The Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

In Summary:

  • CEO/President (private company, USA)
  • Interim CEO (listed company, South Africa)
  • Executive Board Member (listed industrial holding company, SA)
  • Independent coach, advisor and consultant to executives (since 1990)
  • Worked on two continents in multiple sectors (from Advertising to Wealth Management)
What the CEO looks like today

In Practice:

James began his career in 1979 as an economist reporting to a board of directors comprising CEOs and civil servants. He has continued to work as an advisor to senior executives ever since.

In 1990 he co-founded a niche strategy and executive effectiveness consulting firm in Cape Town, South Africa. Noteworthy assignments have included (a) the successful rescue of a clothing chain with 185 stores in 5 countries, (b) a stint as interim CEO, and (c) appointment as an Executive Director to the Board of Directors (for 4 years) of an industrial holding company listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

Has advised executives in industries including: advertising and branding; housing construction; information technology; medical; municipal and county services; merchant shipping; non-profit; oil; professional services; retail; and wealth management.

Many of his USA clients are classified as small, medium and non-profit. However, two of his clients can be described as big: he provided long-term executive and leadership coaching services to senior managers and vice presidents within a major firm operating in the financial services industry, and completed assignments for a Fortune 200 company based in Richmond.

In June 2019 James retired from the role of CEO of a 30+ year old wealth management firm.

In Theory:

  • MBA (Stellenbosch University Business School, South Africa)
  • Hons B (B&A) (Stellenbosch University Business School, South Africa)
  • B.S. (Agricultural Economics) (University of Pretoria, South Africa)

The Chief Nonsense Officer (CNO)

Born in the middle of South African wine country, earned three degrees drinking red wine, was chased by a lioness, had to run from elephants, got bored, and moved to Richmond seeking adventure.

In his role as coach, consultant and parent, he has seen a lot of nonsense at work. (That’s why he now shows others how to make the nonsense at work work for them.

When this gets the better of him, he retreats to writing and public speaking until his confidence returns. He has been repeating this cycle for over 25 years without seriously hurting himself, his clients, his audience or, most importantly, his family.

What the CNO once looked like

How he became the CNO

In his own words:

On the first day of my first formal job after my first formal degree, my first formal boss resigned.

Unlike most corporate ladders, the one I stood on had only two rungs (it was a tiny organization) and the rung above me was suddenly empty. No, this wasn’t an opportunity. It was a calamity! Back then I knew the minimum about management and even less about leadership, but I knew that I needed a boss to tell me what-to-do-how-by-when.

From that day onwards I treated organizational life with a great deal of suspicion, expecting bullshit in every cubicle, corner office and boardroom.

Tired of nonsense at work, I created my own ladder and promoted myself to the position of Chief Nonsense Officer.

James with Dr Wally Johnston as guests on Richmond’s PBS station “PERSPECTIVE” with host Barbara Berlin. (James took over Dr Wally’s WCVE Public Radio show in 2006 until it ended in 2016)