By Bill Marcil Jr.
FARGO, N.D. – Mentors are few and far between in the modern world. At almost 50 years old, I have been a mentor to a few people, but, unfortunately, most of those people have gone into witness protection …
The past few weeks I have been thinking about my mentors – people who have influenced me, some in positive ways, and others not so positive.
I had a boss in Minneapolis who on the first day of work took me to lunch. Seemed like a nice gesture. At a buffet, he was ahead of me in line. He paid for his lunch but not mine. I had seven bucks in my checking account. I wrote a check for $3.48. Never forgot. Etched in my brain. I vowed that day to never do that to anyone I work with.
My mentors have ranged from my paternal grandfather, who really tried to teach me so much about the life he never lived; both of my parents – my mother’s gentle strength and my father’s business acumen. Today I say a bit of a goodbye to a mentor I have worked with every day for three years.
Three years ago, a plan was put into motion that would name me president of Forum Communications Co. Great. But for me to become president, the company’s current president, Lloyd Case, would retire after 31 years of coming into the office early and leaving late – a measure of full-on dedication.
In 1982, Lloyd answered an employment ad in The Forum. A simple decision at the time changed the course of his life, and the lives of thousands of people. He and my father, a perfectly matched team – each one complementing the other’s strengths and weaknesses – grew a sleepy little company based in Fargo to being recognized as one of the top family-owned media companies in the nation. I was lucky enough to witness all of it firsthand.
I’ve been riding shotgun for the past three years. Every week, I would sit in meetings and watch and listen as the two of them bounced and wove their way around the obstacles that are routine in the work world. From legal issues to employee issues, health care, acquisitions … I saw it all.
With his steady hand, Lloyd would talk to me about the why and what of their planning and decision-making. He would let me ask crazy questions and never judge (at least to me). He would allow me the freedom to dream, to come to conclusions on my own time and in my own way, and I am sure he occasionally thought I was a nut job.
As the deadline of January 2014 approached, Lloyd and I set out in a car together to officially hand over the baton in each of the company’s locations. Lloyd would drive his sparkly clean white SUV. You can tell his grandchildren don’t live in Fargo because I never saw a stray Cheerio or crayon. We covered four states. Call it windshield time.
There must be something about looking out over the vastness of our states that helps people get to know each other. Next time I have two employees who are disagreeing, I’ll load them up in a car and drive around.
Funny what can happen behind a windshield. It’s where I got to know Lloyd on a deeper level than just a successful businessperson. I discovered a complex man who could have had lots of reasons not to travel down the path he chose. More obstacles were in his way than most successful businessmen. The only thing handed to him was a name. The rest he built on his own. He showed me what a tremendous man he is: father, husband, leader; and he will always be my mentor.
Marcil is publisher of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and president and chief executive officer of Forum Communications Co., a multimedia information company based in Fargo and which owns dozens of newspapers, websites, television and radio stations, and commercial printing facilities in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.