Without Oscar Wiygul, my business wouldn't be nearly as successful as it is. He's my mentor.

Oscar will tell you that I'd have been successful with or without meeting him. To give you my view, let me share an example from my military experience in the Marines. Having a mentor is like a force multiplier. His wisdom, friendship, and advice saved me from numerous headaches, shortened my timetable for success, and increased my odds of successfully accomplishing the mission.

Force multipliers are tools that amplify your effort to produce more output. By investing in force multipliers, you will get more done with the same amount of effort.

When we first launched Two Marines Moving, I ran across Oscar because one of his many automotive centers included a U-Haul operation. He noticed the Shelby County tags on my car and realized we both came from Memphis. Starting from this shared connection, we built a relationship, and eventually Oscar offered us free space in his facility while we got the business off the ground.

Oscar said I did two things that impressed him:

1. Kept my mouth shut and listened.
2. Parked my ego.

"One of the biggest impediments to the success of young entrepreneurs" says Oscar, "is their ego."

From my perspective, here was a successful entrepreneur who greeted me warmly, took me seriously, and invited me to meet his family. He was vetting me, no doubt, but he also was letting me know he believed in me.

Over the years, I haven't agreed with or implemented everything Oscar has told me, but I have followed the vast majority of his advice.

There are two things he's taught me again and again:

1.) You must have controls. I hate accounting, but Oscar used to ask me, "How much money did you make this month?" My thinking was: what does it matter, we have more cash now than we did a month ago. Oscar tracks results down to the day, and he's convinced me that we won't grow and prosper without superb controls. We now track our key metrics on a daily basis.

2.) Staffing is our business. Select the right people, and put them in the right job. Hire the best and hold them accountable. You can't hold people accountable without controls, and controls don't matter unless you have the right people. These two work in tandem.

Oscar spoke up when I was hiring the wrong people. He told me that from one year to the next, nearly everything would change (he was right). He pushed me to hire a talented lawyer and accountant, which I did.

Most importantly, perhaps, he told me when I was underpricing my services. We were utterly sold out, and I thought we were doing incredibly well. He told me I was nuts, that my prices were too low to support the premium level service I aspired to provide. So I gulped hard--really hard--and raised our prices.

It was one of the smartest things I ever did. We were able to pay our people more, and thus attract better talent. We were able to buy more trucks. We expanded our space from 2,000 to 20,000 square feet, which made our further growth possible.

Oscar still worries about me. He tells me that the thinner I spread myself, the more I risk falling down on the implementation front.

I dream big. I want to charge forward, to grow our company and build our brand.

But when Oscar has something to share, I still manage to park my ego, shut up and listen. He's enjoyed great success, and has made many mistakes. If he's willing to share with me what he's learned along the way, I'm going to be damn sure to shut my mouth and open my ears.

Your turn: Can you set your ego aside to learn from others?

Nick Baucom, SGT, USMC is the founder of Two Marines Moving.

Published on: Feb 11, 2015
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