Air Force Lt. Colonel Soars
to Great Heights in Business
Like many students today, Milton Hathaway started his post-college life with nothing but debt and dreams. His life’s ambition was to be financially successful. Today, after high-level achievement in the military, banking and industry, he owns Mountaintop Services, Inc., managing a portfolio of businesses ranging from sand and gravel extraction to high-tech telecommunications. How did he get there?
Hathaway’s core business philosophy and operating principles revolve around a highly effective approach to project management he learned in the military. Every business activity with customers or vendors is organized as a project and managed to completion by following a clear, step-by-step process he developed, refined and perfected during his 28-year career in the Air Force. The formula is based on fundamentals, and his results are uniformly outstanding.
A retired Lt. Colonel, Hathaway joined the Air Force in 1962 when President Kennedy called for volunteers during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Early on, he was sent by the Air Force to GTE Sylvania for a year of project management training. Hathaway worked on the TTC-31, a communications trailer that could be dropped by helicopter into the middle of a battlefield and operated as a portable central command unit.
Hathaway transitioned to civilian life after 10 years of active duty, having earned an MBA from the University of North Dakota in a program supported by The Air Force Institute of Technology. He remained in the reserves for another 18 years. His tenure in the military gave him skills he knew he could leverage in the private sector. He chose banking as his target industry.
“I traveled a lot for the military, and everywhere I went the bank was always the biggest building in the city,” he said. “I needed to have banking knowledge to do a better job at whatever I decided to do.”
He walked into Hartford National Bank, then the largest bank in Connecticut, and told them he wanted a job. They hired two people that year, and Hathaway was one of them.
As personal assistant to the executive vice president of the bank, Hathaway sharpened his project-management and troubleshooting skills. His new boss gave him multiple projects to tackle, clearly defining the problem, the impact, the expected outcome and the time frame.
“They were having trouble with quality control in the computer center,” he said. “No one could figure out what the problem was.” Hathaway had four months to get to the bottom of it. The solution turned out to be in the bottom of the trash basket. Hathaway visited the computer center, took bags of waste paper from the trash baskets and analyzed the contents. He realized that all the waste originated from one vendor. When he met with the vendor and questioned them about their quality control process, he learned that they didn’t have one.
“We stopped doing business with them,” he said, “and the problem was totally cleaned up.”
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