Mentoring Is Its Own Reward

I recently attended the award event for INC Magazine’s 5000 fastest growing companies. As a guest, of course, not as someone with a company on that list. (After 30 years, that kind of accelerated growth is a lot tougher!)

It was an amazing group of entrepreneurs, and the energy at the event was inspiring.  The company that topped the list, Loot Crate, grew at a phenomenal 66,789% over three years.  That number is not a typo, by the way.  And their last year’s revenue was $116 million. Not bad.

But there were many other businesspeople with amazing growth as well. I knew two of them, DentalPost.net and eAssist, both in the dental industry and coincidentally both with female founders.  DentalPost is a sophisticated job site, and eAssist outsources dental billing for practices. In fact, they were both in the top 2000.  And for DentalPost it was their second year in a row.  Impressive.

A very interesting thing happened to me when I was there. I walked up and introduced myself to the CEO and founder of Loot Crate, Chris Davis, and to my surprise he immediately recognized me. Not as the 1-800-DENTIST guy, but because I had mentored him seven years ago as part of a startup class for new entrepreneurs.

I honestly didn’t remember him, but he was effusive in his praise of me as one of his mentors, and explained that after the class he launched his first company and it didn’t take off, so he moved on after two years, but then he started Loot Crate and it succeeded. Spectacularly.

Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate, and me at the INC 5000 gala.

Chris Davis, CEO of Loot Crate, and me at the INC 5000 gala.

I can’t tell you how gratifying it was to know that he had taken his entrepreneurial drive and  ran with it. Now, I’m not taking any credit for his remarkable success. (Okay, maybe I’m taking a little!)  My point is that I did those mentor sessions and still do because I want to help young businesspeople avoid some of the mistakes I made, and inspire them to chase their dreams, no matter how difficult.

I have a personal rule: I’m never going to discourage anyone from pursuing their idea. I will coach them as to how to do it better, or caution them as to some of the risks they aren’t considering, but I know that plenty of other people will try to discourage them along the way, including friends and family, and I’m not going to be one of those voices.

Back in 1986, several people told me 1-800-DENTIST would never work.  My partner Gary and I used it as motivation. And that’s what I tell young entrepreneurs to do as well.  Proving your detractors wrong can be very satisfying.  And Chris Davis didn’t succeed on his first try.  But he told me that everything he learned with the first business made it possible to turn Loot Crate into a major success.

And that’s my second rule: persistence and determination will get you further than you ever imagined. Chris is living proof. We may not all achieve such stratospheric results, but we can all reach our dreams by showing up every day and giving it our absolute best.

There won’t be any financial reward for me because of my mentoring of Chris.  And I could care  less.  The joy I experienced seeing his marvelous success, knowing that I played some part in it, however tiny, is more than enough for me.

You can read more about Chris’s story and the INC 5000 by clicking here.

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