Featured interview – Mike Burns of Burns Marketing

by Brian

The brief excerpt below is from the book; 50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs Thriving in Uncertain Times. The award winning 300 page book includes exclusive interviews with over 50 successful entrepreneurs in a variety of industries.

Below is a portion of my exclusive interview with entrepreneur Mike Burns of Burns Marketing, based in Northern Colorado. It is an excerpt from the award winning book ’50 Interviews: Entrepreneurs Thriving in Uncertain Times’. You may purchase a copy of the book which features 52 other complete interviews condensed into 300 pages at: http://www.wisemediagroup.com/product_p/vol1.htm

Mike Burns

Michael Burns established his Loveland, Colorado communications company, Burns Marketing, in 1972 when he was 24. He had no prior entrepreneur experience, and had been working as a writer for Epsilon Sigma Alpha International. He was inspired to start his business by Leon Fedderson, who had purchased the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and needed a writer to help him market it. Besides becoming his first client, Leon instilled in him the belief that “anything is possible.” His company mantra is “To be Relentless, Insightful, and Creative.”
Michael attributes his company’s successful thirty percent annual growth rate to his twenty six employees. He has not had to add significant staff, but rather has leveraged their talents and the technology available to them. He envisions Burns Marketing as a much larger entity in the future. To accomplish that, he is now partnering with other marketing companies around the world with the vision of providing a higher level of service to his clients.


Q: What was your initial startup cost and source?

A: $1000, bank loan.

Q: How long until there was a positive cash flow?

A: Immediate. I didn’t start the business until I had a client.

Q: Did you use a business plan?

A: No

Q: What was the genesis of the idea?

A: My first client drove me to start the business in the first place. Leon Fedderson purchased the historic Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, and needed a writer to help him market it.

Q: What is the vision of the company and the community you serve? What came first, the problem or the solution?

A: The need is there. We strive to be the best marketing communications company in Colorado while serving clients around the world. Our company mantra is “To be Relentless, Insightful, and Creative,” and to do whatever it takes to make our clients successful. We follow a proven methodology which involves a fair amount of research before we begin the creativity phase. We are constantly seeking cutting edge technology, and exploring new techniques.

Q: What were your biggest challenges? Looking back now, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

A: People; finding the right combination of talent and youth. We don’t micromanage our employees. You have to be self driven and self directed. Our culture is very entrepreneur-centric. We encourage risk taking as long as you learn from your mistakes and adjust accordingly. Another challenge has been technology and techniques. Marketing is a fast evolving industry. A phenomenon like “viral marketing” requires us to change our approach, and try new things. We have to remain agile to be successful.

Q: Are there one or two things you can attribute your success to? Was it luck, timing, someone who helped you?

A: Our employees without a doubt. Burns Marketing is where it is today because of the people who work for us. Two hires in particular took the companies to heights I never could have imagined. Leon inspired me at a young age. He instilled in me the belief that “anything is possible.” Another successful attribute is being open to new approaches, new ideas, and challenging the status quo. One example of this is that we recently joined TAAN, (Transworld Advertising Agency Network). We are now partnering with other marketing companies around the world with a shared vision of providing a higher level of service to our client.

Q: How do you attract and retain the best employees? What is the most important attribute you look for?

A: We seek out people who are driven, self-starters, and who are willing to make mistakes, but then learn from them. We don’t supervise people here, and I guess that leads to a very entrepreneurial-like environment. I put the profits of the company back into my people. We encourage them to attend conferences and training, have an annual retreat every year, and the attractive surroundings we work in here were created to benefit all the employees who work in it.

Q: Any good books that you recommend?

A: Good to Great by Jim Collins. It is the blueprint for our business, and The One Minute Manager by Kenneth H. Blanchard and Spencer Johnson.

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