A Tribute To My First CEO Mentor, Bob Yopko

Have you ever worked out with a friend or a coach who pushed you to make that one extra lift or run that one extra mile?  Did you work out harder and get more out of it, than you would have done if you were by yourself?  

I had a boss like that once.  His name was Bob Yopko.  He was my first CEO mentor.  At the time, I did not realize what was happening.  But the man changed my life!

I worked under Bob for 10 years at Emerson, a fortune 500 company. We worked together to build up the Emerson technology services business.  I started as Bob’s Director of Marketing, and then spent 10 years taking on more responsibility and growing under Bob’s direction until he retired. I then moved to Europe to become President of Emerson Services Europe (my first President role) and then President of North America (600 people and $150M business).  I led the way Bob taught me, focusing on being a team-oriented, high-quality, impactful executive.

Bob Yopko left us on May 12, 2019.  He walked away with God.  My heart felt compelled to write this article to tell you about this man and what he meant to me, and I know, many, many others.

Bob and I did things together. Do you have a boss like that? We learned together.  We had fun together.  We challenged the status quo together.  We acquired companies together. I was able to be honest and show my weaknesses and learn from Bob. Bottom line for Emerson is that we achieved financial growth and results.  For me as a leader, Bob challenged me and pushed me into projects that I was not even sure I could do!  He believed in me.  And that made me strive to learn more and want to be better.  I made mistakes.  I share them openly in my new book because I want future business leaders to learn from my strengths and my weaknesses.  Bob taught me this.

My relationship with Bob started right at the first interview.  Bob was interviewing for a Director of Marketing and I was in final-round interviews.  We were to meet at a hotel lobby in Philadelphia.  When he arrived, I had the front desk and bellmen escort him to a room that I had rented.  My presentation was queued up and ready.  When he walked into the room, I brought the energy, and I focused on presenting Bob with thoughtful ideas on growing his business.  He was expecting a regular interview and instead, well the rest is history.  We would go on to work together for 10 years growing U.S. and international technology service businesses. 

Bob always said, “Marketing is the engine of the company.”  Of course I loved that because that is where I started.  And that’s what he expected me to do for his team.  To provide energy and ideas and execution that would take us to new places, new services and products, and higher growth rates.  And we did it!  I was at his funeral this past weekend and his son told me ‘Gary, my dad told me you were the best marketer he ever met.’  That means a lot to me because I respected Bob so much, and I am sure that some of my current core views on marketing were molded by Bob: 

1. I believe that marketing is about building a relationship with your customer, and being a valued resource to them. 

2. I believe that the number one marketing question a CEO should get the answer to, is: ‘When my customer experiences my product or service, do they love it?’

I asked some of the people at the funeral, ‘What were your favorite Bob Yopko quotes or memories’.  It’s an amazing list.  Innovative, always pushing, respected by his bosses, and family-oriented.   I watched all of this up close. It was like learning under a legend.  Bob led with Christian values.  He was caring and unselfish.  He never took the accolades.  He would give them back to all of us. 

I am so grateful to have experienced this special leader.  I never dreamed of being a CEO, until I met Bob Yopko – and watched him do it so elegantly and effectively.  He impacted so many people.  I should have treasured it more than I did at the time.  Sometimes it is only in looking back and reflecting – that we gain a true perspective of the impact of what happened to us. 

This dedication is to you, Bob.  Rest in peace my good friend. (Well, I know you won’t be resting!)

‘Bob, it was under your direction that I first learned

how great leaders build great companies.’

Gary Ross

The bottom line is this: Your boss should take you on a journey.  A journey to new challenges in new markets and new roles that you might not have pursued on your own. 

Do you have a boss who believes in you?  Who pushes you?  Treasure it.

How about a spouse who does the same?  You are so, so lucky.

What about a coach?  Dedicate yourself to where they push you.

Build these relationships all around your life and respond to their push, and you will conquer challenges – and lead your team all the way to the top!


Ready to explore your potential?

  1. 1-on-1 Coaching: Gary has implemented the ideas above successfully with his own teams, and he is actively refining them today with his CEO coaching customers. Can we help you implement positive results in your company? Contact Gary directly: gary@inspireyourselftoday.com
  2. Learn at your own pace: Join The Growth Cube Academy – a training school for small business CEOs that includes 20-minute video workshops conducted by Gary that you can listen to at your leisure, and focus in on specific topics.
  3. Think – Order Gary’s book, The Growth Cube, or join Gary’s newsletter and stay up-to-date with new successful models and tools!
  4. Learn more about how Gary is applying these principles real-time in his startup company. Go to www.woundwiseIQ.com and sign up to see a demo or invest in Gary’s AI and imaging analytics software products that help improve patient wound healing.