The Power of Values: How Experience Shaped Our Firm

By Mike Gunter | June 28, 2024

“Every step in your journey leads you to exactly where you are today.” – Unknown

Last November, I went to my reunion with the Class of 1993 from the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University. It was fun to see and reconnect with friends from b-school, catch up on life, and hear about some of the amazing things my classmates have done since we graduated. But it also means I have been in the world of consulting for 30 years!

Three decades in the industry have given me a variety of experiences in different organizations and the privilege of working alongside and learning from many different people. These experiences and people played crucial roles not only in my own journey but in The Gunter Group’s as well, because they formed the foundation for the values and philosophy that are core to our company.

As a newly minted M.B.A. in 1993, I started my consulting career at Deloitte Consulting. What a great place to start! I had the privilege to work with incredibly smart and talented people, many of whom are still friends and mentors. It was hard work, but it taught me how much I loved consulting… solving difficult problems, working with great teams, and most of all, serving clients. Looking back, I wouldn’t trade my experience at Deloitte for anything because it built the foundation for the rest of my career.

But after seven years with Deloitte, the road warrior lifestyle of a consultant started to become draining. I met my wife, Ashleigh, at Deloitte, and we both made the difficult decision to leave the firm soon after we got married in order to start our life together. We left a lot of friends and colleagues, and work that we enjoyed, but it was the first of many decisions Ashleigh and I made over time to put our lives and values first. At that time, what mattered was starting our newly married life together.

I ended up at two different startups in Atlanta, leading teams focused on delivering high-quality client service. The second startup, Rubbernetwork (now Elemica), was a great experience and gave me lifelong friends all over the world. What I learned in a startup of 65 people was how amazing it was to be part of a small, tight-knit team, and how much I valued being able to work alongside people that I considered friends. I still carry that lesson with me today.

At Rubbernetwork, I led the part of the organization focused on our clients in Europe. Given I was based in Atlanta, it meant a lot of time away. With a two-year-old at home and another one on the way, Ashleigh and I realized we needed a change and decided to move to Portland, Oregon (Ashleigh’s hometown), to raise our family. It was another hard decision because it meant leaving friends and family in Atlanta, but we knew it was the right decision.

To enable the move to Portland, I went back into consulting and joined a small (at the time) firm called Point B. It reminded me of how much I loved client service and also what it was like to be part of a small, growing firm that was really starting to build.

The point of all this is not to “walk through the highlights of Mike’s career”. The different organizations of which I have been part and the people with whom I worked had a profound impact on me and led directly to Ashleigh’s and my decision to start The Gunter Group in 2011. Exposure to different types of organizations gave us the foundation to develop our own perspective of what kind of organization we would like to create and build, and the values we would want to incorporate into it.

We’re now thirteen years in with The Gunter Group. We have an amazing team, many of whom have been with us since the very beginning, some of whom are new, and a bunch that fall somewhere in between. We have an incredible set of clients that we are privileged to serve. We have incorporated our values—our “Non-Negotiables”—into our organization, and our team reflects them every single day with how we work with each other and our client teams. We are building a sustainable organization that will be around for the long haul.

I am also proud to say that I still get to work alongside a bunch of my friends.

These days my role is a lot different. I am not as deeply involved anymore in day-to-day client delivery or in the operations of the firm. We have a talented team that does an amazing job of those things. I see my role as trying to think strategically about the direction of the firm and how to get there, and guiding, mentoring, coaching, and lifting up the emerging leaders in our company. That has been an evolution; one that has been challenging at times (I have a hard time not getting in the middle of things and almost always have an opinion 😀), but one that has and continues to be immensely rewarding. It has been a humbling experience to watch people start at TGG as brand new consultants and grow into incredible leaders and amazing professionals.

Back to my reunion. 30 years have gone by pretty fast. As smart as I’m sure I thought I was back then, I could not have predicted where the journey would take me. There were definitely a few turns we didn’t expect, but we embraced them and adapted to the change.

I couldn’t be happier to be where I am now. I am proud of our team and what we’re building. It has been incredibly rewarding to watch the company and my teammates grow, and see how TGG reflects our values and who we are as people. I am excited about where we are going as a firm and what the future holds for us, and I am also excited to continue writing about our (and my) journey along the way.

“Every step in your journey leads you to exactly where you are today.” – Unknown


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