After 15 years, why would I leave a Fortune 100 company to work with smaller businesses?

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

Since launching Attain Development, I’ve been asked to explain “why” several times. Everyone understands the value (managing talent and developing leaders is critical to business success and growth), but they all want to know why. Why would I leave a Fortune 100 company to work with small to mid-sized businesses?

Of course, I could take the easy way out and share that my family wanted to move back to Minnesota. Or discuss the impact of Covid and our need to be near our family and grandchildren. These, of course, did play a role. However, if this was the whole story, there are many opportunities with other large businesses in Minnesota. I didn’t need to start my own company.

To get the whole picture, let’s backup a step and understand my role at Honeywell. During my 15-year Honeywell career, I had the opportunity to work in many areas, from developing online learning for technicians and customers, to implementing learning systems, and ultimately leading Leadership Development for Honeywell. In my last role, I was responsible for developing Honeywell’s top executives. In this role, I was able speak with leaders, visit customers, travel around the globe, all to ensure our leaders had the skills and business acumen to lead Honeywell into the future. This gave me a view into business that few people get. I was able to see and influence how executives make decisions, what traits make them great leaders, what their habits are, how they treat people, how they set priorities, etc.

I operate from a core belief that people can do great things when they have the support, knowledge, tools and drive to do them. While I was able to work with some exceedingly smart, successful leaders, I was also able to see the struggles leaders and managers faced to be successful.

I had my first supervisory role when I was 17 at a fast-food restaurant. I still remember some of those learning experiences. A few of the most memorable were:

  • Dealing with an employee who didn’t want to do his assigned work

  • Calming an irate customer (he was so angry that one employee was standing by the phone to call 911 in case it escalated)

  • Being part of a sting to catch someone stealing.

This early supervisory experience taught me a lot about myself and how to relate with and lead others. However; I was not on my own in this role. The company provided training, standard processes for supervisors, and my general manager was an awesome mentor.

My decision to start my own company was a slow one. In 2019, Honeywell moved my family from Minneapolis to Charlotte. As we planned for the move, I did a deeper dive into the job market and also into what businesses needed. During this time, I had two personal realizations:

  • I didn’t want the same job at another company. My next role needed to directly impact customers and their business success.

  • Supervisors and managers are not successful in their role at an alarmingly high rate. CEB studies show that 60% of new managers fail in their role.

These two realizations moved me to looking at this gap in manager success and how it could be addressed. A 60% failure rate is not a people problem, it's a process problem. I found that there are three primary factors that influence this statistic:

  1. Companies promote the wrong people: As leaders we often promote the best technical person, with the assumption they will be a great manager.

  2. People accept the promotion for the wrong reasons: Companies often don't have opportunities to move up in technical roles, so the employee takes the promotion as they don't see any other opportunity to advance.

  3. Once they are in the role, they are not supported: New manages often receive little very training, support or coaching. A recent study by shows that a whopping 58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training.

While I was very happy in my role at Honeywell, this understanding changed the way I looked at things. I started seeing the struggles businesses (especially smaller businesses) were having selecting and keeping their supervisors and managers. Slowly, over the course of a year or so, I realized that I needed to help these businesses, their employees and their managers by providing the tools, skills and resources to help their managers be successful. Any the end of the day, a great manager has happy, engaged employees who are more productive. Ultimately, the business has lower turnover and is more profitable.

In early 2021, I decided to launch Attain Development. As I launched the company, I spent time with dozens of small to mid-sized business owners and realized I was missing two pieces. These business owners needed a partner in managing their talent, from creating a talent strategy, to putting in place core talent management tools (e.g. development plans, review processes, etc.) and executive coaches for their own development. Consequently, when I launched Attain Development, I focused on three areas:

  • Talent Management

  • Supervisor/manager development

  • Executive coaching.

There is so much we can do together, to build our businesses, our employees and ultimately bring everyone to higher levels of success. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities we face in the future!

Caution: I am learning every day, so Attain Development will continue to evolve as our customers’ needs and businesses grow.

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