Chris, the Outside-In Guy: I often talk about what it’s like to be an entrepreneur or offer my advice on entrepreneurial endeavors, but today I’d like to offer another view. Let me introduce Kelly Hocutt, an employee of mine who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship and came to CBI Group because our culture encourages everyone to be entrepreneurial.
I have had the unique opportunity of not only working for Chris at CBI Group, but also working for his father, Alan Burkhard, a serial entrepreneur. Alan has long been a mentor for me and I thank him for fueling my interest in entrepreneurship. At a young age I would bounce my business ideas off him and as I got older, I started to ask questions and request more stories about his work and philosophy. Then one day in 2009, Alan asked if I would be interested in shadowing him for a week to see what the life of an entrepreneur is like.
I was honored, grateful, excited, and most of all, unsure how the experience would unfold. Well, that was a year and a half ago and now I work for Alan’s son Chris. During the time I spent with Alan, I did everything he typically does in a week: went to management meetings at his companies, met with his lawyers, looked at P&L’s, attended lunch meetings, was introduced to his friends and colleagues, volunteered at the hospital, had dinner with his wife… you get the idea.
What I learned that week answered a lot of questions and offered me a clearer path forward, but also “ruined me,” as Chris says. The Burkhard men frequently say that “you can only control your own career when you are your own boss“. So, while what I learned from Alan “ruined” me at the start of my career, I was fortunate to find a place at CBI Group because it offered me a chance to be entrepreneurial, make decisions for myself and be a leader, but also learn about business before jumping in to be my own boss.
I’d like to share a few quotes from Alan Burkhard that were brought to life for me at CBI Group.
- “What’s the value to you? That’s the value to me.”
- “My business philosophy is the same as my personal philosophy.”
- “Culture is defined by what we do and how we act. You must live it. Be it.”
- “It’s all about relationships.”
What I learned is that an entrepreneur’s work is a lifestyle. Work doesn’t start at 9 AM and end at 5 PM. For an entrepreneur, work is life and life is work. “You are your own boss,” is true when taken literally. But what is also important is that when it comes to work, you should be able to be yourself, make your own decisions, challenge and enjoy yourself. That is what I get at CBI Group, the chance to be entrepreneurial, even though “I’m not my own boss.”