In a November 9, 2010 Inc.com article by Nolan Bushnell, titled The Value of Mentors, What I learned from Bob Freed, Robert Noyce, Jerry Sanders, and Don Valentine, Mr. Bushnell discusses the value of mentoring to his career and the help that was provided at critical junctures he faced along life’s pathway’s and highlighted four people in particular.
So in keeping with the Thanksgiving spirit and in appreciation of those in my life, I pose a question to my readers; Who are or were your mentors? Please feel free to elaborate in the comments section regarding those who have influenced your life!
As I reflect on my career spanning over 35 years now, like Mr. Bushnell, I have had the good fortune of having had a significant number of mentors. But also like Mr Bushnell, I am only going to mention a few.
Before I started my career, I worked for my Uncles in their machine shop during High School. Their single biggest contribution (though there were many) was to make sure I attended college. I swept the floors, cleaned machinery, pressed together slip-fit printing rolls and other manual labor. In short, they made it clear what life would be without pursuit of higher education, and frankly it was not for me. So Uncle Jim and Uncle “Pud” (short for puddles as a kid and a nickname that stuck), Thank You!
Edward Joseph Eve Jr. was among other things a member of Merrill’s Marauders in the China, Burma, India Theater in World War II, one of the first special operations forces which ultimately have part of their patch incorporated into the U.S. Army Rangers patch. My Dad was a brilliant financial mind and he educated me on the time value of money and investments well before my college days. During college I “attended class” on the rule of 72. Dad literally talked for an afternoon on the subject and I took copious notes. Did you know if you double $1 ten times it is over $1 Million? (That is one becomes two, two, becomes four, etc). I have heard that Einstein considered the compounding of money as a wonder of the world. Thanks Dad for all you did, for our country, for our family, and for me!
My first management job was in the food and lodging industry where I worked my way up to Night Manager and eventually Innkeeper of Holiday Inns. This was the source of funds used to pay for my college education and I stayed in that industry for a year after I graduated. I could write a book on the things Dave taught me about management, but following are few key thoughts that I learned at an early age on my way to managing over 100 people at 19 years of age:
1) Be Decisive, Dave said I would only receive his wrath if I did not make a decision, not about any decision I made. (While this was true, he couldn’t necessarily indemnify me from those who disagreed with my decisions, though he helped at times there too!);
2) Delegate: Dave said “Management is getting things done through people, not doing it yourself”;
3) And one other, Follow Up: “Delegation without follow up is not management!.”
As I was studying in College, Dave also suggested that I follow a broader education, like accounting or business management, not just concentrate on hotel management as a major. This advice led me to pursue an accounting degree, which led to my CPA certificate and a career in finance and accounting. His lovely wife Linda also taught me a number of basic office skills and as a couple they modeled the “ideal” couple in my mind. Dave and Linda, Thank You!
My list would not be complete without my good friend Tony Oyster. I got to know Tony as a client of the public accounting firm I worked for. We developed a close friendship as I worked on his accounts over a five year period. Tony recognized my work ethic and knowledge. When an opening with his company became available several years after I left public accounting, he arranged for me to interview for the position of controller for the U.S. division. That was the start of an almost ten year period of employment that included over four years as an expatriate in Europe (twice) and Australia. Among other things he taught me the key to success in that organization was to be diligent and timely. Further, he taught me the disciplines required to take my skills from division controller to VP of Finance & Accounting and eventually CFO of a $40 million pan European acquisition. Thanks Tony, for all of the opportunities and memories, not to mention some fun times on the golf course that we still laugh about!
So this is my list of key business mentors. I could go on about Betsy Evans a key spiritual mentor and others along life’s path, but I will stop for now. But please leave your comments and let me hear from you about the mentor’s you are thankful for this Thanksgiving!