To think about the new book, I need to go back to the old one, A New Brand of Expertise; How Independent Consultants, Free Agents and Interim Managers are Transforming the World of Work. The title is a mouthful, I admit, but it wasn’t my idea. That idea came from the publisher.
Speaking of ideas, it wasn’t my idea to write a book actually. In 1998 I was visited by a British CEO, Dennis Russel, who ran a business somewhat like mine in the UK. He sought me out specifically because he had written a book entitled Interim Management about this nascent industry of brokering the expertise of senior executives. He wanted to publish a US version, but his publisher said he needed a US co-author. Once I read the book, I understood the publisher’s constraint.
Although we were in the same industry, his book did not speak to my marketplace. His book was far more about the tragedy of British Managing Directors (MDs) who needed to find a new purpose in life. The MDs came off as somewhat pathetic fellows who were cut down in their business prime of life and needed to craft an alternative. I say” fellows” deliberately, since Dennis apologized in the book for using only male pronouns. It made sense, you see, since no MDs in those days were female.
The US story and particularly the San Francisco Bay Area story was one of empowerment and success. My MDs, the independent consultants with whom we worked, were not folks who needed a shot in the arm after getting laid off from a financial firm. Rather, they were competent, pedigreed individuals who made a career choice to go into business on their own. They were relatively evenly split male and female, although certain expertise areas could have a higher concentration of one gender or another. This was not a business by default but rather one by design. The stories I told were of incredibly accomplished individuals who were best in class at what they did. Additionally many of them pursued other interest at the same time; our consultants were playwrights, pilots, sculptors, musicians and entrepreneurs who were crafting a professional life that enabled them to pursue all of their goals, not just business ones.
It didn’t take me long to agree to be the coauthor. In M Squared I had the perfect laboratory to do my research. I could do deep data dives on our network of 12000 consultants, and I could also select several consultants to profile in a far more in depth way, capturing their stories, and adding the essential dimension of authenticity to what could be a rather dry business book.
It was an interesting process. My editors at Butterworth Heinemann kept quitting — not due to me but by happenstance. Later, an Inc. Magazine editor for whom I had written several articles gave me hell for not pressing the publisher for a consistent editor. “They help you write the book”, he said in an exasperated tone, after the book was in final proof stage. I guess I just didn’t need the help.
Ultimately, my book was very different than my colleague’s book because our worlds were different. Now 14 years later, the world is different from what it was. when I wrote the original book, social media were two words seldom found together in a sentence. Linked In did not exist, so the online connectivity and access that is taken for granted today was not a factor in how that market operates. The marketplace is now fundamentally different. It needs a new book…