Mentoring takes many forms. It can be casual (helping a new co-worker navigate office technology) or formal (volunteering with community organizations).

No matter the setting, mentoring is powerful.

John Thompson, the Indiana Chamber’s 2019 Dynamic Leader of the Year, is passionate about mentoring young people.

Two keys: Always make time and never give up. He learned those lessons from his paternal grandfather and a church pastor in the tough Baltimore neighborhoods where he was raised.

Read about entrepreneur Thompson (early influences, career and volunteerism) in the current issue of BizVoice® magazine.

But first, Thompson offers his take on the following:

  • Making time to mentor: “The gangs will mentor (if business leaders don’t make it a priority). They’re never too busy. The gang leader will teach you hands-on, ‘Here’s how you hot wire and steal a car. Here’s how you steal the battery. Here’s how you go over there and rob that person. Oh, your mother put you out? You can stay with me. You hungry? I’ll feed you.’ ”
  • His (almost) medical career: “(Following several years in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts), in my senior year in high school, I found the Medical Explorers troop. I thought I might want to be a doctor. But they exposed me to enough to know that I had zero interest in being a doctor. At the University of Maryland Hospital, there was a floor above the surgery room and you could look down through an observation glass at a major surgery. And, I said, ‘I don’t want to do that!’ ”
  • Investment approach: Owns and operates four Indianapolis-based businesses (Thompson Distribution, First Electric Supply, CMID and BC Countertops). “I’m not a risk taker; I’m a risk mitigator. I come up with strategies to mitigate risk. Those four companies, they’re selling products and services to satisfy a known, mature need. Everyone I sell to, they know they need what I sell. … To me (the risk comes into play in other investment areas) when I’m trying to    satisfy a latent need.”
Symone Skrzycki is the senior communications manager for the Indiana Chamber. She is also a senior writer for the Chamber’s award-winning BizVoice magazine and has been with the organization for 19 years.