After reading about the row between the Trump and Biden juniors — namely, on their elevation to grand positions in their Father’s companies — I began to cast my thoughts back to how I got started.
In 1969, my father approached his friend and mentor Paul Leach of Hubert C Leach Ltd to discuss going into Property Development. Paul’s advice, strangely enough, was “don’t do it.”
A few months later, when my father had set up his company, he went back to Paul only to find he’d changed his tune somewhat. This time, he said, “now you’ve done it, how can I help?” As it turned out, Paul didn’t want to be the reason my father started in development, but once that decision had already been made then he was happy to help in any way. That was the beginning of a life-long friendship, business partnership, and mentorship.
I started working on my father’s site labouring in my school holidays. I was full time at eighteen years old. I remember digging trial pits and offloading bricks by hand (demolition stock, no pallets, and no forklifts!). Those days are fond memories. Still, it was difficult working for my father — the boss’s son syndrome was not easy — and over lunch with my father one day, Paul agreed that he would take me on in a training role in his company. And so my father’s mentor became my mentor.
I still remember the interview with one of the Directors of Paul’s company. He asked me question after question until suddenly, 10 minutes into the interview, he stopped and said: “I’ve got no idea why I’m doing this!”. Horrified, my first thought was to wonder how on Earth I’d made a mess of it so quickly. But he went on to tell me that he’d already been told to employ me, and the job was mine if I wanted it.
I worked for five years with Hubert C Leach Limited. They’re no longer running, but they had a good thing going back in the day. There were a few trainees — each learning their profession — but I realised I was lucky. I had training in everything, not just one area. I was trained in setting out, civils, surveying, buying, architecture, and site management. Paul wasn’t a hands-on mentor, but he made sure I had the best start in the industry and the skills to one day run a company of my own. I will always be grateful for that, and most days, I use some of the knowledge I learnt with H. C. Leach.
I’ve cast my mind back to those days recently for more reasons than Biden Jr and Trump Jr. Paul passed away at the beginning of Covid — I was unable to attend the funeral due to the restrictions. I’m glad now that I wrote to him around ten years ago, thanking him for everything (which included being introduced to my wife when working with him.)
Did you ever have a mentor? And what are you grateful to them for today?