Karen Kennedy – Founder of Insights To Growth

I don’t know that I have a habit, but I have a mindset that success and results come from hard work and perseverance. I plan for obstacles and disappointments, I then recover quickly and stay productive.

With a 20+ year career built on “business revolutions and evolutions,” Karen Kennedy has a proven track record of designing world-class, high-functioning teams that deliver results for companies of all sizes (ranging from $5M to $110B) including Hewlett-Packard, Dun & Bradstreet and ValleyCrest Companies.

Karen’s entrepreneurial spirit sparked as a young Girl Scout when she set out to sell enough cookies (at $1.25 per box) to raise money for a trip with her troop to Catalina Island. That same spark led her to become a successful entrepreneur in three of her own businesses and as well as a change-agent intrepreneur in Fortune 100 companies.

Karen’s secret to success is attributed to her hiring methodologies, pragmatic business planning, and dedication to developing employee-centric company cultures. Across her career, Karen has been directly responsible for hiring, training, leading and managing over 10,000 individuals.

Karen enjoys volunteering for Girl Scouts California Central Coast and AutismSpeaks. She has a Bachelors of Arts in Economics and Finance from UC Berkeley, an MBA from Pepperdine University and a Ph.D. (abd) in Leadership Theories from Capella University.

Where did the idea for Insights To Growth come from?

In the past 20 years, I had built a career on being a “fix it” and transformational leader. I sought out assignments that had the biggest upside. In order to turn-around and rebuild teams, I did a lot of trial-and-error on tools and processes that would help my organization. I ended up using two software tools over and over again with great success. I decided that I had an opportunity to help many companies with these tools and my talents, versus just the one I was working for.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

My days are rarely the same and fortunately I thrive on the diversity. I start each day the night before (I am a night owl) by reviewing my appointments and prioritizing the open time on my calendar. I use several productivity tools; the Pomodoro for time management, all of the Google applications so that I can share my work easily and virtually, and I calendar EVERYTHING including research time, client calls and blocks of time for networking. I use a simple CRM tool (Zoho) to keep a rotating calendar of my contact list and a call schedule so that I keep my network fresh and I’m always connecting to see how I can help my network advance their goals.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I’m a pragmatic person, so I typically draw out a plan and figure out each step, what is required and what resources I need. I’ve learned that I have better ideas through collaboration so I’ll arrange for a brainstorming session.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The Gig-Economy is exciting to me. I rarely had only one job at a time as my family is almost entirely made up of entrepreneurs. While I worked my corporate jobs, I had a small, gourmet chocolate company that operated seasonally. Giving people venues to make money outside of their standard “gig” is a great part of the American Dream. I leveraging sites like Fivrr, Uber and AirBnB.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I don’t know that I have a habit, but I have a mindset that success and results come from hard work and perseverance. I plan for obstacles and disappointments, I then recover quickly and stay productive.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I once bought into a multi-level marketing program that on the surface looked great while I was a college student. It was the classic “make a lot of money with little or no effort” pitch. The company forced all of us to sell a minimum amount of product and maintain an inventory every month. When the company abruptly filed for bankruptcy, I had $4,000 of unsalable product. The lesson learned was that if it looks to good to be true, it probably is.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’d take more risks in my early career. I financially supported myself and paid for my own college education at UC Berkeley so post-graduation my focus was on finding a great company to build a career. I could have worked at numerous tech start-ups in Silicon Valley at the time but never considered them viable.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

Truly live the philosophy of giving, collaborating and connecting. No one “gives to get” but those who consistently put other people ahead of their own needs are usually very successful.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

Asking for help. There, I said it! It is so hard for most entrepreneurs to ask for help. We get so heads-down in what we are doing that we often don’t even know we need help. When I first started my company I contacted 200 people I call “Karen’s Cheerleaders” and asked for their help, for them to connect me or refer me to people I might be able to help. I cannot think of a person who was put-off by my authentic request.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

When I was 13 I had a small flower and gift shop in Malibu with my sister. We had to hire people to staff the shop during the school week. We hired a friend-of-a-friend and she ended up stealing a decent amount of cash over an extended time. We implemented a tighter inventory and cash management process after that.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Someone needs to come up with a better way to connect skilled and unskilled workers to job opportunities. Despite globalization of everything else, the process of posting a job and posting resumes has not changed much in 20 years and is horribly inefficient.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

I donated $100 to a good friend’s son who had a goal of raising $50,000 to have a named research project for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This young man had cancer when he was four. He is now 18, met his fundraising goal, and will go to college this fall.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

I’ve transitioned from Outlook to the Google Suite for all of my business productivity. I have Dropbox so that I always have access to my files, no matter where I am. I am a fan of Google News Alerts and LinkedIn. For finding company info and contact information, I like InsideView. I want ease-of-use and functionality in the software I use.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

If I have to pick just one, it would be Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. The book was originally published in 1937 and has sold over 15 million copies. The content, especially for entrepreneurs, is timeless. The 13-step process is without a doubt THE foundation of all entrepreneurial methodologies.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

In my 20’s I was so inspired by Zig Zigglar. I now get a lot of inspiration from Tony Robbins and Richard Branson.
I make time for these websites and twitter feeds: TEDTalks, Fast Company, Wired, SellingPower, Inc. and Entrepreneur.


Karen on LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/mckeekennedy