After 34 years of working to bring products like Glide Dental Floss and Gore-Tex Fabric to life, Gordon McGregor has decided to retire and shift his focus to new projects and innovations.
McGregor grew up in Delaware and earned a degree in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University. Since then, he’s had an impressive career facilitating product launches and working on innovative technology for well-known companies such as DuPont and Gore. His passion for startups and innovation led him to become a mentor for students and faculty that want to take their technological innovation or business idea to the next step at Horn Entrepreneurship.
In his free time, McGregor enjoys sail boating and power boating on the Chesapeake with his family, biking, spending time outdoors, and working on old cars, specifically BMWs, with his sons. He emphasized his fondness for learning and figuring things out, and aspires to learn guitar in some of his newly acquired free time.
“Every team’s plan has to be specialized and unique to their idea and process. There isn’t ever one plan or model that works for every business or idea.”
Getting to Know Gordon
How did your Mechanical Engineering degree give you a different perspective or unique approach to handling the business side of things?
Well a large focus of mechanical engineering is how things fit together and how to follow through with the right steps to make things work, so engineering probably helped me when it came to piecing things together and figuring out what needed to be done to move forward with a product or an idea.
What made you decide to become a mentor?
When I left my last job and decided I didn’t need to be working anymore I started to think about how I wanted to spend my time, and I found that I felt a lot of energy anytime I spoke with friends or associates about startups and entrepreneurship. So I looked into a few different mentoring programs in the area and I ended up choosing Horn. Now I’m mentoring a handful of teams with different ideas and a lot of energy; They keep me thinking and give me the chance to continue learning while helping them, so it’s a lot of fun.
What drew you to Horn’s program specifically?
I think Horn was the most organized program I came across, and I liked that there was a lot of independent activity going on. They put together a well run program and I think the different things they offer come together really well, so that really interested me.
How would you explain your role as a mentor and what that entails?
Lots of creative folks have ideas, but there’s a lot of complexity involved in having an idea and then being able to actually make money off it. One of the things I’ve been trying to do is help [mentorees] make their ideas a reality, so whether it be giving them the information they need to take their idea to the next step or teaching them tools and techniques that they'll need to succeed long term, I’m here to provide them with that help. Another big part of what I’m trying to do is figure out where each team is in their own process and help specialize a plan for them so that they understand their biggest uncertainties and how to address them in order to successfully move to the next step.
Do you feel mentoring has changed your perspective or methodology at all?
I think I’m still trying to figure out how to manage all these projects and teams at once. All of the teams I work with have unique ideas and are at different stages in their processes, so right now I’m working on finding the balance between helping them all and giving them all the attention they deserve.
What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to a young entrepreneur or innovator reading this?
Don’t assume you know anything. Think about your idea and the process as a journey of learning. Get out and talk to everyone you can. The biggest waste of energy is when someone has an idea and they work out all the steps for their plan, but they never go out and actually talk to people. You could have everything ready to go, but people may not have any interest in what you’re making. So before wasting all your time perfecting every step of your plan, make sure you go out and talk to people so you can understand if there’s a market for it or not. And always continue to learn.
About Horn Entrepreneurship
Horn Entrepreneurship serves as the creative engine for entrepreneurship education and advancement at the University of Delaware. Currently ranked among the best entrepreneurship programs in the US, Horn Entrepreneurship was built and is actively supported by successful entrepreneurs, empowering aspiring innovators as they pursue new ideas for a better world.