BY DAVE BLANK
“Don’t suffer fools”
That’s the advice that a person, that I view as a mentor, gave me back in the mid-90s. It’s both simple and memorable, and has served me well over the past 25 years. The man who uttered those words was Bob Roberts, the long-time president of the California Ski Areas Association and one of the founding fathers of the California Tourism Industry Association (CALTIA). He worked with us “little guys,” as well as the major leaguers like Disney and Universal. I admired him then for being able to get us all to work together and still marvel looking back at it today.
Who’s your mentor? Maybe you have more than one. Who was the person who gave you advice that you always have remembered? It could have been personal or professional in nature. Maybe it wasn’t what they said, but the way that they did it. Webster’s defines a mentor as “a trusted counselor or guide.”
My first boss, Don McKay, sure fits that definition. He taught me about the value of hard work, perseverance and threw in a healthy dose of creativity. He let me try some new marketing tactics. Some worked, and some didn’t, but he always gave me encouragement to try new things. I tell the staff that we must keep swinging. Sometimes you get a single and sometimes you strike out. But, occasionally, you get a home run, or even a grand slam. We’ve been fortunate to have some home runs over my years in Racine.
Finally, there’s Wendell Anderson. Some of you may know him. He worked in the City of Racine Parks Department for years, was the “godfather” of Salmon-a-Rama, and served on the Racine County Board, with a stint as its president. He was on the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau Personnel Committee that hired me, and we’ve been friends ever since. At times, he’s been a father figure. He taught me about being passionate for your work. If he set his mind to achieving something, he’d figure out a way to enlist the help of some friends and get it done.
Maybe you’re a mentor to someone but don’t know it. We all learn ways to handle things that come up in our lives and hopefully someone of the next generation is watching us and figuring out a way to “build a better mousetrap.” Mentoring is the way that we pass knowledge on from one generation to another. It can be done in education, the workplace or in life. I hope that you’re involved in the mentoring process!
Dave Blank is the president/CEO of Real Racine (Racine County Convention & Visitors Bureau).