Mentorship in a time of crisis: Our Q&A with David Jones

With the right mindset, a crisis can be an opportunity. There is no greater time to learn, plan and change. For David Jones, it was a chance to thrive. 

During the Great Recession, Jones was CEO of Peak 10, a data-center company he founded about a decade prior. While other businesses laid off employees and shut their doors, Jones stayed the course and Peak 10 turned the corner. In 2010, the business was acquired for $410 million, and the Charlotte Business Journal chose David as its “Business Person of the Year.”  Under his leadership the company had a second exit in 2014 and Jones had managed investment relationships with five private equity firms over the span of his Peak 10 leadership. He continues to serve on the company’s board of directors.

Today, David has remained committed to helping entrepreneurs chart a path for long-term success, and we’re proud to have him as chairman of the INCLT Board. With the COVID-19 pandemic bearing down on our community, we asked him to weigh in on the role of mentorship here and now.

Tell us about a time when someone offered you mentorship during a challenging time, or a time when you were able to offer critical advice and support to an entrepreneur or business leader. 

David Jones and Kevin Geriunas, founder of Advent Coworking

I have spent time with founders and leadership of several companies in the last 30 days related to perspectives in this time of uncertainty and instability. In essence, having guided my company (then Peak 10, now Flexential) through the downturn in the 2008 time period, I have been able to share insight about planning on a customer, employee and overall financial perspective. That boiled down to over communicating, listening intently and sharing the steps you are taking to protect each area. An important step is to gather your key players and engage them to think differently about the current state and future of your business. Throw out actionable ideas that will help formulate your next steps for the short and longer term. Keep your team close and focused.

What are your thoughts on the role of mentors in the current uncertain reality? Why are they important, and is now a time to engage your mentor/mentee on a deeper level? 

A mentor must take this situation very seriously and put his or herself in the shoes of the individual they are working with. I use the term “listen intently” because that is what you must do in order to be a guide and to have the full picture of the stresses the company leader is dealing with.

What advice would you give to entrepreneurs in our community right now? 

Keep focus on your customers and employees and understand their needs. Take care of your best in ways that are meaningful as best you can, and that doesn’t mean just financially.

What’s the most important thing you’d like to help INCLT accomplish in these uncertain times? 

Remain a resource for the members.

Being a resource for members will, in turn, support our community as a whole. Olga Muller, director of operations for local software development company Kepler Team, has seen that firsthand, both as part of a startup and as a member of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem in Charlotte. “No business or founder can succeed in isolation. Success requires a collaborative approach and help from those who have been there and done that when it comes starting and building companies.”  

If you’d like to support entrepreneurs in our community, consider the INCLT Venture Mentoring Service. We are currently accepting applications for both mentors looking to give back and founders in need of guidance. Learn more here