I met Gordon Bernhardt after being interviewed for the Executive Leaders Radio show from which this volume is derived. Gordon graciously asked how he could help with my initiatives at George Washington University (GW), where I am the Executive Director for Entrepreneurship. I saw an opportunity to tap into his powerful network of successful executives to serve as mentors to the aspiring young entrepreneurs with whom I work. This partnership has proven to be very valuable for the success of our GW Entrepreneurs Roundtable (GWERT) Mentors (www.gwertmentors. org) program.

Mentorship is a common and recurring theme in the profiles of many of the successful entrepreneurs and executives in this volume. You often hear of how the right insight or advice at a critical moment completely changed the path of a young person’s career. Dick Fordham, for example, shares how some simple advice from his mentor at IBM to stop “trying too hard” and “just be yourself” helped him overcome an obstacle in getting promoted there.

But it’s tough to find people willing to be mentors. Successful people are usually busy people, and being a good mentor requires a real commitment of time and effort. In her profile, Kathryn Freeland describes how she struggled through her life’s journey without any mentors to help guide her. Realizing how important mentorship could have been for her, she’s turned around and written a book to help provide the advice to young entrepreneurs that she wished she’d had.

While being a mentor is not an easy thing to do, it is critical for ensuring the success of our next generation of entrepreneurs and business leaders. Fortunately, giving back is not something foreign to the people profiled in this volume. Todd Leibrand, for example, is the founder of BEST Kids, a program for DC kids who have been abused or neglected, attaching them to a long-term mentor that will stay with them throughout their childhood and help them overcome the trauma they have experienced. John Backus is a volunteer for the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) program run by GW, the University of Maryland, and Virginia Tech here in the Mid-Atlantic region. The I-Corps program trains university researchers and their graduate students to commercialize their research and inventions through entrepreneurship. Mentors play a central role in the training, and John provides valuable coaching from his unique perspective as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist.

Thanks to the efforts of Gordon Bernhardt and the executives profiled in this and earlier volumes in the Profiles of Success series, we are able to learn more about the challenges and victories leading up to their impressive successes. These are fascinating and inspirational stories that I recommend to my students, as they provide great lessons by example. Luckily for us, not only have these busy executives been willing to tell their stories, but many have also been willing to get directly involved in giving back to the next generation as mentors.

James Chung

Executive Director for Entrepreneurship
George Washington University
www.gwu.edu/discover/discover iesinnovations/entrepreneurship

James Chung is the Executive Director for Entrepreneurship at George Washington University where he works to foster innovation and shepherd budding ideas into reality. Prior to joining GW, Chung served as the director of the VentureAccelerator program at the University of Maryland’s Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute, where he helped launch seven companies, which have raised millions of dollars in funding and revenues, hired dozens of employees during the recession and claimed international prizes. He also served as director of the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, working with the state’s Department of Natural Resources to invest $250,000 annually in Maryland-based environmental tech startups.