Just in case any of my former associates, clients, friends or enemies check in here and wonder what this guy has been up to… a brief report on the past six years.
More than six years ago, and I remember the moment it happened, I decided to sell my company, the Miller-Howard Consulting Group, and quit. The moment was in a Ramada Inn in Cleveland, on a December night, probably around the 16th or17th. I was there to do a talk, to heaven knows who, and I made my promised and ritualistic call home. Now, keep in mind that I had been in the consulting/speaking game for around twenty five years and I spent a lot, and I mean A LOT, of nights in lousy hotel rooms (not implying that this one was notably lousy).
The lightning bolt struck when I realized that my daughter, Natasha, who was to be married a week later, was spending her last night at home, ever. And, it was snowing in Cleveland. That was it. It only happens a few times in your life when you just know you have to do something; when you are confronted with life events in a way that demands that you sit up and take notice and do something different. Change! I thought I had enough money and knew my talks so well I had out of body experiences where I could hear the words coming out of my mouth, but my mind was somehow in a different place. That’s another clue!
At that moment I decided to sell my company and do something different. It took a couple years to pull it off, but Towers Perrin bought the firm. Jennifer Howard, my long time partner, and all of the consultants, merged into TP. I also became Principal of TP, but after six months of trying to fit in and make myself useful, I realized that I just could not fit into their culture. I was gone.
For the past six years I have used that incredibly uncomfortable phrase “I am semi-retired” to describe my status. I have split my time between play (sailing to Maine, Bermuda, etc.) and working with non-profit organizations. I have spent more time with AIESEC International than any other. AIESEC is a great organization, formed after WWII to promote international understanding. It is entirely student run. That statement requires some reflection. This organization of about thirty thousand students in 87 different countries has survived for more than fifty years without any professional, adult, management. Each year the local chapters on university campuses elect a leadership team, then a national leadership team is elected, and there is a once a year international conference at which they elect a new global President and leadership team. So, every year, a new group of young men and woman, in their early twenties, move to Rotterdam and provide coordination and leadership to this global organization. For the past five years I have been their “change management” consultant as they have redefined “The AIESEC Experience” as a life-long learning process and designed all the necessary processes, structures, systems, etc.
Every organization is unique and presents its own challenges. Needless to say, AIESEC was challenging, unique, and a lot of fun to work with. I won’t bore you with all of my other adventures, but they include serving on the board of small university in Switzerland, born of great ideas and dedication, but lacking any viable business model. I was drawn into a half time job (no pay!) in Switzerland, working to rescue this poor child. But, I am afraid the finances were beyond repair.
So, now a new chapter begins. I have had enough sailing, realized my wife is not going to sail to Tahiti with me, and spent enough time with non-profits. Now back to “real” work. I have just finished the draft of a book in search of a good title (it was The Discipline of Common Sense, but my agent has decided that doesn’t work).
My great ambition now is not to rebuild a consulting firm with offices, staff and consultants flying all over the place. I would much rather do the fun part …work directly with clients, assisting good people work their way through the process of improving their culture, their teams and their service to clients. That is the fun part.