By Michael Law
Kate Gace Walton was a wonderful colleague of mine at Ogilvy in Hong Kong back in 2003. Kate was leading an important pitch to Scottish Development International. The brief was to promote foreign investment in Scotland, something I felt passionate about (of course). We spent days together preparing. Weeks later, we found ourselves in front of the client. At the beginning of the pitch, Kate stood up and delivered a stunning opening about the power of human connection and ended with the quote “Only Connect” – the epigraph from E.M. Forster’s 1910 novel Howards End.
I remember that pitch like it was yesterday, mostly because of Kate’s flawless execution. But over time, the Howards End line stuck with me. Human connections and the communications that enable them are the lifeblood of our business. Forster’s characters show the richness of human connection and what earnest people can do together when seeking mutual understanding and purpose.
That spirit of human connection was front and center at Summit Strategy Group’s recent retreat in Yosemite National Park. Eighteen of us gathered at the Evergreen Lodge (a great venue) and spent three days getting proximate to the mountaineering spirit at the heart of our company, charting the course for next year and telling stories by a campfire.
We visited El Capitan and imagined the courage of Alex Honnold’s masterwork culminating in his solo ascent in 2017. We stood on O'Shaughnessy Dam and reflected on John Muir’s fight to save the Hetch Hetchy valley, and also the engineering marvel that brings high quality drinking water and power to the Bay Area every day.
Best of all, we were able to connect with each other in a way that we have not enjoyed over the past 18 months: In-person, face-to-face, shoulder-to-shoulder. We headed home reluctantly, yet eager to meet back up again soon. Our drives out of the mountains were buoyed by a shared spirit that the future is bright. And in my case, a lot of gratitude for the connections that have brought this firm to life.