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I find value in uncomfortable situations.

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.  What sould be the best process in the company - decision-making at the top, where vision direction are debated and resolved - is almost always deeply flawed:  unclear, opaque, volitile, and uncomfortable for everyone.  And (obviously) thus suboptimal in outcome,

Boards have fuzzy rules of engagement in the best of times; in times of uncertainty and pressure the  boardroom becomes the twilight zone.  In private companies, shareholders circle over position and power.  In public companies, market apathy blends with ignorance and misvaluation - punctuated by activist pressures (which are usuallly grandstanding).  In nonprofits, it's not clear who is there in service of whom, let alone, how they got there. 

 

Most leaders see the chaos, and instinctively play it strategically, trying to stay in control of visions far more subtle than anyone around them understnads, and trying to predict where the unpredictable blob of power, opinion, and engagement - the governance amoeba - is going to head next .   But that only exacerbates things.  

For the past 40 years my focus has been  helping to identify unrealized value - value that has been trapped, lost, or intentionally foregone - and navigate change in the presence of these dynamics.  

 

My job description's varied.  I've actually wound through every conceivable role (at least, that I can conceive of):  activist investor, collaborative investor, board member, board chair/leader, executive chairman, acting CEO, co-chair, co-CEO, formal adviser, strategic business partner, informal adviser and coach.  Each has its plusses and minuses; none is "pure," despite what investors will try to tell you about being a shareholder.    

I started out identifying value opportunities and catalyzing change - activist investing at sleepy companies that needed a wakeup call.  However, I found that while I loved discovering the value opportunity  and even though I was performing a needed market function in setting off the alarm, the confrontation was not in my nature.  My greatest satisfaction is helping people achieve things, not backing them into corners. 

 

So for the past 25 years I've focused on working with talented leaders, usually when they are starting a change proecess, as a coach, adviser, partner, ally.  Sometimes as an investor, sometimes as a board member, sometimes not.  (Both create more opportunity, but both come with their own sortcomings). 

 

You could argue that that's avoiding the hard part, but I don't think so. There is today an endless stream of activists, and it's pretty easy to shock the system and start change - the real challenge is having it come out right.  In my focus sector (art-and-science driven consumer brands, a lot of activist campaigns have started change processes that have then gone in the wrong direction and destroyed the company.  

Foundatioal change is rare, and most people only see it once or tice if at all.  For better or worse, I've been i the middle of it dozens of times.  I've , 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 veew my role as coaching - not in the New Age way (helping you be your best self) but in the batting coach way:  putting hte mirror up to your worst self, to help you achieve your greatest success.  

 

A member of a great team once said to me: "You're the board member who defends us from the board."  A bit apochraphal, but in that case, accurate.   My greatest satisfaction comes from helping those with great visions traverse the minefield that is governance.  

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