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Standing on the shoulders of giants

January 19, 2015 Blog 1 min read

Although no one knows for sure where the phrase originated, its best-known use was by Sir Isaac Newton in a letter to his rival, Robert Hooke: “What Descartes did was a good step. You have added much….If I have seen a little further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

Last month, we hosted a small dinner gathering with Jay Alix, one of the most respected experts on corporate turnarounds and restructurings in America. He is also one of our firm’s dearest friends and long-term supporters. Jay was particularly close with firm co-founder Frank Moran and considers Frank his greatest mentor.

The dinner included three retired Plante Moran leaders—Bill Hermann, Bill Matthews, and Ed Parks—and me. I also had a dinner later that week with Ken Kunkel and Tom Doescher, two other retired partners who had a significant role in building the firm. They are all people I’ve been privileged to work with and learn from over the years. I was struck by how gracious and humble they always are, as if they haven’t personally assisted in molding Plante Moran into the firm it is today. They were part of Frank Moran’s grand experiment—is it possible to build a sustainable business by putting people first?

Of course it is. We’re here to tell that tale, to live that culture, and to serve as examples to current and future staff. We protect our culture, enhance it, and perpetuate it—but we didn’t create it. We inherited it from Frank and others—those who worked tirelessly to create a thriving firm that cares about its clients, its staff, and the community. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t use lessons I’ve learned from one of these giants. At Plante Moran, we often tell stories to help share these lessons but also to honor those who helped make us the firm that we are. Like Newton, we stand on the shoulders of giants, and we wouldn’t want it any other way.

How about you? Who have been your organization’s greatest builders and mentors? How do your memorialize and honor their efforts?

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