Former CEO Michael Grindfors focuses on staying connected
Since leaving his CEO post, the focus for Michael Grindfors has been on staying connected. His latest pursuits? Publishing a novel, traveling with family, and launching AlixAlumni. Read his story.
Just a few weeks ago, Michael Grindfors was on a polar expedition in the archipelago of Svalbard, north of mainland Norway, hiking on the glacial ice and even catching sight of a polar bear. He called the choppy Arctic Ocean home for 10 days, together with his wife and 26-year-old daughter.
You could say the former AlixPartners CEO is making the most of retirement. The 62-year-old, though, is still very much connected to the firm’s work – he sits on the board, speaks with current CEO Simon Freakley frequently, and contributes regularly to firm networking and targeted senior recruiting efforts.
“I love the flexibility that I have now -- of not necessarily having an appointment at 7 o’clock every morning,” Michael said. “The world is a fascinating place and sometimes when you work 24x7, as I did for many years, you’re so focused that you don’t have the bandwidth to do much else. Today I find reading the news and thinking about the world very stimulating. But at the same time, I have the intellectual stimulation of being actively involved with the firm.”
On a typical day at home in Lugano in southern Switzerland, Michael spends mornings reading the news in-depth, plays tennis 4-5 days a week, and takes long walks or hikes into the mountains with his wife. Their 24-year-old son lives in South Korea, while their daughter is studying in Lugano. Tennis is a passion – Michael grew up playing the sport seriously in Sweden, and still follows it with gusto.
Retirement also led to the fulfillment of another dream, becoming a published novelist. Michael finally wrote the book he talked about all his life when his wife gifted him a beautiful pen and notebook one Christmas, telling him he better commit the words he had in his mind to paper. Described as a philosophical thriller, Michael published “Trigger to Life” in 2013 to good reviews.
“It was very natural,” he said of the writing process. “You learn in a professional services firm to think in a very structured way -- to express yourself with clarity and to take a complex totality and make it clear and conceivable in a way for your audience to take an interest. That’s the method I applied to writing a novel, too.”
The project Michael is applying his structured thinking to these days is the development of the alumni program at AlixPartners, of which he is the global chair. Michael, who left the CEO position in 2008, has been involved in an advisory capacity at the firm ever since. That’s not unusual at AlixPartners: Michael said it is a testament to the firm’s culture that all four former CEOs (founder Jay Alix, Al Koch, himself, and Fred Crawford) are still such a big part of the firm’s management.
“This is actually in line with the alumni concept,” Michael said. “We all talk to each other on a pretty regular basis, and it would be great if we could extend the same concept to everybody else who has been with the firm.”
According to Michael, there are two main reasons why the development of AlixAlumni was long due: It can foster the establishment of a social and emotional connection and it can advance the possibility of opening up the network for professional growth. “The bonding aspect is very consistent with what AlixPartners stands for as a firm, which is caring about people,” he said. “Caring about each other should not stop when somebody has been offered another opportunity that they couldn’t resist taking.”
The networking and professional development opportunities will follow, he said. “My hopes are that this is going to be something that our people, present and past, will really take advantage of.”
Michael is delighted by the direction the firm has taken in the last few years, with the focus on growing digital capabilities, more robust corporate services, and strides in diversity and inclusion being main points of pride. “The spirit of the firm, the values of the firm, and the differentiation aspect are the same,” he said. “What we’re doing now -- as any good world-class company should – is finetuning. We’re now much more focused on digital development. We’re also responding to something that I think is absolutely urgent and one of Simon’s key focus areas – diversity. And as we’ve grown, we’ve developed a more complete infrastructure to deal with running the administrative side of the business.”
All the foundational changes have also meant that the firm is now in the best possible shape to offer its alumni a strong platform to forge new and old professional connections.
“We go overboard, and are very successful, in recruiting the very best people,” Michael said. “To have all these people continue to interact with each other for the rest of their lives will ensure we all benefit from each other’s experiences.”
We’re always looking for alumni to spotlight. Get in touch to tell us about your own journey, whether you cruised through the Arctic Ocean or up the corporate ranks, and we may feature you in an upcoming newsletter. To find out more about the alumni program, our upcoming events, and for networking opportunities, join our AlixAlumni LinkedIn group.