Posts Tagged: Steve Jobs

What does it mean to be an entrepreneurial family?

October 26th, 2011

Entrepreneurs are quite popular today (especially good ones). Politicians want to know how to make more of them. Government and other associations want to encourage more small business. Students of all ages are being exposed to entrepreneurial curriculum at all levels. Famous entrepreneurs, Trump, Jobs, Gates, and Branson to name a few, appear larger than life to most and are constantly featured in the media.
This is an interesting phenomenon considering that most of us grow up in family units where we are told to get good grades, pick a good school, study hard, choose a profession and work hard to get the best job in the best company in our chosen field. This is the way it has been for the last 50 years. Unless you grow up in entrepreneurial family like I did. Sure, I was tempted by the “ideal” path expected of my generation but being a part of an entrepreneurial family means so much more to me.
I am a 4th generation entrepreneur. My great grandmother owned a corner grocery store in Wilmington, DE in an era when few women worked, let alone owned a business. My grandfather was very handy and was always repairing things like radios and appliances. His handy work soon grew to become Burkhard Hardware. My father, as a young boy, used to sweep the floors and stock the store shelves. He went on to work traditional jobs in banking and finance before starting a staffing firm, Placers. If you follow my story I have brought that brand back and Placers exists again! Today, my father is truly a serial entrepreneur with success and of course failure in many industries. (Hear Alan speak on Executive Leaders Radio, fast-forward to 13:26)
Growing up in an entrepreneurial family, I was taught at a very young age that being an entrepreneur is one of the only ways to be in complete control of your own destiny. As young adults, so many of us study and work hard as students. We get good grades, are active in our community, we choose the right school and then we decide what we want to be and we do our best to pick a good company. But then we stop doing things for ourselves. We put the responsibility for our futures in the hands of the company. The company is well-intended but as an employee, you are at the whim of the business. Business plans change; businesses are bought and sold, headquarters relocate and leadership changes. All of it happens to you. You are not in control.
As an entrepreneur, however, you can manage your own career and have the ultimate control — to be your own boss. When you are in charge, through the good and bad, at least you’re working for yourself. It does not make the act of running a company easier but you control your own destiny.
For now, take control of your own destiny. Trust a fourth generation entrepreneur, my family has controlled our destiny for more than 100 years and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

What is your personal culture?

October 12th, 2011

Last week, I heard my father speak to several hundred high school students about the realities of today’s workforce and workplace. Several days later when Steve Jobs passed, I made an interesting connection. Jobs was the world’s ultimate contrarian. In a famous speech at Stanford, he challenged the college graduating class to be careful about spending too many days doing things they don’t like. Spend every day like it is your last, he encouraged them. “Do what you believe is great work, and the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. And don’t settle,” said Jobs. There was such a parallel between Job’s speech and my father’s address that I had to share.

My dad’s first key point was that when you are young, you do not know yourself. You’re made up of other peoples’ ideas, thoughts, values and opinions. It is your family values and your friends that make up what you believe in and what you stand for. You begin to figure yourself out in your high school and college years – you don’t learn your personal culture or “culture of one” from the educational system.

Even once we’ve figured out our culture of one, my father believes that few of us know how to truly maximize ourselves. There is always a gap between who we are and what we are capable of. Having awareness of that gap is the first step of maximizing your potential. My father believes it is a leaders job to challenge folks to work on and close their gap.

At CBI Group, closing the gap is a big part of my goal as an employer. I have created an environment where people can both figure out and live their culture of one. I challenge them to define their gap — the gap between what they are capable of and what they are currently producing. This is what culture can be — how leaders can unleash the best in people.

This “Burkhard Theory” is something I have heard my father talk about hundreds of times, for most days of my life, in fact. I have worked on my “culture on one” and I live each day to maximize what I am capable of. I am not smarter, more gifted, blessed or special than anyone else. I just work harder at improving myself and that gives me confidence. This is our contribution. This is what we stand for. And those are my dad’s words. I simply chose to live them.

We can all take a page from Steve Jobs and his life. Hope you enjoyed the talk.


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