This article was originally published here: Katie Burkhart – Founder & CEO at MatterLogic
An admiration for Benjamin Franklin and an obsession with systems might not be a conventional combination but they have driven Katie Burkhart.
What’s your story?
I’m an accidental entrepreneur asking better questions. My first job as a lifeguard taught me that I didn’t want to spend a minute of my life watching the clock tick down.
I started my first company to help companies and nonprofits develop and align their teams around their purpose, vision, mission, values, and story. While that was challenging, it took even more work to keep that alignment.
After researching existing approaches, I knew we needed to think about business differently. We needed a new logic for how we run our businesses.
That insight led me to develop MatterLogic.
What excites you most about your industry?
My industry includes those dedicated to evolving how we do work. One of the most exciting things I see is a greater interest in how valuable work is to us as human beings.
Instead of looking at team members as cogs in our machine and breaking down their work into meaningless tasks, we’re starting to ask how we can empower them as people to do their best work.
MatterLogic helps you do that and keep your team aligned by having you ask, “What’s the point?” – from why you exist as a business to why you’re scheduling this meeting today.
What drives you in business to push beyond what other people consider normal?
I’m obsessed with systems — with getting every piece to fit. I can easily lose track of hours as I work with those pieces, refining the design or the words until it all connects.
My obsession with systems served me well as I developed MatterLogic, and it is invaluable as we help our clients align everything they do with their company’s purpose. We’re methodical about our approach – asking the right questions and adding in the context so that we can say no to everything that doesn’t belong on the table, then get what’s left to fit and work.
What have been the most useful skills you have learnt and applied in your journey?
Time management. I learned early on that you will never be able to do everything you want to do in a day. I got accustomed to saying no or, at the very least, not right now.
I go through a life review process twice a year. It helps me be a better leader and ensures that I don’t have a lot of noise or distractions in my life.
Because of this, I have the time to explore ideas deeply. I’ve learned how to gather existing information, pull out what’s relevant and useful, and combine those pieces into something better.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
1. If you are the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room.
2. Don’t take advice from someone who’s not where you want to be (This is why I partner with advisors who have experience doing whatever I’m asking them to advise on).
3. Be stubborn about the vision but flexible about the details.
Who inspires you?
Benjamin Franklin. He was infinitely curious and committed to being useful — exactly the type of person I strive to be.
What he learned through reading rekindled my love of reading and motivated me to infuse my world with new ideas and different perspectives.
He also made things, not to build a business empire but to create something useful that would improve people’s lives. In fact, according to the recent documentary from Ken Burns, he didn’t collect royalties or patent his inventions.
I also value the example he set about what can be achieved through writing and sharing ideas.
What have you learnt recently that blew you away?
I’ve noticed how often I hear my clients use the phrase “consultant PTSD.” Consultants can deliver a lot of value to a team — first and foremost by providing an outside perspective. But they can also cause a lot of damage. I’m motivated to redefine the term and find a way to empower consultants to do what they do better as part of evolving how we do work.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
Nothing. If I had done anything differently (mistakes included), I wouldn’t have ended up here. I have to say I’m really excited about where I am, what I do, how I do it, and what lies ahead.
How do you unwind?
I love to go for walks and sit outside. I also take myself out to dinner and read by a window while munching on cheese-smothered nachos.
I’m an avid documentary (re)watcher and savor anything having to do with story, especially stories that get me to think about the stories we tell ourselves, the way stories connect us, and how stories shape the world in which we live.
What is a major mindset change, belief shift or ‘ah ha’ moment that you’ve experienced in relation to your business?
The biggest shift came when we figured out that our value lay in our proprietary system, MatterLogic. I originally set out to build a piece of technology that would keep teams aligned. In several meetings to assess its viability, I heard, “Look, it’s awesome, but no one uses the platforms. And no one wants another app they have to deal with.”
When I shifted to talking about MatterLogic, people perked up. “Oh, you have a system? You have a way to do this that you could teach me? That’s brilliant.”
And the rest is history.
Everyone in business should read this book:
Why We Work by Barry Schwartz examines what really motivates us to get out of bed in the morning and go to work. It asks us to question our assumptions and rethink whether work is the way it is because that’s how people are or if work is the way it is because we’ve made it that way.
Shameless plug for your business:
There’s a lot of noise in business today, especially when you’ve set out to do big things. You end up with a priority problem, which leads to an accountability problem, which then leads to an execution problem.
Adopting MatterLogic gives you the focus you need to run a more effective business. We work with you to develop the skills and deploy the structures to put the system in place. Our goal is to ensure everyone on your team can get on the same page and get sh*t done by doing the things that matter—and saying no to everything else.
How can people connect with you?
The best way to connect with me is on LinkedIn. I respond to direct messages and thoroughly enjoy getting to meet new people and learn all about their work and ideas.
Social Media Links?
This interview is part of the CallumConnects series.