✯ Partnership is the rarest of things. ✯
If you need to: figure out your vision, define your brand, redefine your brand, build (or rebuild) your model, create your plan, find your mistakes, fix your mistakes, find new opportunities, unlock hidden value,
Or, if you need to build your board, fix your board, resolve conflicts, debate your shareholders, defeat your shareholders, communicate your vision, coalesce the team, triage the team, retire gracefully, fight your way back in, ensure your legacy,
I may be able to help.
I've spent the past 30+ years partnering with principals to tackle difficult problems. (I almost named this site "Pound Partners" but decided that was too cute, by half).
The job descriptions have varied since I started, 35 years ago helping CEOs deal with activist investors and the raging takeover market. I've wound through every conceivable role (at least, that I can conceive). I've been an activist investor, activist fund manager, private equity investor, venture/angel investor, board member, board chairman, CEO, adviser, joint venture partner, academic prosthelatizer, policy-maker.
But the reality is that at core, in playing all of those different hats I've alway wound up being a coach, confidant, best friend, sounding board, shoulder to cry on - partner. That's actually the simple core thing that drives me. who I am, that's what I wind up trying to do. That's what motivates me.
It's been fascinating, surprising, inspiring, maddening, confounding. It's not what I'd planned, at all. Most of the time, it's been a hell of a lot of fun (more than what I'd planned). Other times, it's just been the hell part. But that goes with the partnering territory, and sometimes. those friendships are the deepest.
So these days I focus on just doing that. If you need that, and we connect, we can figure out the means.
No infrastructure, specialized service, detailed analyses, just 3+ decades of callouses, cuts, bruises, intuition, compassion and this strange drikving desire to see people and organizations that I believe in succeed.
On business strategy, I'm mainly useful in consumer-facing ventures, where I've pretty much touched everything there is to touch, issues-wise. I can tiptoe into ajacancies. Nonprofits - service-providing, consumer-facing. Board, board culture, leadership team devellpment, organizational cuture, control, shareholder challenges, board unrest - I've ranged from railroads to industrials to tech to services to, you name it.
I only do things where I think I can help where I bet people where my partner is the right person. Life’s too short. You can find lots of advisers who'll gladly charge you and trash talk you as they walk out of the building. Been there, seen that, been appalled. Not interested.
If you need a brainstorming partner, a coach, a sounding board, or a shoulder to cry on, drop a line. Worst case is a conversation that doesn't go anywhere. Best case is a new colleague and possibly a lifelong connection. That's my best case, anyhow.
This is what I've learned, over and again, to my continuing surprise. If anything's typically lacking at the top of organizations, it's a culture of true partnership amongst the key players making the foundational decisions.
Boards lurch from apathy to inquisition. In private companies, shareholders jockey for position and power. In public companies, apathy's punctuated by shrill activist grandstanding.
Most leaders exacerbate the situation, instinctively preferring to go it alone. But then - conversations don't occur, little issues build up and become big issue.
It's begun to seem to me as though governance is inherently unstable - built to self-destruct. Good leadership and oversight really kind of requires everyone to act in a way that's contrary to human nature. Leaders need to make themselves vulnerable, question their own instincts ask for advice. Board members need to have conversations that it's much more comfortable to avoid - not about numbers, but about instincts, judgments, convictions (which are what really drive the business). Shareholders need to put organization above their own interests, and to engage respectfully.
Since I started out, helping CEOs in the '80s deal with activist investors and the raging takeover market, my job description's varied. I've actually wound through every conceivable role (at least, that I can conceive of): activist investor, public fund manager, private equity investor, venture/angel investor, board member, board chairman, executive chairman, acting CEO, adviser, joint venture partner, academic, and policy-maker. At core, though, whatever the title I've had, whatever the mechanism for engagment, I've always wound up being a coach, trying to encourage parternership. It turns out, that's who I am, that's what motivates me, that's what I'm good at.
Playing that role has been fascinating, surprising, maddening, confounding, inspiring, transforming. The whole thing's not been what I'd planned, at all. Most of the time, it's been a hell of a lot of fun (more I'd planned). Other times, it's just been the "hell" part. But that goes with the partnering territory, and sometimes, the friendships forged in shared hell become the deepest ones.
So if your organiztion needs to navigate change, I've got a trove of knowledge, the wisdom born of too many mistakes, 3+ decades of callouses, cuts, bruises, and most of all, a heaping of compassion for vision-driven leaders and an overarching desire to see people that I believe in succeed.
I only do things where I think I can actually add value. On business strategy, that means I'm mainly useful in consumer-facing ventures, where I've pretty much touched every key issue. In nonprofits, I'm good with service-providing, consumer-facing organizations (lots of experience in education). On boards, board culture, leadership team development, organizations, control, shareholder challenges, board conflicts, I've engaged with leaders across industries - electrical suppliers, business services, telecom, chemical manufacturers, cars, food, shoes, even some technology - you name it.
Last thing. I only get involved if there's a real connection and a shared vision. You can find lots of advisers who'll gladly charge you and trash talk you as they walk out of the building. Been there, seen that, been appalled, not interested. So if we talk and if I don't get it - which doesn't mean it's wrong, it's probably just me (learned that lesson decades ago) - I'll say so, and that will be that.
I'm always open to new conversations. Worst case is is that it doesn't go anwhere. Best case is a new colleague, possibly a lifelong connection. That's my best case, anyhow. I'm most grateful for those.