Denise Pirrotti Hummel is the CEO and chief strategist for Universal Consensus LLC, a cross-cultural management consulting firm in San Diego, serving Fortune 100 companies, government, military operations, and global organizations worldwide. The company focuses on leveraging knowledge of cultural differences to develop and implement strategies designed to drive revenue and reduce cost and risk when doing business globally. The model developed by Ms. Hummel, The Business Model of Intercultural Analysis [BMIA] has been acknowledged by the U.S. State Department, and the U.S. Department of Commerce. Recent partnerships with Aon Hewitt’s International M&A division and Deloitte’s Global HR division have augmented the company’s ability to serve clients in every function and country of the globe.
Name: Denise Pirrotti Hummel.
Company: Universal Consensus LLC.
Titles: CEO and chief strategist.
No. of employees: Eight in San Diego and forty-five worldwide.
Year founded: 2009.
Education: Bachelor’s in psychology from Barnard College, Columbia University, 1983; Doctor of Jurisprudence, American University, 1987.
Birthplace: New York City.
Current residence: Carlsbad.
Family: Two children: Matthew Josef Hummel and Alexander Paul Hummel.
Essential business philosophy: “Never, never, never give up” is something that everyone heard from me, from my staff to my children to my clients. When you know you have a value proposition that is essential, albeit ahead of its time, you must find a way for your target market to “hear” you even if you’re telling them something they don’t want to hear. Once they finally do, and allow you to be part of their success, seek to achieve the highest possible results with 100 percent ethics, exceed all their expectations, and your invitation to the party will be extended beyond one night.
Best way to keep a competitive edge: Understand that a global economy is here to stay, but don’t rest on stale information about what the actual opportunity is in your foreign target markets. The global economy is evolving. Emerging markets that once had utility because they fostered inexpensive manufacturing are now some of the biggest importers of luxury goods. Geographical markets that once were noted for innovation, are struggling with barriers to entry, corruption, and political suffocation that have led to mass talent exodus. Keep on top of the trends, or ahead of them, by using professional instinct and sound data to guide your strategic focus.
Guiding principles: There is no substitute for honesty and hard work. There’s also no such thing as luck — luck is simply the nexus of opportunity meeting intense preparation.
Yardsticks of success: How close is your current state (professionally or organizationally) to the desired state you have strategically set? How often do your initiatives result in the business results you planned for? How savvy are you at taking the “so what?” out of your strategies so that everything you do is geared toward driving revenue or reducing cost and risk?
Goals yet to be achieved: To create repeatable processes, operational efficiency, and professional excellence based on learning from every misstep we make, as well as every success, and using that information to turn challenges into growth opportunities every second of every day.
Best business decision: Turning an idea for a book (which would have been a one-off in the public domain) into a business model with proprietary I.P. that only our clients can benefit from and that will sustain us as a company for the coming decades.
Worst business decision: Waiting too many years to turn a dream into reality — that I could leverage knowledge of cultural differences into a process that would optimize the bottom line of all global organizations.
Mentor: Garry Ridge, CEO of WD-40 Co., one of our first clients, who taught me that generosity would always come back to me if I gave freely and without reservation.
Word that describes you: Intense.
What you like best about your job: When I was an attorney, I always felt I was part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. I like being part of the solution. I like the fact that every single day a new challenge presents itself and I can be intellectually stimulated from dawn to dusk. I like the fact that my staff looks like the United Nations when we’re together. I like that my clients respect me as much as I respect them.
What you like least about your job: Jet lag and time zones. Shouldn’t we be able to teleport by now?
Pet peeves: Flight delays, incompetence, intolerance, and arrogance.
Most important lesson learned: That the best results are achieved by freeing others (whether they are staff or clients) to use their unique talents to move their organizations forward in a positive direction.
Person most interested in meeting: Geert Hofstede, the Dutch anthropologist whose work in the 1970s and ’80s was groundbreaking in its ability to speak to cultural attributes that can impact business objectives.
Three greatest passions: My work, my children, meeting others who have significantly diverse life experience from mine.
First choice for a new career: Absolutely nothing different from what I do now. It’s so fulfilling, it’s a sin to call it work.
Favorite quote: “Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit,” — Wade Davis.
Most influential book: “Flawless Consulting,” by Peter Block.
Favorite restaurant: Bella Napoli, Varese, Italy.
Favorite place for business meetings: The Lodge at Torrey Pines.
Favorite vacation spot: Lombardia, Tuscana, and Umbria, Italy.
Favorite way to spend time: Connecting with friends and family, travelling for pleasure, drinking fine wine, swinging in a hammock with a clear mind (perhaps not all simultaneously).
— Steve Adamek