I am one of those rare birds who stumbled into the world of professional consulting early in my career and fell in love with the thrill of helping business leaders improve their companies. I completed my master’s degree in computer science at the age of twenty-eight and had just entered the doctoral program when Arthur Young (now Ernst and Young) called me from Tulsa. They were starting a management consultant division and, as it turned out, I became the fourth hire into the program. With a master’s degree and eight years experience I could lead our clients down the maze of software selection and implementation. I loved medium size companies, particularly manufacturers and distributors where my Industrial Engineering training could help redesign processes before automating. I loved meeting business people, seeing how they operated, and helping them become more efficient and profitable. In my third year I got my big break. A&Y’s Tulsa office had three very large, blue chip audit clients (Phillips Petroleum, CONOCO, and Walmart). The computer organizations of these companies were exploding into massive departments of very expensive, high technology equipment. I was sent to Phillips as a trial to see if Consulting could assist our audit brothers perform security reviews. Next came CONOCO and then Walmart. For five years I gave my final reports to Sam Walton himself. What a thrill it was to be around Walmart in those early years.
It was at Arthur Young that my writing skills were exposed as horrendous! I was up for promotion when my mentor pulled me aside to tell me that client’s loved my consulting skills and ‘Can Do’ attitude but my writing skills were so bad that management saw no way I could ever be promoted to Manager. He suggested they find me a job as IT Leader for one of our clients. Crushed, I drove home that Friday and spent the weekend assessing the situation. I returned to work Monday and challenged management. If you want to hear the whole story, check out “Why I studied Writing” in Jay’s Journal blog post. I’ve been told it is an inspiring story about overcoming adversity. More importantly it changed my life and my career forever.
I spent a wonderful eight years with Arthur Young and learned the trade that became a career. When I left we had over forty consultants and I was instrumental in building a professional consulting organization. In my thirty years after that, I took the two consultants in the Indianapolis office of Coopers & Lybrand, hired a strong management team, and grew that practice to over forty consultants. Next I did it again for my own consulting firm by again hiring a strong set of leaders. Seven years later Deloitte & Touche hired me to build their Indiana practice. While a Partner with Deloitte’s Management Solutions Group, I sat on two national committees and led the three-state Southern Ohio Valley Technology Group.
I’ve had more than my share of fun and honors during my management consulting years. In addition to having the pleasure of serving as an advisor and consultant to Sam Walton I was awarded the “Sagamore of the Wabash” award for my work with the Indiana Department of Welfare (Sagamore is the highest honor the Governor can bestow on a citizen). I worked separately with two highly talented peers as we co-authored three internationally successful books on computer hardware, software selection and program implementation. For three years I traveled the country warning people about the culture changing impact microcomputers would have on our society, getting laughs and shaking heads when I predicted computer chips would soon dominate our cars, phone, televisions, even our watches. It has been fun watching those predictions come true!
In 2005 we moved to Houston to slow down and enjoy the oncoming Fall of our lives but I couldn’t stop helping business leaders. I accepted a part-time challenge to build the next Houston Vistage CEO peer group and today I coach some fifty area business owners and leaders. At the age of 63, as with my writing skills thirty years earlier, I felt the need to improve my coaching skills. I entered a professional training program and now I find myself making a difference as a Vistage coach, certified by the International Coach Federation (CPC) and the Coach Training Institute (CPCC).
I spend between two and a half and three weeks a month coaching leaders. The rest of the month is reserved for the lighter side of life: reading, writing, fly-fishing with Nancy, and visiting our Colorado home (www.CurryBarn.com). Life is good!