Let your mentors know how much they mean to you, while you still can

We all have a handful of people (perhaps even more if we’re fortunate) who have molded our lives and profoundly influenced who we’ve become. They come in various forms: bosses, colleagues, teachers, classmates, friends, acquaintances, family members, and even strangers who leave an indelible mark, permanently altering the course of our careers or life paths.

I recently experienced the loss of one such person, Robert “Bob” Vinette. Bob was my first ‘boss’ after graduating from Engineering School. He possessed a larger-than-life personality, a joyful heart, and a playful disposition that allowed him to see the potential in people and opportunities with youthful enthusiasm and unwavering optimism. His exceptional gift was his unparalleled salesmanship, combined with a personal philosophy of honesty and integrity that was irresistibly captivating and contagious to all who fell under his spell.

While there are countless untold stories that have shaped both me and my colleagues, there are a few classics that I have shared publicly as a professional speaker and entrepreneur to inspire my employees, and would now like to share with you in homage to Bob’s enduring legacy and joie de vivre.

My all-time favorite story, which perfectly encapsulates Bob’s wisdom and persuasive skills, revolves around a period when I was working over 90 hours a week. Being a night owl, I would leave the office in the early morning hours, while Bob, an early bird, would arrive a few hours later to work on his programming before staff showed up…

He had a knack for gauging my departure time by simply touching the still-warm CRT computer screens that retained heat for hours after being switched off!

One morning, as I walked past his office near the front door, he called out to me, “What time did you leave last night?” I responded, somewhat puzzled, “3 AM, why?”

“No reason, have a nice day,” he added.

Perplexed, I turned on my heels and went about my day, trying to make sense of his inquiry.

The next day, upon entering the office, I was greeted with the same request to visit his office, which I obliged. Bob repeated his question from the day before, “What time did you leave the office last night?” I replied, “Around 1 AM, why?”

He probed further, “Why did you leave at 1 AM and not earlier, say midnight?” Confused, I pondered the question and finally declared, “That’s when I finished doing what I needed to get done.”

“Interesting,” he said, concluding with his customary, “Have a nice day.”

Throughout that day, I reflected on the potential significance of his inquiry but failed to arrive at a conclusion.

Later that afternoon, as I was leaving for a client meeting, Bob called out to me, “Hey Marc, can you do me a favor and let me know what you’re planning to work on this evening?” I listed my tasks, and he responded, “By what time do you think you’ll complete all of that?” After considering it for a moment, I replied, “I hope to have an early night and finish around midnight.” He simply said, “Great, have a nice afternoon and evening. See you tomorrow.”

As expected, I worked until midnight that night and left a note on his preferred desktop computer station, saying, “Good morning Bob! I left at midnight. Marc.”

The following morning, as I walked into the office, I didn’t wait to be summoned. I popped my head into his office, about to speak, when he interrupted me, saying, “I saw your note this morning. Thank you. That was a nice, thoughtful gesture!”

He continued, “Here’s what I’d like you to do tonight: Try to complete your work ONE HOUR EARLIER than you think is possible, and let me know how it goes tomorrow… and have a nice day.”

Ah-ha! There it was, what I would eventually recognize as the Socratic Method of teaching, mentoring, and coaching…

The conversation the next day was now in my hands as I confidently declared that I had managed to leave one hour earlier than expected. Bob replied, “Great! Now, what I want you to do NEXT WEEK is to achieve the same outcome every night—reduce the time you spend by one hour each night—so that by Friday, you’re out of here no later than 8 or 9 PM.”


That ONE LESSON served as the foundation for my 1 Percent Improvement Doctrine, constantly striving to enhance my productivity to avoid the lazy approach of allowing work to expand to fill the available time.

Bob could have simply instructed me to work smarter, not harder, but that wouldn’t align with the Socratic Method, which compelled me to learn and internalise the lesson, by and for, myself. He made time-consuming investments in the young minds he hired who were eager to learn, appreciate, and benefit from his guidance.

What was even more significant was that, despite me willingly putting in more than a full-time effort—working beyond my paid 40-hour wage for free—Bob genuinely wanted me to be productive and develop better skills. He knew this would lead to repeated professional successes and that excessive and unproductive work hours were neither sustainable nor desirable as a lifestyle.


In a related vein, Bob reveled in my ambition to take on as much as humanly possible, until I hit a wall. One day, as we crossed paths in the hallway, he added one more task to my already overflowing plate. Frustrated, I pushed back assertively, exclaiming, “I DON’T HAVE TIME!” Calmly, he responded, “Make time,” and walked away.

Aggravated, I followed him and repeated, “Bob! Didn’t you hear me? I don’t have time!!” Perplexed, he asked, “Did you go to the washroom today?” Grudgingly, I replied, “Of course I did!” (silently thinking… WTF?) He then elaborated, “But how could you? You just said you’re too busy…” Asserting myself with a sense of self-righteousness, I declared, “I TOOK the time!” To which he wisely responded, “That’s my point. TAKE the time to MAKE the time for what’s important.”


As cliché as it may sound, this simple yet fundamental lesson has guided me for the past three decades. It has allowed me to be selective about how I allocate my time and to TAKE the time to MAKE the time for my highest and best use activities, in accordance with the Pareto Principle to avoid being busy for the sake of it.

When I started my career in sales, I was struggling because I thought people thought I was too young. At a trade show, I vented my frustrations to Bob, implying that his persuasive abilities stemmed from his title as President of the company.

When the next prospect entered our booth, Bob approached him confidently and declared, “Hello, thank you for visiting our booth! My name’s Bob, and I joined the company a few weeks ago with my colleague Marc (pointing to me). Our boss, the President of the company, is away on a lunch break… I hope I can answer your questions.” He proceeded to address each of the prospect’s inquiries with remarkable technical prowess, truth be told, converting him into a client a few weeks later.

I was dumbfounded by his masterful display of salesmanship. Bob embodied the essence of professional selling: People buy from those they trust. I learned firsthand that if you can proficiently and honestly address their concerns, you will win over every prospect who should rightfully be your client.


At another trade show, our display booth happened to be positioned diagonally across from our top competitor. I quipped to Bob that it was unfortunate bad luck. To my surprise, he beckoned their top salesman to come over, and he did! Bob introduced me, then proceeded to give the competitor a complete demonstration of our latest piece of equipment.

I was shocked and bewildered… WTF?

After the competitor left, I hurried over to Bob, demanding, “WTF was that all about?” Wise as ever, he replied, “If you’re afraid of what the competition has to offer, you’re dead in the water. You must make the most of what you have. By openly sharing our capabilities, we also get to learn about their strengths. Ultimately, the best sales team prevails!”


Last but certainly not least, Bob had a generous approach to rewarding high achievers for their efforts. Within a year, under his expert tutelage, I doubled my income by earning generous sales commissions. I acknowledged his generosity at the time and have since made sure to reward high achievers working with me in a similar fashion, commensurate with their above-average performance.

Bob had a talent for identifying and investing in ambitious, hardworking young individuals who went on to achieve great success in their professional and academic careers. At least three of us went on to earn doctoral degrees!

I’m eternally grateful and appreciative of Bob’s generosity, and I made sure he understood the significance of his impact on my career, expressing my gratitude on numerous occasions throughout my journey.

If you have individuals like Bob in your life, those who selflessly invested in your personal or professional growth, I implore you to reach out and let them know how grateful and appreciative you are before it’s too late. Those shared moments will be priceless and timeless for both of you. Saying it once is simply not enough.

We only get one shot at life, and Bob’s legacy is leaving the world a better place because of his indomitable spirit, inspiring others to become the best versions of themselves while having fun.

Speaking of having fun, I recall one final story from another trade show in Toronto. Bob and his colleague, Darryl from Vancouver, hopped into his car and drove 4 ½ hours down the 401 highway to Montreal, a 9-hour round trip, just to eat a classic smoked meat sandwich from Schwartz’s!

Without missing a beat, a broad grin on his face, sporting his trademark curly mustache, Bob recounted their culinary excursion the next morning as if it were totally normal… which, for him, it absolutely was.

Rest in peace, Bob. You are dearly missed but will never be forgotten.

1 Response to “Let your mentors know how much they mean to you, while you still can”

  • Marc, I really enjoyed reading all these stories and pieces of wisdom that you picked up from my dad! I’m happy he had such an impact on you personally and professionally ☺️ He was definitely a wonderful human, and dad. Thank you for sharing!

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