Lending advice and know how retired executive pays it forward

May 6, 2012
| By Bob Herr |
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No business person worth his or her salt will tell you they have all the answers. If they do, they’re lying or deluded. Everyone, and I mean everyone, has at one time or another relied on the advice of others to make an important decision.

I’ll get back to that point shortly.

I feel fortunate to have enjoyed a successful 40-year career with the public accounting and consulting firm Crowe Horwath. We opened the office in Grand Rapids with 15 people in 1984 and were proud to see it grow to more than 200 staff members and partners before I retired in 2007.

In addition to managing the office and working with clients across many industries, I also served for six years on the firm’s executive committee.

Like most of my colleagues in the world of business, I experienced the ups and downs that are an inevitable part of everyone’s career. I also learned many lessons that I want to share.

After I retired, I wanted to find a place where I could make a difference in the working lives of those who were following in footsteps similar to mine. I’ve been able to accomplish that goal at Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring by helping younger executives to put focus and discipline into their business strategy and planning.

The goal of the program, which was established in December 2009 by veteran business leader Mike Jandernoa and his wife, Sue, is to establish personal mentor-mentee relationships between veteran business leaders and emerging business decision-makers.

I’ve always enjoyed coaching and helping others improve their skills. Becoming a mentor was a way for me to keep doing that after I retired. Joining the JEM organization gave me the opportunity to share with others what I had learned from my own successes and failures and the experiences I acquired during my career.

No business, large or small, has all the answers. That’s why entrepreneurial mentoring — pairing veteran business leaders with new business decision-makers to provide support and solutions — is so crucial for long-term growth and sustained profitability.

There is so much value in having multiple resources available to help the mentees with any issue or opportunity they might encounter in leading and growing their businesses. As mentors, we have developed strong relationships with one another, enabling us to call upon each other’s experiences to help our respective mentees in specific situations. The mentees have also come to rely on each other for advice and solutions.

It’s a great model. The structure encourages dialogue and develops the roles and responsibilities of the mentor, which are different from those of a boss or a coach.

It’s a good way of doing business, and personally, it’s a way of giving back to the community that gave so much to me. And that’s the kind of deal that will pay dividends for years to come.

An active business and community leader, Bob Herr graduated from Western Michigan University in 1967 and married his wife, Barb, that same year. They have two children and three grandchildren. The deadline to apply for the 2012 Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring Class is Friday, May 11.

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