Dan E. King: Part 1 of an interview by Bob Morris

King, Dan EDan is the founder and principal of CloseReach Consulting and has developed a proprietary growth acceleration model designed for business leaders and senior teams striving to outpace the competition. The model consists of and numerically scores three growth drivers: Strategy Planning, Execution, and Talent. Dan developed this data-centric concept for assessing critical aspects of an organization’s capabilities in order to provide leaders with the knowledge of where weakness resides. Only then, can investments be targeted to the right elements of the business in order to steepen the growth trajectory. Dan helps leadership teams overachieve – fortifying the business so that financial targets are surpassed – the hallmark of hyper-growth.

Prior to CloseReach, Dan held a senior executive role with a mid-market enterprise that delivered double-digit revenue growth for five out of six years and was named winner of the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s Pacesetter Award in 2010. In December, 2012, the company was recognized by Inc. magazine as one of the fastest growing companies for the fifth time.

He has developed white papers on topics such as The Keys to Flawless Execution, Achieving Talent Density in a High Growth Enterprise, Strategic Planning – Getting it Right, Applying the Organizational Prowess Scorecard to Create an Integrated Organization.

His book, The Scorecard Solution: Measure What Matters to Drive Sustainable Growth was published by AMACOM (2015)

Here is an excerpt from Part 1 of my interview of Dan.

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Morris: Before discussing The Scorecard Solution, a few general questions. First, who has had the greatest influence on your personal growth? How so?

King: Certainly my parents – my Mom had a strong influence in helping me build relationships and a social aspect to my life. I was rather shy as a young person and she gently pushed me out the door to build friendships. To this day, she tells me “don’t forget to have fun.” She never asks about work. My Dad was more about the work ethic and being conscientious. He pulled some strings to get me my first summer job at 16 working for the Department of Sanitation in a small upstate NY town. Collecting garbage with who we called the “lifers” was the greatest motivation to pursue a college degree. Dad expected me to give 100% to any endeavor and that has served me well. And then there was Willy Carpenter. My little league coach. Willy was like a second dad to me. In addition to baseball, he taught me so many valuable life lessons – respect for others, humility and laughter. He wore a perpetual smile and had a contagious laugh. People loved to be around that man. He worked in a maintenance job and coached little league for 25 years. He exemplifies for me what it means to give away your gifts. He was a legend in Corning, NY.

Morris: The greatest impact on your professional development? How so?

King: Interestingly, it occurred early in my business life. I was two years out of college, having moved to Atlanta from upstate New York. I was what I later learned, a wandering generality. No focus, no dreams. Just a single guy who moved to Atlanta because a friend had preceded me by a year and convinced me that the 6 girls to every guy was a reality in the early 80’s. I never actually confirmed the ratio, but I also had little reason to question it. I was working in retail. Long hours, but energizing. I found the pace to my liking and apparently it showed. My store manager called me in one day and told me I was being considered for a job in the corporate office in downtown Atlanta.

That interview introduced me to my first mentor. The company was growing rapidly, opening stores throughout the southeast. The interview was with the EVP of Human Resources. He had to add to his team as the business grew and he had asked his current managers for a list of 10 high potential from the stores. I made the list, although I wasn’t convinced it was a good thing. HR was not something I had interest in. However, I got the offer and the money was better. It was a Director of Employee Relations role and I spent much of my time visiting the stores, working with store managers and their HR leaders on how to apply best practices in managing a large hourly workforce.

Over the next 8 years, this mentor (although I was too young and naive to recognize this dynamic) moved me through multiple roles with ever-increasing responsibilities. By the time I was 30, I was the youngest VP in the company. Professional growth certainly requires a dose of hard work and being conscientious, but accelerated professional growth almost always requires a mentor. I was very fortunate. Ironically, at the time, I just thought that was how it was. Leaders who cared, were selfless and spent time investing in others. Sadly, authentic mentoring is all too rare. We can’t count the synthetic mentoring programs big companies create. The programmatic approach never is as good as the genuine thing.

Morris: Years ago, was there a turning point (if not an epiphany) that set you on the career course you continue to follow? Please explain.

King: After my stint in retail, I was recruited for an executive role with Kinder Care Learning Centers. At the time, it was a dynamic, high growth business with 1200 centers around the country, looking after 100,000 infants and toddlers a day. I found the business model intriguing and the nurturing aspect of what the caregivers did each day, humbling. Unfortunately, the founder made some missteps financially during the junk bond era and the business suffered.

The epiphany for me at this stage of my career was deciding to depart from the corporate environment and enter the consulting world. I was introduced to an Australian who had moved to Atlanta in order to replicate the consulting practice he had in Sydney. He sent me to Sydney for two weeks to work there with the managing director. Upon returning, we began working with mid-market businesses on various performance improvement initiatives, focused at the individual, team and organizational levels. That’s when I knew I had found my passion.

Entering an unfamiliar organizational setting and going about learning the model, the culture, the growth drivers and the barriers to improved performance. I loved it. Some have said I have a sixth sense for rooting out systemic issues and grasping the essence of what drives performance. I love the challenge and love helping a business leader see the realities that are often hidden from him or her.

Morris: To what extent has your formal education been invaluable to what you have accomplished in life thus far?

King: You know, I’m sure I acquired a certain degree of personal discipline through those years of schooling. The reality is, I have not directly applied a great deal of specific course or academic content in my professional life, given that I changed my major a few times and took courses that appealed to me at the moment. Since I had not identified a professional track at that point, I wandered a bit academically. I did tend bar for all four years of college in order to have some spending money and learned quite a bit about life, people and how personal decisions can impact our futures. Decisions can take one to a glorious place and just as easily to one of extreme sadness and hardship. I learned that the path [begin italics] not [end italics] to take is often more important than the one taken when it comes to personal growth.

Morris: What do you know now about the business world that you wish you knew when you went to work full-time for the first time? Why?

King: That, even though most business settings are civil, respectful places, everyone is subtly looking out for themselves. Trusting that others will look out for you is not where young professionals want to place their bets. Looking back, I would have been more aggressive, in a positive way and more proactive in mapping my career. I was very fortunate to have had someone who had enough self-confidence and had accumulated sufficient accolades in his career, that he could direct his energy to grooming another. I would tell young professionals to look around and seek out a mentor. Someone who is respected, has integrity and not necessarily trying to reach the next rung.

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To read all of Part 1, please click here.

Dan cordially invites you to check out the resources at these websites:

His consulting firm link

His blog link

The Scorecard Solution link at Amazon

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