Who are Your “Individuals of Impact”?

Al and Tom Schinkel - 10 Year EventFrom time to time, we all come into contact with individuals who really change our world.  I don’t mean something small, I mean BIG TIME!   We may not be aware of it at the time, but if you think about where you are now, and you’re honest with yourself, you’ll invoke memories of individuals whose impact on you has been nothing less than profound.   I encourage you to do so.

One of my “Individuals of Impact” is Tom Schinkel.   This genius of a Dutchman with an amazing view of the world and a wicked sense of humor is directly, and indirectly, responsible for many of the opportunities that have come my way; including my being in the consulting business today.  The idea germinated at our initial meeting way back in 1977 when I was a twenty-one year young Marketing Manager for an eyewear importer.    Tom, the former Associate Director of the Dutch Wholesalers Association, was then consulting for a Swedish frame manufacturer.  As he is today, Tom was then an international business consultant with an emphasis on distribution and cross-border business development (see www.thomaschinkel.com).

Tom came to visit our firm in upstate New York and made a presentation to our small management team.  I don’t recall whether it was his Dutch accent or the fact that he used such ten dollar words as “technology transfer”, “captives” and “cross-border opportunity,” but I distinctly remember that I was a mesmerized young man.   He was one smart guy with a very cool job.

In 1979, I struck out on my own; though not yet in the consulting world.  I was going to do what I knew best, open up a frame distribution business.  The timing seemed perfect as we were heading into a recession (often the best time to start a new business).  So I read “How to Borrow your Way to a Fortune” and found myself with a $10,000 loan.  I quit my job having just purchased my first home and with my wife pregnant with our first child.  I recalled Tom’s discussion at our 1977 meeting about the use of “captives” in distribution.  I hatched the hair-brained idea to start a frame importing company which would give away a share of stock for each frame purchased.   After all, it seemed logical that customers would continue to buy from a company that they owned.   Reality was that I was suffering from CDS…Clue Deficiency Syndrome…but that’s another story.

My first phone call was to the consultant, Tom Schinkel.  I took a large portion of my borrowed funds and initially retained him to help guide me in my new endeavor.  It was Tom who drafted the business plan for the company that would become Co-Optics of America; the first national buying group for optometrists.  Tom and I became partners and worked together for 5 years.  We’ve been colleagues ever since.

When I sold out and retired from Co-Optics of America in 1989, it was destiny that I would follow in Tom’s footsteps and become a consultant.   Cleinman Performance Partners was born.

Tom and I share many wonderful memories and amazing experiences.  We continue our association to this day and, as we did last evening, periodically get together for a night of reminiscing.  I owe Tom a significant debt of gratitude for even talking to me; then an uneducated, inexperienced kid with a head full of ideas.   It was through Tom’s guidance and friendship that I matured in business.

It is only fitting that I share this story with my readers on the 20th anniversary of Cleinman Performance Partners.  You see, without that meeting some 32 years ago, several firms might not even exist; an entire industry (the buying group industry) might not exist; hundreds of clients might not perform as they now do; and this entrepreneur might not have had the opportunities that have been placed before me.   One meeting and a life is changed.

Tom Schinkel is an “Individual of Impact!”  Thank you, Tom!


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