Death of a Mentor

In his book (No True Glory), Bing West shares that to remember is to honor. One of my first mentors, Dr. Henry Simon, died recently so I thought I’d share the three best things he taught me.


Learn, Then Leave

Henry was a senior partner when I joined Schroder Ventures in London and was the quintessential German gentleman.

There was an informal tradition at the firm of the “Henry Breakfast.” As a junior member of the team, when you left the group, Dr. Simon took you out to breakfast. At the breakfast, he asked you what you thought about the firm dynamics; tips for your replacement and shared one thing for you to remember as you continued on your career. It was also a really nice breakfast!  

Henry took me to the Savoy Hotel in London. I can’t remember what I told Henry but I can remember exactly what he told me about my transfer to Asia.

“You’re going to learn a tremendous amount and make a lot of money.  
Remember to leave.”

That’s it.

At the time, it was like a Zen Koan for me. I liked the part about the money, didn’t worry about learning and thought that anyone would be crazy to leave a high paying job. This month is 18 years since the Henry Breakfast and my life has turned out as Dr. Simon predicted.

Learn, Then Leave.


Never Stop

I hit peak weight in London and was not healthy. My Fat Gordo picture was taken from that time (and that’s me looking good in that era).

Henry was the fittest guy in the office, quite the achievement for the oldest partner worldwide. In triathlon circles, we wouldn’t consider him fast but he was strong, lean and able to take weeklong trips whenever he had the time. When asked for his secret, he replied:

“Never Stop.”

I use that advice in my own life (no zeroes) as well as my approach to coaching (never sacrifice tomorrow – consistency trumps – nothing is worth a running injury).

Never Stop.


Success Is Not A Democracy

When I joined the firm, our investment committee consisted of the entire professional staff. Whenever there was an investment to be made, we would meet in the boardroom and share ideas. Picture 25 type-A personalities packed in a boardroom deciding how to allocate capital.

Not many of my current friends knew me in my 20s. Suffice to say that my lack of tact, combined with exuberant confidence, resulted in a change to the way we made decisions! I suppose a 21-year-old Canadian going toe-to-toe with the firm’s Chairman (Baker Scholar, family friend, investing since I was born) – highlighted that it might make sense to consolidate decision making.

Henry put his hand up and pointed out that things weren’t working.  So power was consolidated into the hands of the three Senior Partners and the Investment Committee was restructured.  There was a lot of grumbling and a few bruised egos. But… we made better decisions, everyone made more money, and our lives were more simple.  Henry was ok with being unpopular for the sake of collective benefit, a unique trait.

I’m in charge because I’ve demonstrated that I’m fit for leadership and we will all do better with clear decisions.


To high officials given glory, much from them is expected.

Henry exceeded my expectations.


If I Owned Ironman

The WTC have been on roll the last two years. Last Sunday, on my flight from San Diego to Denver, I asked myself what I’d tweak if I owned Ironman.  Having spent two decades in Private Equity, I guess old habits die hard.  Here are a few things that I think would improve the strategic position of the company.


Maintain Brand Integrity

Wave starts have been an excellent change for 70.3 racing.  They make the swim safer (and less frightening for new athletes).  Waves also spread the fast agegroup men throughout the field – historically we have skewed the female, and our own, results by offering drafting opportunities. Two ideas:

A – test wave starts with full distance racing.  I haven’t raced Louisville but its TT start seems to work.  Challenge Roth moves a lot of people safely through a looped course.  Mass swim starts with 2,600 people are dangerous – even if everyone signs a waiver, do you really want to make the call when an athlete dies.

B – continue to drop hoax races.  Dropping Clearwater for the 70.3 Champs was a good move – a championship series should have hills with a non-wetsuit swim to spread out the best athletes.  If the championship brand identity is truly “the best of the best” then be willing to make less money to preserve the market position.  I’d let the competition run long distance events on flat courses.  Ironman is a great brand.  Ironman Florida is a joke.

I have my doubts about the ability to run non-drafting short course events with integrity.  Unless you’re going uphill for eight miles from the swim start (Boulder 5150), it always packs up.  For this reason, I’d limit the investment in 5150.  Let others struggle with ‘fixing’ short course racing.  Drafting might be a structural feature of that event distance with large field sizes.


The Best of the Best

Sticking with this theme, extend the points system to agegroup racing.  I’ll never race head to head with Andy Potts but I could score as many points as him.  Athletes love rankings and you’ll enjoy the benefits of owning the races that feed into the ranking system.  You can create:

A – an incentive for athletes to race more of your events

B – a barrier to entry for both federations (your ranking competition) and event directors (your race competition)

This keeps Kona special and gives you World Champions & World Ranked athletes.  Better for you and your best ambassadors.  This will increase your revenue per relationship.


Don’t Be Evil

The largest agegroup in last weekend’s Cali 70.3 was the men’s 40-44.  We have jobs, kids and other things to do with our time.  We don’t mind paying $250 to enter the race.  However, taking extra vacation and time away from our families limits the number of events we can do each year.

Reduce the time I spend on site.  Time is my most valuable resource.  Get me in/out of your race with limited overnights.  How to do this:

A – mail shot my registration package // I’ll pay a premium for this

B – speed up awards // There is a lot of deadtime on race day.  See if you can speed that up. // Boise 70.3 seems like an interesting model with all the action on the same day (sign up, race, awards).


When thinking business – consider both your share of time and share of wallet.  Also remember that the complainers will complain regardless of what you do.  Solve the problems of the people you want to retain.

The product is great and its been fun to watch it develop.