Ramblings about life, mentors and making an impact
From an early age I was a PR guy – I just didn’t know it.
I’ve always wanted to learn, share information, construct and, well… destroy things occasionally. I put myself in situations to teach or be taught, pass along the latest tip or trick, be a friend to everyone who came my way and simply help out with anything at any time. I grew up roaming the neighborhood and chatting up anyone who would listen to a kid blabber away about what he learned or what the other neighbors were up to. I was basically social media in my neighborhood.
My father built our house in an up-and-coming area, so home construction was rampant throughout my single-digit years. The rules about a kid roaming around a newly framed house were either nonexistent or simply not enforced in the ’70s. Most mornings you could find me walking the rafters or trying to find a way to a second floor that didn’t have stairs yet. I was there so often that some of the workers actually started bringing an extra biscuit for me in the mornings so I could share a meal with them before their day began.
I must have learned a dozen construction skills before the age of eight. This didn’t stop. Helping out at church, bugging one neighbor in his shop to watch and learn about power tools, helping another neighbor work on his 1965 Chevy NOVA, washing cars for the change that was left behind in the seats – the list goes on. The point is, I was always learning and always helping. Networking, mentoring (and being mentored) and philanthropy have been staples in my life, and I guess they have always been in my DNA. I just didn’t know the terms for them growing up.
I can point to a number of people in my life who made a tremendous impact on me, and without taking chances, being adventurous and trusting in others, my professional life would have gone in a much different direction. People like the late Mike Herman, APR, Fellow PRSA, who during my junior year at N.C. State said I shouldn’t waste my talents as an engineer but take my analytical gifts and use them for public relations. If you knew Mike, you can just hear him say that. Twenty years later, I’m still doing what my first mentor in the business said I should do. His passing recently was a great loss to me and our profession, but he is the single reason I’m writing this today and not working on the next big fiber infrastructure project.
I was fortunate to find a second mentor with whom I work to this day, Ron Smith, APR. I was nearly seven years into my career at the Cary Chamber and asked Ron about PR accreditation when he came to a chamber meeting one day. Part of my role at the chamber was to help member businesses succeed in any way possible. Sometimes that was helping them find qualified talent. We went to lunch, and I assured him that since he had provided advice on attaining the APR, I would work diligently to find his next account manager.
Long story short, six months later he brought me in as a potential exit strategy for his business. Somehow, I didn’t see the writing on the wall that he was talking about me during our lunch as I was in total “help-a-guy-out” mode. Almost 13 years later, I’m working on taking over the agency with my fellow management team members, all because I was looking to better myself professionally and help him in a time of need.
Passing along knowledge
I’ve served locally, regionally and nationally for professional societies and sections; I’ve been a Rotarian since I was 25; and I’ve been on so many boards of directors and committees in my first 19 years in business that you would think it was the resume of someone wrapping up his career, not just hitting his prime. I say this not to be boastful but to say that my good fortune has come at the expense of working hard to make sure others are taken care of first, making sure to always be an ambassador for my industry, my clients, my friends and my family. And making sure anyone who needs guidance gets it from me or from someone I feel is better equipped than I am to deliver what they need.
I really didn’t know where I was going with this blog post while it was swirling around in my head, but here is the wisdom I’d like to pass along:
- You never know what activity or person is going to be life-changing and how it may affect you (positively or negatively) but don’t be afraid.
- Put yourself out there, and once in a while take a chance as the rewards can be great.
- Be there for someone… no, everyone who needs help.
- Stand behind your ethics and values, and believe in what you’re doing personally and professionally.
- Find a mentor or several, and be a mentor when you have a chance.
- Learn something every day and pass that knowledge along, and someday I’m sure you will be thought of and respected the way Mike and Ron were and will be for many years to come.