Brian Kaemingk | Crain's Portland

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

Brian Kaemingk

Background:  

Headquartered in London, EY (Ernst & Young LLP) is a global provider of assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services. Based in Seattle, Brian Kaemingk is part of the Performance Improvement Analytics team, helping Fortune 500 retail and consumer products companies leverage data to optimize their customer experiences.

The Mistake:

Focusing too much on moving up and keeping up with the Joneses, in terms of my career.

After getting my MBA and starting at EY, I was very motivated to climb the ladder. When you go down that path, however, you become very focused on what’s in front of you, and you don’t take a step back to refresh.

I recently participated in EY’s Vantage Program, which sends a number of EY professionals to Latin America to support high-growth entrepreneurs. I went to Chile, where I spent time with the entrepreneurs that created the nutritional supplements company Nutraline. Initially, I saw the interaction as a great opportunity to showcase my skill set in retail growth, offer up EY’s perspective, and bring some best practices to this company.

But I was ultimately struck by how much I learned from the entrepreneurs. They had a vision and a mission that drove them. They were purpose-driven, scrappy and on fire.

It’s important to step outside of yourself to see where you’ve gone and where you’re going.

The Lesson:

It’s important to step outside of yourself to see where you’ve gone and where you’re going.

While working with the Nutraline entrepreneurs, I observed a key difference between the way they operated, versus the way large companies operated. Smaller companies have a strong purpose and vision, but don’t always have the means to achieve it, while larger companies can sometimes fall into this trap where they have the means, but end up losing sight of the unifying purpose that drives them.

It’s like David and Goliath; when you’re David, you have to focus on a specific goal and acquire the means along the way to achieve it. I’m now trying to harness that way of being in my work here at EY.

I now go to work and say, 'How can I make things more efficient and how does that affect people’s day-to-day lives?' Taking some of that fire has renewed my energy.

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Pictured: Brian Kaemingk

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