Otis Winters: My Sam

Everyone who chooses a career in business needs someone to help them navigate the unknown shoals.

I was a naive young man starting a new company and tended to believe everything I was told. Fortunately, a wise man crossed my path. He was the senior partner of a regional accounting firm and became the Chairman of my Board of Directors.

He was approximately the same age as my father and like most young men, I found it easier to talk to him than my dad. As a professional accountant he had seen many situations, people and companies. He was the perfect counselor for me and helped me on many occasions.

One in particular, however, stands out.  

One day I had become very upset with one of our suppliers because I thought their sales vice president had reneged on a verbal commitment he had given me about the price of a critical component. He said I had misunderstood what he said.

I went to my mentor, torn between anger and disappointment, to seek his advice before I called a lawyer. Once again his wisdom and experience taught me two great business principles for the price of one visit.

First, he said, “be careful how you listen because too often you hear what you want to hear.”

Second, “always commit your agreements to paper as quickly as possible.”

But, I said, “that means the other party does not trust me and I always do what I say because my word is my bond.”

“It may be,” my chairman said, “but written agreements between gentlemen merely remind them of what they said.”

I knew instantly he was right and perhaps I had misunderstood what had been said. It is important to have mentors, but even better to learn from them.


  1. dear john and corby,

    this is such a fantastic idea for a book, and i
    can’t wait to read it.

    i loved reading otie’s mentor moment.

    we miss you guys!


  2. Lea:

    Thanks so much. You can purchase the book here or at FUMC in Tulsa at The Bookworm.

    God Bless


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