Confessions of a Recovering Engineer

It is with great excitement that I write this as a partner of the Pilot team. As I have shared this pending development with those familiar with my work in Activate Leadership, more than once I've been asked, "What does leadership development have to do with wealth management?"

It is a great question and my response is one I will share with you, however, a little background first for those I haven't had the opportunity to meet just yet.

Yes, I am a leadership coach, consultant, corporate head shrink, management voodoo doctor, you name it...I've been called it. How I got here, however, is a more interesting story that what I am called.

I started my career in the mid-80's as a wide-eyed plastics engineer from Western Washington University, certain to make my mark in the world making gazillions of plastic things. And that I did, from 1986 to 2005, where my career took me halfway across the globe, developing new processes, scoping new markets and all the while meeting phenomenal people.

It was what happened in the mid-90's, however, that ultimately lead to my career pivot to leadership development. The 90's was a difficult period for manufacturing in the US, and as a partner in a plastics manufacturing business at the time, we found ourselves squarely in the bulls eye of what Ross Perot famously coined "that sucking sound" as business headed to Mexico and China.

We were in a fight for our very survival, challenged to reinvent ourselves multiple times through the following ten years to maintain viability. While the business not only survived, it began to thrive even, and yet the larger payoff for me personally came in the learning from the experience; understanding how to create a strategic blueprint that encompasses the vast array of tools necessary for a business to excel in the market not only in the short term, but sustaining the success over the long run.

I was so invigorated by these experiences that I left manufacturing in 2005 to start my consulting practice devoted to helping business owners create blueprints for their own enterprises. This has been my passion for nearly eight years and it has been very fulfilling work, creating value and lasting relationships with outstanding clients.

It was late last year, however, after having collaborated with Nick and Jason with a Pilot client, that the conversation came up regarding a potential merger of our services. As novel as the idea sounded to us, we challenged ourselves to ask the questions from the client's perspective, "Why would you do this? How does this add value to my business?"

It was in answering these questions that the idea went from something that we could do, to something we were compelled to do. We recognized there is a profound correlation between the health of the client's financial capital, and the health of the client's human capital, specifically the leadership, disciplines and culture within the client's enterprise. Combined, this approach allows us to go broad and deep, ultimately create lasting impact.

For us, that is the definition of value creation and where we desire to be with our clients. As Jason succinctly puts in, "I want to be able to speak at their funeral, or they speak at mine." It's what comes in between that truly matters to us. We hope it does to you as well.

For the Pilot clients, I look forward to the opportunity to meet each of you, and likewise to the Activate clients, to introduce Nick and Jason when the opportunity presents itself. In the meantime, I look forward to future contributions in the quarterly newsletters, which will be expanded to cover the issues of human capital and the meandering confessions of a recovering engineer.

All good things!

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Rick Thomas, Partner and Business Advisor