Recently I was asked to provide some guidance on who had influenced me, and who had mentored me in my life. During the writing of that reflection, and since writing it, I realized I missed someone out. In my initial response, I had said that I hadn’t really had one individual who had influenced me significantly as a mentor, but my father had in other ways. So, the mentors or guides that I feel have influenced me the most have been Jesus Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi. However, I digress.
Since completing that reflection, I realized there was someone else. Someone I looked up to. Someone who was a giant in industry. Someone who put his company ahead of himself and anything else in his life. His name is James Meadlock.
He was the founder of a company called Intergraph Corporation, where I worked from November 1984 to 1990. During those six years, the company grew from 173 million to over 1 billion in revenue. We had thousands of employees. And Jim Meadlock had some interesting management strategies. Having come from many years at IBM, Jim knew that a great deal of managers’ time was wasted in planning and determining budgets. For that reason, the company did not have a budget that everyone managed until we reached $400 million in revenue. Jim simply managed the company based on innovative groundbreaking products, attention to the customer, and accountability of product and all managers that we’re working for him. Every week the company held a crisis meeting. Any problem which had been outstanding at a customer site for more than three days was on the crisis list, every product manager in the company was present in that meeting. It was a meeting of accountability. And no one wanted to be on the menu. It illustrated to me, that no problem was too small that affected a customer’s operation.
Jim was available to his staff 24/7. And I mean that literally, he built his home on the campus of the company, so it was very difficult to be at work before him or to leave before he left. He showed commitment. For me as a young manager in my late 20s, just arrived off the boat from England (a plane actually) Mr. Meadlock epitomized American ingenuity, commitment, and doggedness. He would not ask his staff to do any more than he was willing to do himself, but he set an amazingly high bar.
For myself who hadn’t really had much in the way of encouragement or mentoring from my own father Jim Meadlock was someone I really looked up to. I realize now some 40 years later that Jim had actually taken me under his wing.
Well, he could never be really described as a touchy-feely person, when I canceled a project the company had been working on shortly after my arrival, instead of chastising me for the problems Jim gave me a $5,000 bonus (in 1984) for the money that was going to be saved by not continuing a project that was never going to be successful commercially. He taught me those hard decisions, even ones that people don’t want to hear, can be rewarded when they are based on the truth.
Most weekends while I was at Intergraph, were spent working in some way shape, or form, we could not do remote working back in those days so it meant that I went to the office, and my long-suffering wife and children missed me many Saturdays and Sundays.
However, being there at the weekend gave me one, wonderful, opportunity. The chance to have some one-on-one time with the King (Jim Meadlock). The important strategic issue that I wanted to make sure was brought to his attention, would be done by me either going to his office (which always had an open door), or meeting him on the premises as he looked around to see how things were going for those there put in the extra hours in.
I realize now these audiences with him were very sustaining. And even though I never knew anything about Jim’s spiritual disposition, I knew he was committed to the company the care of the staff, and moving the needle in the technology space. He was willing to take risks. Big risks. Sometimes they would pay off, sometimes not. But Jim Meadlock taught me to go bold or stay home.
When I would meet him on the road at a conference or event they brought me to his room in the hotel and he and his wife Nancy, and I, shared a meal together. They were my mentors, and perhaps, the parents of whatever entrepreneur sat inside me.
I wonder if you have anyone who has influenced you, perhaps the mentoring was done in an indirect way, I like to think the Jim and Nancy knew what they were doing when they looked after me, and my young family just arrived in the United states. Something to consider for your journey this week.