Heroic Investing
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From Airborne Ranger  to Excelling in Your Business with Jack McGuinness



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Gary Pinkerton hosts Jack McGuinness, former Airborne Ranger with the US Army’s 10th Mountain Division and co-founder of Relationship Impact. The two look into the skill transfer done from being a first responder to successfully running a business. Jack explains how he transitioned out of the service and is now running his own business. He explains the different skills needed to be a business owner and how his prior career experience helped him succeed.

Announcer 0:04
Welcome to the heroic investing show. As first responders, we risk our lives every day, our financial security is under attack. Our pensions are in a state of emergency, a single on duty incident can alter or erase our earning potential instantly. And forever. We are the heroes of society. We are self reliant, and we need to take care of our own financial future. The heroic investing show is our toolkit of business and investing tactics on our mission to financial freedom.

Gary Pinkerton 0:39
Well, everyone, thank you so much for joining us for another exciting hopefully, episode of heroic investing. Just to show that I’m a team player, I decided to bring on a West Point graduate this time john McGinnis is, you know, I’m sure gonna become a very close friend of mine, this is actually the first time we’re meeting but I’ve had a chance to take a look at, at his company and his website, it was introduced through a friend, so very excited about what he can bring to our audience. And he’s equally excited about the ability to talk to first responders and as well as active duty and veterans, john, if you’re okay with, to kind of give a little bit of your own background and information. But first of all, thanks for joining us.

Jack McGuinness 1:17
Well, thanks so much for having me. I really love the concept behind your podcast, and you know, what a great body to be communicating to such a great group of people that give support our country every day, I really appreciate the forum for sure.

Gary Pinkerton 1:33
Yeah, it really inspires me just to, you know, to get feedback from people who are still out there serving and certainly people who are serving in, frankly, much more dangerous places than I went, you might have seen a little more personal danger than I did. But the ocean was my big danger, that people who you know, very close friends of mine who are out there, standing in front of bullets for the rest of us, or putting people back together, after accidents is is really inspiring to me,

Jack McGuinness 1:57
I couldn’t agree anymore. I couldn’t agree more. So I appreciate the opportunity. Just Just a little bit of my background, as Gary mentioned, um, you know, West Point, guys, and serve some time with the 10th Mountain Division. And as an infantry officer, really, Braunton was a great experience. I did not see any combat experience at all, but I have lots of friends that did, and lots of folks that, that I know that, um, you know, as you said, you know, stood in front of bullets for all of us and, you know, repaired people. And, you know, I can’t I can’t appreciate that enough. I’ll start my story really, from an entrepreneurial perspective after military, academic military and got my MBA, and I got very lucky at a very early age I and I think I was 26, I helped start a consulting firm, a management consulting firm with a partner from Deloitte, who was starting his own firms, but 15 years older than me. And we built a boutique management consulting firm, that really had worked with large companies anywhere from electric utilities to World Bank to a large pharmaceutical company, and in our niche was helping these organizations navigate large scale change initiatives, like a restructuring and mergers and acquisition type of work, large scale system implementation. And we did that from the organization development side of things or the what’s referred to as change management or the human side of managing large scale change. So an MBA with an engineer and very early on, even though I was the first hire, I was the and the youngest guy, the people that we hired, and after us for a master’s in organizational behavior, PhDs and seat psychology. And so I sort of learned a new side of how the world works, and particularly how the business world works from the whole concept of bringing people along and in a large scale changing environment. So I really got very fortunate to learn and lead at the same time I wound up being the chief operating officer, that firm grew to about 50 people. And after 13 years, I decided that I needed a new challenge in life. So I like cash out of that firm and I with a couple partners, I bought a light manufacturing company in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and some family company, we turned that firm around and built a really cool team that really gained some real experience on how to how to really lead and manage an organization. It’s easy to give people advice. as a consultant, it’s a lot harder to actually be the CEO and run something yourself. So I learned that I learned that firsthand, which really set me up for in 2009 I started this firm relationship impact with a classmate of mine from that I met when I was 17. And my plebe year at West Point. We built a firm that was initially going to be a leadership development firm working with large organizations on how to build the capabilities of leaders. So our first project, for example, is one when Roche Genentech in 2010, I think we have 2010, we, we did the integration of the managed care teams, and a really cool experience similar to what I’ve done in the past, but much more focused on building the capabilities of leaders. And what we have morphed into is more probably more relevant to your audience is we’ve over the last six years or so we’ve morphed into a firm that really does one thing, and we think we do it pretty well. We work with the leadership teams of growing companies anywhere from 10 to 100 $15 billion in sales, to help them build the capabilities, both structurally as a team and relationally as a team, to be able to scale their companies and grow their companies as effectively as they can. That’s what we do every day, we just the two of us. And we’re it’s the most fulfilling and satisfying work we’ve done. And one of the things that’s been interesting, and something that we’ve learned is that, you know, most people don’t really know how to put together and build a great team and want a team that that is resilient a team that is laser focused on results, a team’s that has lots of synergy and works as like a force multiplier, and that learns and grows over time to address complex challenges. And, and so we think we have a unique perspective, we have a very developmental team coaching approach that helps CEOs really focus on building great leadership teams to help them scale their companies.

Gary Pinkerton 6:46
Wow. That’s an amazing journey. So going back to when you were 26. Yes, really quickly for that first company. So if I heard you, right, you had kind of a mentor or a friend 16 years older than you, you said, who was a leader or manager at Deloitte, and the two of you just the two of us decided to start a company, right?

Jack McGuinness 7:04
I wouldn’t get myself that much credit, he decided to start a company. And he decided that I would be a good person to hire. Okay, cool to help him grow. So I was was one of his first employees. And then I wound up really, you know, managing the operations of the company. And you know, all the project management, the back office stuff, you know, dad had a role in business development as well, but really great experience at a very young age.

Gary Pinkerton 7:30
Yes, I’m trying to kind of dig into exactly that. That. Sure. Did some time in the military. Did you stay on as a reserve officer after that,

Jack McGuinness 7:37
or I couldn’t because of the travel, we we try to travel for four days a week, it was it was pretty intense. Got it. Got it. So. So this was like, right after you left the military, right. I spent a year and a half got my MBA and got right into this show. That’s awesome.

Gary Pinkerton 7:53
Yeah. So as your first position out of the military. So, you know, I think the listeners out there, if you’re thinking about taking a big leap, in my mind, what he did, what jack did was a pretty big leap right there. And most people that I know, were trying to transition to, you know, government contracting position, or somehow leverage what they did kind of more of a safe zone. Right. And so yeah, that’s pretty awesome, in my opinion, but you were listening. And obviously, you know, looking at your your history since then, that you were listening to what was speaking to you where you thought that maybe your unique ability lied. That’s pretty awesome. So now fast forward to the current company. And I also like, though, they’re in the interim, I gained a lot of value out of your conversation about how, you know, I was working for a guy who was teaching people and I was participating in teaching people lead operations at a company teaching people how to manage well, and then got my own company and learned how tough that was.

Jack McGuinness 8:49
Exactly, exactly. It’s not that easy. Right.

Gary Pinkerton 8:54
I work it kind of alongside a great friend and mentor of mine with a company called paradigm life and his company’s about 2530 people. It’s smaller than my submarine was. And he comes to me all the time for advice. And he’s hired, you know, consulting firms to help as his company grows, and, you know, a company that size can double in size every year to Sure. And so some of the things that, you know, like, they put an operations manual in place, and I was like, Oh, my gosh, Patrick, I told you this, you know, a couple of years ago. It like tells people what their jobs are. Right? So I think we when we come out of the military we make from any you know, for sure spawners as well, we have very rigorous procedures, for good reason for safety for making sure that, you know, we can answer the call when the public asks us to, but we take it for granted that every company out there is operating like that, and most aren’t right? I mean, is that your experiment? Maybe at the level, you’re talking to people with, you know, $10 million plus, maybe they have those already, and they’ve already figured that part out?

Jack McGuinness 9:48
Um, no, I would argue that you’re right. I mean, no, they don’t have that part figured out most in most cases. They are the larger big, you know, we still work with some large companies to like, you know, over a billion dollar companies and then They seem to have those things maybe even too much worked out. But you know, the smaller companies definitely they oftentimes I’m working with, I just came from lunch for the $25 million construction contractor that started from nothing years ago and built a really cool, cool company out in the DC metro area. And, you know, he’s just at the point where they’re putting in procedures and putting in job descriptions and things like that. And Bill, and, you know, my, my role has been helping him build his new leadership team. And you know, that these are folks that just did stuff, they got stuff done, and now they’re having to manage others and figure out how collectively to scale a business. And it’s, it’s not necessarily something that comes natural to folks. And even when you think it is natural, we’ll just put a team of people will put these five people together, because they’re good functionally at what they do, and will automatically have a great leadership team. And my experience, it just doesn’t work like that, you actually have to step back and you have to think about, okay, what is it that we’re trying to do collectively as a team? Are we just, you know, giving our CEO advice? Or are we trying to grow the enterprise? And is our role part of growing that enterprise? And if it is, how are we going to do that? How are we going to work together? How are roles integrated with each other? versus just functional? How are we going to coordinate and communicate with each other in the military? Call it a management rhythm, right? Or the operating rhythm? What are behaviors? Are we expecting each other? Is it okay not to show up in time to a meeting, is it okay to bring your cell phone to me just simple, stupid things like that, that I happened to get in the way of the natural operation of a grown company. And then on the other side of that, you have all the structural stuff, right. And then on the other side of that, you have the relational dynamics that often are taken for granted, but are the things that from our experience, are like taking a stick and putting in the spokes of a bicycle, if not managed correctly, building the foundation for folks to be able to trust each other, that’s, you know, it’s an easy thing to say, but it’s another thing to actually be vulnerable with each other and, you know, be able to be wrong and be able to admit, when you made a mistake, and to challenge each other. The other thing that we see is, is adults don’t like to confront each other, they don’t like to challenge each other least face to face. And, and, and that lack of ability to have productive dialogue about the most important things that you’re dealing with, as a team can get in your way very quickly, and hinder your ability to hold each other accountable as a team, you know, there’s always a leader, right, or there’s always a boss, and the boss can play that accountability role and should, in many respects, but the greatest teams we’ve worked with are those that are able to not just rely on the boss leadership, or accountability, but those that are able to hold each other accountable. So right, two sides of that coin is structural stuff and the relational stuff, and not stepping back and really figuring out how is it we’re going to build those capabilities? It can be very, get out of control there quickly.

Gary Pinkerton 13:18
Yeah, I agree. And, you know, kind of bringing it back to this audience, you know, it could very easily with people who have the the military or the more rigorous, you know, first responder perspective, governmental kind of bureaucracy, sometimes perspective, you know, they could take from this that, that we’re saying, Man business world out there, it’s all messed up like mine at all. And obviously, that’s not true. But what I really want them to get from my questions to you about all those, you know, about how, how many things aren’t there that we take for granted the structure or the accountability? Right, it’s that they should take confidence from you know, they’re gonna be able to walk out there, and they don’t have to go to a subcontractor and continue in kind of their old role. If they’re being you know, if their heart is speaking to them to start their own business, or to go completely at a right angle and go be the best car salesman in their in their town, or, you know, go to theology, whatever it is, that’s a right turn from where they’re currently are, they should have a confidence that the stuff that they take for granted what they’ve been doing the organism what they’ve learned in their organizations, all this time, is really gonna set them up very well.

Jack McGuinness 14:24
I couldn’t agree more. I mean, particularly in the structural side of things, I mean, the military, the first responder, community, that sense of process, that sense of procedure, that sense of structure and hierarchy are really embedded in you know, the world that you know, you live in or you know, yeah, I’ve you and I lived in and yeah, that’s just such a invaluable asset to organizations for sure.

Gary Pinkerton 14:49
Yeah. And in the nuclear Navy that I spent 26 years in, you know, there recover was kind of the head of that organization. Well, obviously not kind of he was for 15 years and there was this. I worked in kind of a The main or the the headquarters of that for two or three years, and there is this picture of him with a subtitle on it. And it says if you don’t have someone that you can point your finger at that was accountable for the mistake, then you’ve never really had anyone responsible for it. And, and I’ve always kind of thought of that, as you know, in the military of men, we are so focused, especially nuclear Navy on accountability, and obviously the military thing accountable for what’s right. And so I guess my point is that people take that negatively. But when I’ve been out in the civilian world, like living vicariously through my buddy’s company, and other companies have come across, Oh, my gosh, if we just had somebody accountable, you know, like somebody who knew it was their job, would help in a lot of situations,

Jack McGuinness 15:47
no question about it. It’s often unintentional, right? I mean, it’s often it’s often because you don’t set up the right structure to begin with, in the structure could be just as simple as these are your roles functionally. But then as a leadership team, you also have enterprise focused roles. And that’s where we see a lot of the challenges come in, because those enterprise roles aren’t necessarily as clearly defined and the integration points, the overlap among those roles are not as clearly defined or talk, and you don’t even have to write them down on a piece of paper, you just have to talk about them. And when they’re not clearly defined, people start pointing fingers when something happens. That’s where you know, the the benefit of coming from an environment where structures can really can be beneficial.

Gary Pinkerton 16:33
Another big lesson, I learned that my buddy Patrick is has learned as well. Now recently, I learned this in command is one of the processes of taking command, they made us write and rewrite and present our command vision, our culture. And then he had to post it in several places around the ship, right, and it was in everybody’s face and the good leaders, the successful leaders had always taken an opportunity. And it was in the culture of their ship to point out when somebody was demonstrating one of the values of the command like this person, this petty officer did this and men that really represents team spirit, which is one of our values, right? And in some of my buddies had great success with that as well. And, and I’m always bugging him about getting it out there in front of people. And you know, and making it live. And the reason I do this, and the lesson I learned is that you’re not gonna be able to write everything down, there’s not an answer to every When this happens, what do I do, but if the people understand the culture and the background, like you can always go back to that basic, you know, and deduce from there what the right answer is, right? Like, if the most important value is always watching out for each other, for example, then, when this challenge comes along, well, there’s no right answer. There’s no written down answer for this. But I know that I need to look out for the other guys. And so what they would expect me to do is, you know, rewrite this portion or make sure I’m here early tomorrow to make sure this happens, or whatever it is. Right? They have something to fall back on. And I’m sure in, you know, at the carry school, when you are teaching, you know, individual companies, I’m sure vision and culture comes up as well.

Jack McGuinness 18:03
Oh, my God. Yeah, no, it’s critical. Yeah. And yeah, because a lot of companies, particularly the larger companies will work with, they’ll have a culture defined or a set of values defined. And then, you know, you start asking people in the lunchroom or coffee line, they don’t know what they are. No idea. And, and so you know, and so are you know, we have one hammer and we we use a pretty well, it’s the executive team, right? The executive team plays a or Lucia team plays a critical role in many facets of growing a company, but perhaps the most important one is cascading the values that they expect from each other and from the rest of the organization. And, you know, that goes well beyond writing a script for the, you know, the reception room, although that’s important as well, it really goes to what you said is, you know, how do we recognize and reinforce the types of behaviors that we’re expecting? And most importantly, as in leadership team, are we modeling those behaviors that not as big of a challenge in the military, in my limited experience, much bigger challenges outside the military?

Gary Pinkerton 19:13
Yeah, I agree with you. And even in the military. So my, my executive officer had this great idea for me to announce one time when I was new, like, if you don’t see me, or you know, here’s, there’s this piece of papers listed on one of the bulletin boards near my office, right. And so it was kind of private, but if you see you see me not doing something that’s one of my values are being inconsistent. Ask the question, like, how is what you just did here consistent with this thing?

Jack McGuinness 19:38
Right? That was painful. It was very painful.

Gary Pinkerton 19:43
But I’ll tell you what it made people study my brother culture with a vision, the values that were and helped me to walk that walk right,

Jack McGuinness 19:51
absolutely. And in the first time the leader shuts that down, they might as well not have even created anything. I could sit Yeah, I was just mentioned before I went out to lunch with the client and CEO, this construction contractor. And I mean, man, he is just, he’s probably my favorite client I ever had. And he just because he’s so full of humility, and is not afraid to be wrong, right. And it’s not afraid to be challenged and accountable to those that work for him. I just think there’s so much in that.

Gary Pinkerton 20:26
Yeah, incredible stuff. What other piece of advice do you have, you know, thinking of the audience that we have here, what you’ve learned over time, what you’ve you’ve seen happen in companies, you know, or even just about your own transition,

Jack McGuinness 20:39
the one thing I would caution is that not even a caution, it’s just one thing I would encourage is, don’t assume that structure will be there. Yeah, just don’t assume and, and on the back of that, don’t get too frustrated when it’s not. And thirdly, don’t assume that putting in the same structure, or a similar structure, as you had in the military, is going to work 100% in the new environment you’re in, be curious, be adaptable, push your agenda, but listen and hear and adapt to the environment that you’re working in. Because what happens and I’ve seen this to lots of military folks who have the right construct in mind, they become a bull in a china shop, they become the pariah, who thinks they knew everything. And it really was not their intention to begin with. But it becomes that because they’re pushing what they know will work. And they know was quote, correct. But when you’re pushing up a rope, sometimes it’s hard. I agree. And I’m sure the same thing for firefighters and police officers and and anyone who’s listened to this, because we’re all type a people who are working very, very hard and very challenging situations. And those drive a different set. Yes, you know, structural requirements, then make many companies successful, Google’s not going to operate very well with you know, the operational manual for my submarine.

Gary Pinkerton 22:09
It could it. Yeah, yeah. The open inviting everyone has a voice thing is not exactly perfect for a lot of you know, where a lot of the members of our audience currently are. Exactly, yeah, amazing stuff. My gosh, jack at that time just flew by. I don’t feel like I left you a lot of time to talk. But any subjects that you didn’t talk about,

Jack McGuinness  22:31
I would just also in the same vein, as what I just said, is that one of the things I learned very early on in my military career was how to build a team. And I learned from noncommissioned officers to help me do that. And so it’s sort of what you do on the military. And that is not necessarily how the business world operates. outs outside of that. And so be patient. Recognize that building teams is a really important skill. But there are, there are different requirements and patience is required in the civilian world, unfortunately,

Gary Pinkerton 23:08
yeah, that’s a great point. You know, you don’t want to surround yourself with Yes, people, which is not always said, but that was one great point. Yeah, I always knew that I was going to have a very educational moment when you know, when my chief of the vote asked me, my senior, you know, command master chief said, Hey, you got a moment in your state room. And then he’s like, do you mind if I shut the door? I’m like, Oh, boy.

Jack McGuinness 23:29
Yeah, I remember that moment, too. I was a lot lower down on the totem pole than you but I never hearing sir. Do you got a minute? Yeah. Yeah, of course. I got a minute. And then yeah, but those are the lessons that were just invaluable.

Gary Pinkerton 23:45
Absolutely. When you have people around you that I have the fortitude to do that and care enough to do that, man, you’ve got great team players.

Jack McGuinness 23:51
And you know why? You know why they did it because they cared about their peace app. It wasn’t so much that they cared about you, although they probably did too. Yeah, that’s okay. And they didn’t want to have some Lieutenant come in and screw it up.

Gary Pinkerton 24:04
Exactly. Oh, my gosh, jack, this has been great. I hope the audience got as much out of it. How can they contact you or find out more?

Jack McGuinness 24:10
Yeah, so so our website is relationship hyphen, impact.com. And we have a whole host of webinars, podcasts, blogs, articles, or writer, strategic executive magazine. So a lot of cool information, and very focused on how do you build a great leadership team? So I would have Sure, and those that do have budding leadership teams or even established leadership teams, right on as you open up our homepage, there is a quiz you can take on there. That gives you a sense for how quickly how, how effective is your team based on our experience and a bunch of questions we asked.

Gary Pinkerton 24:52
Yeah, thanks for that. I was just on there earlier. And it was fascinating. There’s a lot of really good videos like you said on there. Very helpful. So jack, thanks so much for sharing with us. Audience I look forward to connecting in person next time I’m down in DC.

Jack McGuinness 25:03
Please do Gary. I really appreciate it. Thanks so much for the opportunity to speak. Perfect. Thanks again. Bye bye. Bye.

Jason Hartman 25:12
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