Wanted: Retired experts

YourEncore helps match retired boomers with businesses that need short-term consultants.

Publication: Indianapolis Star
July 23, 2007
By Erika D. Smith

Baby boomers are retiring—and getting bored.

Brad Lawson is looking to put them back to work and make some money in the process.

He’s a co-founder and chief executive of YourEncore, an Indianapolis-based company that matches retired experts with corporations for short-term consulting projects.

Corporations such as Eli Lilly and Co., Procter & Gamble, Boeing Co. and General Mills are turning to YourEncore to solve problems and get products to market quickly, without taxing their in-house resources.

“What they come to us for is to find the right person at the right time to solve the right problem,” Lawson said.

The company, founded in 2003 and based in the Guaranty Building on Monument Circle, works with about 3,200 retirees. That’s up from 50 when YourEncore started in 2003 with support from P&G.

Earlier this month, YourEncore announced it was expanding its partnership with General Mills to develop a food science division. The company will recruit more retirees with expertise in food science, while General Mills will invest money and loan an executive to YourEncore.

“It’s part of our efforts to immerse ourselves in innovation,” said Jeff Bellairs, director of General Mills’ worldwide innovation network. “One of our goals is to make it extremely easy for our scientists to reach outside the company when they have a problem.”

It’s the same approach that YourEncore took to develop its consumer products division with P&G, the life-sciences division with Lilly and the technology division with Boeing.

So far, Lawson said, those corporations and more than a dozen others have been receptive to YourEncore‘s services. That’s likely to continue as companies, not as stocked with talent as they once were, look for quick ways to be innovative.

“There are more and more companies using short-term consultants because downsizing worked,” said Karl Ahlrichs, a local human-resources expert.

YourEncore handles all the administrative grunt work of hiring, including payroll, taxes, recruiting and confidentiality agreements. The retirees are employees of YourEncore, not its corporate clients. The corporations pay YourEncore, which pays the retirees and takes a cut.

Retirees get paid hourly based on the salary of their last job, adjusted for the cost of living, plus 20 percent. Corporations end up paying about what they would for a full-time employee, minus the administrative costs and hassles, Lawson said.

Each corporation is assigned a team from YourEncore, which acts as a middleman. It handles requests for retirees and narrows the search to a few candidates. The corporations get the final say. Best-case scenario, a corporation gets a fast solution to a problem it never could have solved on its own.

For example, YourEncore once found a retired color stability chemist from Kodak to help a consumer-products company create longer-lasting hair color. It also located a retired rocket scientist with expertise in avalanche prediction who found a way to stop powdered detergent from caking.

“Sometimes companies will use retirees from their own companies,” Lawson said, “but most often, they want experts from outside their company or even outside their industry.”

YourEncore mainly deals with retired scientists, engineers and people with technical backgrounds, but there are a few marketing and administrative types in the mix, too.

People like Jerry Toomer. The 59-year-old retired from Dow AgroSciences in 2003 as vice president of human resources. He has a Ph.D. in psychology and specializes in organizational development. He also is an executive in residence at Butler University’s business school.

Being a consultant for YourEncore is a third career, of sorts. The projects are flexible enough that Toomer can work when he wants and often from where he wants via computer. Most projects last three months, but some last only a day or two.

“Retirement has been exactly what I thought it was going to be,” said Toomer, who spends summers in Indianapolis and winters in Scottsdale, Ariz. “That’s a very boomer way of thinking,” Ahlrichs said.

More than other generations, boomers want to continue working because they are extremely competitive and want to feel useful. The only hitch is that boomers want to work on their own time.

“They want to still have a purpose, and often their purpose is defined by what they do,” Ahlrichs said. “You ask a boomer: ‘Who are you?’ They say: ‘A banker.’ You ask a Generation X’er: ‘Who are you?’ and you get a far different answer. They say: ‘I’m a father of three.’”

Lawson said he hears from more retirees who want to stay intellectually challenged than those who want to sail around the world for the rest of their lives. A recent Indianapolis Star poll found many Hoosiers plan to continue working part time or volunteer after they retire.

“What really fuels this engine is the growing population of retired individuals, and their strong desire to remain connected and continue to contribute,” Lawson said. “That’s what drives individuals at that level.”

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