Search
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Family Business Center

Their Favorite Business Mentors

by Shel Horowitz

April’s (2006) meeting started with three FBC members talking about their greatest mentors in business.

Paul DiCarlo, Rice Oil

“My current mentor is my boss, Tim Rice, the grandson of the founder, the only active family member.” DiCarlo is part of the 4-member non-family management team. “We meet twice a month, talk about sales, cash flow—but also about the things that challenge us every day. We spend a lot of time on team building, including Myers-Briggs.

“Tim guided us through strategic planning, and helped us develop a mission statement and corporate culture. We’re on local boards, such as YMCA, Greenfield Community College—Tim gives us the extra time that it takes to serve on those boards and raise money for the organizations.”

About that corporate culture: “We need to be responsible for our actions, honest, respectful of all individuals. He walks the talk on our core values of allowing change for continuous improvement and being supportive of our people. He challenges us to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes. He challenges us to develop our mid-management people, and he believes in new ideas and new technology. He knows we have a life after 5. His best advice: look at the biz from the hilltop, not from down in the weeds.”

Chris Buendo, Reminder Publications

“Mom and Dad taught me through their actions outside the business, which I have applied daily in the business. He was a gentle, persistent man. He studied a problem—and there would be no stopping until the goal was achieved: perseverance with a loving touch, with integrity. My mom Annie was its heart. She loved making people happy. The Reminder was her launch pad for community services. She offered a lot of covert assistance that no one knew about. You’d find her in the basement of a church, cooking for homeless people. She specialized in saying yes when someone asked for help. ?

“They taught me to use actions instead of words, care about people, give of your time even when no one is watching, make people laugh, have faith—practice spirituality seven days a week.

I keep some of this alive. I send every employee a birthday card at home. You can run a business, make a profit, and do it in an honest gentle way. And our FB is alive and well.

Karen Randall, Randall’s Farm

“It was hard to think of who my one mentor was; I have a little list:” After mentioning Shirley Temple, UMass education professor Marcia Rudman, and an unnamed friend of her father, Randall settled on “my parents. They worked hard in a business that evolved from a small farm. I remember my mom picking eggs. That evolved into a roadside stand. We added a greenhouse. I think of my father as a visionary who saw an opportunity to sell what people asked for to the community, and it grew when there wasn’t a Cumberland Farms on every corner.

“I learned integrity, honesty. You pack the produce just as pretty and fancy on the bottom as the top—that I learned at age 11, packing squash. Be fair to your customers, your employees—all those values came from my mother and father.

“The favors my father did came back to me in ways I never expected. I went into the produce market one 4th of July and couldn’t buy corn. Another roadside stand owner said, ‘Karen, I’m gong to Connecticut to buy corn. When I started, I couldn’t get corn. Your dad came over to me and said ‘how much do you need, take it off my truck.’ How much corn do you need?’ People say, ‘in 1962 your father gave me a bouquet of gladiolas for no special reason.’ The ways he helped people are only whispered about to me. Not a day goes by when someone doesn’t say, ‘this is how he helped me.’

Back to Top