FROM SKI INSTRUCTOR TO CEO
I know the challenges the CEO faces first-hand. From 1997 through 2013, I served as CEO. Before that, I was a C-level executive.
But the story of my life is circuitous, to say the least (see the graph above.) Today, looking back, I call it (a bit euphemistically) Strategy-In-Action.
I worked as a construction worker, actor, director, animator, canvasser, fundraiser, ad copywriter and ski instructor in Davos (my very first leadership experience).
At 21 I lost my only sister (she was 18). At 25 I almost died of a double infection—one bacterial, one amoebic—while living and working in India. And in New York City on 9/11, I was 200 meters from Ground Zero and saw both planes crash into the Twin Towers.
I made it each time. I survived.
Then, as a C-level executive, I worked for some great leaders, but also for some toxic bosses. A few were downright abusive. Two of them called it “coaching” when in fact they were using force, yelling at me or dressing me down. One of them ordered me to spend a major birthday not with my family but alone, in a hotel room in a non-descript suburb, thousands of miles away from my loved ones.
That’s when I decided I was sick and tired of corporate slavery, the politics, the blame games, the in-fighting. I wanted to be my own boss.
My high-school buddy Erhard Bruderer and I decided to start a company. I knew next to nothing about business. We had no clients. We had no money. Dr. Bruderer had learned strategy from his Ph.D. advisor C.K. Prahalad at Michigan; I had learned it in the action of working with India’s Planning Commission. Erhard and I literally sat on a bench in Central Park and jotted the company’s strategy on our notepads.
I learned everything the hard way. I learned marketing, sales and negotiation on the job. I will never forget how we got our very first client, a die-casting company. We wrote a proposal for $97,000. They called us insane. I got scared we would lose the deal. I told Erhard, “We’re too expensive, let’s go down to $30,000.” He said, “No no, they have their back against the wall. They need us. You’ll see.” He was right: We got the client and steadily built the business from there.
A year later, the growth of the firm was too slow for him, so he left. I bought him out.
And then the company took off. Don’t tell Erhard this, but right after he left, we got our first large-scale contract. And we kept growing.
I built the company into a boutique firm with 28 people. Small and beautiful. And mine.
Now I had the right tools. And I learned to thrive as a CEO.
MY LIFE HAS CHANGED BEYOND RECOGNITION.
In 2013 I sold the company. Today I sit on several boards, for example Paramount Business Jets. I serve on the World Executive of Keren Hayesod and the Board of Governors of JAFI. I’m an investor—as well as an award-winning author of eight books in multiple languages.
I’ve been featured on ABC, Bloomberg, CNN, NY1 and SRF, plus the Economist Intelligence Unit, Fast Company and the Financial Times. I regularly speak about strategy, leadership, communication or culture clash at corporations and international conferences.
I enjoy a high six-figure income, an 8-figure net worth and a lifestyle that would never have been possible without the strategies and tools I developed, on the job, in the action.
It’s not about the big houses or fancy cars—and of course Swiss watches (although we do have those). It’s about the small things. Being there for the kids. Doing what we love. Doing what we want to, not what we need to.
I’ve made it—and still use, every day, the solutions that allowed me to make it. Methodologies like Cockpit®, Strategy-In-Action, the Global Leader Pyramid®, the Matterhorn of Masterful Listening® or PowerCatalyst®, to name a few.
I’ve made a very good life for my family through the tools and assets I built. I realize I’m extremely fortunate, and I’ve done my best to pay it forward by teaching other leaders how to achieve what I’ve achieved (or whatever they may want or need to achieve).
And I have helped so many others to make it. My Fortune 500 clients have boosted their revenue by an aggregate $9+ billion (and counting).
While doing that, my CEO and C-level clients have met business imperatives, opened new strategic frontiers, achieved high performance and/or built around them cultures of leadership, accountability and innovation.
Some clients have freed themselves from corporate slavery. Others have learned how to take charge and lead in a big company, how to climb to the top, how to master corporate politics, how to build allies amid the corporate backstabbing, how to keep vision and strategy alive amid the bureaucracy, how to align and mobilize their boards and/or teams.
I can help you too. You can be a great CEO. You can build a great company.
You can take charge, reinvent your game, master the game. Whether in a big company or your own show.
And you can lead a life of freedom, power, and peace of mind.
It’s an amazing time to be a leader. Be bold enough to stand for a bigger game--and brave enough to ask for help. With the right tools and strategies, you'll be a great CEO—and build a great company.
HERE’S JUST SOME OF THE THINGS I TEACH
You craft a compelling, innovative future that is inspiring, feasible and actionable.
You build trust and credibility with all teams and stakeholders that you are the right one for the job.
You align all people and stakeholders on the future.
You are a leader who transforms any obstacle into an opportunity.
Ready? Want to Learn more?
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