Category Archives: A New Venture

Unexpected Returns from Mentoring

We all hear that as successful business people we need to give back and we should be mentors. Cheryl Sandberg has made an industry of women mentoring up and coming women in all sorts of organizations.  The value proposition to the mentor though has been presented as a duty by virtue of our experience and expertise, and that is doing the role a disservice.  The truth of the matter is being a mentor is a tremendous  learning experience as much for the mentor as the “mentee”.

When I started my business, I was in the Young Entrepreneurs Organization  or YEO  (now just EO, since they lost the young part…).  Through an affiliation with  WPO, the World Presidents, of which I am now a member, I was matched with two great mentors.  One was my go-to-guy on financial management issues, and the other was a great marketeer who was invaluable to me years later when I sold my business. He was the one who at a wonderful dinner of YEOers and their mentors, toasted our relationship saying that  being a mentor was in ways more rewarding  than being a father, because unlike his children,  I actually listened to everything he said.

Now fast forward some 20 years and in the spirit of turn about is fair play, through WPO,  I have a few mentor relationships of my own.  They are  with entrepreneurs who have very successful professional services businesses, different from M Squared but still in the human capital space.  At times we may talk about difficult or unforeseen issues, but typically we focus on moving the business forward.  It is wonderful to make a suggestion or an introduction that could strengthen a new direction.  Similarly, sharing tough moments  can often resonate for my younger colleague  as he/she faces a difficult decision.   In those conversations you learn about yourself for in the telling is the lesson.

Yesterday I learned even more, for yesterday I discussed my new business idea with one of these exceptional leaders. Her perspective was very valuable, and fresh, since she is in an adjacent business constantly.  She let me know about quasi-competitors or substitute services of which I had been unaware.  She questioned certain premises and raised new issues.  I learned not only more about the business segment I am exploring, but I learned more about  her critical thinking processes, the questions she would ask and the approaches she might take.  It was enlightening, refreshing and energizing.

They say mentoring is a way to give back  But, with an homage to the holiday season, it is in the giving that you receive.

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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