“Who says you can’t go home?
There’s only one place they call me one of their own
Just a hometown boy born a rolling stone
Who says you can’t go home?
Who says you can’t go back?
I been all around the world and as a matter of fact
There’s only one place left I wanna go
Who says you can’t go home?” – Bon Jovi
Home… That is an interesting word. How do you define it? I can hear my Dad’s voice in my head right now – in his very deliberate, “e-nun-ci-ate e-ver-y syl-a-ble” style of asking a question – “How… do… you… define…home?” Business “home” or personal home? For business, is home CIGNA (my first job out of school)? Aon (the first job where I found my passion)? Equity Risk (the job that defined me)? For personal, is home the South side of Chicago (where I was born)? The south suburbs of Chicago or Ridgewood, NJ (where I was raised)? San Ramon or Alamo, CA (where Mary and I created our family)? Door County, WI (where I go to recharge my soul)?
Needless to say, the answer to that question is a very personal one and each individual will define it differently. The key, though, to business and personal success is to actually define it. However you define it for yourself, you need a baseline – a frame of reference – a true north – that allows you to create balance, foundation, and a road map for future success.
For me, when people ask me about home, I always answer as follows – “I was born in Chicago. I am from California. I am home in Door County, WI.” Door County is home. It is where I feel most closely aligned with who I am. It is where I find inspiration, beauty, simplicity, and decency. It is where the basics matter. It is not a place to “fly over”, it is a place to FLY TO – where neighbors, community, and faith remain a bond that unites us rather than some outdated notion from a bygone era.
In business, I look at the question in a similar way – “My career was born at CIGNA. My career flourished at Aon. My true vocation and passion were discovered at Equity Risk Partners.” Equity Risk is home. It proved that with hard work, great people, and luck, you could build a business from scratch and succeed. It proved that a relentless focus on clients and an unwavering devotion to being the best in a given specialty can overcome significant disadvantages in size.
One of the greatest business books ever written is In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman. Of all the great analysis in the book, the best item is actually the first item – Stick To Your Knitting. Do what you do best. Focus on your strengths. If this is not the single best piece of advice for business and personal success, then I do not know what is. Another way Peters and Waterman could have said it is – Go Home.
Next week, it will be one year since I departed Equity Risk. It has been an amazing 12 months. I met many new people who have impressed me with their accomplishments, ideas, and creativity. I analyzed several businesses that impressed me with their unique approaches, passion for success, and differentiated offerings. I recharged my ambition and work ethic by associating with those in the midst of discharging theirs. And, I rediscovered my youthful exuberance by crawling on the floor, swinging on the swings, climbing up the slide, and reading on the rocking chair with the single best reason for still wanting to make myself a better person at 54 years old – Penelope.
I will be “heading home” in the next few weeks. I look forward to sharing it with you soon.
“It doesn’t matter where you are
It doesn’t matter where you go
If it’s a million miles away or just a mile up the road
Take it in
Take it with you when you go
Who says you can’t go home?”
Michael C. Marcon is the founder of M3K Holdings, Chairman of The Marcon Foundation, and the former founder, Chairman and CEO of Equity Risk Partners.