Kent Vaughn: Building a new generation of businesses

Kent Vaughn, the CEO, and Co-Founder of a performance improvement company, Blaze Performance Solutions, has helped 100’s of organizations improve their performance and results. He has conducted over 2,000 days of Strategy & Execution Consulting, Leadership Development, and process improvement work for these organizations. Kent co-founded Blaze Performance Solutions in 2015 with a mission to help individuals and organizations maximize their potential and achieve Extraordinary Results. Its aim is ‘Energizing 1,000,000 Leaders by 2025!’ His book “The 3 Keys of Execution. Simple Ideas. Extraordinary Results” was listed #6 on INC’s Summer Must-Read Books list and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

In an exclusive conversation with Aspioneer, Kent Vaughn discusses his journey, beliefs, and vision with Blaze Performance Solutions.

Aspioneer(A): How would you describe your company? What is the biggest problem you want to help solve through your service?

Kent Vaughn (K): Complexity is at the center of the world’s most significant challenges.  Complexity causes us to work some of the longest hours in history.  We’re time-starved, busy and disengaged at work.

At BPS we specialize in Simplification!

Simplification is the competitive advantage that allows you to be more innovative, adaptable and to thrive!

Our tools and processes don’t replace any of the great system’s organizations already have, they’re about making those systems work better. What Lean and Six Sigma are to manufacturing, BPS is to the entire organization. We will help Leaders and Organizations excel in four areas:

  • Transform their Key Goals/Strategies into powerful Choices

  • Ensure Breakthrough Choices are being made from the C-Suite to the Front Line

  • Create real-time visibility into every team member’s daily ABC’s (Actions, Behaviours, and Contributions) 

  • Eliminate the unnecessary and hidden barriers impacting an organization’s success.

Kent Vaughn, CEO and Co-Founder, Blaze Performance Solutions

“Walking away from a big salary with great benefits to change the world. In my last company I started out to change the world (and had a lot of fun and success along the way), but after 20+ years the magic was gone. It became just a job with a great salary and benefits, but no fulfillment and certainly no opportunities to make a real difference!”

(A): What inspired you to start this company?

(K): We’ve worked for some of the best companies in the world and we’ve found that no matter how good you are your own success can ultimately become your worst enemy. You get too big and create so many systems and processes to maintain that success that you forget how to be nimble and what created the success in the first place.  

We had to walk away from the golden handcuffs to make a fresh start. This forced us to identify new approaches and new tools to the age-old problems of helping every leader to do three things consistently well:

  • Lead themselves well 

  • Lead others well 

  • Achieve extraordinary results

We’ve all seen people that lead themselves and people well but never achieve the kind of results they should achieve. We usually get rid of these people and we should. Just being nice isn’t enough. The more pernicious leader is the one who achieves extraordinary results but leaves carnage in their path. It’s amazing how many Executives are afraid to let these people go because they’re afraid of losing the results. Every time I’ve seen leaders with the courage to let those bad leaders go the rest of the team steps up and makes a difference. In fact, the results seem to always improve once the autocrat is gone.

Another issue is that Leadership is not created just by having a title. We all know Executives and Managers who are not leaders at all! We also know plenty of people with no title who are outstanding Leaders.

(A): What are the challenges that you usually face in your business? How do you overcome them?  

(K): Getting people to listen and recognize there is a better way. Getting people to slow down and invest some time, bandwidth, and resources into finding a better way. Another huge problem is the 19th-century accounting mindset that equipment is an asset and people are an expense.

Here’s another way to think about it. I’ve got a friend who bought a new Maserati convertible several years ago. He often complains about the cost of the maintenance, but he spends the money without fail. Why? He knows that prevention is almost always cheaper than redemption. With that kind of high-performance vehicle, it is not unusual to spend 2 or 3% of the original purchase price on annual maintenance costs. It’s expensive, but it’s worth it (if you want to own that kind of machine). Imagine if every CEO, COO, President and CFO started thinking about their people as assets rather than an expense and treated them accordingly?  Then developing your people becomes an investment rather than expense. Then the thought of investing just 1% of their annual payroll in maintaining/developing their people doesn’t seem so outlandish?  

Prevention is almost always cheaper than Redemption!!

(A): What was the biggest risk you had to take to start this venture?

(K): Walking away from a big salary with great benefits to change the world. In my last company I started out to change the world (and had a lot of fun and success along the way), but after 20+ years the magic was gone. It became just a job with a great salary and benefits, but no fulfillment and certainly no opportunities to make a real difference!

(A): How would you characterize your company’s overall management style?

(K): The Best ideas wins! We don’t care who has the idea or who gets credit for it. We care about finding and implementing the best ideas.

Abundance. The more we share the pie, the bigger it gets. We’d rather be 1% owners of a Billion $ firm that continues to evolve by helping people change their world, versus 100% owners of a multi-Million $ that thinks they have the best ideas and quits learning, improving, and growing.

(A): What upcoming initiatives do you find particularly exciting? Where do you see your company expanding or focusing its efforts in the next few years? 

(K): We’ve just agreed in principle to acquire an extraordinary tech start-up right out of the Harvard Business School incubator. They’ve created an amazing tool that gives you real-time daily feedback on the engagement and motivation of every employee top to bottom. It tells you Why people do what they do and that combined with our tool that tells you What people are doing is a game-changer for any organization.

(A): What do you believe will be your legacy?  

(K): I don’t think about creating a legacy. I focus on making a difference. Helping leaders solve problems. Helping people lead themselves better and achieve success in every area of their lives. That’s the kind of legacy that gets me out of bed.

(A): What advice do you have for someone wanting to be an entrepreneur?

(K): I read a great book several years ago “Main Street Entrepreneur” by Michael Glauser. He interviewed 100 Entrepreneurs in 100 cities and found that the successful ones had succeeded because of one of three big ideas:

  1. They started a business in the industry they’d been working in already.

  2. They started a business in an industry that was already their avocation or hobby. An industry they knew a lot about. 

  3. They purchased a franchise system or successful business

This is some very inciteful information. But I always tell people to do something they love! 

Making money is important, but if you don’t love it you’ll never stick with it! Identify your Why. Schulze’s book was a great reminder for me on just that. Keep that Why in front of you and find other successful people to help you. 

Everyone needs their own personal board of directors, not so much for the business but their life. Find people who will help you, who care about you, and who have your best interest in mind!