Where does your interest in business come from?
I was a competitive soccer player and loved everything about it—the diversity on my teams, the travel, the challenges, and the camaraderie. Business has all of that. I think when you look at what it takes to build a successful company, 90 percent of it comes from coordinating different people and identifying how they work best with each other to raise the collective level of competitiveness. Then there’s the need to continually learn and try new things. And, of course, in a global economy, you’re always traveling and adapting to different cultures.
What sort of path has your career taken?
Right after college I went to work with an entrepreneur who owned a conglomerate of companies. We had a global industrial company, real estate development and building, distribution, services businesses, even financing. I learned all of those industries from the inside out, and I developed a real passion for helping businesses grow and operate efficiently.
Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working with more than 50 companies representing over $75 billion in revenue. Naturally this includes working with—and learning from—many, many brilliant executives in just about every scenario. It’s been an incredible ride!
How would you describe your working style?
You know, I’m from the Midwest, which is culturally very unassuming. I think that helps in my role. Founders have put everything they have into their businesses. They don’t need someone coming in and telling them what to do. They need someone they can really talk to, who understands their business, their products, and their competitors. When I do have advice I want to offer, I do it in the form of questions or examples of things that I’ve seen work for other companies in similar situations. The founder will then make the decision that’s best for their company.
Does that style come naturally to you?
Oh, there was definitely a learning curve. When I was just starting out—maybe all of 23 years old, working for a manufacturing company—the CEO asked me to get to the bottom of a problem one of their factories was having. I got to the factory unannounced, and told the 60-year-old supervisor that I was here to fix things. Ha!—imagine how that went over. The next day, I tried again. I went back and said, “I’m here to understand your business.” Totally different response. It was the beginning of a long and positive collaboration. That was a big life lesson.
I’m successful if I can make others successful.
What does success look like to you?
It’s simple. I’m successful if I can make others successful. When a meaningful decision has to be made, or if a CEO or somebody has a doubt in their mind, I want them to be able to pick up the phone and call me as a friend and partner just to say, Hey, what do you think? Let's talk through this. Together, we make a decision, and then we execute. If you ask me, that’s as good as it gets.
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