How great leaders amplify the power of teams, with Tom Finegan

Back in 1991, Tom Finegan was working for a consulting firm that was doing very well – except he felt like the firm cared more about the bottom line than the success of their clients. So Tom made the scary leap to entrepreneurship, and he now has 30 years of startup and leadership lessons to share.

Tom Finegan is the founder and CEO of Clarkston Consulting, and author of the Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Amplifiers: How Great Leaders Magnify the Power of Teams, Increase the Impact of Organizations, and Turn Up the Volume on Positive Change.


Trevor Schmidt:Hello, and welcome to the Founder Shares Podcast. We’re so happy that you’ve chosen to spend some time with us. I’m your host, Trevor Schmidt. I’m an attorney at Hutchison law firm in Raleigh, North Carolina. We work with founders and entrepreneurs as they fight, grind, stress and push to bring their visions to reality. We are inspired by their incredible stories of success, failure, reworking and trying again.

Trevor Schmidt: Today’s guest is Tom Finegan, Chairman and CEO of Clarkston Consulting. Tom is also the author of the recently released and Wall Street Journal Bestseller book, Amplifiers: How Great Leaders Magnify the Power of Teams, Increase the Impact of Organizations, and Turn Up the Volume on Positive Change.

On the show, Tom and I chat about lessons from his book and his entrepreneurial journey, which started all the way back in 1991, when the business he was working for didn’t quite share his vision for the future.

Tom Finegan: So when we were sitting around a table, we felt like a consultant, we work for a great consulting firm, no knock on them, but we felt like they cared a little bit more about themselves than they did genuinely care about their clients or their people. And so when we built our, when we started our business, we thought that if we built a business that actually cared about the clients we serve and our employees that serve them, there’ll be room for us in the market. And that’s been our guiding beacon since the beginning and that, and do the right thing. And it’s led to quite a bit of success over the years. 

Moise: I went to the American university in Beirut, which added quite a bit to my education and my formation. The war came in and that actually added a little bit of a spice, if I may call it that way, to my life in that. It allowed me to learn to be resilient. So during the war, we had to really survive quite a bit. I was in, several times, I was in situations where bombs were falling over my head and in a very precarious, risky situation. And so you had to learn how to survive and be resilient. And also, I have to say that growing in an environment like that gives you a lot of courage to take risks that may scare other people.

So it gave me a little bit of this ability or aptitude, if you want, to be able to tolerate more risks, because I’ve been in much worse situations. So sometimes when I’m sitting across the table from another, business person and I’m trying to negotiate a deal. In the back of my head, I’m thinking what, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ve been in way worse situations than this before. And so that adds a lot, a lot of courage to really take the risks that you need to succeed in business. 

Trevor Schmidt: Tom has had tremendous success with Clarkston over the last 30 years. But like many of you listening, when he started out, Tom faced the challenge of taking a dream and converting it to a reality. Step one, get a few clients.

Tom: Well, so, you know, there’s, there’s that vision. And then there’s the grind of actually getting hired. So we were four guys in a shingle trying to start a consulting firm and we’re competing with Arthur Anderson and Deloitte and IBM and, you know, Ernst and Young, just a lot of big well-known companies.

We were kids when we started the business, and to compete and win against those massive powerhouse companies. It was truly a David and Goliath story. We competed through client intimacy. You know, we were able to convince our clients that we genuinely cared and that we would go to the mat at the end of the day, to ensure that their projects were successful.

We were able to get a couple of fortune 50 clients, right from the beginning, and from there, we were able to build and leverage and you know, when someone has the objection, you know, why should we hire you? We can look them in the eye and say, well, Dow Chemical has a very sophisticated purchasing process and a rigorous selection criterion, and they selected us. They’re five times bigger than you are.  

Trevor: So what have been some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on, either a Clarkson or one of these other businesses? 

Full Episode Transcript

Hosted by Trevor Schmidt, Founder Shares is brought to you by Hutchison PLLC, and is edited and produced by Earfluence.

Amplify Your Expertise
About the Author
At Earfluence, we are proud to produce this podcast. We believe in sharing amazing stories, providing knowledge to the world, and celebrating diverse voices. Through podcasting, our clients are amplifying their expertise, expanding their networks, building a content engine, and growing their influence. If you're interested in podcasting, we'd love to hear from you! Schedule your free 15 minute podcast consult today.