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Author: Chris Burkhard

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Outside Insights is a platform for sharing your lessons and ideas for closing your personal gap. New thoughts to ponder every other week at myplacers.com/outside-insights.
11 Episodes
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The Power of Knowledge

The Power of Knowledge

2021-07-2357:51

Group brainstorming sessions are usually the birthplace of a spark of an idea that turns into something big. Whether you’re discussing the next roll out with colleagues or deciding what to name the new family puppy while trying not to shut down the name “cupcake”.While brainstorming, the first wave of responses are often narrow and incomplete. It takes time, and the group needs complete context and information to really engage and get creative. You have to work at it, and you have to go deep. You have to immerse yourself in the topic and gather all of the existing “knowledge” that you can on the topic. The real gems come when enough time is spent observing and thinking then is spent talking.For this week’s podcast, I sat down with Outside Insights regular, Alan Burkhard to discuss the power of knowledge. The key to making good decisions in any aspect of life is having all of the facts. That might seem obvious at first run, but the truth is so many people are tied up with reaching “the next big thing” that they make decisions without truly understanding the topic. They don’t take the time to gather all of the knowledge that they need.I know the clocks are ticking, we are junkies for action, and we feel pressed to get things done and make any decision. The next challenge in life is always building up and many of us just don’t think we have the time to really think on something.In this podcast, you’ll learn about See, Think, Act and the steps that you should take before most decisions. We’ll also discuss the pitfalls of See, Act, Think – a common pattern for many of us in this fast-paced world. Here are the topics we’ll touch on:Understand the importance of gathering the right informationLearn how to assess that information and decide if you have enough knowledgeUnderstand that only then can you leverage what you know to create a solution or problem solveKnow when and how to take action.Speaking of taking action, let me know what your takeaways are for today's podcast. I often think that the simplest concepts can have the greatest game changing impacts on our lives. We often spend time working on and taking action on the wrong things –  what if you could change all of that? I think you can, we just have to change old habits. Start with See, Think, Act.Until next time,Chris
This week’s podcast is about investing in you. This requires you to get to know who you are. In a time of uncertainty, there is a substantial advantage to truly understanding yourself. The exercise below and the lessons in this podcast will help you develop your compass for your life map.To begin this necessary work, try the exercise I’ve outlined below. Alan discusses this exercise more in depth in the podcast at minute marker 13:15. I encourage you to give it a listen.“Culture of One” Exercise: Developing Your Life Map Compass Make sure you have at least one hour blocked off for this exercise. Go to your favorite spot, indoors or outdoors, wherever you like to spend time. If you can’t go there physically, imagine the most beautiful place in your mind.  Go there alone, and don’t bring any of your devices with you. Instead, bring a pad of paper and something to write with. Select a topic from the list below. Or come up with a new topic. This will be your prompt for the rest of the exercise. Topics to start with (not limited to these): siblings, parents, job, employer, employees, religion, fears, passions, limitations, obstacles, emotions, risks, talents, health, education, hobbies, friends, relationships.Write your topic down at the top of the page and then write down everything that comes to mind when you think about that topic.Get all of your feelings and emotions out onto the paper. Even if the thoughts don’t make sense or don’t have a direct connection. Whatever pops into your mind, write it down!Spend an hour, or two (or even a whole day) writing everything you think about these topics. Sleep on it. Then repeat the process the next day.After you have a solid list going, analyze it. What themes come through? What connections can you make between the different themes? What thoughts resonate with you the most? What do you think they mean?What could these themes tell you about your personal values? How can they help you define your authentic goals?Insights do not come instantly or overnight.  Like any work with an advisor or counselor, insights and behavioral changes come with time. Perhap you nail one value to live by or make one goal for your life through this exercise. Consistent work on you will help you add to your plan, and with time, you will notice that decisions become easier as you live by your values and work towards authentic goals you have set for yourself.What’s next? Make another list:You’ve gotten to know yourself a bit better, now take this knowledge and apply it to your life and your relationships. Create another list of traits that you value and simple steps to bring these traits into your everyday life. Example: be more direct, be truthful, share more about myself Practice these traits in your daily interactionsTry it, recognize small wins, build confidence, build the habit I often feel a real advantage in my life. I have clarity in decisions. Oftentimes, the answers are obvious to me when facing life and business challenges. I have worked hard at knowing who I am, I have defined my personal values. I know what I stand for. So when I bump into new people, ideas or challenges - I know what fits me.  I want this for the Outside Insights community. And I would love to hear if the tools in the podcast were helpful to you. Always feel free to share your stories with me by replying directly to this email. Until next time, friends. Chris
Welcome to Summer 2021, many have money to spend, time in their vacation banks and freedom to explore. If you're like me, and like many, taking time off has created genuine stomach churning angst. Thoughts like “I might miss something”, “I might look like I don’t care about my team or my company” can run wild. Our perspectives, around remaining safe as family and as businesses, have been front and center for more than a year. Now is the time to refresh, recharge and finally hug your faraway friends and families. The notion almost feels unfamiliar.Time off does not mean you tune out completely. In fact, this is a great time to grab one of the many unread books and spend time on yourself. Book knowledge, podcasts, and videos all offer opportunities to do something for you and to grow your perspective and shift your mindset.I like to look at history. To understand the why. It often helps explain how we got here today. In my line of work, oftentimes this means taking a deep look at workforce trends.Right now, the workforce is in charge. Yet, many workers do not fully know it, nor do they know what to do with the upper hand. Many employees find themselves ill equipped to navigate the job search and effective career management steps.150 years ago people largely worked for themselves. They were laborers, artisans, and entrepreneurs. Over the years, all of that changed as corporations got bigger and people enjoyed the security that came with a 9-5 job. Companies shepherded us along our careers from mailroom to retirement. Today, that seems to be changing again…In this week's podcast I meet with Outside Insights Podcast regular, Alan Burkhard, as we unpack the history of work.So grab your beach chair, charge your ear buds, and get ready to gain perspective on work and careers. Key points Alan and I covered are included below:- How to leverage historical trends to figure out what's going to happen next- What drove the industrial revolution and its impact on jobs, our lifestyles and our families- See the shift in how our career identity shifted from the skills you had to where you worked - and now back again.- There is a marketplace cycle. A country has resources, capital, labor and overtime government regulation, workplace safety, unions, employee tenure, etc. All of these contributed to improved earning power and quality of life. That is, until costs grow to the point of economic disadvantage and complacency sets in with new global competitors- Impact of the global economy as the 1970’s shifted us to Technological Revolution- Global competition and the shift away from a company’s role of “lifetime employer”- Present day reality: We are all in charge of our own careers, who will be your agent?Give a listen, take some notes, even journal your thoughts on this one. And as always, send along your ideas and responses. My company will proudly help any job seeker and business that asks for it through our Act of Kindness program detailed below. Click here to talk to a Placers coach free of charge.Thanks for listening,Chris
When I meet with successful leaders, I am drawn to their stories.How did they get where they are? What lessons have they learned along the way? What can they teach me and my audience?I recently completed a podcast episode with my close friend, Michelle Taylor. Michelle is industrious, smart, strategic, driven by the notion of always bettering herself as a leader and improving the business she runs. Michelle happens to run the United Way of Delaware, one of the largest not for profits in the state. She is simply masterful at working with and for each stakeholder in the business and the community her business serves.All of us seem to know the United Way, yet we are all not quite sure what they do. In this week’s podcast, you’ll hear from Michelle about how they are making a difference and are doing more than just “saving babies”. While that is, very obviously, an amazing mission on it’s own, the United Way is supporting the community through the pandemic and championing diversity, equity and inclusion through meaningful partnerships, programs and relationships.You’ll also learn about Michelle’s leadership journey. In her eyes, titles never mattered. She’s a leader because she wants to help the people she leads thrive and to make a real difference. Michelle will never brag about a good leader, however, when you interact with her, you know you’re interacting with a great leader who is fair, honest, and direct.Michelle and I also discuss the important “why” questions: Why she comes to work every day and why her business exists. Defining your “why” is a great prompt for getting to know yourself, your motivations and what makes you truly happy. I’ve talked about getting to know yourself in my recent articles, and defining your “why” is a key part of that.Through the years, Michelle and I have bonded while discussing change in business: the best way to navigate these changes and lessons learned over the years. We discuss these lessons within the podcast.In the end, the conversation in this podcast is like every other one I have ever had with Michelle. We share ideas, work on business problems together, and study how business works and operates. We are always improving something. My hope is that you can find a nugget that resonates, inspires or just makes you think in this episode.Until next time friends,Chris
A Life Without Limits

A Life Without Limits

2021-05-1411:25

Close your eyes and imagine what life would be like if you woke up each day and lived life as if you had no limits? As if closing the between where you are and where you want to be was well within your reach.The system of life keeps us “on the rails”. As we get older, we learn rules and expectations that keep us safe while we move through life's milestones. While these rules and expectations protect us, they also limit us over time.Recently, I had the honor of speaking at Goldey-Beacom’s commencement ceremony for 2020 and 2021 graduates. When developing my speech, I asked myself what is the one thing that graduates should know as they set out on their next chapter. As I started writing, it was clear to me: rethinking life’s “limits” is a call to action that darn near everyone needs to hear.The Outside Insights community was started to help people be the best version of themselves - the lessons are applicable to everyone, from CEOs to high-school seniors. For this week’s article and podcast, I’d like to share a few key takeaways from my commencement speech. Key takeaways:1- I believe that most of us don’t know ourselves very well. Living an intentional life without limits requires us to spend more time striving to understand who we are, what we stand for, and what we want out of life. And not just what we think we should want - what we really, really want. If you don’t take the time to really get to know yourself, the world is going to decide your fate for you.2- This is a knowledge economy and we are knowledge workers. I’m a big fan of this theory. At its core, it means that fulfillment and success come from being a life-long learner. Knowledge, in all its forms, gives us confidence, expands our skills, and gives us new perspectives that we can apply to every facet of our life. There is no final destination when it comes to learning. 3- The definition of success is not one-size-fits-all. How do you define success?  Is it promotions and raises? Admiration? Family? Living your soul’s purpose? The coolest part of this question can also be the most stressful: There is no right or wrong answer! Many people strive to become successful without first understanding what will make them feel successful. Too many people get caught up in the rat race chasing the next big promotion only to feel completely unfulfilled and even depressed once they reach it. They look back and wish they would’ve spent some of those light nights enjoying a hobby or spending time with their growing family. To understand your definition of success, you need to first understand yourself (see point #1).I hope that you feel energized after listening to the speech and motivated to redefine your limits, perhaps they are limits you didn’t realize were even there. I also hope that you understand how critically important it is to understand yourself - you’d be surprised how many people overlook this step as life rolls on. You’re always changing, take the time to get to know the person you’re growing into. If you find this message valuable, please pass the video, the podcast link, or this writing along. And, as always, your comments and thoughts are welcomed. And remember, the Placers Act of Kindness promise still stands strong - if we can ever assist you, just let me know.Until next time, friends.Chris
For this week’s podcast, I sat down with a long-time friend and consistent source of inspiration for me: Joe Clancy, owner of ST Publishing. In this podcast, Joe shares many lessons applicable for life and business. I’m confident you’ll find nuggets of wisdom that you can apply to your life today. It goes without saying that Joe is passionate about writing and regularly provides feedback on my own writing. For this edition of Outside Insights, I’m giving him the mic!An introduction from Joe Clancy, owner of ST Publishing:My friend Chris talks to me about business, frequently. He’s got ideas, opinions, thoughts (really good thoughts) and perspective. I listen, sometimes follow his suggestions and always soak in everything even if some little voice tries to tell me that none of it applies to me.Of course, I’m wrong there. Advice from someone like Chris always applies, even to someone like me. My brother and I own a small publishing company that specializes in Thoroughbred horse racing. We’re the only full-time employees. There’s probably no way ST Publishing will ever “scale” up into something major, but we’ve been in business in one form or another since 1994 and there’s real value there for us. It was a part-time endeavor at the start, and focused on a newspaper about steeplechase racing. Steeplechase Times took us a long way, showed us we could actually do it, and we gradually added other projects, adapted to various changes in the world and we’re still at it in 2021 even if Steeplechase Times is no more. Instead, we focus on a summer newspaper about horse racing in Saratoga Springs, New York and a long list of other projects. The Saratoga Special started in 2001 and continues to be our flagship. In addition, we run a website thisishorseracing.com which is supposed to appeal to lifelong racing enthusiasts and newcomers alike; edit and write for the monthly Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine; produce content for the New York Thoroughbred Breeders Association; and even sell a retail wall calendar to customers all over the world.All this came to be because we liked horses and writing. Our father trained racehorses. Our mother’s father edited the Newark Post many years ago and later wrote about hunting and fishing for the Wilmington News-Journal. So I guess we combined two interests (loves?) and crafted a business. I can’t say it was by design. I was working for a small community newspaper. Sean was working with horses and riding races as a steeplechase jockey. We learned to sell advertising, do accounting, edit websites, deal with customers, navigate ever-changing economic conditions and so on. If there’s one certainty in business, it’s that nothing ever stays the same. Adapt, work hard, find something you like, do the best you can under whatever circumstances you’re dealing with, create something people enjoy and you’ll be served well – no matter the field.Chris asked me to be a guest on his podcast (link here), to talk business, to explain (a little) about how we managed to do what we’ve done. It felt like all the other conversations we’ve had – two guys who lived (he moved) in the same neighborhood and who sent their kids to the same school talking shop. Now if I could only remember the advice he gave me.….What did you take away from Joe’s story? What would you like to hear more of in the future? Reply and let me know!Until next time friends,Chris 
Successful leaders know that one thing is at the core of every successful business: a strong culture. When done right, culture has the potential to be a key competitive advantage. When employees are empowered and encouraged by their company’s culture, they can move faster, solve more problems, and become more engaged in the broader goals of the organization.  These employees see how they can  make a real difference. Yet all too often  I hear that organizations are too busy to take culture seriously. “Culture is soft, we need to focus on results”, or “We will focus on culture after we get the launch completed”,  or, “We have free food Friday and an awesome foosball table, we’re good - right?”. Wrong. Culture is how a community behaves and the values that unite it’s members. To be effective, communities must move with intention.  My podcast guest this week is Arnie Malham, award-winning CEO/founder, 8-figure entrepreneur and best-selling author who helps progressive leaders create engaging and sustainable cultures within their organizations.  Arnie Malham knows culture.  He often says he’s done it wrong enough to finally get it right. He believes that businesses become successful by creating an environment that enables and inspires employees to reach their full potential. In this week’s podcast, Arnie and I discuss the lessons he’s learned along the way while running many successful businesses and developing cultures where his people could do their best work. Arnie knows that the endless pursuit of knowledge is critical to success. Leaders are readers.  Reading fosters knowledge, fresh ideas and, hopefully, a lifelong interest in learning and self- improvement. “Business is hard. But the challenges that make business hard are more than just obstacles - they provide the foundation for building and strengthening a culture that attracts the best people to do the best work.” In Arnie’s book, Worth Doing Wrong: The Quest to Build a Culture that Rocks, he outlines his journey through successes and failures and best practices he’s learned along the way. You can check it out here. I’d like to leave you with a question this week: If you’re a leader, how do you prioritize culture? If you’re an employee, what does an effective culture look and feel like to you?  Bonus question: If you named your culture, what would you call it? Arnie even named his business’ culture: Camel Culture. At Placers, our culture is called Outside-In. Until next time, friends!
In a world of self-service portals and customer service lines that proudly announce “that your call is important to us. There are just 48 callers in front of you, and your wait time 1 hour and 6 minutes” there has to be another way.  You know real service when you see it. But how can leaders deliver it and build it into their business?  Business owners and employees are all looking for an edge, something that makes their business or personal brand shine brighter than the next.  Why not through customer service?  Burkhards call this the concept of Nth Degree.  There is an internet meme that proposes that Chick-fil-a should be hired to administer COVID vaccines.  If you do not have Chick-fil-a in your town, they are known for more than just great chicken. They are known for the individualized service and always going the extra mile to provide exceptional experiences. They're also known for being closed every Sunday, exactly when you’re craving a chicken sandwich, but I digress.  Chick-fil-a has Nth degree service in its DNA. Even the most simple things compound to make big service differences. For example, when you say “thank you” Chick-fil-a employees don’t respond with “youre welcome” they say “my pleasure”.  According to Chick-fil-A lore (not yet an established genre), the chain's founder, Truett Cathy, got the idea while staying at a Ritz Carlton. When he said "thank you" to a hotel employee, he was pleasantly surprised when the employee replied, "my pleasure". In Cathy's mind, those two small words made the Ritz Carlton stand out as a luxury establishment, so he brought it into practice in his own restaurants. Which is no surprise really. The Ritz Carlton co-founder, Horst Schulze, led the hotel chain to become the gold standard in service excellence.  And his book, Excellence Wins, is a worthy read.  The Ritz Carlton has a reputation for never cutting service corners. They expect greatness out of their employees and give them the tools and trust to be excellent.  In this week's podcast, we’re back with our podcast regular, Alan Burkhard, who shares his journey towards perfecting Nth degree service.  We discuss: Alan’s view on the history of service.Why Nth degree service works best when you have a culture that supports it.  How you can make the cultural adjustments needed to provide Nth degree service.How to take a segment of your business and make it Nth Degree. Multiple small changes make a big difference - there’s no better time to start than right now.How to apply Nth degree service the right away and how to create value for your customers.How to get real customer insights to gather their actual perceptions.  PS) at Placers we take our Nth degree service seriously. Our purpose for existing is to create Nth Degree service experiences.   Service without boundaries.  And our employees get the following coin and $500 dollar whenever we catch someone having a broad impact on our customer base and creating enhanced Nth degree experiences.  Service is why I started the company, and a part of our core values. Author William James wrote, There are very little differences in people, but the little differences make a big difference.  Little adjustments make a big difference.  That's what Nth degree is all about.  Normal people realizing all that they’re capable of and focused on being their best. Until next time, Chris 
If we all wrote a letter to our boss and shared how we view their leadership, how would that work out?  Could they handle the truth? If you’re a leader, could you? Many leaders have earned their stripes through time and tenure.  The title, power, corner office and “control” are prized commodities.  But, what if true leadership comes from letting go of the reigns instead of reigning everything in?One of the best lessons I’ve learned throughout my journey as a leader, is that true success comes from letting go and encouraging your teams to lead the way. To me, leadership means sharing, teaching, and demonstrating how you can help someone on your team be better, smarter, and more productive every day. I often refer to this concept as “servant leadership” - and it was taught to me by my father, Alan Burkhard.Alan, now a Outside Insights podcast regular, shares his leadership journey and the lessons he’s learned why mastering the concept. I’ve heard these lessons before throughout my life, but every time I get a refresher, I am in awe.  I listened to this 10+ times for my mid-life leadership tune up. Look for the leadership exercises in future blogs and podcasts.Leadership is about creating value for our stakeholders, employees, and all customer groups. This is going to create real value for you as the listener. For my experienced leader listeners, this will be the wake-up call you crave and the tune up you need to refresh your impact. For new leaders this will give you the specific roadmap to begin your leadership journey. Listen to learn about :How to get information on leadership and how to establish your leadership philosophy.  You do have one, right?When most folks find themselves in leadership roles by being good at something else, they often learn that “something else” has little to do with being an effective leader. It takes a whole new skillset. Leadership is simply about teaching others and making those around you better.  Learn how your success as a leader is rooted in adding value and teaching. After you give the podcast a listen, here is my personal challenge to all of you:Let's work together to expect more from our leaders and from ourselves. That's what closing the gap is all about. What do you need from the leaders in your life? What do your people need from you? 
Want to receive weekly insights / tips / thoughts to ponder? Join the Outside Insights community!I am a firm believer that contrarian thinking often creates positive outcomes.  That going against the grain and the opposite direction of the crowd is ok, and oftentimes, how one can find the right answer, direction, or philosophy for living.First off, its crowded going with the masses. Yes, staying in your lane is safe, easy and requires less energy and brain power, and appears completely logical to those that are following the same path. But greatness can rarely be found on this path.This week, I interviewed Ralph Cetrulo, Partner of Accounting and Consulting Firm, Stephano Slack,  to learn his lessons for leadership. I’ve known Ralph for quite some time and we cut our business teeth together. Early in my career, I served his company as a recruiter helping screen accountants as Ralph became the youngest partner ever in the CPA accounting firm. Later, I started my first business and Ralph was there to set up our accounting and banking relationships. And when Ralph started his own CPA firm, I said yes to being one of his first handful of customers.Ralph partnered in one of the most successful call center business “rollups” in the scaling up mid-market ethosphere. Combining forces with a college best friend with operational talents, Ralph helped the business build and buy many call centers to roll up into a cultural juggernaut. If you’re interested in scaling a company and want to hear how to do it “with someone else's money” than this podcast episode is the listen for you.Ralph’s journey started after the realization that numbers and accounting came easy to him. The rest is a continuing story of hard work, doing what your good at, and putting yourself in the spot to take advantage of earned opportunities!If you’re just getting started in school or in your career you might be thinking, so how does this apply to me? Jim Rohn, self-help speaker once said, “We are the average of the five people we spend the most time with.” In my humble opinion, listening to Ralph’s story and lesson will help you on your life journey – wherever you’re headed.I’m really excited to share Ralph’s lessons with the Outside Insights community today.Key takeaways from this podcast:How to partner with your financing partner and maximize the benefits.An introduction into the mergers and acquisition market. This is a great primer to begin your knowledge journey.Old business friends talk about what's most important today and what success really means in the year 2020.As the Outside Insights community adds more podcasts to our library, what are you interested in discovering? What types of guests would you like to learn from? Reply and let me know.Until next time, friends.Chris Want to receive weekly insights / tips / thoughts to ponder? Join the Outside Insights community!
We all have a gap in our life that we are working to close personally and perhaps professionally.  In fact, Outside Insights is dedicated to helping people understand and do the work necessary to achieve the life that they’ve been yearning for.The biggest hesitation I hear from people who want more out of life is that there are simply not enough hours in the day. We are time starved and busy keeping our households and careers on the rails.  Imagine a simple set of ideas and exercises to help you figure out life on your terms.The key is to spend time on you. This is more than a day off of work and yoga class in the name of self-care. What do you want out of life?  Career? Family? Values? Hobbies? Each one of these areas will take intentional effort that starts with investing time into yourself. And these investments won’t always be rejuvenating or fun – often times, it will look a lot like hard work.To say our first guest is a real rock star is an understatement.  At least, he is mine. Alan Burkhard is my Dad and best role model. He is a serial entrepreneur and has built and sold many businesses to scale in services, waste removal, restaurants, real estate, and horseracing. Alan is self-made in both his core way of living his life and his success in business.  His personal life and business life are not just interwoven, they are one and the same.Listen in for ideas and lessons that can help you be the person you want to be. We’ll discuss how Alan built his core philosophies and how you can apply them to your everyday life.
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