How the pandemic has stirred a longing for more: Meet Josh Gentine, Founder of Bench Consulting

There’s no doubt that this global pandemic has disrupted many lives, but it’s also disrupted many of our beliefs about life, work, business, and family. 

Every week, I speak to dozens of individuals who are thinking about and planning for a pivot in their career, inspired by the events of the last few months. And, I’m not alone. 

This week, I sat down for an Authentic Career Conversation with Josh Gentine, Founder of Bench Consulting, a Talent Strategy Firm, who’s also finding that the corona virus is stirring a longing in people for something more, even those well established in their career. 

So, if you’re in a moment of reflection and clarity building, you’re not alone. Learn about Josh's own major career curveball, and how he's helping companies navigate these challenges times below.  

JF: Josh, you’ve had a diverse career so far, what’s been the biggest curveball? 

Josh Gentine: The fact that I am not a priest. I thought for so many years that I would eventually end up serving God as a priest. Despite all my different experiences and ventures, I thought they were just biding time until I had the courage to follow my true path to the seminary. The curveball came with the full recognition that I was not being called as I initially thought. 

" What I came to realize is that my value was not on the analytics side of the business, it was in helping people recognize how their mindsets were impacting their behaviors…"

JF: Last year you started Bench a Talent Strategy Firm. What led you to that decision?  

JG: I have an entrepreneur’s mindset, so starting the firm was more an inevitability than anything else. However, my specific niche evolved while I was trying to identify the product-market fit. 

I was initially pitching VC and PE firms on a people analytics tool for use in M&A transactions. I would sit with their teams and talk to them about the use of analytics in their deals (and in due diligence), but we would end up talking about how human behavior was impacting their culture and operations, and consequently, their investment thesis. I would usually leave the conversation by suggesting a variety of ideas on how they could approach human behavior, not analytics. What I came to realize is that my value was not on the analytics side of the business, it was in helping people recognize how their mindsets were impacting their behaviors…and, subsequently, their operations.

"The pandemic has also stirred in many people a longing for “something more.”"

JF: What kinds of challenges are you helping companies with right now, and how has it shifting during the global pandemic?  

JG: My main focus since the pandemic is coaching. A client recently called me her business psychologist. I’m finding that early-stage companies need to re-think how they do business, and I am helping them at the intersection of strategy, operations, and human behavior. The pandemic has also stirred in many people a longing for “something more.” I find my conversations with potential coaching clients revolve around finding their path (even if they’ve an established path for 20 to 30 years).

JF: As someone with extensive experience in family business, what do you think is happening in that market right now? And, what advice would you share to navigate these uncertain times?  

JG: I’ve actually found family businesses are doing better than their market peers because family businesses take a longer-term view of their business and market, not quarter by quarter. 

That said, I cannot overstate the need to create clear governance in a family business. Less sophisticated family businesses often lack the clear decision rights that their peers have, and this makes it difficult for employees and has an outsized cultural impact on the organization. Establish who is making decisions, how they are making those decisions, and when/where those decisions are being communicated across the organization. 

While there are a lot of advantages to working for a family-run company, it is critical that employees feel they are a part of the process and that the family is a good steward of their capital and the future of the organization.

"I have found a lot of MBAs feel the need to posture because of their MBA – this hurts more than it helps"

JF: In 2013, you graduated from UNC Kenan-Flagler with your MBA. What was your biggest takeaway from business school, and would you recommend it to others?

JG: My business school experience was unique as I entered with the sole intent of graduating and heading back to Notre Dame (where I did undergrad) to be a priest. I always wanted to get my MBA and thought I could use the skills to help the Catholic church, but for me, its lack of application overshadowed the theoretical value. As an entrepreneur, I found that the skills I learned on the job were far more valuable. My pre-business school ignorance served me well in my early ventures, as it forced me to ask the questions that the MBA grads would not want to ask for fear of looking like their degree was a waste of time and money. I have found a lot of MBAs feel the need to posture because of their MBA – this hurts more than it helps. That said, I think business school is incredibly valuable for two groups of people—first, those looking to transition in their careers and want exposure to different business areas and second, people looking to build basic business skills if they are coming from a non-business career path.

"While I’ve explored many avenues, I am now on a highway and I love being able to accelerate my work and just go."

JF: At Fink Development, we define an authentic career as one that reflects your strengths, values, and interests. How do these elements show up in your role as Principal of Bench Consulting?  

JG: Every day, I get to exercise my top five CliftonStrengths: activator, positivity, futuristic, includer, and empathy. These five show up daily – truly. I absolutely love the work I do and feel that I’ve found a way to marry my passion for helping people (which was my underlying interest in religious life) with my entrepreneurial and family-enterprise background. While I’ve explored many avenues, I am now on a highway and I love being able to accelerate my work and just go.  

Contributor Bio

Josh Gentine is a coach and talent advisor, supporting leaders, entrepreneurs, and boards of directors on talent-to-strategy alignment and maximizing an individual’s potential inside and outside an organization.

Prior to starting Bench, Josh launched several food & beverage companies, developed a successful private credit fund, and served as a Manager at Deloitte Consulting, where he focused on mergers & acquisitions as well as supporting the design of Deloitte Consulting’s global talent operations.

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