Category: Outside-In®

Why Being an Intrapreneur is Good for Your Career

November 18th, 2015

Where are new jobs being created? Small to mid-size businesses! This is where most of the world works. And if you don’t already work for a small or mid-size business, this is where most of you will find work in the coming years. Being entrepreneurial is all about creating, building, and problem solving! Entrepreneurial companies are about building jobs, creating economic value, finding new markets, innovating and solving unsolved customer and marketplace issues. That is why the jobs are in growth companies. A free market works this way. And these are not the type of jobs that your great-grandfather had turning a wrench on the assembly line, working for a big company. These companies create jobs that demand intrapreneurial behaviors and actions.

Small to mid-size business requires a very different mentality and shift in employee thinking and behaviors. If you don’t want to start your own business and take on the burdens of business ownership, then go work for a growth business. I call that being an intrapreneur. As an owner, we choose to create an entrepreneurial environment, in which you can think and act like a business owner, which is being intrapreneurial! For the Outside-In® Companies, well, we made intrapreneurial a value because we want entrepreneurial behaviors in the business.

intrapreneur-entrepreneurialWe want to encourage all employeees to lift their head, to think and see business problems that need solving and to find solutions to them. Intrapreneurs see business opportunities. Take calculated risks. Will never say that’s not my job. And typically that is what it will take to manage and handle a growing business. All hands on deck. Intrapreneurial employees are interested and clear about the company mission. And have an attitude about their job that is different than those who work for a big company or have a government job.

Intrapreneurship means anyone will do whatever it takes to move the company forward in its mission. And this may seem extreme or impossible if you work some place that says just do your job or says no to every idea that you have. But, imagine a place that wants and collects your feedback and ideas. Or that is pleased when you do something that is not on your personal scorecard but it is great for the business.

So what is the opposite of intrapreneurial?
If you work for the government or a really big company, you’re mostly paid a wage to do a job — nothing more or less. If a wage is what you’re after, great! You found nirvana. But many workers get frustrated and feel like it is hard to have any kind of greater impact. They are made to feel or are told to color within the lines. Don’t challenge. Keep new ideas to yourself. Don’t work too fast. These behaviors will call attention to you, or worse yet others on your team. Many leaders want to change this reality and a few do. BUT, most quit trying for the very reasons others have — it simply takes energy that is not worth it. And in the end, these behaviors are not welcomed because they are a threat. To go above and beyond, one must feel appreciated for it. When they aren’t appreciated, one of two things happens:

  1. Some start to just do the minimum and learn to keep out of the way.
  2. Those who are more intrapreneurial leave!

Contrast that to an entrepreneurial, fast growing and changing business. You’re hired to create economic value. In fact, your earning power is much more directly tied to the power of your ideas and output! Not just the work you do. And in the end, this creates a career path that is more matrix-like, than a ladder that you climb. And climbs take time right? When you slide diagonal and side ways? It happens faster!

So try to behave in these intrapreneurial ways :

  1. Create value. Look around and see what is broken or wrong in your area. Figure out how to fix and then, fix it!
  2. Keep growing and learning. Think this is a silly? Well, many won’t invest in themselves, but the world demands it. Keep up or suffer the outcome.
  3. Understand how people handle change. You must change personally or know how to help others.
  4. Know your market. What are customers saying to you? What is the market sharing? I bet your company can get better and so will your career if you know and work on this.

Outside-In® Chronicles: Hard In and Easy Out

November 11th, 2015

Outside-In® Chronicles: a throwback post, originally published five years ago in November 2010 While many of the same “people questions” exist, the state of the economy, with the lowest unemployment rate since April 2008 (5.0%), makes the answers or solutions uniquely different. And through all the ups and downs in hiring, our mantra of “hard in, easy out” has remained the same.

Leadership is all about the “people side of the business”. It just seems as if the focus and importance of people issues ebbs and flows with the state of our business. For the last two years, most “people” conversations have been exclusively about cutting costs, reducing head count or associated expenses, and/or plans to create efficiencies. Many businesses find themselves in a spot where they are lean and this means that many, many organizations find themselves panicking quietly about people and talent issues. I hear these questions each and every day with more urgency:

Should we hire to add headcount or use temporaries?
I do not have staff to conduct hiring; how do I get started again?
Should I have a long term strategy or simply react now?
How do I make hiring a core competency? What role should my managers and staff play in the process?

I will let you in on a little secret – HR folks of all kinds are now finding jobs at a steady, if not record clip. We cut them fast and hire them back just as fast. Perhaps a little too fast. Over the last twenty years I have operated within an informal mantra, “It should be hard to get into your company as a new hire, yet very easy to leave”. This statement of hard in, easy out is simple to remember yet profound in its significance to your business.

Concept of confusion and right strategy of a businessman

First, let’s address “hard in”. Your employees want to feel proud of how we bring new staff into the business. It is great if your process for hiring is effective and makes it exclusive. It should be difficult to get hired. Truthfully, it should be a process that never, ever stops. How many of you regret that your stopped viewing talent over the recession? Most of us (if we are honest) know it to be true. We need cash and TALENT to win as opportunities continue to emerge!

The “easy out” is just as important. Trust me when I say that the workforce knows they will not work for you for a lifetime. They expect to have seven or so different roles throughout their career. This reality is reinforced every moment with a media frenzy of companies that make business decisions that impact their workforce! The workforce knows business can no longer afford to be loyal. And surprise! They won’t give it to you anyway. There is too much churn and reality in the business world for anyone to be lulled into a false sense of security. No longer do candidates call us and say, “I am just looking for a safe company that I can stay with for many years.” That is no longer the reality for most employees.

My suggestion is to create an honest, open environment around this issue. Your culture must be capable of accepting the fact that you are “leasing” an employee for a period of time. You want their productivity, their creativity, their innovation and they in turn get fair market value in compensation and learning that makes them a more valuable asset to their careers.

Make it hard to get in to your company, yet make it very easy to leave. Do this and you will have the talent you need and the honesty that makes business simple, refreshing and a great story to share.

Quit this One Habit to Improve your Customer’s Experience

August 19th, 2015

There is the idea of “moments of truth” in service. This concept basically represents every time we interact with a customer that we have a moment to impress, do our best, or make the interaction either positive or negative.

In a restaurant, when your hostess or waiter doesn’t bring you your menu for 10 minutes, it is a negative thing – not a good moment of truth. When the waitress finally arrives at your table, s/he explains that s/he had just arrived and all the servers are transitioning shifts and juggling tables. Thanks, I think. This is an excuse. The words offer me no value, and it actually makes me feel even more frustrated. All I wanted was an apology and a chance to order. The comments made nothing better. I really don’t care about why.

Over years of study and real world application, “Burkhard leaders” have learned that making an excuse at any time in service with a customer, peer, boss, vendor or friend never adds value or improves the mistake. An excuse always makes things worse. No one wants to hear you give an excuse. We just want it fixed and done right. The excuse drags out the negative moment and in fact, adds another negative moment of truth. Instead, when you offer me a solution to fix whatever broke, you could win me over forever!

No excuses

Apply this thinking to your own world at work or in your home life. All day long someone makes an excuse on why you did not get a response to the email, why they did not attend your important meeting, or finish the project. Giving any excuse simply makes it worse, right? When your son does not clean up his room or do his assigned chore. Which is worse: the missed work or what he has to say about why it’s not done? Johnny came over and we got distracted. Or, I got my homework done instead. We don’t need all that from a teenager! If he understood “No Excuses”, he would simply go up stairs and clean his room and tell you when it was done. Nothing extra, nothing more. No excuses.

No Excuses is a core value of our companies. No Excuses is about how we act and react in moments of providing service. At the Outside-In® Companies, we try very hard when we make a mistake. Yes, we make them too! Our playbook is to fix what broke. Apologize. But never, ever make an excuse. When we do it well (offering a fix instead of an excuse), there is no drama to discuss, no flames to fan. It is simply matter of fact. Fixed. Done. Over. I like to think this is about running head first into the problem. Get it over with. But for goodness sakes, don’t try and over-explain the why.

Win over your customer by quitting the habit of making excuses. No Excuses means no drama. No Excuses means action. No Excuses means taking one on the chin and not feeling like you have to explain yourself away. All we want as customers is what we asked for. Nothing more.

14 Years Young!

August 6th, 2015

I never thought my business would live to make it to the teenage years. When I started the business I had a 9 year plan and an 89 page business plan. After 14 years, we now operate with quarterly priorities and 1-3 year goals on one big, ever-evolving page. I have learned I cannot, and I no longer try, to control it all. Let it come. Listen to the universe and the market. Take advantage of opportunities. That is my simple mantra today. But I have many memories, both good and not-so-good, that I would like to share. This list won’t be about firsts and largest. Just great memories that stand out.

A memory for each of our 14 years in business!  

2001: I knew I would face adversity as I got started but had no idea how much! I just wish I didn’t have a flood, theft and 9/11 happen all before we officially opened for business. It was a tough start for Outside-In®!

2002: I worked often. In fact I worked every single day of this year. Folks started to recognize our business and to buy our services. I learned that working hard and working smart matter!

2003: In January of this year we trademarked Outside-In®. Other than that, I don’t even remember 2003. Did I mention that you have to work a lot to start a business from scratch?

2004: The year we got our first real office! I started the business from a coat closet that I rented from a good friend. In 2004, we moved to our new headquarters here at Casho Mill Road.

2005: CBI Group was recognized by the Philadelphia Business Journal’s Best Places to Work program, was the recipient of The News Journal’s 2005 Best In Business Award for Best Up and Coming Company, and we placed #19 on the Philadelphia 100 growth list. We knew we had “made it”.

2006: The Year of the “Weepul” — we have had different employee recognition programs over the years. This year my team would receive “Weepuls” for “getting caught being Outside-In®.” Weepuls are a small, spherical, fluffy toy, with large, plastic googly eyes and no limbs. They were everywhere in the office, most of them stuck to the top of our computer monitors.

2007: We established our first annual theme this year, a Dr. Seuss theme ‘O the Places We Will Go.’ It was a great fit for the company that year because 2007 was a year of possibilities.

2008:  The year the Great Recession begins. We had a successful first seven months of the year but by August the market was on high alert. By October customers were making cuts, decreasing hiring projections or freezing hiring altogether. This was also the year I started the Outside-In® Guy blog, perhaps the writing started as therapy for rough business times.

2009:  This is the year I learned that I could do every job in the business. Why?  Because I had to survive. It was a slow year, but good year. Nothing like a good recession to give a team a common enemy. We fought hard, grew again and made it all work.  And this is the year I stopped wearing a suit and tie to work every day!

2010: We won the NCCCC Entrepreneur of the Year award this year. The same award my father won in the 80’s. We were proud to be the only Father/Son winners!

2011: We had an office fire and flood on Superbowl Sunday. This was a challenging time as the business faced many obstacles to stay open (spoiler alert, we did) and find any kind of normalcy for a few months. We did it, and we grew stronger through it. That is when I knew a business is done only when the leaders say it is!

2012: Placers comes back strong. CBI Group made the HRO Today Baker’s Dozen List, recognized as an Honorable Mention and Mid Market Leader, among 21 companies acknowledged through customer feedback.

2013: CBI Group, Placers and Barton Career Advisors announced a new partnership under our shared values-based culture, Outside-In®. The companies now work together under the Outside-In® brand as full service talent organization for career and outplacement services serving the national marketplace.

2014:  This is the year of the bad Northeastern winter when no one could get to work. Few did much proactively with their companies. The first four months of the year were terrible for most businesses. We made the most of it and got back on track!

2015: We have grown 44% in the first half of the year and have all the nicks and dings to show for it. Growth is hard, but I continue to learn something new every day!

The 2015 Outside-In Summer Reading List

August 5th, 2015

Sometimes I can’t find enough time to read the pile of “must reads” on my night stand. So I am careful to suggest that others add to their guilt (I might be projecting my own guilt!) by having even more book and article suggestions to tack on to their lists.

Books.Pile of book on desk.When I make time to read, however, I am able to set aside the events of the day and the many distractions from people and electronics and something amazing starts to happen. Ideas and thoughts seem to flow in a torrent! I hope you’re able to spark your learning in a similar fashion. Find the time. It reduces stress and allows you to chew on the problems of the day in a new and productive way. And as a CEO or business leader, you don’t have to read all business books to find inspiration. This year, the trend (Fortune & LA Times for example) is for CEOs to read non business books to inspire new ideas.

So whether you’re committing to regular reading or simply looking for something to do on that family camping trip or week at the beach, this August I have a few page turners to consider.

  1. Choose Yourself by James Altucher: James is an avid writer, blogger and many time entrepreneur. Choose Yourself defines today’s workplace realities and offers real world ideas on how to take control of your work and how you will forever define how you earn an income. Thought provoking!
  2. In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides: This one grips you! A few weeks ago, I spent a week ignoring friends and family on the beach in Block Island and read this one. It’s a true story researched for years by Hampton, Outside Magazine and others. This is the greatest historical story you don’t know! Great lessons in leadership, sacrifice, and survival. Imagine trying to get to the North Pole in a wooden ship with no means of communication with the outside world!
  3. Delivering Happiness A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh, CEO In a business world where few have any real meaningful, sustainable business advantage, Delivering Happiness chronicles the dramatic rise of Zappos and how their culture drives everything and defines their success. And it is an entertaining read to boot! Not every success is immediate and over night. Success takes time, risk and perseverance.

I am always scanning for the next must read, I hear the Uncontainable, The Story of the Container Store by Kip Tindell is a must read… Next on the list? What books are on your list? Share away!

Be Vulnerable, Be Curious

June 10th, 2015

Outside-In Companies are working on the value of being Open Book. To be clear, Open Book is the concept of opening your books to your shareholder(s) and employees so that they may use the information to improve or enhance the way the business is run. Not everyone likes or even grasps the financial concepts that make up financial statement, balance sheets or cash flow statements. BUT, if all see profits and losses and understand how their performance and decisions affect the numbers, then they can play a big part in impacting the success or failure of the business. There is strength in numbers, as they say.

Open-Book-FishLast week we celebrated our Open Book Values Holiday with some symbolism. To illustrate the meaning of Open Book, team members adopted a goldfish for the Outside-In office. We call him Vulnerable and he swims centrally in the office in a fishbowl for all to see. Vulnerable’s fishbowl represents the transparency and clarity you should expect from an Open Book company. Share, share, share it all! All of us should be willing to open our office doors, let customers into meetings, or share information about the state of the business freely. This requires the information to share. And it requires a culture that encourages, craves, even demands insights and information into running the business.

Having no information usually equates to risky decision making. More information gives you a real advantage or leg up on the competition. Most don’t bother, we prefer to take action rather then back up our thinking and really get clear on what the information is telling us!

We are far from great at being Open Book. This is an ongoing work in progress. For example, in order to be open book we must do a better job of encouraging critical thinking and information gathering by all. We must be curious. This concept must be led and encouraged by the leadership. We must teach and insist that all learn to gather information to make good decisions. And we must create opportunities for teammates to learn the financial concepts as well! We must appreciate the curious and insights that make ideas happen.

As we provide information on the business, we want it to spur further questions, which creates the need for more information, more reporting, and so on and so on. This is a never ending, self-perpetuating cycle right? We must be structurally ready to handle this need for reporting and information! We must be able to provide reports and data when needed so all can run their small business.

Our journey with Open Book is just beginning. I think we have much to do to maximize its potential on our companies. Do you work in an Open Book company? Jack Stack started all this with the Great Game of Business over 20 years ago. There are few concepts more polarizing and challenging to implement. However, if done well? Few values can create such far-reaching organizational value!

Outside-In® Chronicles: Summer Reading List

June 3rd, 2015

ID-100249568Summer reading is a part of the fabric that defines my free time as well as my summer vacation. The challenge is to decide how to recharge and rejuvenate with that precious time off. Do I really want to read an industry publication or study for that upcoming webinar to keep continuing education credits flowing? It’s not that I don’t like my industry or chosen profession, I just need space and time to decompress. The more space I can create or make more time to think, the more likely I am to find new ideas and thoughts that help with my day-to-day work!

However, sometimes it’s hard to get away without our smart phones tethered to our hand 24/7—we all have to find some compromise, right? The very device that lets you order pizza while on vacation or text the teenagers to find out when they will be home is the same piece of technology that pings every time there is a new email and some work issue that either ruins your vacation mood or requires immediate attention!

I once heard the pile of unread business magazines, articles, books, and white papers on your nightstand or work station referred to as the tower of guilt! I, for one, feel good when I take that pile of work and plow through it. Sometimes I read three or four books at the same time in rotation just to change topics for the sake of staying current. However, this is not the approach I like to take for summertime reading.

So if you’re trying too hard to work and want to recharge while coming back with a new perspective on your business, here are my top three must reads:
1. Anything by Gladwell. Malcom not only sees the world differently, but he does the research to back it up. Try The Tipping PointWhat the Dog Saw, or my all time favorite, The Outliers. If you want to think about your business place in a different way, try escaping to the world that Malcom creates!

2.  How to Win Friends and Influence People. So many smart people know something about their field of study or the technical aspects of their profession yet few invest in their relationships.  No books exists that is more time tested for helping you with tools and tips for great human relations skills!

3.  Zen and the Art of Happiness. Everyone gets down in the dumps from time to time. As Dale Carnegie is for great human relationships this book is for realigning your perspective on your daily life. Things happen to us each and everyday, it is what we do next that matters.

If you have a book that recharges and lifts your energy while helping you reflect and improve your business or your leadership persona please let us know!

The Practical Guide to Implementing the Value of Defined by Three Customers

May 27th, 2015

First things first, we all know there is only one paying customer. For the purposes of our value, specifically the way we think, we define our three customers as employees, paying customers, and vendors.

3Customers-01-150x150Defined by Three Customers is about balanced thinking and decision making for all three customer subsets. This is a compass designed to help guide us—it’s not foolproof nor perfect. However, it’s much more balanced than an equation where no thought or care for one “customer” comes into play.

Are you wondering if/how this is relevant to you? I can prove it to you! Did you ever work for the manager that never let his or her people leave the department or post for other positions? The manager’s needs in their job tend to get in the way of the needs of employees or the employer.

How about the salesperson who seems to never hit their plan because they are telling the marketplace and their prospects that they have a monthly quota to hit? They don’t do it intentionally, mind you. They show it in their actions—they are not balancing prospect needs and wants with their own needs.

How can you live the value Defined by Three Customers?

  1. As an employee taking care of your customer who will eventually take care of you, do things for your customers to add value and they will come back!
  2. Challenge (in a good way) and get to your vendors. You would be surprised what they can do to help if you share where you’re taking your business and what value they can bring to you get there!
  3. Sometimes one “customer” wins and another loses in the short term. We must have a long-term view. We can’t always get the employee the raise nor the feedback they crave. A vendor can’t always give favorable terms on their business. A leader can’t always make a balanced decision—their short budget depends on the quick hit. The key is to stay focused on the doing right things right everyday and we will balance the scales in the long run!
  4. Defined by Three Customers is an equal number of debits and credits in the relationship bank account. Make sure you’re taking care of your stakeholders all of the time!
  5. Think longer term. Think about taking care of all groups. Imagine you will break bread with your three customers on a regular basis. When we think about long-term relationships, we moderate our short-term needs and wants!

CBI Way: Getting Your Pipeline Started

May 20th, 2015

By Outside-In® Team Member Alex Patton

Having the ability to tap your own pipeline of talent when trying to fill open positions can be a game-changer. As discussed in the last CBI Way Blog, talent pipelining is about preparing for future openings, and easily identifying quality candidates quickly, reducing critical metrics such as time to fill. As you can probably predict, creating your pipeline starts with a familiar topic: engaging passive candidates.

CBIWayEngaging passive talent can be an incredibly effective way to encourage your pipeline’s success. First, identifying the profile and skillsets needed for future openings is going to help point you in the right direction for engaging those ideal candidates. For example, perhaps you want to build a pipeline of electrical engineers, knowing of a large project kicking off next year. You might be able to get a decent amount of names from LinkedIn, FaceBook, or old resumes on job boards. But more likely, the most effective source for building your pool of electrical engineers is going to be associations, niche groups, and seminars or events where candidates with the skillset you seek meet, interact, and engage one another. Gathering as much information possible about your pipelined candidates will take in-depth research and cross-referencing, but will pay dividends for the long term approach. Emails, telephone numbers, and social media profiles can all help bridge the gap to engagement.

Identifying the sources to generate passive candidates is an important step. But perhaps just as important is engaging that talent, and building relationships to foster interest and help drive referrals. In the next CBI Way blog, we’ll discuss some common strategies to produce success when attempting to engage your newly built talent pipeline.

Have you heard about our talent pipelining service, talentSOURCE? Learn about the sourcing service and benefits by downloading the talentSOURCE PDF.

Image courtesy of

Do You Choose to Act Like a Temporary Employee or an Entrepreneur?

May 14th, 2015

temporentreWhat would you do with yourself if you realized that the world of work has changed dramatically and that we have a choice to make? We are basically temps OR we are entrepreneurs that must choose ourselves. That is my interpretation of a wonderfully honest book by James Altucher called Choose Yourself!

We are temps in the sense that we go to work, do our jobs, and collect our paychecks. We don’t love what we do, however, we don’t even really know that there is another option. We don’t put a whole lot into our career when we act like a temporary employee. The career is simply a means to an end. I get paid and I am waiting for someone to tell me what to do and how to do it—that is the extent of the contract.

However, we are all, in essence, rented for a period of time (even though the job is not a true temporary position). Time is relative. If the average tenure of a public CEO is thirteen months, I could make the argument that it is a temporary assignment. It is our attitude, level of engagement, lack of drive to learn, and inability to grow or find ways to become more of an asset that often catch up with us. You act temporary and you don’t know any better!

Or maybe it’s not your fault at all and it’s simply the realities of today’s workplace that did it to you. No company or job is forever, right? The economy, markets, your company, and its industry, all play a key role. I think that is the point of the title of choosing yourself! You are responsible for you. No one else, let alone your current employer. You must own your skills and development and how you monetize what you are capable of! A job simply might not cut it anymore! Or perhaps it just part of you how monetize your time and capabilities?

Being an entrepreneur? Well, I think this is both literal and figurative. All of us must be resourceful, creative, hard working, productive, a risk taker, and a learner. We must find ways to create revenues for our employers and for ourselves on the side. This could be cottage industries, extra jobs, writing blogs or books. We are responsible for our own careers and for inventing ourselves!

The key to NOT being a temp? Act like an entrepreneur. Frankly, the book itself is full of implementable ways of choosing yourself and finding a way to own your income and your career. The magic is in being and thinking differently while you’re employed. Most businesses crave entrepreneurial thinking. Culture and external environment may dictate terms, but it starts within! I, for one, have supported many employees to become entrepreneurs. I have supported side projects and reviewed their cottage industry ideas. Quite frankly, I buy from them, too! This is how you choose yourself.

If cold calls don’t work, change your plans. If the product doesn’t sell, sell something else. If the meeting did not go well, then try again. This is what entrepreneurs do—and it is what great entrepreneurial employees do, too!

Want to meet great entrepreneurial employees? I have a few that get what it takes to chose for themselves! Mary Schaefer (left) is one of our Career Coaches at Barton Career Advisors, and Kelly Hocutt (right) is our Marketing Team Leader for the Outside-In® Companies.


Outside-In® Book List

© Year CBI Group. All Rights Reserved. Site Credits.