Professional & Graduate Education
I started my career at DaimlerChrysler at a tenuous time. Massive layoffs were common around the country and my employer was not immune. Despite that, I managed to earn full-time employment as a union relations representative for the company.
I was a corporate negotiator whose job it was to bargain with elected U.A.W. officials and find compromises that protected the company’s interests, with the legitimate concerns of the employees. I was bestowed with the power to listen, challenge, and understand the differences between right and wrong in the workplace. I took this responsibility seriously, as I knew my decisions would have real impacts on the men and women in the bargaining unit. I would like to think that I was tough but reasonable. Many of the elected UAW officials I worked with taught me things about life that are still with me today.
These plants were in some of the most impoverished areas of Detroit, Michigan where the average employee faced countless real heartaches at home. Drug abuse was rampant. So was violence and mental health crises. It was at that time I realized that my perspective was still limited as to the challenges faced by citizens just because of things like the color of their skin, their zip code, or any one of other seemingly arbitrary factors.
I continued to pursue my education on a full-time basis while working. I pursued and completed my MBA and my Juris Doctor. I passed the state bar exam and obtained my law license.
My career progressed and in the process, I came to be enamored with the manufacturing complex and the technologies that powered it. The ability to take raw materials from the earth, and using nothing but our ingenuity and technology, convert that raw material into something as magnificent as a car. I knew this is where the next phase of my career would take me.
I ended up in Grand Rapids, MI, where I still reside today. I accepted a challenge from my mentor to take the helm of a troubled Chrysler group subsidiary and bring it back to health. I was a young man, 28 years to be exact, when I took over as the head executive for a company with $40M in annual revenues and hundreds of families who depended on it to provide healthcare and income.
In retrospect I was probably too young for that level of responsibility. It was not the age that was the issue but rather my limited experience because of my age. There were too many circumstances I had never encountered and too many mistakes I had not yet learned from on my way up the corporate ladder. I had to now experience those growth opportunities in one of the most pressure filled leadership assignments I could have imagined.
Never-the-less, I did my best. I was taught many humbling lessons in leadership and I made some mistakes along the way. But, all in all, I can look back now on those years and still see that several of those former employees remain good friends to this day. And the company that was on the auction block for scrap the day I took it over, is still alive and well today and is one of the most modern manufacturing sites of its kind in the world.
I had the benefit of a crash course in manufacturing, big data, leadership, and global supply chain management. Because of those years, I have several passports that have been amended to add pages due to the extensive global travel. I had to learn to continually expand my understanding and views of the world. I was exposed to international cultures throughout Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, and Mexico. I learned that although thousands of miles may separate us, we are all people just seeking happiness and our little piece of prosperity, but from a slightly different point of view.
After almost 9 years in Grand Rapids, and nearly 20 years with the Chrysler group, I left the company and started several small businesses that had charmed runs.
One, a chain of desert parlors that specialized in homemade ice creams, yogurts, cookies, candies, and cakes. The other, a highly specialized manufacturing engineering company. I was blessed to have successfully sold both ventures to larger entities who had the capital needed to expand the brands. In each transaction, my employees were minimally kept whole, and in several cases, well rewarded. I can hold my head high on both circumstances and be proud of what my teams and I created.
These sales marked the next big shift in my career into private consulting. I was introduced to the second great mentor of my lifetime. Still one of the brightest business minds I have ever met, this man took my already extensive knowledge of business and finance and kicked it into overdrive. I was submerged in small businesses throughout the community, and some around the country, who faced real challenges but lacked the ability to sometimes see and understand them. My acumen of handling complex budgets, dissecting the necessary from the not, prioritizing cash outflows, and focusing on operational improvements grew exponentially.
Through interactions there, I met the family for whom I still work to this day, as the president of a large industrial sales, distribution, and engineering company.