One Year Reflections

by Dan Hampu

“I dream my painting, and then I paint my dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh

It has been one year since I started as the President and CEO of Burton D. Morgan Foundation. It has been a wild ride! All our work over the past year has been to capture our (Burt, trustees, and team) collective dreams and develop the concept of our painting.  Much of this has been around our strategic guiding principles: (1) honor Burt’s intent to strengthen free enterprise; (2) honor Burt’s intent to (a) support entrepreneurship, (b) get closer to entrepreneurs, and (c) act entrepreneurially; (3) support increased focus of activities; (4) aim where we can make a difference (need, demand, leverage); and (5) increase capacity for measurable impact.  During this year, I have learned a lot about the Foundation and its strategy, trustees, team, and our work. 

1.  A Plan. Mike Tyson once said something like a plan is great until you get punched in the face. What he failed to mention is how many punches would be landed if you had no plan. Strategic planning has been a good challenge for Morgan Foundation. We appreciate the importance of developing and using a plan. The team showed its adaptability when asked to develop a one-year plan for 2023 that could be used to build our muscles for the 2024-26 strategic planning process.. The 2024-26 strategic planning process has revealed just how much the Foundation has needed to explore what it means to support Burt’s intent of preserving and strengthening free enterprise. I am humbled to be part of setting this direction and focus of the Foundation moving forward. We have started to determine our definition of free enterprise, why it is important to strengthen, and how you can participate.  It is important to note that no literal punches were thrown or landed in the making of the strategic plan thus far.

2.  Alignment.  Planning is vital because it helps provide alignment. I highlighted the importance of such alignment in a LinkedIn article titled, “Rowboat > Bus for Assessing an Organization.”  This short article highlighted how planning identifies the destination and initial plans of how to get there.  This is the rowing required to get to the destination.  It must be in sync and towards the destination. The importance of this has been affirmed during the last year. As we interact with grantees and entrepreneurs, we have continued to see the importance of this.

3.  Balance.  The importance of balance has also been elevated.  Whether it is work-life balance or priorities in work, we have learned the importance of keeping an eye out for balance. The importance of alignment and balance was exemplified in a trip to one of our trustee’s companies, Smithers, where we took a tour to understand how the performance of tires and tire mechanics is critical in determining their influence on the ride, handling, and safety of the vehicle.  Small deviations or blemishes can have quite a significant impact on outcomes. 

4.  Leadership and Operations.  Our trustees and team are awesome. We collectively care A LOT about the impact of our strategic direction on current grantees and how our work centers around impact for the future. Our trustees care deeply about stewarding the foundation to ensure that we preserve Burt’s wishes. They bring a wealth of direct experience to entrepreneurship and think first about entrepreneurs and the environment that entrepreneurs are dealing with now and in the future. They have been more than accessible to leadership and to the team to listen and provide guidance and feedback during the transition in leadership and strategic planning process.   

Our team also cares deeply about furthering Burt’s intent to support entrepreneurs, as well as the people that run grantee organizations. The team is extremely passionate about our work and deeply knowledgeable in the various subjects that our mission covers. They have been willing to dig deep into different subjects to develop an understanding of what is out there and how we might support.  The Foundation and our community are lucky to have such a combination: trustees stewarding the organization with such enthusiasm and a team of committed individuals working daily to strengthen free enterprise and support entrepreneurs.

5.  You.  If you are reading this, then you know about the entrepreneurship community.  It is a strong one and one that Morgan Foundation can be proud of.  You are the entrepreneurs running companies, individuals that do the work of running organizations that support entrepreneurs from all different backgrounds, ages, races, etc.,.. or are a friend of the Foundation trying to advance entrepreneurs.  It is inspiring to see the outcomes of your work and we know that Burt would be happy to see the impact of his successes long after his time on earth.

We have grown a lot in a year and have made major moves toward our new strategic direction. It is exciting and unnerving at times, which is why I think the quote below by famous race car driver, Mario Andretti, is very suitable. I’ve also found that it is very representative of working in a growing company. 

“If everything seems under control, you're just not going fast enough.” - Mario Andretti