Management Consultants


Divine appointments: Are you ready and prepared?

Posted on March 09 by

In December 1974 I was working as a waiter at le Castillion Restaurant in The Bonaventure Hotel, in downtown Montreal. At the time, le Castillion was one of the top restaurants in the city. Smoked salmon was cut and served at the table, Caesar salad prepared and tossed in front of dining customers, violinists serenaded patrons to celebrate their special occasions, and Cuban cigars available—to provide a special finale to a unique gastronomic experience.

My wife and I had landed as immigrants two months earlier, and a good friend invited us to her New Year’s party in Toronto. Although it did not make sense to quit my new job to travel 500 kilometres for a party, it is what I did. We even found a free ride with another friend in a beautiful French Citroen car, which added a classy touch to the trip.

Divine appointments when opportunities come your way

While staying in Toronto, I noticed the incredible amount of employment ads listed in the newspaper; and since I had brought my dark blue suit and elegant white shirt with me, I asked myself, “Why not try to get a job in Toronto?” After all, the city was booming in the seventies, enjoying the many businesses fleeing Montreal because of its separatist ambition.

I noticed an ad by Dun & Bradstreet for a Collection Officer. I was told that D&B was a reputable, large American company that offered commercial credit reports and collection services. I decided to give it a try, wore my blue suit with my special white shirt, borrowed a tie from my friend, and showed up early in the morning with no appointment at 84 Carlton Street. Five interviews and a few hours later, I was offered a job as a business reporter.

Monday, January 8, 1975 was my first day of work. When I arrived, I was happy to see my name displayed on my desk. It was one among what looked like a hundred desks in an open office concept buzzing with reporters, typists, file clerks, telephone operators, etc. Finally, I had landed an office job in my new country, Canada.

My training manager, Andy Sherwood, was an incredibly smart and talented young man. Andy taught me the secrets of being a good reporter. He became a good friend and we still work together to this day. Now fast forward six years later. In 1981 the President of Dun & Bradstreet Italy was visiting the Canadian company. Because I spoke Italian, I was asked to spend a week with him and show him the Canadian operations. Not only did I manage to show him the business, but I also must have impressed him. He asked to have me transferred to Italy.

Divine appointments when you take a risk

Going to Italy was a very risky move. The Italian company was last on a list of 28 subsidiaries of D&B International. It was losing money, had an unfriendly union, and faced tough local competition. Against all logic, I accepted the transfer and without realizing it, launched a new phase of an exciting career. It would take me to challenging international assignments in Europe and South America where I helped turn around and manage D&B business units in Italy, Brazil, and France; and then make a comeback to head A C Nielsen Company of Canada. Being an expatriate and living in cities such as Milano, Sao Paulo and Paris had many rewards beyond a professional career point of view. It proved to be a rich experience for my entire family.

In retrospect, my wife's friend invitation to her New Year’s party in Toronto was certainly a divine appointment; my joining D&B when I was just visiting Toronto was also a divine appointment; my training under the expert tutorship of Andy was a divine appointment; my spending a week with the President of D&B Italy was— for sure —a divine appointment.

Divine appointments: Be ready

A divine appointment is an incident that marks a significant change in your life. It could be a meeting, a phone call, an accident, a book you read, that is, any event that triggers an important change in direction. Divine appointments are not exclusive to some people. They happen to us all. The key is to be attentive and recognize divine appointments when they happen.

Does our success depend on such divine appointments? In part, yes! Our lives are full of them. We must learn to recognize divine appointments that come our way because they can offer special opportunities for something unique. But our successes are not entirely the result of divine appointments. We still need to work hard, work smart, be prepared, plan, and have personal objectives and goals. Most importantly, we need to have a positive attitude; one that seeks excellence in all we do in life, both personal and professional.

Peter Drucker once said, “Successful careers are not planned, they develop when people are prepared for opportunities because they know their strengths, their method of work and what they value.”

Drucker, as usual, is right. Learn to recognize the divine appointments in your life because they are life changing.

Hugh Latif is a management consultant in Vaughan, Ontario and author of a new book Maverick Leadership, available from and and ca.

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