Missing My Mentor: Bill Manby (1942-2013)

Bill_Manby1-e13814155278801.jpgI was privileged to have had Bill Manby as a business partner and mentor during the heady days of the Dot-Com Boom (and bust!) in Silicon Valley. I don’t know how we met — California’s Monterey peninsula was a small place — but it quickly became clear that we made a great team. His gray-haired wisdom perfectly counter-balanced my youthful exuberance. We formed Monterey Venture Partners in 1999.

Over the next  few years Bill taught me important lessons about business and about life — lessons that I have carried ever since.

Here’s my favorites:

“Never Let ’em See You Sweat”.  
I used to get so frustrated with small setbacks, impossible assignments, and life in general… Bill was always there to calm me down and to remind me that perception is reality. He taught me both in word and in deed that a true professional takes the complexity out of a situation, tackles the challenges, and reports back to the customer with a simple solution and a giant smile.  It’s amazing how far that single piece of advice will get you.

“Fake It Till You Make It” 
We spent a couple years (or so it now seems) trying to launch a giant venture capital fund —  despite our total lack of experience in the industry.  The fact that we had no idea what we were doing never stood in our way: Bill would simply smile and remind me that we’d figure it out eventually… and in the meantime, we’d “fake it”…. by which he meant we’d ignore our self-doubt, put on a brave face, and learn it as we went.  In truth, is there really any other way?  We’re all making this up as we go along — so if you’re not willing to “fake it” for a while, you’re not going to accomplish much of anything.

“Don’t Weigh-Out Before You Cube-Out” 
From Bill’s days in logistics for Frito Lay, he knew that a truck can only carry a certain amount of product: Sometimes that’s limited by weight and sometimes by volume. So, quite literally, you don’t want the weight of a box to keep you from stuffing more boxes into a truck.  Bill managed to work this analogy into a million different conversations. It was his way of reminding us to keep an eye on the things that really mattered, to put the effort into those things that had real value, and to manage the whole process with an eye on the end game.

You might think those are cliche – and you’re right that anyone can repeat a catchy phrase.  But what made Bill so amazing to me was how well he lived these same values. He was eternally optimistic, continually learning, and genuinely caring about the most important things in his life.  No matter when we spoke — even as his 6-year battle with cancer drained his energy — I never heard Bill complain.  He had no room in his life for the negative or dull. Every day was an opportunity to learn and to teach, to share and to laugh.

I started missing Bill the moment I handed him my key to the office we shared and got in the car to move ‘back east”… but I miss him so much more now, just knowing that he’s not out on the golf course — a phone call away.

Few people have affected me as deeply as Bill, or taught me as much. The only way I know to honor him is to pass along his deep kindness and caring to each person I meet.

But even if you never see me sweat … and even if I fake it like a pro … and even if I cube out every time… I know that I will spend my life trying to be just half the man he was.

Here’s to you Bill.

Originally Published

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