UNIONDALE, New York - As project manager for a large sign company on Long Island, New York, Phil Bono sizes-up buildings for awnings.
But it didn't take a tape measure for him to figure out that what goes around, definitely comes around.
"I just always liked to help people or bring them to the next level," Bono said.
One of the people he has mentored over the years is Oscar Valle. Back in the 90s, Phil had his own sign company and Oscar was a 17-year-old immigrant with virtually no job skills whatsoever. But Phil hired him anyway and taught him the business.
"He asked questions, he was inquisitive, so I shared all my stuff with him," Bono said.
That worked just fine for Valle. "It opened my eyes for me to see beyond what I was used to," said Valle. "That's what he did for me."
Phil mentored Oscar for a couple years, but then lost touch after he sold his old sign company in 2002. He moved to Florida, tried some other businesses, but ended up pretty much broke.
He moved back to New York a couple years ago looking to start over, and that's when he met the owner of a sign company, who, like Phil, has always believed a good hard worker just needs a chance.
"I see the potential he has," Valle said of Bono, laughing. "I see the potential in him."
That's right. The student has become the master. Today, Valle not only owns his own sign business, he's building it into a national brand. It's now a multimillion-dollar company. How much of the success does Valle credit to his old mentor? "Everything."
Valle says he can't thank Bono enough, while Bono claims the debt is all his. Regardless, the net result is a friendship that will surely leave both men with more than enough to share.
"What he's done in 12 years is just amazing," said Bono. "I think we're just getting started and we're going to soar."