Adam Hertzman | Crain's Pittsburgh

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Adam Hertzman


Adam Hertzman started out as a best practices consultant and has experience in the consulting, consumer products, financial services, energy, non-profit and enterprise software spaces in market research and strategy.

The Mistake:

Not valuing my own skill set.

I was a manager of people at a pretty young age, where I was balancing between planning and empowering my team to do things. Within a large company, you often need to get a lot of people to sign off on a decision. Sometimes, you need to just do things instead of spending so much time planning to do them.  

I spent a lot of time on planning what to do when I should have been figuring out how to stop doing things that were not working. You have to ask yourself what do I need to get the business running, to make our goals?

I started out at a high growth company called CEB. We were a combination of strategy consultants, who did best practices research for big companies, writing case studies. When I moved on from there, I didn’t really grasp how valuable that experience was. You always hear that good strategy is first about abandonment: stopping things you shouldn’t be doing. You have to focus on getting expertise in the areas that do matter, not concentrating on the things that don’t.

It’s like that old 80/20 rule, that says 80 percent of your business comes from 10 percent of your customers. In a nonprofit, it’s 80 percent of your fundraising that comes from 10 percent of your donors. So how do you focus on growth, on building relationships with that 10 percent who will help the company or organization grow?

I needed to take what I already knew and apply it to my own work.

The Lesson:

I realized that when I said “I’m the marketing director” it didn’t really explain “so what is it that I do?” The time I spent at CEB writing about best practices I had to really learn to apply those in my next positions. I failed to realize how important it was to be a good internal evangelist, to sell my ideas and best practices to others in the company.

What I finally came to realize is that I’m good at being proactive rather than reactive. And my skills and background, where I studied how to implement change and drive business, allowed me to take on a position where I could help the organization become more proactive. That’s exactly what the Jewish Federation was looking for in its marketing department.

I knew what the best practices were for running an organization and following the 80/20 rule because that’s what I had advised other companies. I just needed to take what I already knew and apply it to my own work.


Follow the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh on Twitter at @JewishFedPGH.

Pictured: Adam Hertzman | Photo courtesy of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh.

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