Archive: October 2010


The McKinley Edge

October 28th, 2010




I have a dream to climb Mt. McKinley in Alaska – all 20,320 feet of it.  All of my friends and family know it, my mom begs me not to talk about it and my wife laughs a little knowing that I am all talk (for now).  I hike and backpack year-round and take several recreational hiking trips. There is always a peak involved, small east coast peaks that challenge us about as much as a normal day at the office.  To climb McKinley, you have to train ridiculously hard (see the sample workout that I have used) and work up to it by climbing one of the many “fourteeners” (14,000 ft. peaks) in Colorado, then you move on to Mt. Rainier in Washington.  This is standard mountain climbing play book stuff.

In training for such a difficult climb, one must train to the concept of the McKinley Edge – going beyond your training comfort zone.  When faced with a life threatening situation, no matter how tired or exhausted you are, there must be reserves left – a final gear to get you out of danger. The McKinley Edge involves training your body for that extreme or going to maximum heart beyond the point of exhaustion.  Each person has a different stress tolerance or pain threshold.  Everyone’s endurance level is different.  The key thing is you can train your body for extremes and that really got me thinking…

If you can find the McKinley Edge for you body, can you work on it for your business?  Can you find your leadership McKinley Edge?  I think you can.  As a young man while working at Placers I had many different roles and assignments.  As soon as I thought I mastered one office, I got two. When I learned to handle managing managers I got five direct reports.   Never managed the HR function or sales?  I got the exposure and it definitely did not come easy.  I would like to apologize now to those early employees that had to teach me to manage them.  I had the motivation and desire, good mentors and my work ethic was non-stop.  Still I had to get used to the stress and responsibility and grow into it. I had to want to grow into it.

The key was something that my father, Alan Burkhard, theorized and has lived everyday of his life: You can train for stressful situations in business by practice. It involves getting comfortable with change; you have to want to exploit it.  It can not happen to you; you must make it happen.  The McKinley Edge in business is different for all of us.

You can get there by:

  1. Seeking out special projects and additional responsibility at work. Gain an edge.
  2. Make a presentation in front of others.
  3. Start a business – SO MUCH TO LEARN! It is a constant McKinley Edge training session for years to come.
  4. Put yourself in new/uncomfortable business situations.
  5. Work from an entrepreneurial business!


My McKinley Edge at this point?  It never changes.  Every two weeks I have to meet payroll for my company.  This is one thing I will never get used to.  Take a moment and define your McKinley Edge for your role or your business and post your thoughts!  I have learned that most would send me an email in private instead of posting – find your edge and post….

The Journey of a Single Dollar Spent

October 21st, 2010

Lots of business folks think they understand business numbers. They know if they made money or if they hit their key performance numbers.  We even know by intuition when the business feels “okay”.  There is a certain hum and excitement level that permeates the hallways. One area of business that the typical leader knows little about is the “value of a dollar to the business”. We all know the old saying that “money does not grow on trees” or “do you think I am made of money?”.  Our families all said similar things when we wanted money or spent too frivolously.

Have you ever stopped to think of how long it takes to get a return on a dollar spent in your business? If the dollar goes into marketing you may get a great brochure or a better social media presence. Do you get the dollar back? No! You got marketing value. Value that represents the possibility of some future return, possibly. It might generate a lead or a proposal or a new customer. The new customer? If you are lucky they start quickly. Invoicing terms today enable you to get paid in 45, 60, maybe 90 days… So one dollar spent in marketing comes back to you in over 100 days? If you bet right. If you did it well, you get a return. This is business. Spend your money like it’s the last that you have.

This plays out across all of our businesses everyday. We have payroll. We pay our bills. We have operating expenses. All of this is paid from that $1! And the return? Always a matter of ones perspective. For me, managing a business today requires real insight into that value of a dollar.

  • I can keep it and I save it for a rainy day.
  • I can invest it but I expect a return balanced with the risk I take.
  • I can spend it and enjoy what I get in return.
  • I can invest it in the business but will I get a return? When?

Trusting risk again in the entrepreneurial journey!

October 1st, 2010

Most entrepreneurs hate to take risks. In fact, the more we take the more we try to mitigate the risks we can control. We scrimp and save and have conservative investments in our stocks and 401k’s. When we borrow for the business, we avoid borrowing in our personal lives. When we invest in our business, we reduce our expenses at home any way we can. Entrepreneurs know how hard it is to get one dollar that is spent back into their business.

When we started our business, we were real believers in the American Dream. We bought into the notion of being your own boss. We wanted to take our idea, build a great place to work, grow it and have it create a “lifestyle” that few ever achieve. Many want this but will not attempt it because of the risks and sacrifice required.

Over the last two years we have seen the “entrepreneurial dream” fractured for many. There are countless examples of good businesses that could no longer support themselves and their owners. We’ve all heard stories of homes in foreclosure, loans called in and bankruptcies filed. This is the really dreadful bottom line that many have faced. There are those that have to go find jobs in a marketplace that will not even pay them unemployment (one of the risks of being your own boss).

There are also the stories of those companies that survived through the recession. They have made their payments and negotiated to lower their business costs. They have lowered employee head count and strategically executed plans to squeeze out more top line revenues. Yet they have little left to invest, cannot borrow and probably would not if they could get it. They cannot hire. They cannot grow. They are wounded….The question that comes to mind is, “When can we trust that risk taking might be rewarded again?“.

This is not intended to be all doom and gloom. In fact, my message around all of this is that there is real hope. I have learned many important leadership lessons through this recession that helped me survive and thrive with CBI Group.

My risk taking list:

1. You really have to be willing to canabilize your business. No sacred cows here please. Times change. We must launch new offerings all of the time. This life cycle is critical.

2. Balance. Gone are the days where business is like a constant happy hour! Get your life in order. Stay in shape. Have a life. Take a simple day off or vacation. Your staff and your business will thank you.

3. Business is an ultra-marathon. Not a marathon. Or half marathon. Many of us start our businesses like a short sprint and attempt to do it forever. I have been doing this for nine years and have come to understand that one must pace themselves for a long run. When a great runner runs a 100 mile race, they run 16 minute miles. A snails pace compared to what they can do in a short run and more than twice as slow as a training pace. What does this mean in business? That recessions happen; there is a cycle to business and one must plan for the ups and downs of the business race!

4. Know when to get back in the race or stock market or whatever metaphor you like. Everything evolves. This market is improving. Many of us are making good things happen.

When will you trust the entrepreneurial dream again?

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