Positive connectors

For Tom and Jeff Lindquist, momentum and personal relations are the keys to success

lindquistsTom Lindquist’s career started with a left turn.

“I thought I was going to go into investment banking,” says Tom (BA 1982). “When I graduated from Foster, that was the hot career path.”

Today, Tom is more than three decades into a tremendously successful business career. He spent 16 years with developer Trammell Crow, and served as president and chief operating officer at Seattle-based timber company Plum Creek. Plum Creek merged with Weyerhauser at the beginning of 2016 to create the country’s largest private landowner.

It was Texan real estate mogul Trammell Crow himself who diverted Tom from his intended path. While attending Harvard’s MBA program, Tom went to a recruiting event that Crow hosted. “He was such a unique person,” says Tom. “But it was his message that really resonated with me: his firm was looking for people who wanted to build a long-term network. They wanted to invest in these ‘positive connectors.’ That made perfect sense to me.”

Tom was also swayed by Crow’s proposal that hires could settle in cities they believed had great opportunity, since Tom was looking to get back to Seattle.

Pacific Northwest DNA

Raised in Edina, Minnesota, in a military family, Tom spent childhood summers visiting his mother’s family in the Pacific Northwest, often staying on with cousins for several extra weeks before taking the train back by himself at 12 or 13.

It was an easy choice to come out to Seattle to attend Foster as an undergrad. Tom worked closely with a couple of finance professors on research projects, and they urged him to apply to the Harvard MBA program after graduation. But he knew he wanted to make his way back to the Emerald City one day. Trammell Crow offered just the right opportunity. Tom and his wife Juli, also a UW grad, settled on Mercer Island, where they raised three children.

Contagious enthusiasm

Husky footballer Jeff Lindquist (BA 2016) shares his father’s enthusiasm for Foster and for the Pacific Northwest. “I always knew I wanted to come to the University of Washington,” says Jeff, who is Tom’s middle child.

1H Jeff run

Jeff graduated from Foster in spring 2016, but decided to stay on for a year of post-baccalaureate studies while he plays his last year of football eligibility.

Recruited as a “pro-style” quarterback after putting up 6,061 passing yards and 2,520 rushing yards in his highly decorated career at Mercer Island High School, Jeff will shift from quarterback to tight end for his final Husky season, applying his 6-3, 245-pound frame to wreaking a different kind of havoc on opposing defenses.

High achievers

Lindquist success isn’t limited to Tom and Jeff; in fact, the family has a whole roster of high achievers. Jeff’s older brother Sam played baseball at Stanford as an undergrad, and did a brief stint in the minor leagues before returning to the Stanford for a second degree. The youngest, Sara, currently attends Dartmouth, where she plays volleyball, and was, like Jeff, a high school All-American. All three are racking up academic accomplishments in their respective pursuits.

And if Jeff is any indication, they’re a humble bunch, too. “Don’t tell anyone,” he jokes, “but the best athlete in the family is my sister—she’s the real superstar.”

Tom notes that his children’s long list of accomplishments—and really any kind of success—can perhaps mask the struggles, low points and uncertainties along the way. “I’m so proud of what our kids have achieved,” he says, “but what I’m especially proud of is how they get through the low points.” 

Forward momentum

Tom Lindquist is a relentlessly logical thinker, always looking for the “go-forward” options in a situation. “When it comes to those down moments, you have to first face up to them, even when it’s tough, and you have to say, okay, this is where we are. Now what are the options for moving forward?”

This kind of thinking has also been a reliable tool for Jeff, who shows the same bias for forward-motion as his father. “My dad is a great role model,” says Jeff. “He has always been tremendous at helping me or my siblings think through a situation, whether it’s an academic issue, a sports issue, or even personal relationships.”

And once you’ve worked through those options, says Tom, you have to have the courage to push forward into the unknown. “It’s easy to spend time in the rearview mirror,” he says. “But there’s no extra value gained from looking backward for too long. Pushing forward has risks, but it’s how you learn. You have to believe in momentum, not perfection, even if it means you’re tying your shoes while you’re running.”

Relationships and coalitions

Logical thinking and a bias for momentum are two of the traits that Tom sees in the people who have the most success in business, for sure. But one trait is even more crucial, by far: being a positive connector.

Just like Trammell Crow, Tom thinks one of the most precious skill sets in any business is the ability to build relationships and coalitions, in a positive way, across all of your networks. “I really believe this skill is responsible for more than 50 percent of someone’s success,” he says. “Human relationships are incredibly complex, and the people who are willing and able to build and maintain them are the ones who can really make a difference.”

Tom questions the arms-length nature of relationships and interactions in this era of social media, texting, even email. “I do wonder if this next generation is missing out on building certain personal engagement skills—that this capability is somehow not relevant in our very wired world now… which is just not true. Maybe it’s just that the people who do have them will be even more successful—relatively, versus their competition—than in days past,” he says.

Courtesy of Husky Athletics

Jeff Lindquist (5) and the Husky captains take the field against Utah State last year.

One young man he doesn’t have to worry about on that front is his son Jeff. In addition to being active in Greek life and in the campus-based church The Inn, Lindquist was elected captain of the Husky football team in 2015 and has been nominated for this year’s Wuerffel Trophy, the premier award for community service in college football, after co-founding the “Lift For Life” campaign that raised awareness and money in support of pediatric multiple sclerosis research.

Jeff’s love of football and Foster always seem to come back to the strength of his friendships. “There’s nothing like being able to link arms with your guys on the field and go up against something,” he says.

Like father, like son.

-story by Carolyn Marsh