Marion McGovern – A Gig Economy Maestro

Marion McGovern

I am a proud member of the Gig Economy. I have had a tremendous career in the human capital space providing consulting projects and interim management roles to senior level independent workers. I grew a company, M Squared Consulting, in what was then a very nascent industry. Along the way, I started a second business, Collabrus, an independent contractor compliance company. As such, although not an employment lawyer, I did become a bit of an expert in this aspect of employment law.

In 2000, I sold both companies to a public South African conglomerate. I also published my first book, A New Brand of Expertise, about the professional freelance world. The next year, I rebuilt the business after the “tech wreck” of 2001. I remained a Board member and then came back for a year as the interim CEO, an irony not lost on me or the Board. Since stepping down the second time, I taught business school for 8 years, facilitated peer education with the CEO Alliance and developed residential real estate. I have had the tremendous opportunity to sit on several boards, both corporate and philanthropic. I often say that my career right now is like dim sum – there are a lot of plates on the table, and those plates are my gigs. It is no surprise then, that my second book, is Thriving in the Gig Economy.

I am proud to be the founder of M Squared Consulting, an innovative human capital company I founded with a partner, Paula Reynolds, in 1988. Ironic that we created a gig economy company, before the term had ever been coined. We created a network of independent consultants and matched them to project and interim assignments. We did this, I might add, before the internet – and I know I am dating myself.

The idea came to me while I was at Booz Allen and Hamilton, a prominent consulting firm. It occurred to me that a team of smart MBAs who might not know a lot about a client’s business may not be the only way to achieve results; a senior individual who had actual experience in the industry or situation could offer an interesting option for companies in need of real time assistance. M Squared was ahead of its time, and when Tom Peters included us in his book, Liberation Management, I remembered he said to us, “It’s just as bad to be 5 years too early as 5 years too late.” We may have been early, but we were lucky to be based in San Francisco, since businesses here were a bit more open to a totally new work model.

Marion McGovern

Claire McAuliffe joined the firm three years later as our sales maven, able to sell the proverbial “ice to Eskimos”. The three of us built a tremendous team of people who were passionate about the way we were empowering people to work in a way that suited their lives.

The company thrived. We were on the Inc. 500 list of the fastest growing companies in America three times. We expanded to Los Angeles, sent consultants abroad on projects, and started a second company, Collabrus Inc., to employ consultants while they were on projects and thereby mitigate the employment risk of independent contractors. In 1999, we sold the firm to a South African public company, The Kelly Group, not to be confused with Kelly Services, but that’s another story.

In 2000, I wrote, “A New Brand of Expertise: How Independent Consultant and Free Agents are Changing the World of Work”. With the help of our South African parent, we opened a Boston office and then had to retrench after the tech wreck of 2001. I brought the business back to profitability before retiring in 2005. I remained Chair of the Board for two years, and then a regular board member after that. In 2009, I stepped in as the interim CEO, when the then incumbent CEO departed somewhat unexpectedly. My 2 month gig as a part-time interim CEO turned into a year. In 2010, I retired again, but remained a board member until 2013, when the South Africans sold the business to Solomon Edwards.

In my retirement, I have been active on boards. I am a Director of CPP, Inc., the owners of the Meyers Briggs Type Instrument (MBTI). I am currently the chair of the audit committee. On the not for profit side, I am currently the Chair of ReSurge International, a humanitarian NGO; we send reconstructive plastic surgeons to help the poor around the world and but more importantly, through our Global Training Program, we train the next generation of developing world plastic surgeons. It has been a great learning experience and a humbling one as well. In 2017, I will join the Board of The Front Porch, a community retirement enterprise with more than a dozen communities encompassing senior living, elderly housing, skilled nursing facilities and dementia care.

I also taught for 7 years in the business school of the University of San Francisco. Although not an HR Manager by training, I had interviewed, hired and fired so many people, that I knew I could help make my students good managers. Additionally, I had my own specialty in employment law around independent contractor issues, payroll and wage and hour regulations. My goal, as I told my students, was for them to avoid wrongful terminations, manage their careers and become excellent employees. I also taught Management Communications to MBA’s in the
weekend program, gaining new respect for those who secure their degrees while working full time.

I am a Director at the Alliance of CEOs where I work with a group of leaders facilitating peer exchange. This leverages my almost 25 years in peer exchange groups. I was a founding member of the Young Entrepreneurs Chapter in San Francisco. I then went on to the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and it’s alumni group, YPO Gold. In YPO Gold I have been an active Board member, serving as Chapter Chair, Vice Chair, Learning Chair and Mentor Chair. I also manage a 3-unit apartment building which we bought with the hopes of getting our kids back to San Francisco. I coordinated the renovation of two units. There is one unit left to go…

And now I am spending an inordinate amount of time on my new book, interviewing industry players and pundits, reviewing research and trying to keep up with what is a moving target in the new world of work.

In my spare time I love to golf, an addiction my husband is thrilled to have inspired. I have three amazing kids (hence the 3 units), a wonderful family ,great friends, and a wonderful Labrador puppy named Lucy.

Marion McGovern Director to Watch

Available NOW Through These Online Booksellers



Stay updated with the Latest from Marion.


You have Successfully Subscribed!