Brian Knudsen | Crain's Las Vegas

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Brian Knudsen

Background:  

BP2 Solutions is a consulting company started two years ago by Brian Knudsen, who has over 15 years of experience in city and state governments as well as time spent as the CEO of a large nonprofit organization. The company focuses on creating organizational and analytic efficiencies, strategic planning, community organizing, and education policy development and strategy for clients that include the Clark County School District in Nevada.

The Mistake:

The biggest mistake I've made is underestimating the value of personal relationships. I've learned that, especially in the private sector, personal relationships are absolutely critical and essential in order to maintain the business.

I think at the beginning of my career, working with the city of Las Vegas and going to school and having other jobs, I focused more on process. As I've gotten older, I've realized that process is more subsequent to personal relationships: The more you focus on valuing people and the inputs they have, the better the outcomes are.

I mentor a lot of young people and they immediately jump to, "Let's diagnose the problem; let's identify a solution." It's something I did when I was younger, too. But they forget that in order to have a successful outcome, you really need a bunch of people buying into what you're doing. When I was learning, growing and getting older in my other careers, I did the same thing. I focused on what was the logical next step: "Let's figure out the process and then this will automatically lead to a great outcome."

So you create a policy brief or you implement a new process and then you realize that not everyone has bought into that; not everybody owns it. So people suffer from a lack of communication and a lack of feeling valued, and therefore they don't participate in whatever that solution is.

As I've gotten older, I've realized if you invest in the personal relationships, then the process evolves and the outcome is much more beneficial, even though it's not what you imagined it was going to be.

It's really just helping people feel like they're part of the solution.

The Lesson:

Right now I'm invested in the Clark County School District reorganization. It's a pretty significant project right now and there are multiple groups and stakeholders that are invested in the success of the school district.

Our job is not only to develop a solution, which we're charged with doing, but also to make sure that principals, teachers, community leaders, and central office administrators are bought into the solution so that we have a successful outcome.

Some of the things you learn along the way are that people struggle with trying to feel valued. They struggle with trying to identify how the solution is something they helped with and participated in. It's really just helping people feel like they're part of the solution – not part of the problem.

Photo courtesy of Brian Knudsen

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