September 12, 2016 Emily Lierle

Brian Burkhart Podcast Interview: Founder & President, SquarePlanet

brian burkhart

Brian Burkhart is the Founder & President at SquarePlanet. Brian’s other official title is Chief Word Guy—you might be wondering what that means. Well, Brian is a master at storytelling. In this episode, Brian shares his wisdom and expertise on the most important elements to include in every message you share, whether it’s a sales presentation, keynote speech, a company vision or a fundraising pitch. Brian also shares his passion for why he believes it’s so important in today’s business world to stand out from the crowd, make waves and plant a flag for what you believe in. If you enjoy listening to people with a sharp wit, a healthy dose of sarcasm, an off-the-charts sense of humor and wicked brilliance, you will fall in love with this episode with Brian Burkhart.

Show Highlights

  • 7:00 – Prom night 1988
  • 14:30 – Who is Brian Burkhart?
  • 15:34 – Leading a revolution
  • 18:20 – Data in presentations
  • 21:00 – Brian’s advice on public speaking
  • 22:21 – Communicating an idea into a story
  • 24:00 – Start with the ‘Why’
  • 25:43 – Know, feel, and do
  • 29:10 – On asking people to do something
  • 31:00 – The theme of pirates
  • 33:57 – Why orange and what’s with the cufflinks?
  • 39:15 – The importance of core beliefs
  • 40:39 – Working with clients that don’t share your beliefs
  • 45:00 – The company Alter Ego AV
  • 53:30 – The show must go on

Show Links

Brian Burkhart Interview

Q: You’re a master of storytelling and a master of presentation. How do you describe, “Who is Brian Burkhart?”

A: Wow, I’ve never thought about that. Off the top of my head, the way I would describe Brian Burkhart is I’m an incredibly passionate business owner who wants to make waves in the world. Everything that we do, the purpose behind the work that we take on every single day is so incredibly personal to me. We are so purpose and mission driven that it all comes from inside of me, so the work we do mirrors those passions.

It’s really about making waves.

I think what I want to do is change the scope of business today. On May 20, 1980, Microsoft made its very first acquisition. It was this small company that had software that allowed people to create slides. Virtual slides, if you will, that you project and have presentations around. We know that today as PowerPoint. Since that happened in 1980, there has been an utter destruction of the human’s ability to connect and to have one-on-one, deep emotional connections.

I want to lead a revolution that says, ‘Let’s put the humanity back into business communications.’ We’ve made things so benign, so vanilla, so chart, graph, data-centric. It’s so bad. Unfortunately, it’s the standard bearer of things and it’s just wrong. It’s not how we are wired; rather, we are hardwired, biologically speaking, to react best to stories. It’s the one that truly separates us and makes us actually human. It’s how we learn, it’s how we connect as family members, it’s how we do things in great, deep detail—it’s about stories. Yet, somehow, we’ve gotten away from it.

When people want to know what I’m all about, that’s a pretty darn good description right there and if you start looking at the way I attack life, and the things that I do and the people that I put in my life, it’s very specific. I’m quick to rid myself of people that don’t see things, or the world, in that same way, through that same lens. We wouldn’t be friends if you thought I were full of nothing but hot air and bupkis. I’m always on that search for like-minded individuals, clients, and opportunities. It’s truly this basic, core idea of making waves, doing things differently, standing out from the crowd, and ultimately being heard.

Q: I was poking around on the Square Planet website, and a couple things really stand out for me. One is this theme you’ve chosen about pirates. One of the sayings is something to the effect of, “Why join the Navy when you can be a pirate?” I know it has nothing to do with trying to talk people out of joining the Navy, but how did this pirate thing originate?

A: Actually, it’s kind of a cool story. First, and foremost, thank you. We are not trying to say negative things about our armed forces, and likewise, we’re not encouraging people to go swashbuckle through the Caribbean, drinking rum, and going to the Horn of Africa and taking over ships. None of those kind of things.

Where it really started, the genesis of this whole story, goes back a couple of years when Steve Jobs what put in charge of this little ragtag group of hand-picked people to create this thing, that no one had ever thought of or heard of, called The Mac. The Apple computer had existed but he had a whole sort of different idea of what he wanted. He wanted to completely break the mold, shatter the status quo as well as do something totally different that would change the face of computing and ultimately the world.

So, he grabbed a bunch of guys that he knew would be willing to break convention. He knew these people would make waves. They got their group together and then got an office at the Apple campus in California and (quite literally) hung a Jolly Roger flag on the Apple building for the world to see. Much to the dismay of any another person in the company, they weren’t too pleased with this connotation of pirates. But one of the things Steve did—he pitched it to people with the quote, “Why would you want to be in the Navy when you could be a pirate?” You get to break the rules and do it our way.

That symbolic pirating thing goes right to the heart of our core beliefs of making waves and doing something that’s outside the norm.

Again, we’re not trying to break laws; we’re not gangsters or bad people. It’s just, if you look at the world of presentations and overall businesses communications at large it is so largely same, same, same. It’s benign, safe, boring crap, devoid of beliefs. It leaves you feeling flat and dismayed with no real sense of recognition about what’s going on. Thus, it just doesn’t work. So, we’ve built our whole business on this idea of shattering the norm and doing something totally different.


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