Even after nearly four decades in nonprofit administration, Scott Lewis knows there’s more to learn and that he can become a better leader.
In pursuit of that growth, the president and CEO at the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids applied a year ago to Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring, an organization that Mike Jandernoa started a decade ago to mentor business leaders. Jandernoa is the founder and Chairman of 42 North Partners who served as CEO of Perrigo Co. plc from 1988 to 2000.
“I want to be a life-long learner,” said Lewis, who’s run the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids since January 2016 and had been looking for mentoring and coaching locally. “This is an opportunity to really formalize some learning in an informal setting because I don’t think I know it all. I know my industry, I know my business, and I know this organization. That doesn’t mean I know everything about Grand Rapids and I know everything about business. It’s really important to continue to learn from people who have been successful, as well as people who are still learning.”
Lewis connected with Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring after talking to two of the organization’s board members who said they were pushing to expand the program to nonprofit executives. When that occurred last year, Lewis applied and was one of the first two nonprofit executives admitted to the three-year mentoring program.
The program matched Lewis with Mark Murray, the former president and current vice chairman of Meijer Inc. who also served as president of Grand Valley State University from 2001 to 2006 and as Michigan’s state treasurer from 1999 to 2001 under then-Gov. John Engler.
“I was really looking for a coach, and I liked the idea that it was local and would allow not only for my network to expand, but to have that person be … someone who knew West Michigan,” said Lewis, who also credited the program for organizing a cohort of business executives.
“I have a one-on-one mentor relationship and I also have a group of people that we can network with and start to become supportive of each other,” he said. “There’s a lot of smart businessmen and women in West Michigan, and the opportunity to get that networking from people in my classes is pretty cool.”
A decade of mentoring
Now in its 11th year, Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring has graduated 77 business executives from banking, health care, manufacturing, technology and other sectors. The program provides mentoring to executives who are running a growing private company with at least $1 million in annual revenue, want to improve their leadership skills, and see significant growth potential for the business and want to grow professionally.
Participants are matched with mentors who presently lead or have retired from companies that have at least $5 million in revenue.
In recent years, the organization has been seeing more applicants who are the next generation leadership of family-owned businesses.
Enrollees are often looking to take a family-owned business that their parents started and the previous generation’s ideas “to the next level,” Jandernoa said.
“It’s that ecosystem that we’ve been blessed with, with so many family businesses here in West Michigan that we want to not only maintain, but hopefully we take to another level. In order to take it to another level, we have to make sure that we’re providing that opportunity for the present CEO to be the best leader they can be, both inside their business and our community,” he said.
Expansion to nonprofit
Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring accepts 10 mentees each year. Program officials decided in 2020 to include nonprofit executives as a pilot that opened to executives running organizations with at least $2.5 million in annual revenue.
Jandernoa views the nonprofit sector as an essential part of the region’s economic base.
“If we’re going to have a strong community here in West Michigan, which is what we want, a very vibrant community, we need strong nonprofits,” he said. “We need them to be very successful going forward if the community’s going to grow and be the best that it can be.”
Since forming the mentorship program, Jandernoa wanted to include nonprofit executives — either as a different program, a separate cohort or alongside for-profit executives. Directors chose the third option, he said.
“So many of the issues that nonprofit leaders are dealing with in regards to employees, training, growing, talent attraction, as well as financial responsibilities are very similar to for-profits,” Jandernoa said. “It’s the same for the majority of the work and activity as we talk about retention, succession, financial stability, and risk profile. All of those aspects are very similar between the two.”
The main difference is the need for nonprofits to raise contributions to support their organizations, which is an area that the pilot covers, he said.
By enrolling in Jandernoa Entrepreneurial Mentoring, Lewis saw an opportunity to learn from other nonprofit leaders about fundraising as well as from his for-profit counterparts on how to gauge and measure success. He cites revenue streams as an example: About 80 percent of the YMCA’s revenue is “earned” or generated by membership fees. The rest comes from fundraising and contributions, Lewis said.
“If there’s some earned revenue in the model, I think it’s very important for nonprofit leaders to see how for-profit leaders run their business,” he said. “The metrics are different, but it really makes you think: ‘Why am I measuring my metrics the way I am? Is there something that I could be doing differently and that I can learn from these guys?’”
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