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Business consultant melds proficiency with passion

Karen Lund '62 rises around 3 or 4 a.m.

She meditates. She reads and studies. She drinks her coffee, eats a little breakfast, and by 7 a.m. she is dressed and seated at her home computer in St. Paul, Minn. If she has no morning appointments, she does office work and may spend time researching and writing a book.

Afternoons, Lund gets out of the house. She meets with clients. She touches base with business associates. She also takes a weekly yoga class and regularly joins friends for an hour of "free dancing." She meets with her women entrepreneur mastermind group.

Her days vary with the seasons. Spring and summer, she volunteers in the Japanese Garden at St. Paul's Como Park Zoo & Marjorie McNeeley Conservatory. In the winter, she volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages, a free-trade retail store where artisans from across the globe get fair prices for their wares. Lund, 71, describes it as "a pretty simple day."

It's the kind of day Lund would like other people to enjoy: days filled with meaning that benefit many. It's why she — an expert in business productivity and profitability — is writing a book titled "Being an Elder."

"An elder is one who has wisdom and experience she wants to share with others," she said. "The first person you need to be an elder to is yourself. You do this by taking care of yourself — exercising, eating right, simplifying your life — and by identifying your passions and dreams."

After that, an elder's sphere of influence extends as far as she is willing to reach.

Life Lessons
Lund's inspiration comes from a lifetime of experiences and learning that began in North Dakota.

The Lund family moved to Minot from Burlington in 1948. Ten years later, Karen enrolled at Minot State University. An independent spirit and active member of the student body, she graduated in 1962 with a double major in physical education and history. Her first teaching job took her to Brainerd, Minn. Two years later, she accepted a post in Colorado.

"I'd been teaching for five years, when I realized I did not want to be in the classroom until I was 65 years old," Lund said. "That was when my independent spirit really started to come out."

And that's when she saw a newspaper ad placed by the American Red Cross. The agency was looking for college graduates to work overseas.

Lund applied, fully expecting that she might be sent to Vietnam. The closest she got to the war zone was Guam Naval Hospital, where she served two years as recreation director. She worked in stateside military hospitals, too, but Guam instilled a love for experiencing other cultures and provided a role model named Rita Merrigan.

A Red Cross staffer since World War II, field director Merrigan managed more than 100 people who volunteered at the hospital. Lund noticed that every time there was a shift change Merrigan stood at the sign-in book and welcomed incoming volunteers.

"In that environment, volunteers were no different than paid staff," Lund said. "They did everything. Rita maximized her interaction with the volunteers. She always had a smile and let them know they were valued.

"Later on, when I went out on my own as a business consultant, I realized I wanted to teach people to manage not through fear but through love. In a corporate setting, that means treating people with respect and dignity, providing appropriate challenges and showing appreciation."

Have talent, will travel
Lund's Red Cross assignment ended in California in 1973 at Fort Ord Army Hospital. She stayed in California, went to graduate school and spent a couple of years in property management. In 1978, she joined the U.S. staff of APC Skills, an international business consulting company. The job was a perfect meld of her life experiences and teaching skills.

"Teaching corporate managers was really no different than classroom teaching," Lund said. "It's just a different language and a different environment."

It turned out Lund was good at it.

In 1984, Lund joined the international staff at Alexander Proudfoot and spent the next seven years working as a productivity and profitability strategist in Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the United States. In 1996, she founded her own business, The Lund Group, and she's been busy ever since.

"I don't just sit and do paperwork," she said. "I get involved with the people I work with."

Always listening, observing, questioning and analyzing, she's worked in more than 100 industries, including the world's largest silver, zinc, copper mine, a carrot farm, a Barbie Doll factory, a chicken processing plant and a Minnesota rock quarry. At the moment, she's developing training for call centers.

In 2005, she also became vice president of operations for Core Passion, Inc. Lund uses the Core Passion assessment tool to help business owners identify their natural talents and the force that drives them from within.

"If you try to do something in a business that doesn't drive you — let's say it's the financials — you become frustrated," Lund said. "You start procrastinating, the business stagnates and eventually the business dies. When you know what drives you, you can build your team around what doesn't drive you, optimizing your natural talents and those of your staff."

To read more about Lund, or other articles like this, check out the Spring 2012 issue of MSU's Connections Magazine [pdf].