managing director's comments

My Inheritance

(Wordcount: 668) I was recently asked, "To what can I attribute my success?" and I replied, "Luck, hard work, and determination." It may come as no surprise that I do not come from means, but I did inherit something even more important than wealth and connections, and that's my mom's well-being.

Many of you know my (short) story: I graduated, looked for work, didn't like what I saw, and started my firm. At the time, dot-coms were populated by the best business people around; and somehow, dot-coms still underwent the best failures in corporate history. Based on no other information, I rationalized that I had as good a shot as anyone else. And although I didn't set out to be an entrepreneur, the thought process was the same: "Why work hard to make money for anyone else when I can work hard to make it for myself?"

There are very real barriers to launching a consulting firm from scratch: no one knows you're smart; if they knew, then no one cares if you are; and if they care, they probably can't/won't afford you. So, many of the consulting entrepreneurs you know are almost always "experienced" professionals who have either a) had enough of corporate America, b) had enough of big consulting firms, or c) had enough of a "package" from their previous employers, that they're taking things easy before the next job.

With no experience, funding, or contacts, I still believed that I could build a consultancy from scratch. But this opportunity had to come from somewhere, right? And that's when the truth behind my achievements struck me like a blast of cold air in a miserable New York City subway station: if it wasn't for my mom's persistence at making sure I got a fair shot in school, her own financial independence, and her good health, I'd be just another demographic statistic.

Where I'm from, parents expect their kids to work as soon as possible to contribute to household expenses, a complete reversal of the traditional American dream. Kids, in turn, grow up without recognizing their own potential because they know they'll someday have to work just to pay for their parent's medical bills and all the other necessities of a big family. As it turns out, the American dream isn't really American, but parental. You've got parents who plan and those who don't. Planning means having 2 kids, not 5 to 10. Planning means not drinking, smoking, or engaging in other irresponsible behavior. Planning means sacrificing and saving so you can afford to not burden your kids with your expenses. And planning means dragging your family to church, school, piano, and art lessons maniacally - despite resistance and lack of time - so that your family has a foundation on which to succeed.

If I had to choose between starting off with the resources that other consulting entrepreneurs start with or the way I'm doing things today - slow and steady - I'd choose the latter. Time and again, great achievers claim they miss the getting-there part, so I acknowledge that my experiences today - challenging as they may be - are what's going to propel my firm and work into the annals of business strategy history. But more importantly, had I started out the former, I'd never learn to appreciate what my mom gave me.

Traditionally - relatively speaking, after only 5 years - I take this opportunity to thank the various people who have supported my firm during the year. However, after what you've just read, I'd like to dedicate my 5th year in business to my mom, the source of my wealth, strength, and character, without which, my accomplishments would have been hollow. Mom, although you may not be able to fully appreciate the context of my words, I hope you do appreciate that my accomplishments are your accomplishments; never allow yourself to regret your difficult life, for it has meaning because I'm living the life I chose to live, not one that chose me.

Write to Al Berrios at

(c) 2005. al berrios & company, inc.