Lunch at Galt’s Gulch

Mar 14, 2019

By Seth Cohen

As some of you may already know, my all-time favorite author is Ayn Rand. Her best and last work, Atlas Shrugged, was set in a dystopian version of the United States. In the early part of the novel, society’s top innovators and industrialists begin mysteriously vanishing, one at a time. At about the half-way mark, the reader discovers that John Galt, the inventor of a revolutionary new engine, and the first to disappear, had been hand-selecting his targets and luring them into a hidden utopia called Galt’s Gulch. There, people could live a life of liberty and harmony, shielded from the corruption and poor public policy decisions of the federal government. Galt’s Gulch was bliss.

Every few weeks I host a lunch in New York, or another city that I happen to be traveling through, bringing together a group of Eleven Canterbury advisors with diverse career backgrounds and occasionally clients for some networking in an informal setting. Last week was probably the thirty-fifth installment in this lunch series over the past eighteen months. Often after these lunches, I can’t help but think of Galt’s Gulch.

In my business, it is all about our occasional consultants (advisors). Most Eleven Canterbury advisors have embarked on a second career after a long, successful stint in the corporate world. With that comes freedom, flexibility, and excitement, but at the same time presents unforeseen challenges. Being on your own requires a different mindset and assortment of skills. For some, it can be an isolating experience, markedly different from the office environment where they had “built-in” colleagues to share your thoughts, idea, and views on any number of topics. Suddenly they find that is no longer the case.

The idea for the lunches sprang from wanting to create a sense of community by connecting the interesting people we work with to one another. The key was to create a setting where everyone attending would interact with one another, rather than a much larger event where you collect a lot of business cards, but only get to know one or two people. Imagine, sitting at a table with the chief executive of a biotechnology firm, a prominent Institutional Investor ranked securities analyst, the CFO of a Fortune 100 company, a chief of human resources and six others with equally impressive backgrounds. A room full of luminaries from their respective fields, mingling with luminaries from different fields, sharing stories, challenges, and laughs.

In advance of getting together, I share the LinkedIn profiles of everyone participating, so the advisors have some background on the other attendees. Limited to ten invitees, the lunch itself is loosely structured. After a little update on the latest happenings at Eleven Canterbury and an initial round of introductions, the discussion typically takes off in fascinating directions. With each diverse group, it has been remarkable to learn about the wide range of topics people are passionate about. Conversations have seamlessly jumped from the intricacies of the U.S. education system to the evolving employment dynamics caused by innovation to Amazon. It’s a real brain trust, where for every topic there are extremely insightful people with relevant life experience.

Of course, the lunches benefit Eleven Canterbury and our unique matchmaking process. These events allow us to get to know our advisors in an informal setting, and see past the CV/resume. There is so much more to these individuals than mere words on a piece of paper. The additional dynamics that emerge from these lunches not only enhances our ability to make more perfect matches for open engagements but also has brought the helping hand of one advisor to another.

Our lunch series has been very successful, judging by both attendee feedback and my own experience, and we plan on hosting many more of these gatherings. I plan to be running tours of Galt’s Gulch at least once or twice a month for the next several years. If you’d like to learn more about Eleven Canterbury, please feel free to reach out to me directly at!

Seth Cohen is the Managing Partner of Eleven Canterbury. He was a member of the Group Managing Board and Head of Group Offshoring at UBS AG.

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