Mike Burgett – Founder & Executive Advisor, CIO Partners

With over 25 years of experience in the technology sector, Mike Burgett brings a wealth of hands-on experience to his global clients and to his local community. Clients and colleagues cite his ability to build solid, sound relationships and process-oriented approach as his hallmark qualities of success.

Prior to founding CIO Partners, Mike was the CIO for RTM Incorporated, a $1 billion Fortune 500 organization. There, he led technology services from an operational perspective and was able to customize and implement a process-based approach and customer service within a corporate IT organization. Mike began his career as a systems engineer with the global technology consulting company Electronic Data Systems (EDS). As a technology consultant within the automotive engineering and manufacturing industry for General Motors, he honed his technical ability and developed a strong sense toward process and project management that defines him to this day.

Mike is an active volunteer with Kidz2Leaders, which provides mentorship, training, and programs for at-risk teens. He is also a member of Roundtable CEOs, a faith-based organization of CEOs and entrepreneurs. His other entrepreneurial endeavors include Talentric®, The National CIO Review®, CxO Professional Networks, and Burgett Enterprises, LLC. His companies have been recognized multiple times as an Atlanta Business Chronicle Best Place to Work, and as a five-time honoree on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies. All corporate entities tithe 10% of company profits to charity.

How did the concept for CIO Partners come about?
After graduating from Florida State University with a degree in computer science, I joined Electronic Data Systems in 1990 as a technology consultant with General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. I had the opportunity to move from individual contributor roles to leadership positions at a very young age. After a move to Atlanta with the company, I was recruited to become the chief information officer of RTM Restaurant Group, an $850 million company. Transitioning from supply chain technology to the restaurant industry was an interesting and rewarding move. After serving in my first CIO role for 3.5 years, the entrepreneurial bug hit me. I knew there was a gap in the executive search business and that there was an opportunity to create a niche, executive retained search firm that focused exclusively in the technology leadership sector.

What was your marketing strategy?
While not formally trained, sales and marketing has always been one of my interests. I also knew that CIO Partners, with a defined niche, would resonate well within the marketplace. Over the past 18 years, we have continued to cultivate talent networks of technology leaders and build direct relationships with companies that are in need of these types of leaders. It’s actually rather simple: continue to promote the brand as the top niche player in this space, cultivate relationships with the folks who perform these roles, and then interact with the buyers who hire this talent. In essence, we know the best marketing is to be known as an influencer in the industry and serve well all who play in this space.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our company has had the privilege of being recognized on the Inc. 5000, six times. In short, we grew fast from 2001-2007, learned a great deal through the downturn of 2008-2009, and re-accelerated the growth of our company from 2010 to present day. Growth can be challenging, but continuing to reshape strategy to align with an evolving market is the fun part of being an entrepreneur.

How do you define success?
Success for me is having an idea, launching an offering, staying in the detail to refine the idea in the marketplace, building a values-based team, and then giving them the keys to take the company to a new level.

What is the key to success?
One of the companies that I worked for in the past had a great side of guiding principles that still guide me to this day. Work Hard, Play Fair, Get Things Done, Make a Difference, and Have Fun. From a personal note, having a strong family and friendships are key, and continuing to develop my personal relationship with my creator and becoming the man that he knows me to be.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson that I ever learned was taught to me by a former high school teacher who gave me my first technology job as a freshman in college. He had asked me, as I was moving to a new town in order to attend a new college, to find a synopsis of a book that he read a long time ago. He was purposely vague about the name of the book or how I was to find the information, but set me on the task. As a young buck in that day, I promised to get to it, but alas, he had to remind me a few times of his request. A few months later, on my last day of work, I went to the local library and found the book, A Message to Garcia. As I read the short text, I quickly learned the message he sought to instill. In brief, the book is about a man being tasked with an important mission, and that those who are quick to take action and complete a task are those who are most valued. As I delayed on completing what I deemed a trivial, non-urgent assignment, the message of the book hit me directly and further instilled in me that I want to be known as someone who can relied upon to get things done for the sake of all involved.

What are some quotes that you live by? 
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.” – Luke 12:48

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude, that will determine your altitude.” – Zig Ziglar

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
This is a hard one! There are tough days, but tough days are a part of the journey…the shaping of me as an entrepreneur. As a hiker, who has been hiking the Appalachian Trail in sections for many years, with only 300 miles left of the 2100 miles, that journey has provided me a perspective that shapes me in my daily walk. When the elements are tough, you keep moving up the trail. Adversity is a part of life, and we should glorify GOD in each and every step, in both good times and bad. Because even as you walk during a difficult stretch, you can still experience joy, and when you reach the top, the trials and tribulations are ultimately rewarded.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My family, my faith, and my desire to meet all challenges head on, and growing through each and every experience.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Whether you decide to take the leap to be an entrepreneur early in life or later in your career, know that your individual journey will continue to shape you for that right moment. Seek mentors, become a voracious reader, and continue to develop your personal toolbox and capabilities. In the end, have the confidence to believe in yourself and take the leap! In the end, the journey is the reward.

Ronald Burgess – Founder, RBJ Foundation

Ronald A. Burgess Jr. is a former professional athlete, inspiring motivational speaker, and founder of the RBJ Foundation.

Growing up in Miami’s Opa-locka and Deerfield Beach, Florida, Ronald understands the need for resources aimed at not only strengthening communities, but also empowering the youth within these communities. Having substantial understanding of the impact addiction, mental health, and trauma can have on youth, Ronald speaks at DYS (Department of Youth Services), churches, and schools to help minimize the stigma of addiction and mental health.

How do you define success?
My definition of success is positively-changing and impacting, not only your life, but also the lives of others. Success is bigger than the individual. That’s why I emphasize on the “positively-changing and impacting the lives of others.” When I think of success, the one word that sticks out the most is “prevail.” Success is measured by growth. Success is measured by a decrease in the stigma of addiction and mental health. Success is bigger than the individual.

What is the key to success?
1) First, and most important, is consistency. Consistency is the key to anything in life, especially when we talk about success.
2) Chasing failure. Understanding that everything you may feel you can’t do is indeed everything you can do.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson I learned is to always remain humble. Remaining humble and understanding our circumstances doesn’t define us, nor does our past. Also, to be more mindful of the things I have versus the things I don’t have. That’s pure gratitude.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Faith without works is dead.”
“One community, one goal.”
“We didn’t come this far, to come this far.” – William Hollis

What are some of your favorite books?
Uncommon – Tony Dungy
The Bible
The Man in the Mirror – Patrick Morley

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as a professional athlete.
When I visited an elementary/middle school and chose to discuss the importance of “saying no to drugs.” Reason this is considered one of my toughest days is being, at the time, I was working with teens/adolescents who struggled with substance abuse and mental health disorders. I’ve lost many young teen/adolescent clients to addiction. Therefore, there are a lot of emotions that come into play when talking to elementary/middle schools about the importance of not engaging in any of these addictive behaviors. It’s always difficult to discuss this topic, because of all the funerals I’ve attended as a result of teen/adolescent addiction.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
My faith and knowledge of my purpose in life. I understand I have a job to do and that’s to strengthen our communities and empower our youth. Also, understanding that God is bigger than my adversity and circumstances.

What advice would you give to young athlete?
The advice I would give is to always remain humble and consistent with everything you do. Take something from the game, because this can’t last forever. All sports come with life lessons that we can take and implement in our daily lives. Incorporate God in all you do.

Shannon “Peacasso” Seip – Co-Founder & Co-CEO, Bean Sprouts

Shannon is the creative force behind Bean Sprouts. She created the award-winning Imaginibbles menu, including Do-Re-For-Me, the winner of the Best Kids’ Meal in the U.S. She leads the direction of the Bean Sprouts brand, including menu development, store design, and merchandise. Shannon oversees all licensing programs and partnerships. She has an extensive media background, including years on television, and is an award-winning author of American Girl publications (including multiple food features) and parenting books.

How did the concept for Beansprouts come about?
When each of us had young children, we realized there was no place to eat that was healthy AND fun, that appealed to both kids AND adults. Even at places that were wholesome and family-friendly (think Panera Bread), our kids showed off their rambunctiousness while businessmen and women tried to hold meetings at the next table over.

We created Bean Sprouts by taking every challenge we could think of when dining out with kids (there were many!) and finding solutions. Bean Sprouts offers both a playful menu that encourages children to try new tastes, and an experience that appeases parents (hello, organic espresso bar, fabulous sandwiches, and extreme attention to allergies).

A few years after opening our first location in a strip mall, we started getting inquiries from family destinations, asking if we would consider being their concessionaire. We discovered that many destinations – from children’s museums and science centers, to zoos and amusement parks – had amazing experiences at their locations. Unfortunately, their current food offerings did not reflect the missions or imaginations of their exhibits.

We switched our business model to solely serve family destinations and soon discovered that our proposals were beating out some of the biggest fast food places in the country. And as a small business, we didn’t need to spend big marketing dollars getting people in the door of a new concept. We were planting Bean Sprouts where we already knew there were plenty of visitors!

How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business offered a steep learning curve. First of all, we opened alongside the recession, in 2007. So the odds were stacked against us. Plus, we had little to no food service experience.

What we did know, especially from being parents of youngsters, is that we had a dynamic concept and could brand and market extremely well. We knew that our first year was crucial to rely on others’ knowledge to fill in our gaps.

What was incredibly encouraging from the beginning was that the country seemed ready for our wholesome kid-focused concept. Many fast food brands were under heavy criticism. Michelle Obama was inspiring families to get fit with her Let’s Move! campaign. Audiences were primed for Bean Sprouts.

The best part was that because Kelly and I were scrappy and did not have a chunk of extra change in our bank account, we learned the ins and outs of every aspect of our business. We had to. From fixing ice machines and working the line, to booking, catering, and hosting countless birthday parties, we know the hard work it takes to keep Bean Sprouts thriving.

That has helped tremendously when we hire new team members, especially leaders. They know that we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty, and can offer insights based on experience.

What was your marketing strategy?
As mentioned, by planting our cafés where our target audience is already coming, we haven’t had to spend lots of resources on traditional marketing. Instead, we put our efforts into researching, experimenting, and sharing how to make healthy food fun (and profitable) in our industry. Our new cookbook, Bean Sprouts Kitchen, is a great tool to show others how to succeed in that realm.

This has led to being featured experts in major national media, such as Good Morning America and The Today Show, and in nearly every major parenting publication and parenting blog.

We also serve as speakers at conferences, both on this topic and on the advancement of women and minorities in our industry, as Bean Sprouts is one of the only exclusively female-founded restaurant chains in the U.S.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
Our growth took some time. For many years, we just had one location. We hammered out all sorts of kinks, tried new menu approaches, different customer service elements, cooking school classes…everything. We just needed to see what would stick.

Once we changed our business model to serve only family destinations, and honed our menu and offerings, our confidence grew exponentially. And then, when we completed our capital raise, we finally felt free to aggressively pursue new locations. Bean Sprouts has doubled its size in the last two years and plans to double again the next 18-24 months.

How do you define success?
That’s an interesting question. There’s obviously the success of seeing your number of locations grow, and sales increasing.

That’s certainly exciting, but what’s more encouraging is to realize the reasons behind that. Families are more aware of what foods they put into their bodies, and are turning to wholesome food as a lifestyle choice. What really means success to us is to see children loving our Imaginibbles menu – trying new ingredients and flavors, and surprising their parents with what they’ll eat, just because the dish is presented in a playful way.

And personally, success comes from showing our kids that you can build a business that helps people and provides you flexibility for your family. We’ve made sure to share the ups and downs so that they understand the challenges and rewards of creating your own opportunity.

What is the key to success?
First of all, you definitely need the support of your family! Entrepreneurship is an exciting and gut-wrenching adventure, and your family needs to be on board for you to be able to go full-steam ahead.

Above all, everything we do filter through our HIPP core values. If our employees, vendors, partners, etc. aren’t in line with Health, Innovation, Positivity, and Playfulness, we typically don’t work together. We want to ensure that Bean Sprouts is an incredible experience, whether at our order counter or behind the scenes.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Surround yourself with people who know a lot more than you do. Don’t try to do everything yourself. You can’t be an accountant, lawyer, manufacturer, marketer, creative director, etc. Focus on your strengths and fill your gaps with people who have experience. When people believe in what you’re doing, they will often want to help.

Make sure to listen to their feedback, both positive and constructive. Some ideas thrown your way will not make sense for you to undertake, but you will discover nuggets of truth and wisdom that you can apply.

Keep that circle close…they will be invaluable!

What are some of your favorite books?
Kelly and I LOVE sharing books and podcasts, and make sure we’re constantly opening our eyes to new ideas and proven practices.

We’ve used many of Patrick Lencioni’s tools, including the “Playbook.” It is how we set our company goals and what we use to structure our meeting agendas.

Some of our faves when it comes to books/podcasts:

How I Built This
The One Minute Millionaire
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Pour Your Heart Into It

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
Eesh…we’ve had a few. I remember hearing that the key to a successful marriage is not to fall out of love…at the same time. The same could be said for business partners as there will be times where the energy, efforts, and excitement aren’t always equal.

I remember when Kelly and I were in New York during the holiday season for an investor presentation, which I do not believe went well.

We’d also just closed one of our locations and were working to open in the Southern California market. We were in the midst of a big capital raise and were still overseeing all of the operations, marketing, food and beverage…you name it, ourselves.

We desperately needed to hire a COO because we couldn’t build a business if we were stuck in the day-to-day operations, but we didn’t have the funds yet to hire.

So, Kelly and I sat in our hotel room at 5:00 PM during Christmas time in NYC. We were exhausted and emotionally-drained. We didn’t have any motivation to even go outside and look at the beautiful holiday decorations in NEW YORK, which didn’t even cost any money!

I don’t remember who said it first, but we basically said it might be time to shut down Bean Sprouts, and then it was silent. It was the first time one of us didn’t object to the idea of closing the doors.

Thank goodness after a long while, one of us escaped that funk and motivated the other outside to see the big tree and ice skaters in Rockefeller Center. That’s one of the BEANefits of taking a trusted business partner along this incredible journey.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Kelly and I are both incredibly perseverant—you have to be when you come from a broadcast news background.

I think our unwavering belief in the Bean Sprouts’ mission to “spark children’s appetites with yummy, good-for-you food; and delight grown-ups with a happier mealtime” and the overwhelming positive response keep us going.

Plus, we love a good challenge. So when faced with what seems impossible to overcome, we’ve stretched our thinking in ways we never could have imagined.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I don’t believe that you need to have spent your entire career in an industry to become successful. That lack of perspective can allow you to think outside the box and approach the industry in innovative ways.

That said, it’s crucial to surround yourself with experienced individuals on whom you can call for advice. People who will share their successes and failures and who will also give you their honest opinions.

When we were in the planning stages of Bean Sprouts, we wrote a huge list of anybody we knew who might know anybody who could help us. At first, we were hesitant to share our business idea, for fear that someone would steal it. But we realized that if we didn’t share anything, we’d never get anywhere.

We had a lot of coffee meetings, letting people know what Bean Sprouts was, and asking if they had any connections to people who were passionate about health and food. That led us down many windy paths to our current major investors. They are wonderful, supportive, smart professionals who challenge us to think bigger. If we had to guess, we probably had around 30 coffee meetings to get us to one investor. Good thing we like coffee!

Jeff Katofsky – Owner, Orem Owlz

Jeff Katofsky is a husband of thirty years, father of two boys, and a trial lawyer with substantial civil litigation experience (over 150 trials) in real estate, business, construction, injury, corporate, finance, insurance, property and casualty, and intellectual property. Jeff is a graduate of UCLA and the Boalt Hall School of Law (UC Berkeley). As an entrepreneur and a hands-on operator, Jeff owns a professional baseball team (Orem Owlz), multiple hotels, and businesses in retail, entertainment, real estate, food, and hospitality. As a developer, Jeff has been the primary construction supervisor, designer, and entitlement processor for close to 100 projects. Jeff manages the finances of the projects and handles the acquisition, construction, and underwriting.

How do you define success?
Healthy, happy, family. Well-educated, loving, respectful children. Good friends. Money and things are secondary, and just a bonus (although it does pay for the education of the kids).

What is the key to success?
Hard work, dedication, earned loyalty from those who you work with, reputation (which is also earned), focus, as well as setting and reaching a series of reasonable goals.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
It’s okay to fail, if you learn from it. Don’t repeat it, and then modify your behavior for the next time.

What are some quotes that you live by?
My quotes almost always come from movies, not books. You will hear a quote from at least one of the following, daily, out of my mouth – My Cousin Vinny, The Princess Bride, Bull Durham, A Few Good Men, my son Jake’s first movie 108 Stitches, or anything Yogi Berra ever said.

What are some of your favorite books?
I read a lot of spy fiction, political, and action books, like Clancy, Lee Child, Baladacci, Koontz, and Cussler. It does help reduce the stress of reality.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
I had a whole lot of them in the crash of 2008-2009. Arguably, I am a professional “borrower.” Every new deal we do relies on good banking relationships until long-term stabilization. When the banks began to fail, they turned to squeezing their good, current borrowers to repatriate cash (they could not collect against defaulted loans) and they began to come up with ways, through declaring non-monetary defaults on their performing loans, to try to force payoffs. Of course, no banks were loaning money to help those take outs, leaving me with a huge cash crunch. It almost put me under.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Providing for my family.

How did you come across the opportunity to purchase the Orem Owlz?
In 2004, my father was in Las Vegas at a real estate convention and met the former owners of the ball club, who were pitching him on a restaurant deal. During that meeting, they mentioned they owned a baseball team in Provo, Utah, and that they needed to sell for financial reasons. My dad said he had a buyer, called me and said, “What’s the one thing you always wanted but did not think you could afford to buy?” I said, “A baseball team.” He said, “Say hello,” and handed the phone across the table to the seller.

What is your vision for the future of the franchise?
I want to combine the Owlz with a youth complex so that children who play baseball can have the experience of interfacing with professional players and learn from them, as well as experience playing on a professional field. I have been working on this for years and am close…stay tuned.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
Set a goal and don’t forget to reach and dream. Work hard, real hard, to get there. Hard work never killed anyone. Sleep is overrated. But, remember, most importantly, family is still first. Once you understand the balance between work and family, and focus on your dream and goals, go get it!

Mark Douglas – President & CEO, LCPtracker

Mark Douglas is the president and CEO of LCPtracker, Inc., a privately-held company providing cloud-based software services for construction compliance and workforce development. His vision for LCPtracker is to empower people to build better communities, and this begins with his company’s flagship product, which helps government agencies and contractors maintain and enforce prevailing wage provisions for state, local, and federal law.

Mark graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Central Michigan University. After college, he jumped right into the professional world and quickly grew a record of success building startup companies before founding LCPtracker.

Today, Mark is taking his company to new heights – transforming LCPtracker into one of the fastest-growing companies in Orange County, California. He prides himself in fostering a team of over 80 highly-motivated and dedicated employees and building a reputable organization in the construction industry with over 2,500 clients and 100,000 contractor users nationwide, including 20 of the top 50 cities in the US.

How did the concept for LCPtracker come about?
Just before the light bulb lit up for LCPtracker (about 18 years ago), I was running another business as a re-seller for a facilities management software. The supplier went bankrupt, and it completely wiped out our sales pipeline. Coincidentally, right around the same time, I had come across an article in the newspaper about a new labor compliance law in California requiring all K-12 school districts to comply with prevailing wages on construction projects. This exposed a need in the market for a software to help these schools monitor compliance.

I had run into many obstacles as an entrepreneur in previous ventures – all of which demanded tough decisions. And although it was very hard to move on from this business as a re-seller, the bankruptcy of the supplier made it a simple decision: a swift change was necessary. I made a choice to jump on this new opportunity to create my own software – this time, for a labor compliance system. I got started with just a single developer and knew I had three years to phase out the previous business’ existing service contracts and replace the revenue with this new idea. This was when LCPtracker was born.

How was the first year in business?
It was extremely stressful. When the sales opportunities for the previous business dried up, it meant that our current operations were unsustainable and that we didn’t have secure jobs for our staff. Over a two-year period of fading out service contracts, I had to lay off 35 deserving employees. Meanwhile, LCPtracker was in development and wouldn’t be ready as a product for some time. I had to carefully manage the cash flow to allow for a stable transition.

What was your marketing strategy?
When LCPtracker was ready, it was one of the first web-based SaaS (Software as a Service) products to hit the market. I identified the 1,100 school districts in California that needed to comply with the new labor compliance laws. Over a span of two years, I called them every day until I closed enough deals to create enough monthly revenue that would sustain the new venture.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
From 2003 to 2005, we grew to $500,000 in SaaS revenue, and 2005 was the first year when we had to rely solely on the new revenue from LCPtracker.

From there, we grew to $1.2 million by 2008 – which is when the country was hit with the recession. The financial crisis put a halt to virtually all new construction, and we were in a complete meltdown. I cut 30% of my expenses, we strapped in, and held on for the next two years. Finally, in 2011, we began to grow again and now have revenue approaching $14 million with over 80 employees.

How do you define success?
For me, it’s when your life purpose that God designed for you becomes clear, and you consciously know it and are striving to “live it.” Once you do that, you gain the peace, fulfillment, and joy that makes life so wonderful.

What is the key to success?
I would attribute our success to behaviors and integrity. When you consistently do what you say you’re going to do, people trust you and are very motivated to work with you and be on your team. They know you will honor them in the same way you’ve demonstrated to others.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
Taking responsibility for your emotions. In any given situation that stirs up your emotions, it only reveals things about yourself – not anyone else. Until you recognize this, you have a limited ability to grow and mature.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“A person may not remember what you say, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” – Carl W. Buehner

“Just Do it.”

What are some of your favorite books?
Daily devotional publications (I like to start every day with a life lesson).

Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
In 1997, I was faced with losing the three most important parts of my life all at once: 1) my marriage, 2) my business (losing out on a $1.6 million proposal that the survival of the business was dependent on), and 3) my business partner (and friend), who was diagnosed with stage four cancer.

I was at my breaking point. As a Christian, I got down on my knees in my office and cried out to my Father. This was truly the first time in my life that I gave up and simply asked him to lead me.

Three days went by… and nothing. But at the end of the third day, my business partner called and told me we were awarded another proposal that I was unaware of – one that was worth twice as much as the previous proposal). A few days later, my wife and I agreed to reconcile. And a few months after that, my business partner was cured of cancer. My walk with God became clear to me; I must learn to live the way He wants me to. And so today, I strive to live in obedience to the biblical teachings every day. This was the beginning of learning my true purpose.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
Adversity, to me, is the process by which I am being shaped into being more effective at what I do. I always look at adversity as a growing opportunity, because every challenge I have had has made me a more-refined person.

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
1) I would tell them to work on finding and becoming aware of their life purpose – and to build it into something that you can do for a living. And don’t expect (nor plan) to accomplish it quickly. Focus on doing a little better every year. Before you know it, your blessings will be immense.

2) Always remember to live with the utmost integrity.

3) Enjoy life, laugh a lot, and be nice to everyone.

4) Read books and listen to educational podcasts; don’t waste your time on silly television shows and other unprofitable distractions. Own your day.