Introduction. One Sentence Changed Everything

It was probably around 1995, the midpoint of my career. I was managing close to 30 people who determined what doctors should charge for their services. CEO Marc Dettmann and I were walking down the hallway and he had a long document in his hand. It was written by someone in the enforcement community—probably a few someones. The document was a settlement between the enforcement community and a prominent organization. Of all the rambling pages of legalese, Marc had turned to one page and was pointing to one sentence.

“It says here that their organization has agreed to hire a compliance officer and implement a compliance program. Maybe we should do that before they come visit us?” he said. By “they,” Marc meant the enforcement community. I nodded and told Marc that it sounded like a good idea, but I really didn’t have a clue how brilliant his summary of this convoluted document was. He saw the enforcement train coming. Years later, this and several other insightful decisions Marc made saved our organization somewhere around $30 million.

“Why don’t you be our compliance officer?” Marc asked me.

I was still operating at about 30 leagues under his sea. I did not have a clue as to what he was asking me to do . . . no clue what a compliance and ethics officer was or how a compliance and ethics program functioned, but I was honored that he thought I could do more for him.

“I’d be glad to,” I told him.

That’s what I always said to anyone who ever asked me to do something new―“sure.” I had no plan for my career, but “sure” opened doors. Little did I know at the time, but that answer would change my life forever.

The Greatest Mentor: Marc Dettmann

Roy J. Snell, Aaron Gray, Andy North, and Marc Dettmann at a golf outing, mid-1990s

(Photo courtesy of the author)

In 1995, Marc Dettmann saw something very important that most of us could not see―the beginning of the compliance profession. This was not surprising, since Marc had a Harvard law degree and a Wharton MBA. More important to me, he was just a regular guy with mass quantities of common sense. And not just one kind of common sense; Marc had many different kinds of common sense. He dressed like a regular guy instead of a CEO, walked like a regular guy, and talked like a regular guy. Most people I had met before then couldn't see the forest for the trees. Marc could see through the forest, the trees, the leaves, and down to some microscopic organism of great importance to his organization. That day when he asked me to become a compliance officer, he had read through all the legal mumbo-jumbo and pulled out one sentence that would have a huge impact on his organization and ultimately, in my vivid imagination, on all industries and countries around the world. To Marc, it was just another day of trying to make sure he and his organization were successful. I owe a lot to Marc, the greatest mentor I would ever have.

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