Rejoining the A.T. Kearney Partnership

Back in the summer of 2011, in the midst of my 15-year career as a startup entrepreneur and investor, I wrote a post titled It’s Called Fishing Not Catching to share my view that one’s motivation should not be solely about realizing successful outcomes (i.e., catching the fish). In fact, the most consistently successful people recognize that relishing the journey is as important as reaching your destination. We need to appreciate the process, the problem, and especially the team. This is still my view, and it goes to the heart of why, in the summer of 2018, I formally rejoined the partnership of A.T. Kearney.

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Jeff Ward and Ben Smith at 2014 World Wide Partner Meeting in San Francisco.

I first joined the firm as a 20-something year old kid. I always loved the work, and I formed many deep and lasting bonds during my years as an A.T. Kearney engagement manager, principal, and partner. Yet as we moved into the new millennium, I felt compelled to work in the startup world, where I believed most of the technology value capture and important changes would unfold. I have no regrets. As an investor in/advisor to over 40 new ventures, I worked alongside some truly great entrepreneurs. We had a blast shaping whole new areas like social networking and location marketing. I was also asked, from 2001-2002, to help stand up the Transportation Security Administration from zero employees to an organization of tens of thousands, while leading the initial investigations into a number of key technology programs and supporting the deployment of over $10B of technology.

Several years ago, having enjoyed some success in two different arenas, I decided that retirement might work. As it turns out, Alabama and Stanford only play college football in the fall, so either I was going to become a Call of Duty phenom or I needed to find fresh passions to pursue.

Late in 2016, I was invited by A.T. Kearney to serve as partner emeritus and senior advisor to the partnership, supporting the firm’s growth in digital, media and high technology. It felt like I had never left. Even while I was off exploring other territory, I stayed closely connected with the firm. I spoke at firm events, was a firm client, and I shared countless meals with A.T. Kearney alumni. Further, the firm’s leaders were old friends and honored colleagues  — people like Alex Liu, Johan Aurik, Saurine Doshi, Jeff Ward and too many others to name here. Reconnecting felt effortless, and I found their vision for the firm’s future compelling. I soon realized, I want to be more than an advisor. I want to be in the thick of it.

I’m equally inspired by the super smart, amazing young talent A.T. Kearney is attracting from all over the world. They may not know it yet, but they can change the world. I came back to help them try.

Ultimately, A.T. Kearney is about making a difference for clients. Those aren’t just words we say. In our firm, we absolutely mean it. That’s the most important reason I have for returning to the partnership right now, because right now is a momentous time for every company A.T. Kearney serves. As far back as 1999, we saw that the internet was destined to completely change industry structures. It took a little longer than we thought, but today it’s hitting full force everywhere you look. Whether you’re a telco, a railroad, or a mining company — everything is shifting. As one CEO put it, “We are all software companies now.”

I envision the next great wave of innovation being driven by big companies embracing digital, and I feel compelled to help all kinds of companies tap their full digital potential. The old boundaries that divided tradition from innovation are tumbling down, creating possibilities unlike any we’ve seen before. Feels like a great time to go fishing.

There is no more capable or dedicated group of colleagues with whom to pursue such a mission than my partners at A.T. Kearney. I am grateful and humbled to be welcomed back into this unique firm and esteemed partnership, which has meant so much to me for so many years. I look forward to learning from and working with old friends, within and outside of the firm, and to forging new bonds and pursuing fresh adventures.  Please let me know how I can help you and, if you are so inclined, how you might help me.

About Ben T. Smith, IV

Founder of, investor in and advisor to technology and media companies
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