David Pickhardt and Robert Glenski on the Lasting Impacts of Great Leadership
CEO & Founder
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David Pickhardt and Robert Glenski, co-founders of FUEL LLC, recount inspiring stories and lessons from their mentor, Ewing Kauffman. The co-founders reflect on how Kauffman’s valuable professional advice and leadership practices have impacted their careers.
“One of the most famous principles he had was to treat others the way you want to be treated, with dignity and respect. You should run your life this way, but he also said it's a great way to run your business.”
Alana Muller 0:09
Welcome to Enterprise.ing, a podcast from Enterprise Bank & Trust that's empowering business leaders one conversation at a time. We'll hear from different business leaders about how they found success in cultivating their professional networks and keeping them healthy and strong. I'm your host Alana Muller, an entrepreneurial executive leader whose primary focus is to connect, inspire and empower the community. We at Enterprise Bank & Trust thank you for tuning in to another episode.
Well, hello, listeners. Welcome back to Enterprise.ing Podcast. Today, I'm pleased to welcome not one, but two remarkable executive leaders to Enterprise.ing. We have with us Dave Pickhardt and Robert Glenski.
Dave is an accomplished professional in the biopharmaceutical space. Robert is an award winning consultant with a background in the pharmaceutical industry. Together, they have created a new consultancy called, FUEL, and I'm excited for them to share their insights with us on this episode. David and Robert, welcome to Enterprise.ing Podcast.
Dave Pickhardt and Robert Glenski 1:11
Thank you. Thank you.
Alana Muller: 1:12
So great to have you. Dave, let's start with you. Tell our listeners about your new venture, FUEL, and your motivation for launching the venture.
Dave Pickhardt 1:20
Motivation first, I guess, was we learned so much from Ewing Kauffman, “Mr. K,” we called him. We both worked with him as his associates. And our goal was to just really assemble everything we had learned and then subsequently practice as executives. That was so successful for him and us. FUEL is really all about uncommon executive leadership, all in one place, that spans from strategy to execution.
Alana Muller 1:52
I love that. Robert, I know that you and Dave worked together at Marion Laboratories, which I want to talk with you about a little bit later in the program. Tell us about your early working relationship with Dave and what makes your FUEL partnership so unique.
Robert Glenksi 2:05
David and I actually started when I joined the company. Dave was a sales executive and I was a sales rep. So that's how we first knew each other. And then about six, seven years later, we got reconnected in marketing. Marion Labs was testing out segmentation, or segmentation marketing, Dave led that group.
So we reconnected in the marketing department. And I really would say the core of our business relationship is based on the experiences we had together. And we brought them back together about three, four years ago.
And it was these leadership practices that were practiced every day, I felt, that were very critical in my career. And we believe that we can share these things with the future leaders and leaders today that we learned and we want to share with those who would be interested to learn how you can actually have a business with uncommon success.
Alana Muller 3:01
I love that. Well, you've both sort of specifically, or at least alluded to, Mr. K. Something I have not really had a chance to share much about with the Enterprise.ing community is that one of my favorite professional jobs of all time, was running a company called Kauffman Fast Track for an important organization in Kansas City and around the country, called the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. It's known as the foundation of entrepreneurship, which plays an active role, as I said, throughout the United States, when it comes to advancing entrepreneurship and education.
And as you both know, it was founded by the same individual who started your alma mater, Marion Labs, Mr. Ewing Kauffman. And one thing I know for certain, and you all can opine on this, is that Mr. K's spirit was walking the halls of the Kauffman Foundation every day of my tenure. Tell our listeners more about you and Kauffman and his perspective on relationships and building businesses. Dave, why don't you get us started?
Dave Pickhardt 3:59
Well, thanks, Alana, it's great to hear your experiences, we can really relate to that. I'm not surprised at all, at Marion Laboratories, Mr. K's company, which we felt like because of his leadership, was really our company. We had what we call the “Marion Spirit.” And the “Marion Spirit” was something everyone felt that anyone could observe when they came in contact with a Marion associate. It really resulted from the way we were treated on a day-to-day basis.
It was leadership practices that really resulted in that spirit. Everyone knew that Mr. K was up there and he cared about us. Everyone knew what was expected of them, and where they stood in terms of those expectations. And it resulted in a joyousness and an ownership that I don't think I've ever seen replicated, although in our own business units that we ran separately later on, we practiced those same things and we put those in FUEL and into our relationships, as well.
I want to tell one quick story that Marion spirit resulted in a memorable experience for me. One time we had a snowstorm and all the radio stations said, “Don't come in to work unless you're an essential worker.” And just about all Marion associates showed up that day because we all felt like we owned the company and that we were essential.
Alana Muller 5:26
That's exactly right. You know, there's actually a Kauffman Fast Track story, the day that Fast Track launched, Ewing Kauffman was set to kick it off. And for our listeners who don't know what Fast Track is, it trains entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses successfully. And I was very privileged to lead that organization many years later.
The famous story, just like your Marion story, is that there was a terrible snowstorm that morning. And they had 200 entrepreneurs set to meet in some big hotel ballroom downtown. So people at the Kauffman Foundation started calling Mr. K saying, you know, we've got to cancel this Fast Track thing. And he said, “Oh, no, I promised I was going to be there.” And so and you know what, nearly all of those 200 entrepreneurs showed up along with Mr. K, and they started Fast Track.
So that is something that I always remembered when I was leading the company. When the going gets tough, I always thought, what would Mr. K do? So I love that there's a Marion story just like that. Beautiful.
Robert, why don't you pick up a little bit where Dave left off? What's one of your favorite lessons that you learned from Mr. K, that stays with you today and how you plan to build your own business now with FUEL?
Robert Glenksi 6:44
Well, first of all, you hear these stories all the time, and the stories they have a life of their own, but it really gets to the essence of how successful he was. And I think my favorite experience with him, and we still live it today, is living his principle. And one of the most famous principles he had was to treat others the way you want to be treated, with dignity and respect. You know, he said that this is not only a great life lesson, and you should run your life this way. But he also said, it's a great way to run your business, he found out that this was a great way to run business.
So you know, he set that example, we still use this today, we love to treat all of our clients with dignity and respect. And I'm sure, Alana, that that's what you felt, that the Kauffman Foundation was treating others with dignity and respect. And it served us well as part of what we want to do moving forward with you all too.
Alana Muller 7:36
Well. And of course, you know, we talked about relationships and the the focus of Enterprise.ing Podcast has been primarily on relationship building, really, you know, establishing meaningful connections with others so that we can serve one another, better and with dignity and respect.
And so when you talk about that as one of your favorite lessons, of course, that warms my heart, and it makes me think of Mr. Kauffman. So I just love that. I love that. That's the one that you point to, you know, I want to ask each of you, what advice would you share with someone who wants to grow or cultivate their own professional network? David, what would be your piece of advice?
Dave Pickhardt 8:13
Well, I have essentially three rules of thumb. First of all, try, as busy as you are, try to be on LinkedIn every day. Because it seems to me like there's always an opportunity to learn something, or to find somebody who might be a person you could connect with and help or, you know, enhance your network with.
The second rule is, make sure you're looking for mutual benefit, with an emphasis on benefit for them. And then finally, believe, make sure you believe in seven degrees of separation. This applies all over the world. But an interesting example was when I was at a performance driving school out in Nevada, and I sat down at breakfast and because of my interest in another person sitting there and his and others interest in each other, I found out that we live in the same subdivision.
He's a senior executive in Kansas City, and we sat down because of our interest in each other. We developed a connection there. So you always find this, no matter where you travel, you'll always find somebody who knows somebody you know, or surprisingly lives in the same city in which you live.
Alana Muller 9:37
That is such a great bit of advice. I have to say, even the three of us, I know the two of you have known each other for years, but the three of us together have only recently become acquainted. And for me, I felt like we connected immediately over our shared experiences with various Kauffman-run organizations.
You're so right, if you can find that kernel of connection, that kernel of goodness, it really does blossom, and our relationships kind of fold back over on themselves. So you want to maintain relationships and good, positive, healthy interactions with people. Because you don't know when you're going to end up running into them down the road, or somebody who knows them.
And, and so you're right, seven degrees of separation is absolutely true. And, frankly, your advice on LinkedIn, you know, in this digital-heavy world that we live in, I agree if you're going to be on any social site at all, if you're going to engage in social media in any way, be on LinkedIn.
And this isn't necessarily an advertisement for LinkedIn, but I agree with you, it's a good way to stay very active in the community. Is there a particular way that you keep your profile up to date?
Dave Pickhardt 10:49
Yeah, I just, matter of fact, we're just about ready to update our profiles. And we try to do that on a regular basis, including our pictures, because it's important to have a different view every once in a while and a different story. And we will also include our white paper in our profile, so that people can learn more by reading what we've written.
Alana Muller 11:15
Well, what a great resource, it's a, you know, you're making, essentially available open source and with you as the experts. So what a great way to connect with other people. That's wonderful. Robert, how about you? What advice would you share with someone who wants to build their relationship base?
Robert Glenksi 11:30
Well, first of all, I want to endorse, I truly believe in the seven degrees of separation karma that exists. Because it's unbelievable how these things come around. Yesterday, we actually had a meeting with an individual, and found out that he actually attended a similar high school that my nephew's going to. So I mean, it just started opening up everything.
But you know, the one piece of advice I like to share is, don't look at these business relationships as an unmanageable, overwhelming task. Because if you hear, particularly the younger folks, will say to me, you know, I just don't know how to manage it. You should look at every relationship as a different place. And they all will develop over time. And it takes time, you should always be cultivating.
I also believe you shouldn't turn down a meeting. I also believe you should attend events. But typically when we attend events, we go and we're prepared. So what are we trying to get out of that event? Who are we trying to move forward with in a relationship?
And like Dave's example of meeting this individual at his driving school, you know, it’s about who you can meet new and move that forward too. I would also like to call out Enterprise University. Enterprise University has created very nice relationships for us. And I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take advantage of that. It's a great networking opportunity. Plus, you're going to learn a lot too.
But you know, the bottom line, I would say, remember, it's going to take time as you're building your relationships. You have to tailor each one individually. So that's kind of my top line, bottom line, I thought I would share as my advice on networking.
Alana Muller 13:06
That's great. When I think about the people in my life who have inspired me, I was recalling, as I was preparing for our conversation today, I was recalling that in 1992, I had a summer internship back in Kansas City. I was going to school in Massachusetts. I had a summer internship back in Kansas City. And one day we were invited to have lunch at the Kauffman Foundation.
And the person that we were going to meet was Ewing Kauffman and it will surprise neither of you to hear me say that he walked into the cafeteria wearing a powder blue leisure suit and began, you know, espousing just sort of truisms and information. So that always stayed with me.
And so years later, when I had the good fortune to take an opportunity at the Kauffman Foundation, I never forgot that and you know, he died the next year. And so I always feel that it was a gift that I had that moment, that quick interaction with Ewing Kauffman.
As you think about the people in your own lives who have inspired you, I'd love to hear from each of you about an interaction that you had with somebody that resulted in a breakthrough for you either personally or professionally. Robert, why don't you get us started?
Robert Glenksi 14:23
Sure. And you know, it's not going to surprise all of our listeners. I'm going to talk about how I got hired at Marion Labs. And not to make it all about Marion Labs, but you can imagine in the 80’s, the secret was out that this was a great company. People were knocking down the door to get hired.
I was a local rep with another very successful pharmaceutical company. And I noticed that the local rep here, the Marion rep in Kansas City, was just constantly being bombarded. In the parking lots, in the hallways, like “Give me a job! How do I get into Marion Labs?” So on and so before that, I'm like, it’s really going to be hard to break through that.
So I subsequently learned that my wife's employer had a really strong relationship with a marketing executive. He set up lunch for me, I went and had lunch with this marketing executive, I found out later, he actually took my resume and put it on the desk of the vice president of sales.
And so that got passed down to the hiring manager in this local rep. And he called me for an interview and goes, “You know, I’ve really enjoyed our relationship. I'm happy to hear, but I never knew you were interested in working with us.”
So I guess a little unorthodox approach kind of paid off for me, you know, to go a little different way. But I go back to that, reaching out looking around, what are other ways to get in the door, because I knew that poor sales rep had probably 500 resumes sitting on his desk. So I took a little different approach.
And I love to share a lot of it. I tend to coach and counsel a lot of young folks. And I always say to them, you'll get two to three big breaks, or breakthroughs in your career, and you have to take advantage of each of these. And I really looked at getting the opportunity to work at Marion Labs as my first significant breakthrough in my career.
Alana Muller 16:15
Fabulous. I just love that. Dave, how about for you who's a mentor or champion that's been of particular importance for you?
Dave Pickhardt 16:23
Well, do sons-in-law count?
Alana Muller 16:26
Absolutely they count.
Dave Pickhardt 16:29
In learning how to network and build relationships, I've observed both of them there. They're in totally different walks of life. But they both are premiere, at the forefront. And of course, coming from a generation that didn't network as much, we network within our company. And then as Robert and I have worked together and learning how to expand and move outside, it's been very helpful.
One of my sons in law is more purposeful, I would say has to be, because his career path has to be more purposeful in the unit that he runs. The other is more serendipitous, he often connects two other people together that don’t know each other.
But then the benefits of making that connection accrue back to him later on. They both focus on, and it's really important, they both focus on “How can I help you?” Not “How can you help me?” And that's what I've learned.
Alana Muller 17:33
So nice. I love both of those. Both of those stories, I just think, speak to the importance of building good healthy relationships. And even as you talk about the non-traditional way to get hired, Robert, I'm reminded that there's strength even in those weak ties, those quick interactions that we have, and going about things in a little different way.
And then Dave, I love the fact that you're talking about being inspired by the next generation in terms of the way that people are connecting. I think in each generation, we can learn something from the next generation and not dismiss them as being silly, or stupid, or unorthodox, or that they don't know what they're doing. Because I think that it does speak to modernity, or the way that we continue to evolve, and evolve our relationship basis. So thank you for that. I want to conclude with asking you both a fun question.
I love to ask every guest who comes on my program. I love to ask this question. If you could meet with one person, who would it be and why? If you could go grab a cup of coffee and I don't care if it's a fictional, nonfictional, living, nonliving individual- who would it be in life?
Robert Glenksi 18:44
I can. I'll go first on that. I would love to meet and sit down with, have a coffee with Lou Holtz. First of all, I love college football. But you know, what a great motivational speaker. I do a lot of work in communications and marketing. I look at him and just how he's able to capture and share very simple messages with very strong insights. To give an example, that’s good to live your life by, but also about building relationships, he says he has three rules to live your life by.
One is just doing the right thing. Number two is to do everything to the best of your ability. And number three is to show people you care. And I mean, that's so simple. And you can live by that. I always try my best to live by that, including in my business relationships. And today, Dave and I are trying to do the same thing. We approach our business relationships through FUEL and have a very simple approach, and hopefully we can bring very simple solutions and approaches to our clients, too.
Alana Muller 19:47
Love that. Thank you. Dave, how about for you?
Dave Pickhardt 19:50
Well this may sound a little unorthodox, but I would love to sit down with Elon Musk. Wouldn't you just love to know what's going on inside his head? How he thinks, you know? I would listen more than I would talk, obviously. And I would love to know, is he primarily a visionary only? Is he a strategist as well? You know, how does he perform as a tactician? Who does he rely on to make his visions a reality? It would just be very interesting. You know, all we hear about Elon is snippets on the news, and they're usually pretty extreme things like space launches. And you know, he's the most wealthy person in the country. I think he just recently became number two. But wouldn't it be wonderful to just have a conversation with him to learn more about how he thinks?
Alana Muller 20:48
Yeah, what goes on in that ticker? Huh? Yeah. That's great. Well, I have loved visiting with both of you. I love the Kauffman stories. And I'm super excited to see what you do with FUEL. And I will be watching from the sidelines. Even jumping into the frame from time to time, so great to have you both. Where can our listeners go to learn more about each of you and about FUEL LLC?
Dave Pickhardt 21:16
By the way, Alana, thank you for the opportunity here today, very much. Thank you very much. Our listeners can go to fueltolead.com. And that's well, wherever they can find all the associated services and tools for leaders that will help leaders for today. And this tool set that we've assembled is unique because it includes Mr. K's business principles along with all of the leadership practices that we learned as his associates. It's, I think, more relevant for today's leaders and to face the leadership challenges of the future, even more so than it was for the leaders during his time.
Alana Muller 22:07
So nice. Dave Pickardt, Robert Glenski. Thank you both for joining us today on Enterprise.ing Podcast.
Dave Pickhardt 22:13
Robert Glenksi 22:14
Thank you so much.
Alana Muller 22:17
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