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Gray-haired Eminence

May 17, 2012

“Voice from the Trenches” is written by Karen Euler, director of marketing at TRO Jung|Brannen. A past board member of SMPS Boston, Karen always enjoys conversing with readers via Twitter [@karen_e] or LinkedIn.

When I worked on marketing projects in the Middle East during the speculative years of 2007 and 2008 (a blurry memory of Ferrari theme parks, indoor ski areas, and islands shaped like totemic animals), my firm at the time often struggled with getting the right people at client meetings. Our principals flew to Persian Gulf countries on a regular basis and we maintained an office in Abu Dhabi for four years. Despite the high amount of client service we offered from all levels of staff, we found that many Middle East clients wanted to work exclusively with gray-haired firm leaders. A talented 45-year-old senior associate was not good enough if the hair around the temples was still nicely pigmented!

The notion of silver-toned locks also comes up when discussing board members for companies. One public company CEO recently opined on the avc.com web site that the chair of a board should be someone with l’éminence grise, or gray-haired eminence. Someone who is well-seasoned and has been “to the pay window” more than a few times is best suited for advising a company in which the CEO may be a touch green.

Recently, when choosing a consultant writer for an upcoming project, I considered peers of mine who are accomplished writers and strategists. Ultimately, I chose someone with gray hair – older than me and more experienced than my friends. I gave a sigh of relief when she accepted the assignment because I know the project will be in good hands. I may also get more than I will pay for: her wisdom, a little advice here and there. In short, counsel.

Last month, I had lunch with another gray-haired friend. Recently retired from a large accounting firm, he is now a board member for several biotech companies. He told me how important it is to follow your passion when selecting boards to join so the work seems less like work; he also cautioned against relocating to another state to follow an opportunity that seems glittery because the value of home is hard to quantify. He lives by these credos, which made me realize that’s the thing about gray-haired eminences. They embody experience. The silver strands speak volumes.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. mark guarino permalink
    May 25, 2012 2:25 pm

    so my gray beard is a good thing??

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