Six Wondrous Wins

    Here the Managing Director of Bridges in Munich describes half-a-dozen wins over the span of his career. They begin with an academic "note of introduction" and end with a comment on his senior management experience. To offset these laudable wins, more than equal time is given to thirteen lamentable Losses on those subpages.


Flaunting Wondrous Wins

1st Disclaimer:

    These wins are modest. Kinichi Ohmae is a strategy guru with a PhD in nuclear engineering from MIT. He was busy running the McKinsey office in Japan for decades, and now runs his own consulting company. In between times he has written over 100 books. Peter Drucker (1909 - 2005) was another strategy guru. He kept busy with his day job as a professor. He wrote 39 books. Michael Porter is yet another strategy guru. He kept busy as a Harvard professor and founding partner of the consulting firm The Monitor Group. He has written 18 books. Common to all three is that some of their books are renowned business classics, bestsellers in their field. They have all also published countless articles. 

     Marschall Goldsmith (cf. referrals) is a coaching guru with a PhD in mathematics who along the way founded a coaching firm, which grew to 60 persons before he disengaged from it. He has written 22 or 23 books and created an extensive multi-media coaching website.  Like the men above, he has a family and an active social life. 

    I have built no business empires. I have never published one solitary article, let alone written a book. I have only taken two doctoral courses, never even formally began a PhD. All too often an argument legitimately could be made that the "s" at the end of my first name, James, stands for "Somnolent Sluggish Sloth". However every now and again the "s" briefly converts into standing for "Speedy Sprinting Spurt". Some examples of these ephemeral moments are given below.


Then (as my career was beginning)


1) To: Bob Zarbat (a fellow professor, located in San Francisco)
           From:  Jerry Ingram

           MEMO: September 1985

    "Long time, no see! I hope all is well with you and yours. This is to introduce Jim Hamilton- certainly the brightest student to come through our program during my tenure. Stop by next time you are out our way."


Professor Jerry Ingram, Dean

Center for Real Estate and Urban Economic Studies

University of South Carolina

Columbia, SC 29102

September 1985   Jim was 



    Thanks to the previous excellent training at M.I.T. I was able to perform well in my continuing education thereafter. The above is an example from the University of South Carolina. Over the course of several years I took perhaps a dozen courses there, mostly in real estate, but also two doctoral seminars (economics- rational expectations, and statistics). Maybe I should have acted on one of the three invitations I have had in my life (at M.I.T. and the University of South Carolina in the U.S. and at Ludwig Maximilians University Munich, Germany) to pursue a doctorate after all!


2)  Jim was selected on December 23, 1985 to perform financial analysis for Industrial Indemnity Financial Corporation, a Xeros Corporation insurance subsidiary. . . assist in developing a system for valuing 38 mortgage pools entailing surety bond obligations in excess of $750 million. . . extraordinary effort. . . His billing hours for the weeks ending January 5 and January 12, 1986 (were) 90 and 95 respectively. 

     He is at his best when working under pressure and at understanding the implications of financial and accounting data, the story underlying the numbers.  


Michael P. Ferguson 

Manager, Financial Institution Surety Support Program 

Industrial Indemnity Financial Corporation  

3 Embarcadero Center, Ninth Floor 

San Francisco, CA 94111 

June 1986



    I had been planning to take Christmas week off, but this project looked like a good learning opportunity. Note that the billing of 90 hours for Christmas week and 95 for the week thereafter were for the actual hours worked. They did not include travel, meal or break times.


After my career had arrived




"Many thanks for the business lead you secured for ICC earlier this year. Our cooperation with TYCO which arose from your recommendation led to both successful consulting and mediation. . .

    I was particularly impressed in your handling of a group of 15 participants in the October 2000 seminar. Your realistic negotiation style provided tremendous learning value for that group. It was no mistake that you were nicknamed "Conan the Destroyer" by that group --- although they fortunately go to know your didactic/coaching side during the debriefing phase after the role play. I l look forward to being aboe to turn to you for further input

    I look forward to being able to turn to you for further input on how best to prepare Siemens managers who are faced with large scale, complex negotiations.  .          


    Wishing you a Merry Christmas!"


David Hudnut
Program Manager
SQT ICC, Siemens AG
St.-Martin.Str. 76
D-81541 München
December, 2000


    Siemens is one of the 25 largest corporations in the world, with 461,000 employees. TYCO International is one of the 150 largest corporations in the world, with 248,000 employees.



And as an executive coach


4) "You’re a star James! 

    Thanks a million for your valuable comments and input. I will integrate some of your suggestions and all of your corrections at my earliest convenience.

    Look, I really need to touch base with you soon as I have something I’d like to brainstorm further with you. . . In short....I have recently hired a few sales managers. . . See attachments for more information. . .

    I also need sales managers for Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania.

    Just got back from an Easter break with Daniela and her family to Brazil and am now on my way to Dubai...... I’ll try to give you a ring upon my return next weekend.

Speak soon!


Ketil Molbach
Sales Director and Partner
ZDS srl - Via Provinciale 52a
45030 Gaiba, Italy
April, 2009





    As a counterpoint to the wins, thirteen failures are described in horrific, excruciating detail under Losses. Therefore I feel entitled to add two additional wins here, one academic and one professional, to bring the total for wins up to a “lucky half-dozen."


5) My best academic win

    In my year, M.I.T.´s Accelerated Graduate Program was limited to thirty candidates who took course overloads and wrote a Master's thesis to earn both the MBA and M.Sc. degrees. In the Fall semester I took six courses at M.I.T. and one apiece at Harvard Business School, the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and Harvard Law School for a total of nine courses. The four different campuses were widely removed from one another. This schedule kept me busy scurrying to and fro.

    At that time Harvard Law School did not normally allow "guest" students, and certainly not into the second year required Corporations course I was taking. At the end of this one-year course there was a cumulative "make or break, do or die" long, tough examination. Having low social skills, I had not joined any of the intense team study groups for it.

    When I walked into the examination room, I was the only one without notes, without the mammoth 1,000-page textbook. It was an open book exam! If only I had known, I groaned, all those countless hours spent packing useless information into my head.

    When a Harvard law student called across the room to ask me where my textbook was, I could not resist the temptation. I trumpeted back to him that at M.I.T. we had real exams, closed book. Only academic cripples used textbook crutches in an exam. I continued to bellow: Had none of the Harvard students, not one single one of them, any intellectual pride?

    The entire room went dead silent. All heads turned to me and I was starred at with stone cold, implacable hostility. Somehow I had the vague impression that my friendly teasing remarks had not gone down well with the group, were not a sure fire winner for "how to win friends and influence people."

    My results put me smack dead center, right in the middle, of the class. By chance I later encountered the awesome, intimidating professor (an engineer, CPA, LLD and former judge). He remarked that he had heard of the incident and that my having taken that particular exam closed book was "quite some feat."


6) My best professional win

    There are many Americans who have become CEOs of German companies. However these are almost always subsidiaries of U.S. firms, or Joint Ventures with them. Or the American is CEO of a company he himself founded in Germany. An exception was an American citizen who was CEO of Porsche for a while. However his parents were German and he was, I believe, essentially bilingual.

    Few Americans with less than perfect German (mine is heavily accented) have come to lead a purely German firm. My four years as CEO (Geschaftsfuhrer) of BFS GmbH in Munich were my time on the top of the pyramid, albeit a small one. Upon the firm’s sale to the conglomerate Krupp AG in 1994 (which did not make me poor) I returned to the U.S. until 1997. Those years as CEO are my most cherished professional win.


2nd Disclaimer

    Arrogance is alive and well in C-suites throughout the world. But as a coach, humility works better. Once in Iran I took part in presenting blood analysis machines, a 100,000 Swiss franc item, to hospitals. In the question period after the presentation the Iranian physicians would ask questions for the same reasons the rest of us do: (1) to show how smart we are, (2) to reveal how dumb someone else is and (3) actually to learn something.

    At one presentation an elderly gentleman asked a question about the machine’s plug. The plug? What kind of silly question was that? There were even a couple of snickers from the audience.

    Neither my co-presenter, a Swiss PhD in Chemistry, or I, knew. So we pulled out the electric cord so the gentleman could come up to the podium and examine the plug. He frowned and told us that the machines should be fitted with a different plug, as the one it came with would not work with the sockets in that hospital’s laboratories. Turns out his question was not so silly after all. Next he removed a panel and examined the electrical fittings. After doing that, he very politely informed us the machine really should be rewired to accommodate the severe brownouts there, and a back-up power system provided.

    Curious, I asked his background. He said he was retired and sometimes gave some advice to a hospital as he had a background in medicine. When I pursued he promptly changed the subject to ask me questions about my own education and my business background.

    Later I asked an Iranian physician who seemed to know him who the "plug question man" was. He explained that the man was from the United Nations, a World Health Organization (W.H.O.) advisor who was assisting the Iranian Ministry of Health. "Mr. Plug" had a PhD in physics, a PhD in chemistry, and was a physician, a triple Doctor. After retiring as the Dean of the Medical School at the University of Chicago, he had been recruited by the UN. He had astonished one and all by how fast he had learned Farsi, his fourth or fifth language.

    Armed with this information, I thoughtfully went back to the white-haired Dr.,Dr.,Dr. and asked him what he had found to be his greatest challenge in Iran, in dealing with such a different culture. He said it was the same challenge he had faced in the U.S. -- how properly to teach and to help, not so much the run of the mill medical students and physicians, but rather the truly brilliant ones, those who were so much smarter than he was. Consultants, coaches and mentors, take note!