Mentor definition; an experienced and trusted adviser, or an experienced person in a company, college, or school whom trains and counsels new employees or students.
I can say that I have had 5 mentors in my five plus decades of business and personal life these people either stepped up and played a formal role as a mentor or they were people I just decided that I wanted to emulate in some form or fashion because I saw that they were the best in class of whatever field they were involved in. Each played a distinctive role at different fazes of my life. They were not all aware that I found them as compelling as I did but I learned from them all, just the same. The most memorable of course were not just mentors but dear friends along with being folks I learned from. Of these five only two are still alive, getting older sucks, anyone says different is not of right mind!
I recently lost one friend mentor that had an enormous influence on me when I received a call informing me that Mr. Don Urquhart had passed away, he was 84. I worked with Don for many years when I was operating a carrier up until some 8 years ago, the news was sad indeed.
Donny was a salesman through and through, a guy who was equally comfortable sitting in a corporate boardroom as he was shooting the breeze on the loading dock with drivers and warehouseman. This man was old school when he came to our company he was in his mid sixties and we were just the third job he had ever had. Don was a very good salesperson by the time he was done at our company he was generating in excess of 20 million dollars a year in sales working three days a week about 9 months a year and not breaking a sweat, I would have loved to have seen him in his prime, I can only imagine what he generated, Wow! The rest of the year Don and his precious bride Geraldine traveled with friends all over North America and Don had many friends.
Folks like Don were the pioneers of this industry, teaching once young bucks like myself the lay of the land so to speak, he and I traveled all over the country visiting existing and prospective accounts thanking people for their patronage and drumming up new freight volumes. We always had fun and we always took care of business, he shared his philosophy that what you do while you have your business face on is very important no doubt, but you must also enjoy what you do. You spend far too much time at work to not enjoy the time spent and if you don’t you will end up taking your misery home and that will effect your family time, It’s of course called life balance!
I’ll share some of the lessons I learned from Don from way back in the day back when we first started making calls together many years ago. Some of these lessons might seem obvious but knowing the subtleties of when opportunity knocks many times comes from intuition and the sixth sense that only good sale people seem to have.
1. No is second best answer you can get from a prospective account, people don’t want to let you down and many times they will procrastinate, push for the answer and if it is no that will allow you to move on to the next target. Here is the caveat, Don once courted an account for 5 years, every three months or so I would see an expense for lunch with this account. As I recall I only questioned him once on it, after all these lunches we were finally awarded a shot at their RFP, almost 10 million in revenue we were awarded 99% of the bid with a 3 year deal with 2 – 1 year renewals to be used at their discretion if they chose to exercise them and they did. We had 99% of this prestigious account cross border freight for over 10 years!
2. People deal with people we all know that but knowing when the time is right to start discussing family and personal like and dislikes, pastimes etcetera is important. Do it to soon and to energetically and you will come off as insincere and transparent with many folks, which might cost you the sale, building relationships take time, invest your time in the right places.
3. I went out with Don 2 to 4 times a month to see folks, I made sure that I shared close relations with our top 20 accounts, but never so close that I couldn’t be a 2nd go to person if things happen to go sideways because of an operational or driver error. Proud people/shippers always need to know that they have an escape clause if the owner/president is front line they have no one to fall back on after they have gone through their sales representative and you could be out of the game with no notice.
I sent an email to my senior management team from our company from all those years ago and heard back from all of them as to their shared sorrow for the passing of a great man and great friend, what a great team we had. I myself was very lucky to have had lunch with Don and Loretta, my executive assistant and company confidant just before I headed to Florida this year; he passed a few weeks later.
• Don’t count the freight until it’s in the wagon! (Shippers promises)
• Let’s not trade two nickels for a dime! (Cheap Freight sucks reference, let’s not waste our time)
• The first 2 don’t touch the sides! (Spoken like a true salesman)
• I’d like to have a swing like that in my backyard! (Left to your imagination)
• You don’t win today’s baseball game on yesterday’s score! (Promises don’t pay the rent)
• Lets make sure were all singing from the same song book! (On the same page folks?)
There were a hundred more, Donny made it fun and lightened every mood, I will miss him, and do you have a mentor you should reach out if there is don’t wait until it’s to late?
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What a great article about a great man, well done Ray. Donny will always hold a special place in my heart, but I think that is true to everyone that has ever met him.
Ray I have to share a story with you, I was with Donny on a sales call in downtown Montreal at a fortune 500 company. Donny was around 70 at the time, we walked onto the 23rd floor of this company (the Logistics department) and I thought I just walked on stage with a rockstar! All the women love to see him, all the men made an attempt to say hi to him. Donny called everyone my name, asked about their families and took the time to be sincere. This was truly a great lesson in leadership for me that day.
Thanks for sharing that Rick, I had a couple occasions where I witnessed the same type of reaction from folks I went to see with him, it takes you aback when it happens. I was at a large Canadian paper shipper and we were in with a VP of the company and he asked Donny if we were getting all the freight we needed and when Donny said that we weren’t quite getting what we were told, this guy pulled in 3 of their senior transportation managers and had them lined against the wall like a firing squad and he wanted to know why in the world they weren’t looking after Donny! I will always remember that, he commanded allot of respect and for a short man he was walking pretty tall that day!
He will be greatly missed
Hi. I hade the pleasure to meet Mr.Don Urgurhart when I worked a Mkinnon transport he was a good man he will be missed .