Is your mentor hiding right in front of you?

I've now been through 4 or 5 of Houston's famous boom-bust cycles, driven by everything from fast money in oil, real estate,'s and finance.  But, back in my 20's or early 30's those cycles hit me like a freight train.  My early mentors were like a light in the darkness.

At my first real job with an Architect, my boss, Mr. King, took me on and must have seen something in me that was a little different from the room full of interns and recent graduates and seemed to offer me opportunities that really opened my eyes to the practice.  At the age of 20, he took me into meetings, let me spend time with clients, carefully taught me responsibilities beyond my years.  While he worked tirelessly to catch my beginners errors I still failed occasionally.  As embarrassing as that was, it was never catastrophic but the lessons I learned were supreme.  I vowed to pepper Mr. King with as many questions and adopt him as my professional mentor.  It was a brilliant decision, but as I later discovered, he was way ahead of me and had placed himself in that role for some time.  

It wasn't too many years later that I was a self-employed Houston Architect and struggling again to survive the cycle. Someone I admired for their business acumen, Mr. Glaser impressed me as he seemed to move outside the box, and outside the influence of the market ups and downs.  He was not in my industry.  In fact he was importing steel wire and rods from France.  But he was so smart - not just business smart, but street smart.  I decided to ask if he would spend some time with me to help me gain the kind of confidence I admired in him.  He helped me review my numbers, discussed my finances and profit and taught me some basic rules that made a huge difference in my outlook.  It allowed me to deal from a position of strength and confidence with my clients and helped me turn the corner professionally.

As you can see, some mentors put themselves in your path and other are there just for the asking.  Either way, allowing someone with knowledge and experience beyond your own to provide you guidance, can be the best way to increase your professional growth while avoiding the inevitable pitfalls.  Look at your life, your family and your work and pick out those who are successful in ways you admire and ask them to walk along side you for a while.

This is the basis of why I formed Burwell Consulting and why I volunteer in organizations like the SMPS One2One Mentoring program.  Teaching is it's own reward.

William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff.  Bill retired in 2014 and began Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years.   Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas:  Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management.  He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at