Belated Thanks to My Mentor

Most of us in this wacky world of marketing have had a mentor (outside of a father or mother) at some critical juncture of our career.  The majority of us in this business were not born with an understanding of the 4 P’s of marketing. Nor how to plan an integrated marketing communications plan or for that matter sell a creative campaign concept to a client. It’s not a natural part of our DNA (even if our parents were in the business.)

Your own mentor may have been there for you at the beginning of your career or luckily took you under his/her wing during your more formative years of becoming a functioning marketing person.  Maybe you were lucky enough to have enjoyed the guidance of several mentors over your years of learning to make a living in this business.

In fact, many of us have had to re-learn this business, especially as technology changed “old” marketing to “new” marketing in a virtual heartbeat.  And along the way, created a whole new slew of marketing and communications mentors.

Mentors are key in the business of marketing or for that matter in most any line of work you choose.  But, I think, having the ear of a mentor is even more of a requirement for success in the advertising agency world. This is a business full of powerful and emotional nuances that require delicate handling and firm resolve. A business of figuring out the smartest strategies or right direction to recommend. Or composing the perfect words to say in many different situations that can often make or break a client relationship.

The mentor you had might be someone you interfaced with daily or someone you met with weekly or monthly to help clarify, illuminate or otherwise set you straight. Or possibly someone outside your immediate organization who provided the insight and understanding you sought to keep moving forward.

Whatever your relationship was like, this person was meaningful in your life because you remember the words of wisdom they spoke, the things they taught you or the significant opportunity they opened up for you.  Even the practical, everyday guidance you needed to do things correctly. And the heartfelt stories of success and failure they told as if passing this business lore onto the next generation.

Unfortunately, my mentor died a week ago. I have always remembered how he gave me the opportunity to move from the client side of this business to the agency side. I also recall his words of encouragement at his retirement party that spurred me on in making my next career decision. “Bob, don’t fret.  It will all come to you.”

In between those two remembrances were many words of wisdom and practical guidance.  He set goals and let me move forward in my own way, reigning me in as needed, but mainly letting me make my own decisions.  In the long run, I heeded his advice, learned what I needed to know. And indeed, as he told me it would, it all came my way.

He retired over 20 years ago and we lost touch after he moved down to Florida.  I always meant to thank him once more for giving me the opportunity, but as I listened to the phone message about his death from an old colleague, I realized that was an opportunity lost forever.  Rest in peace, Shelly.  I thank you.