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Bruce Tulgan

Bruce Tulgan

Bruce Tulgan, founder of RainmakerThinking, Inc.®,
shares how he made the transition from being a corporate lawyer to becoming an internationally recognized expert on young people in the workplace.

How would you describe RainmakerThinking, Inc.?

Mostly we are a seminar company. We do custom seminars on generational difference in the workplace, strategic staffing issues, and day-to-day supervision/management/leadership tactics. We’ve trained tens of thousands of leaders in organizations ranging from the CIA to TGI Fridays.

How did you start RainmakerThinking, Inc.?

I started RainmakerThinking by accident back in 1993, while I was still practicing law full time in New York City . I was a young associate at a great law firm, Carter, Ledyard & Milburn. From the moment I arrived there, I became aware of an obvious generation gap in the firm. The older more experienced people seemed to think that the young associates had bad attitudes and a poor work ethic. Back then of course, the young emerging workforce was Generation X (those born 1965-1977). I had very good relationships with some of the senior partners and several of them openly complained to me about my younger colleagues and me. They would say the young lawyers were, “disloyal,” that we had “short attention spans,” that we didn’t “want to work as hard,” that we didn’t “want to pay our dues,” that we wanted everything our own way, and so on. In one of these conversations, I said to one senior partner, “Mr.___ , if you only knew what the young associates are whispering about over lunch.” His eyes lit up and he became very curious and he really wanted to know, “What are they whispering about over lunch?”

That conversation inspired me to start working on an article that I was planning to call, “What your young employees are whispering about over lunch.” And I began interviewing young people about their attitudes and experiences in the workplace. I started conducting interviews. Pretty soon there were too many interviews to fit into an article and I started to realize that I was on my way to writing a full length book. So I quit my job at the law firm to conduct more interviews and write the book. I practiced law for only 428 days… although I am still a member of the bar in New York State and in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts .

How did you make the transition from practicing law to starting RainmakerThinking, Inc.?

In the meantime, I had to figure out a way to make money. I recruited an old friend– – –Jeff Coombs– – –and we started a business that we thought would sell survey research services like polling, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Before we really got the business up and running, I sold the book to a small publishing house and they published the first edition of MANAGING GENERATION X in the fall of 1995.

Almost immediately after the book came out, the media took notice of the book. It was a case of being in the right place at the right time.

How did your research turn into a seminar series?

There were so many news stories about the book, for a while there were more news stories than the number of books that had been sold. The first company that ever called was General Electric. Someone called and asked if I would speak at one of their leadership conferences. My first reaction to that call was, “Really?!” Then the person asked, “What is your speaking fee?” That really took me by surprise. So I said what I thought was a lot and the person said, “OK.” And that’s when we knew we were really on to something. The calls kept coming.

What advice would you have for an attorney who wants to write a book?

I’ve written a lot of books, but my wife (Debby Applegate) is the real author in the family. Even though she has only written one book (to my sixteen), her book won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography which has made her an overnight literary celebrity. So maybe the best advice is to spend twenty years writing just one book and make it very, very, very good!!!!!!! That’s what she did. When it comes to writing non-fiction, let me share the advice I know Debby would offer (and I concur): Read THINKING LIKE YOUR EDITOR by Susan Rabiner, which is a guide to publishing non-fiction written by the best non-fiction literary agent in New York .

Interview with Bruce Tulgan conducted by Natalie Holder-Winfield of the Committee on Career Advancement and Managemen