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Words of Experience and Wisdom from Treasure Valley Leaders

Article by Editorial Staff

Photography by Provided

Originally published in Meridian Lifestyle

With business experience comes a great deal of wisdom, and those who have been in business for any length of time can tell you that learning always comes before success. So, to help get the next generation of business leaders set on the right path, Meridian Lifestyle asked local leaders to consider their own unique perspectives and share their best advice for those just starting out.


Ryan Heuser 

Founder, President | Paul Frank Industries 

Owner | Coffee and Supply Co
I’d always felt a strong pull towards my creative side but didn’t know it could be a potential path to an actual career. I was never told it was an option as a kid.  After graduating college and listening to my heart, I eventually started a clothing company from my garage in the mid 90’s called Paul Frank. Looking back I think a couple keys to my success were: 1. Being naive - which lead to risks perhaps I would not have taken but didn’t know otherwise 2. Perfecting my craft - spending countless hours refining and designing. 3. Not accepting the word “No” at any point along my journey. Now go get yours!

Gary McCracken

Owner | Clothesline Cleaners

Your first job might not be one that is in line with your dreams and goals for a career, but any first job is a great start on personal development.  It may feel like doing chores at home, but the pay is better and it is a great way to learn how to work with a team, time management, and respect for authority.  If you choose a career or life path that benefits others and makes you happy, you are fortunate. It is ok to change your mind and re-direct your path, but whatever you do, be honest with yourself and others, handle yourself and others with respect and integrity, and above all, follow through with your obligations.


Mike Kirby 

Vice President / Branch Lending Manager-Treasure Valley | First Federal Bank

“Be kind, always.” You never know what is happening in someone else’s world and what could be driving their behavior, good or bad. Approaching every interaction with a mindset of kindness will set you up for success both personally and professionally. In tandem with a compassion for others, he also raised me with certain core values that I now call “The 5 F’s”: family, faith, finance, fitness, and fun. These 5 foundations can be incorporated into any kind of lifestyle to fit your particular needs, and once established they will always steer you in the right direction. Striving towards personal and professional fulfillment can start today, no matter what stage of life you find yourself in. One goal, one “F” at a time.

Joe Borton

Council Member | Meridian City

For me, I get to work early, 4 or 5 am is common.  I want to get work in while my competition is asleep.  It is how I developed the trait that will get you where you want to be (wherever that is): grit.  You will find it sooner or later because you have to learn how to survive and thrive.   You will fail and fall down; we all do.  When that happens, some complain, others get up.  Get up.  Celebrate that you do without excuses and drive on; that is grit that will bring you success (and surround yourself with folks who have it).  Until then, remember that you are better than nobody, and nobody is better than you.

Mike McLean

Senior Loan Officer | Academy Mortgage
For someone considering the mortgage business as a career, I would say that you need to be willing to accept the risk of being on commissions only, and the fact that there will be periods of high and low incomes. Find a mentor, or a company that has a robust training program. You also need to love people, and understand that it’s a “sales” type industry. You need to build and maintain relationships, and give the best service possible to retain those partnerships. Another benefit is that you have flexibility in your work hours, so you’ll have time for family, and time for yourself. I keep balanced by enjoying Idaho’s great outdoors with my wife and best friend, Kerri.

Patrick Clayton
Director of Mortgage Lending | Horizon Credit Union

Your thoughts become your reality. Have you heard the saying, “If you can think it, you can achieve it?” It’s true. When you have nothing to think about, what are you thinking? Take advantage of your thought process, it’s free! You can imagine anything you want at no cost. This is especially important while you’re young and planning for the future. As you think, you begin to plan. As you plan, you begin to strategize. As you strategize, you start to put pieces together. As these pieces come together you create an opportunity for execution. If your imagination is laced with positivity and encouraging thoughts, it will naturally create exceptional ideas that can only lead you on a successful journey.

Ryland Mauck-Duff

Entrepreneur/Founder | Elevated Hydration 

As an individual entering the workforce or wanting to excel, look to develop a strong and diverse network. You never know where a handshake, an introduction, or a business card will lead you or when it will become valuable. Networking has been one of the most valuable tools in my entrepreneurial career. I also believe in setting realistic and achievable, short and long term, goals. Goals are great tools to help guide your decision making, time allocation and career direction. If you want to learn a skill or further your education outside of the traditional schooling path there is a resource that can help you. I have a degree in nursing but in business I’m entirely self taught through research and engaging experienced mentors.

Jim Sterk

Multi Store General Manager | Lithia Ford

Don’t ever think if it as “just a job”….whatever it may be…you have now become the CEO of yourself and your future. At every moment of your post school professional life you’re writing your resume. How you perform your assigned duties and day to day tasks are written in the memory of your employer…your resume. Honesty, be honest to yourself and your abilities. Loyalty, be loyal to your employer, employers will reciprocate. Accountability, be accountable for your actions good or bad. Respect…yourself and your abilities, understand your peers, and certainly your supervisor and their decisions. Treat your peers and your employer as you would like to be treated… and always that which is fair for one is fair for all…no matter their stature. Write your resume, everyday.

J. Tyler Gilman

Real Estate Sales & Consulting | Group One Sotheby's International Realty
As Jen and I raised our four children and the subject of choosing good friends came up, we told them that their character would evolve from the average of the 5 people they spend the most time with. They didn’t always like hearing that! You must constantly choose the hard path of placing yourself in circumstances with the right people where the greatness in you is drawn out by those you associate with. They will cause you to strive and seek strengths that you didn’t know you had. And then, when the opportunity is right, you must give back. You will derive great pleasure in helping others along your path.

Tony Knipe

GM/ Exec. Chef | Edge Brewing co.

As I come to a mark of 30 years in food service, I have reflected on how I got to the place I am at today. Striving to learn new skills along my journey has given me the knowledge and skill to create a fun, exciting, albeit challenging career. This industry was originally a job like any other; show up on time, do my best, and get a paycheck. As I gained more knowledge and experience, I found my passion. I learned as much as possible, and I wanted to be the best I could be. Find what you love, nurture your passions, and have the drive to commit.

Earl Sullivan

Owner & Winemaker | Telaya Wine Co.
Careers don’t make a person and they won’t truly define you.  How you live your life and treat those around you define your potential for success.  Money comes and goes and careers may rise and fall - but how you handle these challenges will define your legacy.  Doing something for money, status or recognition will lead to a never-ending treadmill - and when success is elusive, it can be crushing.  However, if you focus on leadership (not management), treating customers and employees as you would treat your family (assuming you like your family) and strive daily to be the best version of yourself, you are more likely to be happy, healthy, successful, respected and a leader that can inspire change.

Mark T. Houston

President & CEO | Bright Bank

As I look back over my 38-year career in banking I am asked frequently for my advice on career and life.  It’s simple.  Put family first!  Take that time to be with the people that matter most because you will never get those times back.  Don’t be in a hurry.  Slow down and find your passion.  You have your whole life ahead of you and it does go by fast.  Don’t chase the dollars and title.  Remember you will always be learning so take time to develop that breadth and depth of experience.  Be passionate, focused, consistent, and live your life serving others with honesty, integrity, character, and empathy.  And at the end of the day, never lose sight of what’s important …family.” Bright.Bank