Category Archives: M Squared

You never know why they want you on a Board

I have been on the Board of CPP for 16 years.  CPP Inc., owns the publishing rights to the Meyers Briggs Type Instrument (MBTI), the most widely used personality test in the world. During my tenure the company has expanded internationally, purchased three companies and bought the IP rights to two additional instruments.  The amazing growth has not been without its challenges, the most significant being the untimely death of the incumbent CEO  about 10 years ago.

The experience has been tremendous for me – I have learned so much about governance, publishing and organizational development.  It is no wonder I want to pursue more board roles. That said, I don’t know that I can replicate the process that earned me the CPP role.

When I was approached to join the CPP Board it was 1998.  M Squared had been on the Inc 500  list several times as well as the SF Business Times list of the fastest growing companies in the Bay Area.  I was experiencing that glow of a high growth CEO that was firing on all cylinders.  (Of course 2001 was right around the corner, but who knew that then…)  I presumed that it was my managing growth expertise that prompted the call. In my various interviews at the firm, we discussed future growth plans quite a bit, which further supported my notion as to why this opportunity came to me.

Several years later I discovered the truth. At a board offsite we were all sharing our stories about how we ended up there.  When I provided my rationale, the CEO laughed and said I didn’t quite have it right.

It turned out that he had seen me speak about my entrepreneurial journey  at the Governor’s Conference for Women in 1998.  In my remarks I spoke about the work I had done in the community, specifically my role as on the Board of the Hamilton Family Center, San Francisco’s (then) only homeless shelter for families.  I sheepishly admitted that I had been on that board for six years.  The president mused that if I could put up with all of the drama a homeless shelter had to offer, I could certainly put up with them,  and  since CPP was all about “making people better”, my humanitarian leanings played well.  Plus, what a bonus that my business was in the human capital space.

I was a bit surprised by the discovery of why I had been chosen, but gratified too.  It is wonderful to discover that all of our experiences contribute to our expertise, not just the ones that have the highest profile.  Maybe I will get my next Board role the same way…

Charles Handy would be proud

Goldman Sachs announced today changes to its Associate program with the goal of retaining more of these junior hires.  A senior official was quoted a saying that they do realize that they train these guys up for others to hire , but they still want to keep some percentage of these employees.  Charles Handy would love that statement.

Handy was a British organizational theorist who is second  behind Peter Drucker on the Thinkers 50 List of most influential business minds, yet few Americans have heard of him.  A former Shell executive turned University professor, he started writing about organizations in the mid 1970’s.

It was his book, The Age of Unreason, written in 1987, that totally supported the M Squared business model, but also  foretold not only the current gig economy, but also the travails of Goldman Sachs and its Associates program. In that book, he describes the organization as a shamrock, with one leaf being core employees, another being temporary workers, whose ranks would expand and contract,  and another being on call expertise.  In describing these three pools of talent, he suggested that large organizations, like Goldman Sachs, would become like the British army;  unskilled, raw talent would enter and be trained by the enterprise.  Some would be promoted through the organization to the senior ranks, but in the grand scheme of things,most would leave after some short level of obligatory service – service which made the individual far more marketable in the labor force.

So thank you, Goldman, for doing your part in enhancing the skill base of entry level employees, or more precisely, creating the Wall Street army.


3 M Squared wanna be’s

M Squared was/is a great business, although not everyone saw that at the time. Deploying a network of independent consultants in a just in time management approach was radical in 1988; there was an evangelical dimension to our sales pitch back in the day.  But over time, the world caught up with this innovative work model.  Now the gig economy is all over the press.  I laugh when I read that people think the issue of Uber drivers being contractors is new; we were dealing with that problem 20 year ago.

So I found it curious earlier this year when three different business groups wanted my insights about  new business propositions in the human capital networking space. One wanted to become the “common app” in recruiting, eliminating human intervention as much as possible.  Another wanted to create a staffing supply network on the African continent to facilitate oil exploration and the employment demands that go along with it.

The one I spent the most time with, though, was a VC led exploration of a “mom” network.  An M Squared for credentialed MBA moms who wanted to get back into the workforce.  The irony here, is that this value proposition was the inspiration for M Squared.  The exponential term initially stood for “Mother Managers”, but my partner Paula Reynolds, and I lost that early on.  You see many female professionals don’t want to be labeled as Mom’s.  Moreover, as one Genetech scientist said, I “I will measure your professionalism by my peer group, and there are no other women in my peer group.”

So I spent several days over several months with the VC led team,  who were amazing technology strategists who wanted to “disrupt” the human capital marketplace and find some “white space” with this new mom offering. That said, none of them had any staffing, recruiting or even professional services backgrounds, so my expertise did fill a void for them.  Since they were still looking for that “killer app” we discussed many different models for a new business.  As we discussed various options, either offshoots of the mom core business, or new directions entirely, I came to see some opportunities in this very crowded space.  These are the opportunities I am exploring now.



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