Archive: May 2010


Words from a Serial Entrepreneur

May 21st, 2010

Did you ever stop to think where you got the drive and initiative to start your company? To work for an entrepreneur? I recently had the opportunity to be a part of a Leadership Interview Series in Philadelphia, PA. This was my second time around with Herb Cohen, an angel investor and entrepreneur in his own right, who loves to ask questions of people that run and grow companies. What makes them tick? What prompted the entrepreneurial process?

The catch? I brought my dad, Alan Burkhard for a talk on multiple generations of entrepreneurs.

I had a paper route. When I was 14, I worked in a pizza shop. I worked 80 hours a week as a teenager moving furniture. I had a lot of early influences. The most influential was my Pop. Serial entrepreneur six, seven, eight times over, but who’s counting? As you will notice I was more of a side kick than the main attraction this go round.

The best part of listening to this is I get a constant reinforcement of the foundation of my early leadership education. The hallowed grounds for me. It is about starting a company that competes on culture. That has operating philosophies that focuses on the employee. That focus the business less on the product of the business and more on the customer experience around it. That wins by unleashing the inner talents of average employees, they embrace it and become extraordinarily productive.

I hope you enjoy.

By the way — we were invited back for round 2 soon. Maybe I will get to say a few more words!

Business getting better? Drop me a note. I am hearing from readers that the jobless recovery is starting to create some jobs. What do you see?

CLICK HERE to listen to the webcast.
 

Entrepreneur of the Year Luncheon – May 18, 2010

May 20th, 2010

The video of my acceptance speech is up! Thank you again to everyone who has reached out to me over the last few weeks & offered their congratulations. It has truly been an honor to receive this award from the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce.

How do you create momentum?

May 18th, 2010

All of us long for the go go days. We want action. We listen for the hum of the office. Is it a good hum with good action? Or is it quiet? The stock market has rebounded. Profits are soaring. Small business? We are optimistic. We see things getting slightly better. We have customers. We have problems to solve. But where does real momentum come from?

I grew up in sales. I knew momentum came from action. One new customer made the phone weigh next to nothing. I could not wait to get to another prospect or to make an afternoon of introductory calls. Give me a stretch where I have not talked to a live person in a while; where it has been hard or difficult to set an appointment. I lose my way. The phone starts to feel like it weighs a hundred pounds.

Today, twenty years later I look at my company and I talk to my clients. We all wonder where momentum comes from and how you can sustain it once you have it. I think I have the answer and know why many companies never find it. Great strategies are best executed by making small and incremental improvements every day. Just leave your business a little better than the day before and BAM! One day you wake up and your company is like a snowball rolling downhill – nothing can stop you.

That is fine when things are looking up. But when it feels like things have ground to a halt…what can you do?

1. Have a daily huddle. 10 minutes a day where people can get connected, seek help and hear what is going on. Nothing builds camaraderie and momentum faster.

2. Make a change on the team. I do not mean you have to fire someone. New assignments or a new project can really invigorate. If you do find yourself needing to hire, there is something wonderful and dynamic about how teams come together to help the new person come up to speed. (By the way if your culture does encourage helping one another, stay tuned for my next blog).

3. Make something happen. Leadership is about seeing things as they are, analyzing well and then taking action. Are you stuck planning or over analyzing? If your team needs a boost make something happen.

4. Focus on the fundamentals. Teach and train. If staff can do their jobs better or learn something, they have more confidence and that breeds greater productivity and outcomes.

The key? Add value. Show your employees and your customers that you have something of value. Momentum is an intangible. It can be a feeling. If you are from Philadelphia or a sports fan just look to the Flyers, our beloved hockey team. They were down 3-0 in a seven game series and came back to win 4 games in a row. They got the breaks. They worked really hard. They have a great leader in their coach and a great captain on the ice. By the end of the series their confidence and energy were contagious. No one player wanted to let down another. The team played well together and refused to fail. The fans got excited. The city got pumped up. And when they played their next game in the next series? More of the same and another victory.

How does this relate to business? Sometimes there is one event that catapults your business. A major account or a great hire. It is consistently doing the little things all of the time and some breaks along the way. Momentum, will you know it when you see it?

Just ask the Flyers…

Do you have Outside-In “viewing glasses”?

May 3rd, 2010

The movie world is heading towards changing and altering our movie experience; it seems like every movie is now in 3-D! I went to see Avatar, paid my $15 bucks like everyone else in line expecting to be let down. Not about the movie, word of mouth had already told me it was a fun, entertaining movie. I mean the 3D or the added value and added cost for my movie going experience. Fifteen dollars is a lot of money and its hard to impress a customer that feels taken. Well, I take it all back. 3-D technology has advanced well beyond my last one — which I believe was Jaws 6. It all got me thinking; without the glasses it is a good movie. With them I see spaceships and flying reptile birds fly right up to me. I see seed pods land in front of me. It is all just down right cool. Back to thinking part…

Outside-In GlassesWhat if you had 3-D glasses for your business? And what would they look like? What purpose would they serve? I am known for running and coaching leaders to run their business in an Outside-In way, meaning from the customer point of view. Now what do you see when you look at your business?

For fun, lets go back to that movie theater… It is the best one in my town, but fairly nondescript in every way. Probably just like your theater in your town. Give that General Manager my Outside-In magic 3-D glasses and what do they see? Lets start at the front door? I walked in and with glasses I saw that the trash cans were overflowing and that the place was pretty dirty. And why do I see this as GM? It is those glasses! I can now see things from the customer point of view! Not from my budget or from how the corporate office wants me to do things.

As GM, I get to the ticket line. And what do I see? People jumping in line. Cashiers going on break at what appears like a really busy business moment on a weekend night time rush. With my new glasses, I also see that my theaters have sticky floors. That I am understaffed in concessions. That maybe there are one too many commercials mixed in with the previews.

I will back off on my GM and their Outside-In glasses. Every business has its flaws. Call me and I will send you your Outside-In 3-D glasses for your business. Now stand at the door and what do your customers see?

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