I’m Tom the Team Guy
My life’s work is to help people work better together. I do this as a facilitator, trainer, coach and consultant.
My Grandma told me I was born with the gift of gab. Not sure if she thought this was positive or not. Perhaps it was a grandmotherly way of saying “You talk too much.”
Turns out that gift came in handy, as I’ve given more than 3,000 workshops and presentations over my career. That is a lot of talking.
While speaking is the most visible gift, I don’t consider it my most valuable. There are three that I think allow me to best serve my clients.
People can count on me. I deliver on time and on budget. I find ways to help, even if it means referring to a colleague.
I create safe and comfortable discussions so people are willing to speak up and put the real issues on the table.
I look at issues from all sides and find ways to appreciate other perspectives. This helps me stay flexible.
People often ask where I learned to do what I do.
I studied psychology as an undergrad at St. John’s University.
Five years after graduating, I went back to school, this time to St. Thomas University to get an MBA.
That makes me a Johnnie and a Tommie, although when it came to sports rivalries, my loyalties were always crystal clear.
While the formal education was helpful, I sometimes wonder if my time as a church organist and high school theater kid didn’t have a significant impact on the platform skills I use when in front of a group.
Life as an employee
My first job out of college was as Pizza Hut restaurant manager. I look back on it as a management boot camp. I learned to be fast in the kitchen, take care of hungry, angry customers, and work hard in an environment that was perpetually understaffed.
Next, I traded in my polyester uniform for business attire (Yep, ties were still a thing back then) and a briefcase, landing at Dataserv. It was a young and fun company that let people learn on the fly. I had a new position and boss almost every year, and for many of the jobs, wrote my own job description.
As a guy who likes variety and blazing my own trails, this was the perfect environment for me. In my time there I…
- priced multi-year maintenance contracts,
- evangelized TQM,
- learned how to lead project teams,
- managed internal communications,
- facilitated meetings between our service teams and unhappy customers,
- emceed all-company meetings,
- supervised staff,
- and did lots of analysis.
Even though we were owned by one of the Baby Bells, BellSouth, we were the cool little company up north that was known for its innovation and ability to do right by its customers.
My life as an employee ended when BellSouth sold the company and my whole department was laid-off. A consultant friend, who heard the news, greeted me when I saw her with
Hey Tom, I heard a whole new world of opportunities opened up for you.”
She was right. The day after walking out the door with my box, I announced I was opened for business as a consultant. I’d been thinking about it for two years, and I no longer needed to wrestle with the question, “Should I quit my job to strike out on my own?” The job quit me.
Life as a business owner
My original idea was to build a stable of facilitators-for-hire who would help clients with strategic planning. After doing this work myself, I realized I had no need or desire to build a bigger company. I just liked doing the work, and I could earn a living without taking on employees.
A couple years in, I added training services, and that quickly became the largest portion of my business. Over the years I’ve led thousands of workshops and webinars on dozens of topics. Once a workshop participant, who had seen me deliver many times prior, asked,
Is there any topic you don’t talk about?”-Workshop Participant
Eventually a third service started to take off, organizational development. Some call it team building. Others think of it as mediation.
I always thought of it as problem-solving. There’s something preventing a team or the whole organization from achieving its goals. My job is to dig into the problem to uncover the underlying causes and then guide them to improved effectiveness.
I’ve helped companies big and small, non-profits, and plenty of government groups over the years. I’ve never focused on one industry because the people stuff is the same whether it’s in healthcare, a SAAS startup, or med device manufacturer.
In 2014 I recognized I had accumulated a lot of good ideas about running meetings. So I decided to put them in a book. Grab a copy on Amazon.
If you’d like more details, I suggest visiting my LinkedIn profile. And while you are there, shoot me an invite. Connections make the world go round. This is an easy first step for us to find ways to help each other.
Download my bio if you prefer a one-pager.