JOHNSBURG – Johnsburg resident Gary Rabine never would've gotten where he is in business if it wasn't for the help and guidance of many mentors along the way.
Rabine, founder and CEO of Schaumburg-based Rabine Group, wanted to share the secrets of his success with others. So, he created True Mentors, a program that brings together powerful business executives with budding entrepreneurs.
“The biggest reason for my success is mentoring,” he said. “This is invaluable to me. I want to help others, and I want people to have an easier time finding mentors. My goal is to build up a mentorship network with mentors from different industries.”
The Rabine Group is a $210 million dollar conglomerate of 11 companies. It includes Rabine Paving, which does commercial and residential paving throughout the Chicago area, and Rabine Paving America, a business that paves parking lots for large companies across the country.
Rabine said he still frequently speaks to his mentors, who he described as some of the best minds in the paving industry.
“Some are in their 70s and 80s, and I still call them up to talk about business,” he said. “I learned a lot from them. They’re the smartest people in pavement engineering and best in the field in concrete paving. I picked out mentors who challenged me to be better at different things.”
Rabine last year started True Mentors, matching young professionals and entrepreneurs from various industries with one of the program’s 35 mentors.
Each mentor are encouraged to share their business experiences, both good and bad, with three or four different mentees during an in-person meeting or 30-minute phone call at least once a month.
“It’s just sharing experiences,” Rabine said. “That’s the key to great mentoring. I’ve learned the most from the bad experiences – when you get knocked down, how do you get back up.”
Many mentors come from prominent positions within numerous industries, including finance, media, real estate, technology and others. Now a financial adviser, former Chicago Bears tight end Desmond Clark joined True Mentors along with Emerson Spartz, founder and CEO of Spartz Inc. and Spartz Media. Mike Smith, a vice president with UBS Financial who chairs the McHenry County College board, also mentors with the group.
Butch Pintozzi, president of International Decorators Inc., became involved with True Mentors because of his experiences with his own mentors throughout his career. He said he hopes his mentees can learn from his experience and apply the information to specific situations they face.
Diana Peterson, president and co-founder of SVN AuctionWorks, a real estate auction company and brokerage firm, said she hopes her mentees learn how to identify opportunities and use them to create their own network.
“Mentorship is all about creating opportunity for someone who is motivated and ready to take new opportunities and run with them,” she said. “It’s exciting and energizing. I know that a good mentor can change the life path of a mentee for the better with very little effort and time.”
Long before running a multi-million dollar company, Rabine began paving driveways as a student at Richmond Burton High School. He loved the work, so he and his father began Rabine Paving in the 1980s, servicing Lake and McHenry counties.
Rabine Paving grew into a $6 million company within the six years after Rabine bought out his father in 1993. Primarily focusing on parking lots, the company's biggest clients today include Home Depot, Lowe's, Walgreens and Walmart. Along with Rabine Paving America, the two companies are worth about $40 million.
A True Mentor himself, Rabine said the mentors benefit by becoming part of a network with other professionals, while mentees gain access to leaders and CEOs who typically aren't accessible through other mentoring organizations.
Professionals have to pay $1,500 and go through a screening process to join as a mentor. Mentees pay $15 a month. Young professionals, MBA students or entrepreneurs are invited to apply. Once accepted, they can choose a mentor best suited for them going off mentors’ profiles.
“It’s a lot of fun, and I always liked the ability to reach out to people,” Rabine said. “I’m constantly learning a lot about business and a lot about life. Some of my best friends in the world are because of mentoring. It’s really nice to have people you can reach out to in confidence and know you’ll have their support.”