In South America, few places are as special or as beautiful as Peru’s Sacred Valley. Between the verdant valley and the snow-capped mountains reaching up into the clouds, the landscape evokes inspiration, restoration, and connection to nature. In 2012, Bruce Holoubek and Coreyne Woodman-Holoubek of Contracted Leadership in Madison, Wisconsin, traveled to the Sacred Valley as part of their 3-week honeymoon trip. They were amazed with what they experienced.
“The whole trip was magnificent,” said Holoubek. “After spending a week and a half in the Amazon, we flew into Lima and then to Cusco before spending a night in Ollantayambo. From there, we took the train to Aguas Calientes to stay at Belmond Sanctuary Lodge right next to the Machu Picchu ruins.”
“Our first night at the lodge, we reserved the jacuzzi in the orchid garden,” shared Woodman-Holoubek. “It’s in complete darkness aside from the luminescent mountains, so a guide needs to lead you up there. It was indescribable… definitely a memorable way to celebrate our honeymoon, and a wonderful introduction to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu.”
However, while both Holoubek and Woodman-Holoubek felt that their entire experience in Machu Picchu was inspiring, going to the ruins the next day truly left them in a state of awe. After watching the sunrise over Wayna Picchu, the newlyweds went into Machu Picchu with a Quechua guide and toured the ruins. When they made their way to the “espejos de agua,” two pools of water used for astronomical purposes, they found themselves looking at each other, wanting to talk about their new business venture.
“The fact that we discussed work at the reflective pools was significant,” said Holoubek, “because Coreyne and I had agreed before leaving the U.S. that we were not going to bring up business at all while we were in South America. And to that point, we had been successful. But there, at Machu Picchu, it felt natural and inevitable to discuss our business. In fact, the feeling was so strong, it would have felt wrong not to talk about business.”
“Before our trip, Bruce had mentioned that he wanted to scale his practice of going into organizations as a different kind of interim leader, and we were entertaining various business names. At the reflective pools, it was like the Incan gods were speaking to us,” said Woodman-Holoubek. “Bruce and I looked at each other, and we just had a moment of clarity and understanding, and I knew we were both thinking the same thing. ‘What if we named the business The Apu Group?’ I asked. Even as the words left my mouth, he was nodding vigorously.”
“In Quechua, ‘apu’ not only means ‘mountain god’ or ‘mountain spirit,’ but it also means ‘leader,’” shared Holoubek. “Since we were intending to go into organizations and assist them with their leadership efforts, we felt it was a meaningful homage to Peru.”
As Holoubek and Woodman-Holoubek continued learning more about Machu Picchu and the Quechua people, the name continued to feel even more appropriate, even more destined.
“Our guide explained that the Quechua people built their communities next to the apus for protection,” said Holoubek, “and that the apus connected the Upper World, or the divine, to the Human World. So, the apus help the Quechua people connect to their divine essence, their best selves. And in the Quechua culture, everyone in the community makes a place for people; empowers them to contribute to the community in a way that’s meaningful to them; and everyone is protected and valued, regardless of their position and station. The concept of ‘apu’ was so rich, and the Quechua culture so accurately reflected our belief that a business organization could function prosperously while embracing individuality, rather than taking away from it. After that moment at the reflecting pools, ‘The Apu Group’ just made sense as a name.”
Five years later: How Peru continues to influence Contracted Leadership
After their trip to Machu Picchu, Holoubek and Woodman-Holubek continued their honeymoon in Peru by visiting Lake Titicaca and Uros, but it was the sincerity, openness, and hospitality of the Peruvian people at those places that they continue to reflect on five years later.
“When we were in Uros, the community was very welcoming of us,” said Woodman-Holoubek. “There were two elders in the community, a husband and wife, who invited us to wear their ceremonial robes and held a welcoming celebration for us when they found out we were newlyweds. There were so many people in Peru who were genuine, hospitable, sincere, and kind. It was really touching, and it still brings a smile to my face when I think about that day.”
In 2017, Holoubek and Woodman-Holoubek parted ways with the name “The Apu Group” in favor of “Contracted Leadership” so that it was more immediately obvious what services they offered, but Peru still plays an important role in their business.
“Not a week goes by that I don’t reflect on something that I learned while we were in Peru,” said Holoubek. “I continue to think about what I experienced and allow it to guide me to continue becoming a better person, a better leader. I also feel more committed than ever to the idea of building something greater than ourselves, something that helps people connect to their limitless potential and greatness.”
For Woodman-Holoubek, what she learned in Peru affected her a bit differently, but just as powerfully.
“After our trip to Peru and feeling more spiritually connected and open, I developed more tolerance and resilience. I had agreed to help Bruce expand The Apu Group, but I was still working my day job. When I was passed over for a promotion, I found the courage to leave my position there and to work with Bruce and The Apu Group in a greater way. I would not have had that strength had I not been to Peru.”
About Contracted Leadership
Contracted Leadership is a leadership firm that embeds its team members into organizations looking to fill contract or interim leadership positions while still developing internal talent. Contracted Leadership also help organizations build, review, and refine business procedures, processes, and systems, so that companies can increase revenue and minimize unnecessary expenses. Their goal, which was spiritually affirmed by the lessons of the Quechua, is to create mutually meaningful work engagements where employees prosper and develop as individuals while still contributing to the greater purpose of an organization, and for employers to grow their organizations, celebrating and leveraging the diversity among their workforce.