Mentor/Mentee Case Study Part I

It’s a bittersweet thing when a mentor realizes that his mentee has exceeded his knowledge and abilities. In large part it is a prideful moment in time just like a high school football coach sends his star quarterback off to the Pac 10 and waves goodbye….”and don’t forget…blah, blah, blah!” Well, it was just a little more than 4 years ago when this brash young turk by the name of Rich Wheeless, then CEO of Brivas Labs in Cincinnati broke through my wall of overflowing emails and unanswered phone calls having taken my posted advice of “being the squeaky wheel” to get through to me. At that time I was actively advising and mentoring the inaugural cohort of pre-revenue tech startups at my Startup Hive incubator and commuting weekly between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Phoenix like a summer “haboob” across the desert so it took him several months to hunt me down and ask…”Will you be my mentor?” I was quite flattered that this young man who had two more degrees than I did from better schools, over a decade of Fortune 500 senior management experience, was CEO of an emerging tech startup with three provisional patents and a personal investment portfolio including early investments in Facebook and partial ownership interests in two golf courses & country clubs and a much better wardrobe than mine yet had worked for months to track me down and ask me to mentor him….huh, I thought but ok what the hell! “Sure son, I’ll be your mentor!” I told him in my best fatherly tone even though my own son called me “Dude” as does my 89 year old mother. My career successes which had been significant in small circles had never garnered anything more than a one column article in the “business journal” of a few cities over my 35 year career. Big fish in small pond success and notoriety at best so I wondered what this man saw in me but he was insistent.

This is the first part of a multi part story of the last four years of my life as Rich’s mentor on a 24/7, eight days a week basis as I guided him through five more c-level positions, international travel, many many millions of dollars he raised, a few buyout offer negotiations, some political infighting, some outright sabotage, a few personal relationships, many times around the globe in air flight, six or seven countries, many hours and hours of telephone conversations, texts, skypes, emails and the growing personal relationship that has turned closer than that of a father and son (I know stuff about him he’d never tell his dad and visa versa) all the way up to present day which I do hereby proclaim…graduation day for this pupil, mentee, protogee’, nemesis, antagonist, protagonist, friend and coworker all in one. Part II will cover the first year of this very intense and fast paced business relationship, a difficult exit, trips to London, Abu Dhabi, Las Vegas and Barcelona…frustration in communication between the two of us and many trips to Cracker Barrel.

To be continued…

Stephen G. Barr Executive Advisor to CEO, Pingtank-Emogine

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“Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead.” — Charles Bukowski

Note: I don’t answer unscheduled calls and keep my phone ringer off so leave a voicemail or better yet send me a text message to get my attention and I’ll call you back as soon as possible. If you don’t leave me a voicemail or text I won’t know you called so please do so. I have many people and projects competing for my attention at all time so “the squeeky wheel gets the grease”.