Monday, January 24, 2005

Why I Hired Orrin Woodward

I think it was back in 1997, (could have been '96) when a friend asked me if I was looking for new consultants. "Of course." was my response. "I think I've got a guy you'd be interested in" he said. "What can you tell me about the guy?" My friend described a young man named Orrin Woodward, 25 years old, working at GM who had four (4) patents (all, I believe, in production) and had just become the youngest winner of a prestigious national engineering award - the National Benchmarking award.

Those credentials piqued my interest. I graduated from the same engineering undergrad school as this young man (GMI - General Motors Institute -- now Kettering University) and had been around engineers most of my adult life. Darn few of them even had one patent to their name, let alone four. And the winner of a national engineering award is usually "in demand". I agreed to meet him for a coffee and size him up.

The first thing that impressed me about Orrin was his positive attitude. He was interested in checking out the world of consulting he said and he had done a smart thing. He asked a gentleman (my friend) who knew alot of engineers and some engineering consultants to recommend some to him and vice-versa. Orrin told me that he was considering a career change, just as I had done when I left GM in 1987 to strike out on my own. He was considering taking a short leave of absence from GM to do some consulting and make an informed life decision based on the experience. Smart.

I asked him to develop a proposal for a Benchmarking study that I could deliver to some of the VPs of Engineering I knew from my years of consulting. (Some years before I met Orrin, Ford Motor Company had contracted with me to train all of their Tier 1 suppliers in Europe and Australia, many of their suppliers in the US and many of their own staff around the world as well. I knew alot of VPs.) If any of them expressed an interest, we could talk money. He agreed.

Orrin had an inner intensity about him that was compelling - which I realized was a passion for winning. You can see it in some men's eyes. I knew I was looking at a winner. But he wasn't cocky. He just had a calm confidence - an eagerness that I liked and, Orrin was personable. I had a feeling that when I put him in a conference room with an Engineering VP and a few of his staff that the young man would hold his own. I wasn't disappointed.

More of the story in a future post....