Entrepreneurship Podcast post

Love and Work with Michael Nathanson

George Grombacher August 30, 2023

share close

Love and Work with Michael Nathanson

LifeBlood: We talked about the meaning of love and work, how to do good work while being mindful of your impact, sustainably growing a company, and how enterprises are similar to human systems, with Michael Nathanson, Chair and CEO of the Colony Group, podcaster, and author.      

Listen to learn the value of seeking feedback from your people!

You can learn more about Michael at TheColonyGroup.com, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Thanks, as always for listening! If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review here:


You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook or you’d like to be a guest on the show, contact us at contact@LifeBlood.Live. 

Stay up to date by getting our monthly updates.

Want to say “Thanks!” You can buy us a cup of coffee.


Invest in yourself. Bring it All Together.

Work with a coach to unlock personal and professional potential.

Our Guests

George Grombacher

Michael Nathanson

Michael Nathanson

Episode Transcript

george grombacher 0:02
Michael Nathanson is the chair and CEO of the colony group. They are one of the largest invest our IAS or financial firms in the United States. He’s a podcaster and author, committed member of his community and family man, Michael, excited to have you back on the show. Well, welcome back.

Michael Nathanson 0:18
George, it’s so great to be back. Always enjoy speaking with you.

george grombacher 0:22
It’s been a couple of years. So refresh your memory, tell us about your personal life more about your work and why you do what

Michael Nathanson 0:27
you do. Great. Well, let’s start with mission. Whenever I get in front of our company and talk about mission vision values, I’m going to do the same thing here. And my personal mission is to live my most extraordinary life by helping other people live their most extraordinary life. Other things about about me and about why I do what I do. And what I do is, I’m a big believer in legacy. I love the book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. And one of the seven habits of highly effective people is to live your life with the end in mind. And that doesn’t mean you know, thinking about the next project and the end of that project, it means actually living your life thinking about what happens when you die, and how will you be remembered? And how will you have made the world better? And that’s a big part of what motivates me. I try to live extraordinarily. I, as you point out in your introduction, I have a podcast called seeking the extraordinary which is about exactly that. It’s about speaking with people who have done extraordinary things and understanding what makes those people tick. I love my work. I love my family, my friends. I’ve got great family, great friends, and I’ve been a partner at a major law firm. That’s what I did. I was a tax lawyer before I became the CEO of a financial services company. I have been very active in the brain tumor community I have a brain tumor myself. It’s a it’s an inoperable but not cancerous. So I’m fortunate. I served as the chair of the National brain tumor society for many years. I’m proud that my wife and I have been instrumental in creating for permanent endowments. Philanthropy is very important to us. I’m a third degree black belt and Kung Fu. I am a retired competitive natural bodybuilder. And I’m now playing a lot of golf and pickleball.

george grombacher 2:34
Pickleball Hmm.

Michael Nathanson 2:35
You know, everyone’s been talking about it. I hear that everyone gets hurt playing it. I played tennis in my younger days, but I’ve got an arthritic shoulder and pickleball it turns out is a little bit easier on your on your shoulder. So yeah, so my wife and I have been playing some pickleball lately.

george grombacher 2:53
I love it. I too, am a retired tennis player from my younger years, and my wife and I, and my boys and soon to be a little girl, I’ve decided to pick up pickleball so one of these days, I will beat you on the court. Michael,

Michael Nathanson 3:07
it’s great. It’s great. I I’m also I’m also a heck of a ping pong player. I’m I’m pretty competitive ping pong player. But yeah, I’m trying to learn pickleball It’s all the rage. And it’s a social thing. And if you really want to know what makes me tick, it’s just interacting with other people. I’m a big believer in interdependence, love other human beings and and I get energy from other people.

george grombacher 3:33
I believe that life is the sum of our interaction with other people. And while I believe in the individual, and I believe full wholeheartedly in my ability to do things, I recognize and believe what you just said to what it’s all about are just just the other people and our place in the world and our legacy. Right now. We’ve got these lightning rod terms like woke and ESG and dei and but started out maybe with the best of intentions is now for lack of a better term, somewhat perverted. How do you think about building a company and organization? In today’s world? Yeah.

Michael Nathanson 4:16
Yeah, you’re right, those those terms have become, have become, you know, bad terms for many people and in the world has become far too politicized. People sticking out territories. Our country has an us versus them kind of mentality where we actually have people in our country that think that the other half of the country are bad people. I try to steer clear of that. I think it would be a maddening way to live your life and frankly, a sad way to live your life. I’m a political independent, not intentionally, but just because that’s where I fall. I think the Democrats have some things right. I think the Republicans have some things right. And I’m a big Star Wars fan. So I go with the Obi Wan Kenobi quote from episode three, which is that only a Sith deals in absolutes. And I think that that kind of thinking is absolute thinking. And by the way, yes, I’m mindful that the expression only a Sith deals in absolutes is in fact an absolute. So there is some, some hypocrisy in that. But the concept stands strong for me. So here’s the way I think about it. I think that we, you know, there’s a great TED talk, I’m going to put it in business terms, because I think your audience might relate best to it. So there’s a great TED Talk by a guy named Martin Reeves. And Martin Reeves is a he’s kind of a big shot at BCG. You know, he’s a business consultant. He’s been published many times in Harvard Business Review, and elsewhere. And I just think he’s a brilliant thinker. And I’m a big fan of his. And he did a TED talk. And the TED talk is about and you can look this up, it’s about a 20 minute talk. And it’s about understanding what it takes to enter into the rarefied territory of a company that’s built to last for 100 years. Now, George, you know how rare it is for a company to last for 100 years? Yes, it does happen. But it’s a rare thing to be around for 100 years. And what he points out is that when we think about what it takes to be effectively a resilient company, because you have to be to be around for 100 years, he decided to look for other examples of resiliency. And he had the epiphany that why not look to biological systems and think about what it is that makes certain biological systems resilient. And he thought specifically about the human immune system. And, and what he did was he identified some features of the human immune system, including adaptability, resilience, modularity, this concept that if one part of the system goes down, it’s not going to take the rest of the system down. Diversity. And in an important one embeddedness, this concept that the human system, human immune system lives inside something bigger, that is the human body, if the human body dies, then the human immune system dies. And this is this concept of embeddedness. And what he points out is that businesses that are able to be adaptable, that are able to have redundancy, modularity, resilience, diversity, and an embeddedness, a sense of embeddedness, those are the businesses that are best positioned to last for 100 years. Now, diversity means something different in terms of the human immune system. But the overall concept behind diversity is what it offers you is the ability to adapt, it offers you different perspective, different ways of going in the cut and concept of human diversity, different perspectives, different ways to to think about the past, the present and the future. And it’s a strength in the human immune system. And it’s also a strength in organizations. So when I think about diversity, sure, there’s a social justice element to it. And of course, I well, I shouldn’t say of course, I personally recognize that social justice element to diversity, the need for fairness, for equity. But for me, also, diversity is about being a stronger organization, a more resilient organization, and an organization that can best adapt to changes not in the environment, but rather in our industry, in our ecosystem, in the, in the economy in our country, generally. So I think about diversity as a necessity in that space. And in our industry. There is a lack of diversity. And I think we should be honest about that. And I think we need to be proactive about that. At our company, we have taken great steps toward greater diversity, and we still feel like we have a long way to go. But it’s a process. We talk about it, we’re honest about it. And we’ve built a Diversity Council, we have a chief diversity officer, we work with consultants. We work with people who help us find and sponsor and mentor, great diverse talent. But then there’s also the sense of embeddedness and embeddedness for us means understanding that we are nothing without the community around us. After all, the community comprises our clients, and it’s our employees. It’s everybody. So We we think about our, our connection with our community in, in the context of thinking about embeddedness, we are embedded in something broader, and the stronger our community, the stronger our industry, the stronger our ecosystem, the stronger we are. Ultimately, George, what I’m saying to you, is things like Dei, or, you know, we’ve taken a net positive pledge just as a pledge to give more to the world than we take. It’s that simple. Or another way of saying is, we want to be able to answer affirmatively the question, Is the world a better place because our company is in it, we do these things. It’s nothing to do with politics. It has nothing to do with, you know, some kind of, you know, preaching or anything like that. For us. We believe that ultimately, these are critical in terms of our being a 100 year business. We call that a an enterprise. You see, many people think that Well, we’re a business isn’t that great? Well, a business is one thing, a sustainable business that is built to last for decades. That’s different from a business. That’s an enterprise. And that’s what we seek to be. I love it. Thank you. So I,

george grombacher 11:22
I think it’s really cool to think about a successful organization, enterprise business, in terms of a biological system. So I appreciate you walking through all of those steps. I love this idea of and practice of embeddedness. I wrote down, go back hundreds of years ago, like during the Oliver Twist time, when just all of the all, all of the buildings just pumped black smoke into the environment to just wrecked everything. And certainly, there’s companies that are polluting rivers are used to and now we’re dealing with all of that. And so that’s the opposite of that. It’s just, we’re going to create whatever we’re creating at the expense of our environment and at the expense of everything else. And that’s not a sustainable future.

Michael Nathanson 12:07
It’s not George Ed, I’ll give you an example. Us, you see as part of our net positive pledge. And I think that other companies that might take a similar pledge, would approach it differently. And that’s fine. Every company should approach these kinds of things the way they think best. For us, we actually surveyed our people and wanted to understand what was most important to our people, and the environment is one of them, and reducing our waste, and also our carbon footprint, were things that that our people were interested in. And, and as I think about what you just said, Your example about the Oliver Twist days and smoke go coming from from from smokestacks going into the air. Well, here’s one for you. Do you know that the colony group used to produce 8600 plastic bottles of waste every year, we were going through 8600 plastic bottles a year. And and when I learned that said, that’s got to end. And so that’s exactly what we’ve done, we’ve, we’ve shut that down, we’re just not buying plastic bottles anymore. And we think that, that our clients, hopefully will appreciate that we give them a glass of water, if they want a glass of water, or a can of soda, we’re trying to, these are the kinds of things you know, we learned, we learned that we use about 55 yards of paper per year, we were using that much paper per year, that’s more than half of a football field worth of paper. And these are the kinds of things that if we just have awareness, and we’re willing to just understand that we can actually do something about it. And by the way, we can do that in a profitable way. We can actually save some money by also just being a little bit more careful about the way we’re we’re consuming things.

george grombacher 13:59
Actually, 55 yards of paper doesn’t really sound like that much for a financial company.

Michael Nathanson 14:03
Yeah, but think, well, this is a company that we’re I think we’re a very tech savvy company. So many of our people don’t ever touch a piece of paper, if you could see my office and you you can’t you can only see me in our video, but if you could see my office, other than books, you wouldn’t find any paper in here. We have some people though, that still cling to the whole paper thing. And, and that’s it’s doing something about that makes a difference. And by the way, you know, go to a football game and tell me 55 yards doesn’t look like a lot. That’s a lot of paper. It’s a good point. Yeah.

george grombacher 14:37
So you mentioned in the outset that you and your wife are proud to have started for permanent foundations. And that’s certainly putting your money where your mouth is and whatever analogy or metaphor you’re interested in using and now you’re doing that with your business as well. How do you think about I mean, there’s no solutions. There’s there’s only trade offs right? So when you’re making a decision to do one thing and allocate resources towards it, you’re saying no to so many other things, if not everything else, and you can’t do everything, it’s not your job to do everything. I love serving your people. But how do you think about that?

Michael Nathanson 15:14
Yeah. Well, I think that what happens, I believe that a CEOs job is to reveal the culture not to set the culture. I know some people think differently about that. I think that CEOs that try to create something in their image, I think that’s an arrogant way to think about things. And I think a CEOs job is to reveal what already exists. I think the same thing about your question, I think that, that as we think about our company, that’s different from what what I think about personally, so personally, my wife and I, we have a son who has congenital heart disease, and as I just revealed, I myself, have a have a duty earlier I myself have a brain tumor. It’s it’s, it’s, it’s not cancer. So I’m very fortunate three out of four brain tumors are not cancerous. So mine is not. But it is still something that I have to, you know, get medical treatment for, for life, fine, strong and intend to live for at least 100 years. But a lot of my passion, and my wife’s passion is around health care. And, and we also have a lot of passion around around education. And so two of the endowments that I spoke about our educational scholarships, two of them are in the healthcare space, and one around heart disease and one around brain tumors. And, and we have an aspiration for also one, around women’s rights around the world. And that also relates to some things that are personal to my family. But that’s it, I don’t believe it’s appropriate for me to bring those passions to the colony group and have those things be our passion. So our people vote on these things. We have a philanthropy committee, I’m on it, but I don’t lead it. And our philanthropy committee is, which which is a broad based committee is responsible for figuring out what our people are passionate about what their causes are. So some of the things we’re looking we’re actually working on right now we’re getting into our, for example, financial literacy, which is something that our people really want to be involved with. And so we so I think it’s good business, you know, to, again, focusing on your question, I think it’s good business. Again, this gets back to embeddedness. That gets also gets to the values of our people and our younger people, and people do want more, it’s money matters, money will always matter. But people come to jobs and stay at jobs, not just for money, and not just for benefits again, those things have to be good. But ultimately, people stay at jobs, because they find purpose. And they find connection. Freud said that all we need as human beings is leaving our Baten love and work. But he didn’t mean love, as in romantic love. And he didn’t mean work as in toiling in the fields. What he meant was connection with other people, and purpose. And so I think it’s just good business from an embeddedness perspective, and also from the perspective of engaging with people and providing purpose to people. Now our mission, of course, is to provide peace of mind to clients and empower their visions of tomorrow, that will always be our mission. And our vision is to be the leading financial services company in the world for clients and team members who seek meaning and joy in their lives. And those are fundamental, but I think increasingly, the way we express our values, our culture needs to incorporate this greater connection with the community.

george grombacher 19:14
Love it, love and work.

Michael Nathanson 19:17
leavin are beaten and I don’t speak German, so I’m sorry if I’m butchering that for anyone in your audience that does speak German. But, but I am really interested in Freud. I know he’s been discredited in many ways, but he also said some just brilliant things and wrote some brilliant things.

george grombacher 19:34
I imagine that it should one be so inclined to dig into Freud’s work and his thinking that it would be extremely valuable and enlightening and and a very worthwhile thing.

Michael Nathanson 19:49
So and a trim shoe. It’s you know, it’s a trip reading. It’s a real trip.

george grombacher 19:54
I love it. Well, Michael, it’s great to see you again. Thank you so much for coming back on where can people Learn more about you how can they engage? And how do we find the colony group as well?

Michael Nathanson 20:05
Yeah, well first of all let me thank you George for having me back. It’s always so fun speaking with you and I enjoy following you on social media as well. People can can learn more about us and me at the colony group.com And they can also follow me on twitter I’m at Nathanson underscore MJ and and I’m on LinkedIn quite regularly. I would also love it if people did check out our podcast which is called seeking the extraordinary which is available on Spotify and Apple and all the places where we’re podcasts are and give it a give it a listen. We’ve had some really really interesting guests over the years of it.

george grombacher 20:48
Well, if you enjoyed as much as I did show Michael your appreciation and share today’s show with a friend who also appreciates good ideas go to the colony group.com and learn more about the organization that Michael is leading up. You could find Michael on Twitter, Nathan sin underscore MJ On LinkedIn as well and then check out the seeking the extraordinary podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks again, Michael.

Michael Nathanson 21:14
George. Thank you. Bye bye.

george grombacher 21:16
Till next time remember, do your part by doing your best

Thanks, as always for listening! If you got some value and enjoyed the show, please leave us a review wherever you listen and we’d be grateful if you’d subscribe as well.

You can learn more about us at LifeBlood.Live, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube and Facebook.

Our Manifesto

We’re here to help others get better so they can live freely without regret
Believing we’ve each got one life, it’s better to live it well and the time to start is now If you’re someone who believes change begins with you, you’re one of us We’re working to inspire action, enable completion, knowing that, as Thoreau so perfectly put it “There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” Let us help you invest in yourself and bring it all together.

Feed your life-long learner by enrolling in one of our courses.

Invest in yourself and bring it all together by working with one of our coaches.

If you’d like to be a guest on the show, or you’d like to become a Certified LifeBlood Coach or Course provider, contact us at Contact@LifeBlood.Live.

Please note- The Money Savage podcast is now the LifeBlood Podcast. Curious why? Check out this episode and read this blog post!

We have numerous formats to welcome a diverse range of potential guests!

  • Be Well- for guests focused on overall wellness
  • Book Club-for authors
  • Brand-for guests focused on marketing
  • Complete-for guests focused on spirituality
  • Compete-for competitors, sports, gaming, betting, fantasy football
  • Create-for entrepreneurs
  • DeFi-for guests focused on crypto, blockchain and other emerging technologies
  • Engage-for guests focused on personal development/success and leadership
  • Express-for journalists/writers/bloggers
  • General-for guests focused on finance/money topics
  • Lifestyle-for guests focused on improving lifestyle
  • Maximize-for guests focused on the workplace
  • Numbers-for accounting and tax professionals
  • Nurture-for guests focused on parenting
  • REI-for guests focused on real estate

Feed your Life-Long Learner

Get what you need to get where you want to go

Rate it
Previous post