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Left Turn: John Brownlee, HBA ’72

  • Wallace Immen
  • |
  • Sep 5, 2017

John Brownlee, HBA ’72, changed his career path from executive search to a new labour of love – matchmaking.

Left Turn: John Brownlee, HBA ’72

After graduating from Ivey in 1972, I went into advertising, broadcasting, and consulting, which helped me amass a huge network of contacts across the country. A number of people, including some Ivey classmates, suggested that these networking referrals are gold and I should look into executive search.

So when a small boutique search firm called me, I joined. But I only stayed for less than a year. I decided there was a better way to do it. I approached two of the top consultants there and said, “Why don’t we start our own firm?” That was the birth of Pulse Management Group back in 1998.

Executive search is a grind, and after doing it for three years, I was getting burnt out. One day, a corporate client asked me whether I’d ever consider changing gears and instead of looking for executives for Fortune 500 companies, look for life partners for executives.

It wasn’t an “aha” moment. I didn’t know much about matchmaking, but I got a lot of support when I ran the idea past my business partners at the time.

I did focus groups to get to know the potential market. I decided that if I’m going to do this, I want to do it on the same platform that I do executive search. I’m going to do searches based on needs and wants, and not randomly match people up from a computer. I did some test cases. I didn’t charge for the searches, but in return I asked them to help with collateral and how to position the business. It ended up being a win-win situation.

Executive Life Partners has grown every year for 16 years, and I don’t regret making the left turn in my career. As corny and cliché as it may sound, at the end of the day, I’m making a difference.

People ask me all the time which I prefer – executive search or matchmaking. While I could make far more money doing executive search, this is much more rewarding. It’s tremendously satisfying seeing my labour put together people who would probably have never met had I not introduced them.

Photos: Nation Wong
Art Direction: Greg Salmela, Aegis