In his book (No True Glory), Bing West shares that to remember is to honor. One of my first mentors, Dr. Henry Simon, died recently so I thought I’d share the three best things he taught me.
Learn, Then Leave
Henry was a senior partner when I joined Schroder Ventures in London and was the quintessential German gentleman.
There was an informal tradition at the firm of the “Henry Breakfast.” As a junior member of the team, when you left the group, Dr. Simon took you out to breakfast. At the breakfast, he asked you what you thought about the firm dynamics; tips for your replacement and shared one thing for you to remember as you continued on your career. It was also a really nice breakfast!
Henry took me to the Savoy Hotel in London. I can’t remember what I told Henry but I can remember exactly what he told me about my transfer to Asia.
“You’re going to learn a tremendous amount and make a lot of money.
Remember to leave.”
At the time, it was like a Zen Koan for me. I liked the part about the money, didn’t worry about learning and thought that anyone would be crazy to leave a high paying job. This month is 18 years since the Henry Breakfast and my life has turned out as Dr. Simon predicted.
Learn, Then Leave.
I hit peak weight in London and was not healthy. My Fat Gordo picture was taken from that time (and that’s me looking good in that era).
Henry was the fittest guy in the office, quite the achievement for the oldest partner worldwide. In triathlon circles, we wouldn’t consider him fast but he was strong, lean and able to take weeklong trips whenever he had the time. When asked for his secret, he replied:
I use that advice in my own life (no zeroes) as well as my approach to coaching (never sacrifice tomorrow – consistency trumps – nothing is worth a running injury).
Success Is Not A Democracy
When I joined the firm, our investment committee consisted of the entire professional staff. Whenever there was an investment to be made, we would meet in the boardroom and share ideas. Picture 25 type-A personalities packed in a boardroom deciding how to allocate capital.
Not many of my current friends knew me in my 20s. Suffice to say that my lack of tact, combined with exuberant confidence, resulted in a change to the way we made decisions! I suppose a 21-year-old Canadian going toe-to-toe with the firm’s Chairman (Baker Scholar, family friend, investing since I was born) – highlighted that it might make sense to consolidate decision making.
Henry put his hand up and pointed out that things weren’t working. So power was consolidated into the hands of the three Senior Partners and the Investment Committee was restructured. There was a lot of grumbling and a few bruised egos. But… we made better decisions, everyone made more money, and our lives were more simple. Henry was ok with being unpopular for the sake of collective benefit, a unique trait.
I’m in charge because I’ve demonstrated that I’m fit for leadership and we will all do better with clear decisions.
To high officials given glory, much from them is expected.
Henry exceeded my expectations.