I scream, you scream, we all scream for….
Ice scream. Wait, that came out wrong, we all scream for a mentor.
I spent the first 10 years or so of my career doing it the old-fashioned way, make LOTS of mistakes and then trying to figure out what went wrong and why. I am not saying that I didn’t have a great boss, he was (and has become even more successful in our space), but he too came up without a true mentor at work. I also learned a lot from my dad, but he came up in a very different time and was retired by the time I joined the workforce. He, however, along with my mom, taught me the value of honesty, hard work and integrity. With those cornerstones, I started in the right direction.
What really changed for me was May of 2009. We had had a couple rough years and the new owners of our company wanted to bring in a big gun. And big gun they got. At first, after I figured out I would still have a job, I was scared shitless of him. Big title, big ideas, big personality. As I got to know the man and in return he got to know me, he began to take an interest in teaching me how to be better at my role. How to understand the ins and outs of running a business from accounting, to sales, to operations, to marketing (well, that didn’t sink in. see my last post). I remember telling my wife, “everyday he sits down in my office for 30 minutes and we just talk about stuff. Sometimes it is directly work related, other times it is just random stuff”. I learned more in those 18 months of focused discussions than I had in the previous 8 years. Not just about home decorating either, he has a penchant for that and I absolutely can discuss art, stone tile, clocks and furniture for hours on end.
Before I left that role to start Ethos, I reached out and wanted to get his thoughts and opinions. Opinions on taking such a big leap from a really well-paying job, why we didn’t want to take ANY outside capital and was this the right time. He responded with something very typical like “took you F-ing long enough”, which was a resounding “Go For It”.
The point I really want to get across is, get a mentor. Right. Now. Find someone at work, in your industry, or tangential to what you do now and seek them out. Let them know who you are, what you do and what you want to become. I got lucky and that person for me came to our company and took an interest in me. If I had to give a piece of advice to those coming up after me, I would say, “seek that person out”. You may not have them land in your space and you need to go seek them out.
I try and do my part now too. I spend time at our local high school and college as much as I can. I meet these new, super smart and motivated kids. They help me to have confidence in the new crop of men and women joining the workforce and I hope I teach them something too. Doesn’t every college kid need to know that milk cartons are not coffee tables and that granite is less porous than marble so it wont stain if you spill cheap red wine on the counter?
Thank you for everything you have taught me Neil Hobbs and your continued support.