Executive Leadership Team

Richard S. Hawkes | Founder & CEO

Richard founded Growth River in the US in 2007. Today it is an international consultancy with offices and partners in the US and in Germany. Growth River specializes in leading major transformational change initiatives that impact organizational culture and business models at the same time. This work is unique because of its holistic approach that reduces complexity and creates buy-in for both executives and their teams.

He has worked domestically and internationally with global Fortune 100, mid-sized and start-up growth companies including: Allergan, Berkley Insurance, Bonnel Aluminum, Chicos, Corning, Cox Communications, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, GENEWIZ, Gentex, Global Knowledge, Hallmark International, Hope Worldwide, Instinet, Johnson & Johnson, MARS, Merck, Navigant Consulting International, Neostem, New York Genome Center, Novartis, Pearson Education, Pfizer, PFG Group, Pharmanet, Prentice Hall, Sun Microsystems, Wrigley and WLR Foods.

Richard began his career developing margins trading systems at Morgan Stanley. He subsequently became a senior member of the strategy practice with Kepner-Tregoe International, leaving to become a partner with the Strategy Partners Group LLC. In 2002, he joined Guttman Development Strategies as a Chief Strategist. Richard received a B.A. in Computer Science and German Literature from Hamilton College and an M.B.A. in Marketing and Organizational Development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has been a board member of GENEWIZ Inc. since 2007.

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Growth River, US

Robert Heinzman | Partner | Global Science Practice Leader


Robert Heinzman’s consulting expertise has been forged from an unusual career. With a start in environmental chemistry, he researched groundwater pollution in the desert Southwest. A logical, though perhaps not obvious, path led him to the Amazon and the front lines of tropical forest conservation. This work resulted in the founding of US and international organizations, a series of global forums in tropical forest management, a book (Lessons of the Rainforest, Sierra Club Books, 1991), and a key role in creating the Maya Biosphere Reserve, the largest protected area in Central America. After years of bearing witness to the conflict endemic to the agricultural frontier in the forest tropics, and the disturbingly ineffective intrigues of Washington, D.C., Robert committed to a life of rigorous spiritual practice to figure out what real solutions to global problems are. On this path, he became the publisher of the "gold standard" for rational spiritual inquiry, EnlightenNext Magazine.

Robert leads the Global Science Practice. His work with .com, .org and .edu clients advances their ability to create a future in which we all want to live. Clients include / have included: The School District of Philadelphia, Allergan Medical Devices, GENEWIZ, Onyx Specialty Papers, New York Genome Center, HOPEworldwide, and the Institute for Regional Conservation. He holds a degree in Geochemistry from the University of Colorado, and a Master’s from Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

Robert DeSimone | Partner | People & Organization Practice Leader 


Robert’s focus and passion is contributing whatever it takes to achieve the breakthrough his clients require.

With 20 years of senior executive experience, Robert is an Organization Development consultant, High Performance Team facilitator, and Master Executive Coach. His highly developed professional leadership skills enable him to quickly and accurately assess the current state of senior leaders, teams and organizations, and then collaborate to develop focused, pragmatic approaches to enhance effectiveness and business results.

Robert is acknowledged by those he serves as direct, straightforward, extremely focused and 'playing for real.' He listens beyond the present conversation and quickly frames the root constraints to issues. His ability to lead executives with challenging, powerful and provocative questions and processes is a signature skill. He calls this approach ‘The Uncommon Dialogue.’ Through these conversations, space is created for breakthrough shifts in mindset. Thus, new behaviors become available that give way to improved effectiveness, greater impact and authenticity. Client's value Robert’s style in holding them accountable to achieve results. His commitment to their success, linked with his business leadership experience and intuitive insights, bring a sense of excitement, possibility and sustainability to clients learning experiences.

Robert attended the US Naval Academy and Johns Hopkins University, earning a degree in Industrial Psychology and Organization and Human Development. He lives with his wife and three daughters in Suffolk County, New York.

Everett Darby | Partner | Innovation Practice Leader


Everett posts a proven 30-year track record of outstanding organizational leadership, with extensive experience in building high performance teams and mentoring individuals. Known for his negotiation and problem-solving skills, Everett has held various executive leadership roles at Monsanto, Nutrasweet and The Coca-Cola Company. Everett is a sought-after expert in the area of Innovation Culture and Process. He holds Adjunct Professorships at both the University of Georgia Terry School of Business and Georgia State University Robbins School of Business, where he teaches innovation management, entrepreneurship and strategic innovation. He is a co-creator of the Certified Professional Innovator program at GSU. He also teaches Innovation Implementation as part of the Masters in Innovation program at CEDIM in Mexico. Currently he is working closely with a team to create a music education platform to teach core state standards to students K-12. He earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Atlanta's Morehouse College and a M.B.A. from Washington University's Olin School of Business.

Bob Voss, PhD | Nonprofit Practice Leader


Bob Voss, PhD, is skilled at helping organizations and their leaders identify and address those critical issues that stand in the way of a high level of shared vision, purpose and results-driven performance.

He has extensive experience as a teacher, trainer, and technical writer, and has held senior operational, executive, and board-level roles in a global non-profit organization. With a proven ability to resolve diverse management challenges, he has unusual—and considerable—skills at helping leaders navigate the ‘tough people issues’ at the heart of creating the conditions for sustained success. His broad range of life skills include his training as a systems ecologist, many years working as a software trainer, consultant and co-author of several best-selling software books, and his executive and team leadership experience. Trained in whole-systems thinking, Bob earned his PhD in Insect Ecology from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Bob’s other interests include music, and national and world current affairs. He enjoys spending time with his family, friends and daughter.

Growth River, Germany

Eb Schmidt | CEO-Germany


Working primarily in Germany, Eb Schmidt is a consultant, coach and seasoned executive. Before joining Growth River Eb assisted both individuals and companies improve time management skills as a licensed Mission Control coach. Through his consulting work with Expense Reduction Analysts, he led cost reduction programs for companies across different industries. Eb’s 25-year corporate career included executive positions such as Director of Quality Control and IT at Miele and COO at Powell Flutes, Inc.—leadership roles in which he continually guided quality improvements and cost reduction programs.

Eb’s experience with data-driven business growth and evolution extends from guiding senior executives in their professional development through to the detailed work of organizational restructuring. It is this interest in both hard business data and soft transformation skills, an unusual—and unusually effective—approach to consulting, that brought Eb to Growth River.

Sylvia Smetana | Partner | Senior Consultant


Over the last 20 years Sylvia Smetana has parlayed an expertise in financial management to play a significant role in several companies located both in Europe and the US. Sylvia’s passion is helping leaders, especially women in leadership, to establish their highest values in the organization and creating the conditions for sustained growth in their company.

Through working with peers and clients over 20 years she has studied how consciousness and transformation influence high performance of individuals and teams. The application of evolutionary leadership concepts to create an innovative feedback and dialog culture that resolves complex team challenges has become second nature. Sylvia earned her MBA from the University of Vienna in her home country of Austria.

Specialties: Bringing higher values into business, women in leadership, leadership development, women's development, measuring leadership competency, aligning team culture and business models, using creative tension in teams to drive innovation.

Steffen Karneth | Partner | Senior Consultant


An international consultant for the last 15 years, Steffen Karneth is an expert in both business and leadership development. He brings a wealth of sales and marketing experience from various industries. Steffen gained his broad knowledge working for IBM and Cisco, and he played an influential role at WebEx, launching IP-based communication technologies throughout Europe and the Middle East. With a focus on the Enterprise market Steffen led large teams of consultants and partners in complex transformational projects.

Prior to his professional career, Steffen was an athlete and trainer in East Germany. There he developed his unique focus and strength to thrive in challenging and competitive environments. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he exercised his newly gained freedom to travel and explore different cultures around the world. Steffen currently serves as a board member for a non-profit organization dedicated to the evolution of consciousness and culture.