David Peterson, 50, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Atlanta-based North Highland Co., a $40 million management-and-technology consulting firm with seven offices nationwide
Consultant David Peterson was on the road so much that he used his suitcase more often than his bedroom dresser. And he was sick of the weekly schlepp to the client site: Pack Sunday. Hop on the “consultant shuttle” Monday morning. Fly home Thursday night, if you’re lucky.
Peterson overheard his then-two-year-old daughter ask her mother, “Does Daddy still live with us?” Oops.
Peterson left his senior post at Ernst & Young and took the road less traveled. He started his own consulting company and created a “no-fly zone.” Almost ten years later, North Highland’s crew is composed of about 250 infrequent fliers who only serve clients within a 50-mile radius of their home base. (A handful of twentysomethings who like to travel pick up the long-distance accounts.) As a result, most staffers can drive to their client site and get home in time for dinner. With local clients and an 8-to-5 workday, consultants can get a life. Why 50 miles? “It’s not a fixed border. But it’s about the maximum distance people should have to drive between home and work,” Peterson says. The Peterson principle brings new promise to an industry that tends to pay lip service to the notion of work-life balance. And the principle runs deep at North Highland, right down to the way the company positions its sales pitch. “Clients are getting consultants who cost less because they’re local,” says Joe Sisto, a North Highland director. “We are also providing a higher level of service, because we’re part of the community. It creates a different level of trust.”