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January 2, 2009

Reston Author Looks at Diversity
By Leslie Perales
Observer Staff Writer


Reston resident Tom Finn has been working as a consultant to managers and teams for more than 17 years both overseas and in the United States. After working with many of them he began to see a pattern of clueless business practices that led him to write the book “Are You Clueless?”

“I just kept seeing people missing opportunities,” Finn said. Managers and team leaders at businesses were not seeing all of the talents of their employees or were unknowingly sending customers away, he said. “If people are clued in there’s a chance to get some business,” he said.

For example, Finn was consulting with a bank which had recently hired a Spanish-speaking manager. After placing a sign on the outside of the building advertising that Spanish-speaking staff was available a Hispanic couple was drawn into the bank and the manager asked why they had never come into the bank before. Finn said the couple told the manager that before the bilingual sign was up they thought “it was a bank for white people.”

Finn said many times people just do not see things multiculturally. “That’s part of the message of the book,” he said. “It’s natural, but be aware.” He said many times businesses are turning people away from their company without even knowing it and the message is not just cross-cultural but also deals with gender and other factors. “I’m defining culture broadly, it’s not just ethnic groups,” he said. Finn said many car dealers might drive away a female shopper by assuming they need a large enough car to hold all of their shopping purchases.

The title of the book is intended to grab people right away, which is why it may seem obnoxious, Finn said. He said for businesses the information in the book could be a vital way to increase the consumer base and profits. “There are so many ways that a business gives off the message of who is welcome there,” he said. It can also help companies keep the employees they have, Finn said. “It happens out

side with your customers and inside with your employees,” he said. Finn said employees who feel as if they are a part of the organization are proven to be 20 percent more productive than those who do not feel included and are 90 percent more likely to stay at their job long term. He said often at companies there are “insider” and “outsider” groups and many managers may not even realize they exist. Finn said simply by going out to lunch with the same group of employees continuously may make others feel as if they do not belong.

Because the U.S. continues to become a more diverse place, Finn said he expects his book to be relevant for a long time. “I still see in the companies that I work with, people missing the clues,” he said. “There are still lots of subtle things that influence us.” Finn said the book, which came out last spring, is mainly targeted at Finn, From Page business owners, managers and leaders. Since publishing the book, he has began using it when he consults with businesses. He said having the book available helps with his consulting because people are able to go back to reference it and keep the clues in mind.

Finn graduated from Brown University in Rhode Island with his bachelor’s before receiving his master’s in international business at Georgetown University. He began his career at St. Luke’s Episcopal/Texas Children’s Hospitals in Houston, Tx., and also worked for Westinghouse for a number of years. Some of his past clients include Booze Allen Hamilton, ETrade Financial, Inova Health Systems, Verizon and The World Bank. For more information visit www. or e-mail TFinn@