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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Harlan Oelklaus Bio

Harlan Oelklaus grew up in a working class suburb of St. Louis, America's heartland. Among the first generation in his family to attend college, Harlan was discouraged from pursuing post-secondary education by his English teacher, who told him he'd never make it. But at six feet five inches, Harlan's height and calmness under pressure landed him a four-year basketball scholarship to Nichols State University near New Orleans.

Farther away from home than he had ever been and terrified that the English teacher's prediction might come true, Harlan took refuge in the college library. Four years later, he had completed a bachelor's degree in economics. Then he wanted more -- an M.B.A. He enrolled in the University of Missouri, which granted his second degree and put him on a career path in management.

A second discouraging voice came from his father, whose relationship with his own managers had not been good. As a boy, Harlan had listened to his dad's stories of how, time after time, managers had refused to listen to him and other co-workers. Even as a boy, Harlan could see that the result of this deaf-ear approach was a waste of time and human energy, as well as an erosion of trust. These stories had inspired within him a deep desire to change how managers treated people like his dad and thus improve the lot of blue-collar workers like his dad. But his father, unaware of what was in his son's heart, warned, "Don't be a manager. People won't like you."

Once more, Harlan, fueled by a discouraging voice, became determined to prove that he could be an empathetic, responsive, supportive manager who creates workplaces where people thrive. Eventually, his greatest desire became teaching these skills to other managers and business leaders.

In addition to listening to his dad's stories, Harlan had his own share of work experiences, starting at age 13 as a mug washer for an A&W Root Beer stand. He stayed with this summer job until age 19, by which time he had worked his way up to assistant manager.

During college, for extra money Harlan worked on construction jobs, mainly on the cleanup crew. Then he had a brief stint with the Missouri State Highway Department as a weed sprayer.

Upon completing his M.B.A., Harlan went to work for Amsted Industries in Chicago, which put him through a training program in human resources. Progressively, he worked for Amsted subsidiaries -- Diamond Chain Company in Indianapolis and Burgess-Norton in Geneva, Illinois -- gradually taking on more responsibilities that included training, hiring, salary administration, safety, security, accounting, purchasing, and inventory control. He was so successful that Burgess-Norton chose him to open a new plant in Claremore, Oklahoma, where he learned how to manage people in a start-up.

Harlan's success in Claremore attracted the attention of Centrilift, which brought him on as a vice president for human resources. He was part of an executive team that formed a new company with 2,500 employees, in which he was responsible for the entire HR operations.

In the early 1980s, Harlan was one of the trailblazers for teamwork. He was an early adopter and proponent of creating work teams to improve effectiveness, efficiency and results through the synergistic effort of teams. In fact, he liked teamwork so much that he wanted to do it full-time. This was the solution he had been looking for. In 1988 he left the corporate world and contracted his services to an Austin consulting firm, Performance Resources, Inc. Some of his early clients included ABB, Texas Instruments, Dell, AMD, Moog Aircraft, and Raytheon.

His work with Great Plains Communications in Nebraska and Austin Countertops led to a fascination with the dynamics of family-owned businesses, which is one of his specialties today.

In 2001, Harlan became a coach and facilitator for The Alternative Board. In this capacity, he worked with two peer advisory boards of up to 20 small and mid-size companies. He loved helping companies grow to reach the next level of success through strategic planning and company owners achieve their life dreams through creative, forward thinking.

Today Harlan works independently with business owners, attorneys, and entrepreneurs to create profitability and meaning.

An avid golfer, Harlan is married and has two sons, one stepson, one stepdaughter, and two granddaughters. Also he is extremely well managed by a curly-haired white lap dog named Feathers, who walks him for at least a mile every morning and makes sure he gets the love and respect he deserves.

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