits from me: sat opposite him, I suddenly feel like I’m at a job interview, rather than sitting with a man who trades in personal relationships. When I ask him what makes his different to hundreds of other self-help titles already out there and he replies “I’ve read 516 books; I’ve taken the best ideas from the other books and made a compendium in one place. Each one of the ideas I’ve written about, I’ve proven works as I’ve done them myself and with my clients over the years.” Tried and tested, “for each one of those , I promise you by the time you’re 40, all of them will apply to you. You will read this book one day and think ‘My god, everyone of those breakthroughs has been important to me.’”

Before establishing his first mentoring company, Merryck & Co in 1997, Carter spent 20 years working for various financial institutions. Having sold the company in 2010, he started David CM Carter Ltd, and now works closely with ten clients — business leaders and CEOs — honing their leadership skills and helping them be the “best version of themselves”. Breakthrough takes those same tools, and offers them to people outside the business sphere — “a doctor or a nurse, or a journalist” to “help people outperform in life”.

“I’ve made more than 50 people multi-millionaires”
Carter says, taking a sip of coffee. “But so what?”

As he talks me candidly through his life — three divorces, life as a single parent, his business successes and failures — it’s apparent why Carter is a business mentor. There’s an understated practicality about him, a confidence which he exudes and an indelible sense of resilience. In a write up in The Telegraph’s CityDiary earlier in this year, he was subject to a ribbing from Editor Anna White, who declined an invitation to his monthly networking meet-up, the Monday Night Supper Club. “No, this isn’t a keys-in-the-bowl situation” she quipped, “but I’ve just lost my appetite”. His response? “Well they say all publicity is good publicity.”

As Anna White’s commentary attests, Carter’s style is not to everyone’s taste. His jargon — typically peppered with acronyms like MAD (“make a difference!”) and slightly cringey analogies like that of the orbiting rocket, (implement a ‘5% course correction, you can end up in the stars!’) — is perhaps better suited for the ears of an American audience, with its inherent affection for self-improvement, evangelical-style television personalities and seemingly unshakeable enthusiasm for progress compared with a cynical British populace. It’s no coincidence then that Stateside he’s going from strength to strength. “I spend half of my time in LA, and I’m working on putting together a television show about Breakthrough. I’ve been partnered up with a lady called Christina Macaulay who’s a TV presenter andexecutive producer. She read the book over the weekend and said ‘David, this is what American TV is so hungry for’, because there is no content that’s intelligent and thoughtful, and viewers are fed up of being dumbed down by mindless rubbish.”

“I’ve made more than 50 people multi-millionaires” Carter says, taking a sip of coffee. “But so what?” Paid cannily for his service to an an elite few, Breakthrough is an attempt to redress that balance and offer his mentoring tools to a wider audience. “I think if someone had given me my book at 20, I’d be in a different place now” he says. Perhaps he would be.

Self-help undoubtedly works for some, though not for all. Shortly before we finish, he tells me with confidence I’m an INTJ personality type on the Myers Briggs scale. Actually, I’m an ENFJ. On reflection, perhaps I’m not presenting “the best version of myself” at our meeting. But then, I guess I have another decade or so before all of David Carter’s breakthroughs are truly relevant to me.

Photography John Stoddart

Breakthrough by David Carter is on sale now