For 82-year-old small business owner Newt Malerman, finding his mentor was a serendipitous event. Over the course of his life, Newt had shifted career paths six or seven times without much hesitation. But when faced with a business venture that led him into unchartered waters, he began drowning in his own fear and self-doubt. A mentor came to his rescue and offered him a lifeline.
While Newt had a history of owning small businesses, most of them had been within his comfort zone. His first love was art. He attended art school and after graduation, followed a natural progression. Newt became an artist, an art teacher and eventually, transitioned to become president of a graphic arts/embroidery business. When the business transferred overseas and he lost his job, Newt returned to his first love, opening an art gallery with his wife and fellow artist.
It wasn’t until he found himself in a hospital 11 years ago that his career took an unpredicted turn. Newt was diagnosed with prostate cancer and he found himself in and out of hospitals, undergoing seven different procedures over the course of a decade. His own experiences with hospital stays inspired him to write a book — The Hospital Survivor’s Workbook — to help other patients navigate the complicated health system more painlessly and safely.
A physician got a hold of Newt’s book and contacted him. He said while he loved the book, he had an even better idea. What if Newt could develop a device that would allow people to carry their own personal health records on them? It would save valuable time checking into hospitals/doctor’s offices and allow medical personnel to access information quickly in emergency situations when every second counts.
While Newt liked the idea, he had some serious reservations about it. He felt the technology available was vulnerable to identity theft, and he wasn’t sure how he would market the product. Newt had a friend who happened to be a SCORE mentor and he decided to reach out for advice.
His SCORE mentor listened carefully and was intrigued by Newt’s idea. He offered to do some research and to Newt’s surprise, he came back with full support of the product. His experienced viewpoint served as Newt’s sounding board and helped him determine the appropriate direction to take. Most importantly, he offered creative marketing ideas and he was willing to help for free! This was the push Newt needed.
With the help of his mentor, Newt developed a product called “PHR – Rescue.” It is an innovative software solution that allows people to store personal medical records on a thumb drive. In the event that someone is in an unexpected accident or suddenly admitted to the hospital, “PHR — Rescue” allows emergency medical personnel to access critical information such as first name, blood type, allergies — at the touch of a button. An individual’s full medical history also goes on the thumb drive and physicians with “permission clearance” can easily access and print patient medical records.
In addition, the program provides tips, checklists, and logs to facilitate the best possible health care at every stage of life.
Newt has sent samples of “PHR — Rescue” to several physicians and it has received glowing reviews. He is now preparing to launch the product for national distribution in two weeks.
“I was very pessimistic at the beginning,” said Newt. “I had some very naive ideas about marketing. My limited experience in this area was a handicap and did not allow me to see the potential.”
“After working with my mentor, I no longer feel that way. I am now optimistic about the success of the product and the possibilities,” said Newt. “He helped change my entire outlook.”
A recent survey conducted by The UPS Store found that 88 percent of business owners with a mentor found them to be invaluable.
When it comes to finding a mentor, Newt recommends selecting someone with different strengths than your own, which creates the perfect balance.
“You need to be humble and recognize you can’t be strong in every area of business,” said Newt. “A mentor helps you take a reality check when a crucial decision must be made.”
Though he originally looked at mentorship as a short-term way to get advice, Newt and his mentor have now developed a long-term partnership. Newt has even decided to pay it forward by mentoring others. And just like his product, “PHR—Rescue,” which provides a lifeline to others, Newt hopes that he can provide a lifeline to small business owners.
Celebrate National Mentoring Month this month and join Newt and others like him in becoming a mentor. Every year, SCORE, a nonprofit association dedicated to small business education and mentorship, helps thousands of entrepreneurs start small businesses and achieve new levels of success in their existing businesses. Volunteering with SCORE is a way to give back to your community, connect with fellow business owners, and pass on your knowledge and expertise to the next generation of entrepreneurs in your community.
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