Don Yates—In Memoriam

The Washington Small Business Development Center regrets to announce that our friend and colleague Don Yates, the SBDC advisor in Redmond/Bellevue, died of pneumonia on Tuesday, April 5.

Yates, a non-smoker and life-long athlete, was diagnosed with lung cancer in February, had been undergoing treatment and had hoped to return to work this spring.

“Our entire network is shocked and deeply saddened by this loss,” said Duane Fladland, state director. “Our hearts go out to Don’s wife, Linda, his entire family and many friends.”

Yates joined the Washington SBDC in mid-2015 after a 40-year-career in the high-tech industry, starting with telecommunications in the 1970s. Yates said he considered spending the latter part of his career as a university instructor, but then decided being an SBDC advisor to entrepreneurs and small business owners was a better fit.

“This allows me to take everything I’ve ever learned and compress it into one-to-one advising sessions with clients,” he said in a press release about his joining the SBDC.

As part of the months-long process to become an SBDC certified business advisor, Yates was mentored by Jerry Petrick, the SBDC advisor in Longview, who said he would miss Yates’ sharp wit, discerning intellect and playful nature.

“Ever the innovator, Don would guide his client through a fresh way of looking at an established business or encourage the entrepreneur to imagine and explore their own innovative idea in a new way,” Petrick said. And, Petrick said, Yates would do it “elegantly, wisely, and with respect.”

Despite his short time with the SBDC, Yates had already made a difference, for his SBDC colleagues and for his clients. SBDC client Boyd Edmondson called Yates’ assistance “invaluable.” Others talked about the depth and breadth of his expertise and his passion for helping clients succeed.

“Don’s dedication to his clients’ success was extraordinary,” said Fladland. “He was asking about their progress even in his last days.”

In addition to his involvement in many professional and business organizations, Don had also been active in community-focused organizations. For several years, Don had been a volunteer with the Armed Forces Emergency Services Project of the American Red Cross and had volunteered. An avid swimmer, Don had also volunteered with Spokane’s Make A Splash project, a non-profit that worked to provide recreational opportunities, particularly swimming passes and swimming lessons, available to low-income families.

Before joining the SBDC, Yates was a utilities analyst for Ecova, a Spokane-based utilities and energy management company. Prior to that, he worked for several years as a business consultant. His professional experience included working in senior management at Cisco Systems in San Jose, Calif., where he was responsible for developing market-based, revenue-generating technical support systems, and at Telect in Spokane, where he was responsible for new venture development, product acquisition, and the management of six product line teams with $140M in annual global revenues.

Yates, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, earned an undergraduate degree in history from San Jose State University and in 2010 he earned an MBA in International Business from Whitworth University.

In addition to his wife, Linda, Yates is survived by two sons and their families. Bryan Yates and his wife, Stephanie Avnet Yates, live in Los Angeles. Kevin Yates, and his wife, Carole, live in Mill Valley, Calif., with their children Aydan and Madie.