Mark Pettyjohn

Senior Executive, Entrepreneur, Educator


The Age of Discovery

Learned the language of business w/ a degree in accounting
Built a broad base as a management consultant
Joined a local home builder on the brink of insolvency and built it into a regional powerhouse
Bootstrapped and a grew a fully distributed SaaS startup

A New Era: Education

Foray into higher ed--taking a program in the doldrums and wringing something special out of it
4th Grade Teacher--2 of the best years of my life

Succeeded in my most challenging turnaround to date-the school district where I taught
The Learning Laboratory-the Pursuit of Building a Better Education System
Staying sharp: 8 years of selectively consulting/coaching

Measuring success

I've succeeded when people or organizations I have worked with no longer need me but continue to thrive.
(I don't mind if they miss me though as I miss many of them.)

Bookshelf - current reads

Why accounting?

As a teenager I stumbled across Robert Hagstrom's "The Warren Buffett Way" in our local library.

Hagstrom described three sets of tenets to evaluate a business. The financial tenets, essentially a discounted cash flow, piqued my interest, but I couldn't read a financial statement.

I also wanted to be an entrepreneur, whatever that meant, and I thought to be a good one, an accounting degree would be a good foundation to build from.

Management Consulting

There's nothing quite like being young and knowing everything. There's nothing quite like youthful ignorance to get yourself in situations you have no business being in.

That about sums up my experience.

Help businesses expand into the U.S.
One of the biggest confidence boosters from this work has no place on a resume. I watched a new market grow from nothing--the luxury fractional ownership space. This came after doing market research for a client, recognizing the niche, and the opportunity. There's nothing like a bit of early success to bolster confidence.Other fun engagements including investigating the wide ranging question for Daimler-Chrysler's Mexico division of what their strategy should be. The biggest recommendation I made was that Daimler-Chrysler's minority stake in Mitsubishi made no sense and they should divest. Several years later I still remember when I came across the New York Times article after Daimler-Chrysler divested its stake in Mitsubishi. The paper wrote "DaimlerChrysler frees itself from an automotive albatross that had been an embarrassment and a financial drain." Consulting and business is not poker. Feedback loops are not immediate or often even visible. This feedback validated by recommendation, analysis, and assumptions. On a different note, I helped a client organize an agave growers co-op in the state of Jalisco in Mexico. There was one farmer who was a hold out. After some machinations I found myself in Jalisco, talking to this man, and securing his cooperation to join the co-op. Not exactly Bill Browder in Red Notice level stuff, but still exciting for a young consultant.These are just a few of the formative stories from my time working with people and organizations across the globe.WHAT I LEARNED:
What not to do. So many organizations were so poorly managed that I filed away countless ways to screw a business up. Years later I would come across Charlie Munger and find he has a name for this--inversion.Dysfunction at organizations is regular.The power of product/market fit. I wouldn't have called it that at the time, but I saw how some businesses could do almost everything wrong and still succeed.The human side of things. People matter. Listen to them. Learn from them and you can stitch together a pretty accurate picture of what is going on within an organization and in doing so, you'll have built relationships and trust with them to enact changes that may need to be made.

My Top Mental Models
These models are at the forefront of my mind and give insight into much of what I do.

1) Systems determine performance

2) Underlying every problem is a human element

3) Humans are social beings

4) We constantly fool ourselves