Recently, I had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Director of The Trustees of Reservations, Andy Kendall (HBS Class of 1988), through the Social Enterprise Club’s alumni mentor program. The Trustees is the nation’s oldest statewide land conservation organization. Their purpose is to preserve, for public use and enjoyment, landscapes of exceptional scenic, historic, and ecological value in Massachusetts and to protect special places across the state.
Andy’s career has spanned both the for-profit and non-profit sectors including: Lincoln Electric, the New Hampshire Audubon Society, independent environmental consulting in the US and Costa Rica, the Massachusetts Audubon Society and currently The Trustees of Reservations. Let’s see what he has to say about the crossing the for-profit/non-profit chasm.
Haacker: Why the transition to the social sector?
Kendall: I wanted to accomplish more in the social and environmental world than I was capable of while working at Lincoln. It really wasn’t an atmosphere that was conducive to my non-profit interests outside of Lincoln. I had done some consulting for non-profit organizations while at HBS and saw an opportunity to combine my outdoors and environmental passion with my career.
Haacker: Had you given any thought to joining the non-profit sector immediately out of HBS?
Kendall: No. We didn’t have access to nearly the number of resources that are available to current students. There really wasn’t a lot of interest in social enterprise and I kind of just followed the crowd.
Haacker: So how did you make the transition? How did you find the position with the New Hampshire Audubon Society?
Kendall: Well, the first thing that I did after I was sure that I wanted to make the switch was to leave Lincoln Electric. I felt that since it was such an important decision, I should focus on it 100% and not let my choices be clouded by my current position. Then I conducted a “Porter’s Five Forces Analysis” of the environmental industry. I determined that I wanted to be at the state level, which I considered to be more “grassroots”. So I spent the next 3 or 4 months traveling around the country visiting with CEOs of various non-profit groups.
Haacker: What do you like best about your career in the social sector and with The Trustees in particular?
Kendall: The biggest thing is that I’m able to see the obvious impacts of throwing myself into my work 100%. I’m very passionate about the cause and issues involved and there is no reason for me to be away from my work in order to fulfill some of my personal desires.
Haacker: What would you say to a student that is trying to decide whether or not to pursue an opportunity with a non-profit organization?
Kendall: I would tell them not to force themselves into anything that they’re not sure about yet. You need to be comfortable with the choices that you are making. The key thing is to identify the cause that really excites you. If you could work against any issue that currently exists in society, what would it be? It’s the passion for the cause that is going to carry you through the tough times.
I would also say that I am much more satisfied with my career now. I earn a reasonable salary. There aren’t any IPOs in my future but that’s OK because I’m making Massachusetts a better place for future generations.
Haacker: How have your experiences in the social sector matched any perceptions that you may have had while in the for-profit world? Any big surprises?
Kendall: There is a lot that people in the corporate sector can learn from non-profits and vice versa – neither group has the entire answer. Non-profit organizations need to learn to be more about business but not at the expense of their passion. And on the other hand, if corporate America had a fraction of the passion that I’ve seen in the non-profit world, productivity would be many times higher.
Haacker: Any other thoughts or advice that you would like to share with current HBS students?
Kendall: HBS students have a tremendous advantage – the alumni network. Make sure that you use this resource and take advantage of it.
People see the non-profit decision as an “all or nothing” proposition. The decision between the two sectors is not necessarily mutually exclusive. There are many ways to get involved: sharing your business skills and experience, volunteering and also serving as board members. You can get a taste of the social sector without committing your entire career to see if it’s for you.
Editor’s Note: This profile is part of a semester-long series intended to highlight the lives of HBS alumnus working in the social enterprise arena. Each featured alumni is a participant in the Social Enterprise Club’s mentorship program, a pilot initiative launched this year in the Boston area. This program, currently facilitating 20 mentor/student partnerships, will be rolled-out nationally this fall.
For more information about The Trustees of Reservations, visit //www.thetrustees.org.