Our Story


John C. Crystal, Nella Barkley and the Origins of Life\Work Design

The Story of Life\Work Design™ and BestWork, Inc. starts with the late John Crystal’s experience as a US Intelligence officer in World War II. After returning home and applying for work he was confronted with the stark reality that the employers he sought “weren’t hiring spies.”

John Crystal - creator of the Life\Work Planning ProcessAlthough Crystal possessed the dynamic skills these employers needed, he had no clear way of expressing his unique attributes and how he could deliver value. Through careful effort, he crafted a process to align his talents with the needs of organizations, creating income for himself and revenue for the organizations he served.

Crystal enjoyed an extensive career in international business management, including putting his planning principles to work as Sears Roebuck’s first manager for Europe, North Africa and Middle East operations. After many years in international business he began sharing his Crystal Life\Work Planning Process with others through mentoring, with an initial focus on returning service members.

Throughout the 1960’s and 70’s Crystal tested and refined his process, realizing that many of the people he met would never have acted on their dreams, nor even pursued them under favorable conditions without a practical way to get there. In 1981, Crystal met Nella Barkley and together they formed the Crystal-Barkley Corporation to share Life\Work Design™  with more individuals, and provide related tools to organizations for improving recruitment, management and employee engagement.

John Crystal and Nella Barkley, founders of the Crystal-Barkley CorporationThrough John and Nella’s efforts, thousands and thousands of people were mentored in Life\Work Design™ by the Crystal-Barkley Corporation – connecting their personal passion and talents to their work, leading more fulfilling lives and delivering real results for the organizations they serve.

John Crystal passed in the fall of 1988. His legacy and work continues with Nella who has mentored and coached thousands of individuals in hundreds of organizations through Life\Work Design™ in the 1990’s, 2000’s – and is still guiding others to their BestWork today.


BestWork, Inc. Continues the Crystal-Barkley Tradition

When Nella Barkley met Spencer Deering, she found the same counterpart that John Crystal had found 30 years prior. Spencer has written extensively on helping the next generation of America’s leaders connect their work and life in more meaningful ways. He’s worked with countless young people, mentored executives and National Championship coaches, as well as companies in the Inc. 500 list on how to connect their talent and motivation with the goals of their business.

Nella and Spencer formed BestWork, Inc. to continue the legacy that John Crystal started over 50 years ago. With the proven process of Life\Work Design™, executive mentoring, and tailored solutions for corporations, Spencer and Nella are helping even more individuals and organizations do BestWork.


BestWork Across America and Around the World

BestWork, Inc. provides bold and simple solutions to the complex problems that we face as individuals, within our organizations and our larger society. More and more people are becoming disengaged despite the efforts of employers to “spark the interest” of their employees. Many students are graduating without a true sense of direction or how to connect their well-funded educations with a job market and organizations which are sorely in need of talented and committed people.

Our goal is to provide individuals and organizations the tools to do BestWork. With more people doing BestWork, we’ll be more productive as society, more fulfilled as individuals, and we’ll have a clearer picture of where and how we can do meaningful work that has measurable value.