How a Chance Encounter—and Writing a Book—Helped Donnie Hutchinson Take His Passion Project to the Next Level
An experienced executive and entrepreneur, Donnie Hutchinson had always admired business authors. Having served as COO and president of multiple businesses, he had seen quite a lot in the corporate world, and he’d always felt they had an advantage over their industry peers—demonstrating their expertise in a powerful, tangible way.
And he hadn’t just seen—and read—a lot; as a business consultant, executive coach, and business school professor lecturing on the principles of organizational behavior, he’d always had a lot to say. But he hadn’t thought seriously about becoming an author himself. That is, until one very fateful day in Charleston, South Carolina.
He and his wife and were having a drink at the bar in an Italian restaurant while they waited for a table. A very professional woman struck up a conversation with them. They asked her what had brought her to Charleston, and she replied that she was an author attending a marketing seminar at Advantage|ForbesBooks, her publisher.
Immediately, Donnie flashed back to a conversation he had had with his students just a few weeks earlier. He had told them about his research on creating work-life balance—a concept he had been dedicated to living and sharing throughout his career—and that he thought it would make a good book topic. When they asked him what was holding him back, he didn’t have an answer. Still, he hadn’t thought much about doing something about it after that.
But in that moment, with a bona fide business author right in front of him, he knew it was time to take action. He called Advantage|Forbes the very next day.
That call was the first step in publishing his book, Lead with Balance: How to Master Work-Life Balance in an Imbalanced Culture. His book is a guide for everyone—leaders, employees, students, and others—on how to properly manage all the important facets in life. It shows readers hailing from a variety of backgrounds how to unpack the imbalance that has arisen in most of our lives, reprioritize what’s important—from making time for home life to committing to healthy habits and honoring your values personally and professionally—and to sustain that balance for years to come.
But more than anything, his book helped him reach an audience that he is particularly passionate about working with: fire fighters and first responders.
The book launched his speaking business, which trains fire fighters and first responders on how to build and execute a transformational work-life balance plan so that they can be extremely successful, both at work and at home. The work is his calling—he thrives on helping these heroes rebalance themselves by encouraging them to align their day-to-day behaviors with their priorities in life. And having quite literally written the book on it has opened doors he couldn’t have imagined previously.
The first significant speaking engagement spurred by Lead with Balance was with the International Association of Fire Fighters, the leaders of which were looking for a work-life balance speaker for their annual training event. With his book cover as the backdrop of his LinkedIn page, Donnie piqued their interest. After learning about the approach laid out in the book, they were sold. Since that first meeting, he has spoken at their conference for four years in a row, with no signs of stopping.
But the positive impact of his book wasn’t just limited to his speaking business; it also helped him find growth in another area: leadership training. Donnie had been providing leadership training for years, but there were certain prospective clients he could never seem to reach. One of them was the superintendent of a local school district. He had tried calling and emailing on multiple occasions, but his outreach always went unanswered. When he stopped by the superintendent’s office to drop off a copy of his book, however, everything changed.
Soon after, the superintendent returned his call, and they continue to work together on trainings for the district to this day—something that likely never would have happened for Donnie without having a book to share.
When he thinks back on all that has happened for him personally and professionally over the past four years, that fortuitous drink in a Charleston bar always comes to mind.
If you’re wondering whether writing a book has the potential to change your life, all signs point to yes.