Who am I to say these things?
My life has followed a diverse path – which is a nice way to say ‘weird journey’.
My full path is detailed below, but to synthesize: I believe I have a relatively rare talent of taking “squishy things” that one would normally associate with “right brain” thinking and breaking them into their ‘quantum pieces’ to understand them in a “left brain” way. By doing all that I am able share the concepts with others in a step-by-step way that allows “left brain people” to do “right brain things”.
- I’m not a particularly funny person, but I spent years trying to quantify comedy to figure out what makes people laugh and what doesn’t. I took that knowledge and coached a high school improv comedy team to five national championships and wrote a book to help others do the same (The Ultimate Improv Book)
- I began my career at Procter & Gamble in sales. I am definitely not a naturally talented sales person, but P&G had a very structured program to teaching selling. It was a step-by-step process on what they called ‘persuasive selling’ and ‘objection handling’. By internalizing the systems I was able to function outside my element and even have some interesting successes (like getting Pringles in movie theaters for the first time)
- I spent four years at McKinsey & Company where I specialized in marketing. McKinsey is very quantitatively driven, but the clients are often not. The solution was often to dive very deep into a problem, but then, before it was presented to the client, “pull up” and find a way to present the complex ideas in a very simple way. Once a team I was leading even built a manual that included steps like, “Before you send the list, check to make sure the machine is on.”
I was born in Canada, which is only relevant because as a Canadian I spent my life on the outside of the United States looking inward. That ‘outsider-ness’ can sometimes allow one a perspective that you miss when you are a fish evaluating the water you are swimming in.
In high school I excelled in math and science, played football and did karate. More importantly I competed in both debate and improv comedy. In university I attempted to major in Theater and History, but got sidetracked trying to understand quantum mechanics and ended up with a Bachelors of Science in Physics.
When it came time to graduate, based on the success I was having coaching improv, I decided I wanted to be a corporate trainer. I applied for and was accepted to a Master’s of Industrial Relations program. My year in the MIR was enough to teach me I didn’t want to be in HR/IR and I applied to P&G to get into the corporate world.
I spent three years at P&G learning their way of doing things (and another year at a small company as a Product Manager for Dubble Bubble Bubble Gum), before leaving for Wharton Business School. At Wharton I double majored in Finance and Marketing. Marketing, because that was what I was interested in. Finance, so I could tell others I did Marketing because I wanted to and not because I found Finance too hard.
Post-Wharton I spent four years at McKinsey. At McKinsey I tried to apply some of the advanced marketing techniques I learned at Wharton, but soon discovered the problems most companies faced was not lack of advanced techniques. The solutions they needed were almost always far more simple.
In 2009 I was given the opportunity to take my McKinsey advice and do it myself. I moved to Seattle to lead (and build) loyalty and email at Expedia. After creating Expedia Rewards, the Expedia VIP program (for our best customers) and negotiating the Groupon partnership (Groupon Travel) I left to join the leadership team at a company called A Place For Mom.
A Place For Mom is a fantastic service and the first company I have worked for that could in theory be an NGO. We have hundreds of local advisors who help families through the process of finding senior housing and senior care. We don’t charge families a dime. Instead we make money by charging a ‘success fee’ to the communities the families move into. We are effectively an independent marketing arm for the communities, but because we are not tied to any given community (we have over 20,000 community partners and all pay us roughly the same amount on a move) we can act as the advocate for the family and help ensure they find the right place for their specific needs.
I currently lead Marketing for APFM.
Between that and cooking dinner for my wife, I will do my best to regularly update this blog/book.