DK Entrepreneur Academy aims to fast-track profitable growth for business in N.J.

Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders Jack Killion and Matt Douglas have created the DK Entrepreneur Academy to help accelerate profitable growth for businesses in New Jersey.“I had been thinking about this idea for a couple of years,” Killion said, “when Matt recently said, ‘If you want to move forward with this, I’d love to be involved.’ ”

The academy’s inaugural Business Growth Action Program will kick off on March 4 at the Rothman Institute of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison.

Killion and Douglas are expecting nearly 100 attendees, in which a selection of business owners and company leaders with revenues up to $20 million will then be invited to attend a subsequent series of six, biweekly Saturday morning intensives focused on business development.

“We will focus on analyzing a business’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats at the launch session,” Killion said.

Killion earned his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Yale University and his graduate degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management. He consulted with McKinsey & Co. early in his career before becoming a serial entrepreneur, launching and growing eight successful businesses in diverse industries including publishing, manufacturing, real estate, agriculture, fund investing, career coaching and online education. He continues to help coach thousands of emerging businesses and entrepreneurs on strategic business development, funding and mergers and acquisitions.

“I really admired his value system, his integrity and his desire to help others,” Douglas said. “Jack’s experience in entrepreneurialism is fairly unmatched, and I felt like my operational and corporate expertise and background greatly complimented his.”

Douglas earned his undergraduate degree in industrial engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and his Master of Business Administration from Vanderbilt University. Early in his career, Douglas was a management consultant to Fortune 500 clients with Cap Gemini and Deloitte Consulting. He then led two teams as an operations executive at two tech startups that exceeded $250 million in sales before leading global operating teams at multibillion-dollar companies Andrew and Avaya. Douglas became an entrepreneur when he and his wife founded and grew a LearningRx franchisee business into the most profitable unit in the country before selling it in 2015.

In addition to sharing their own expertise and experiences, Killion and Douglas have assembled a team of business experts to lead discussions on key factors and obstacles to successfully driven growth; global expansion; brand development; cost-effective marketing; protecting and leveraging intellectual property; public speaking and presentation skills; business process automation and innovation; media support; and talent recruitment and development.

Participants will present their newly formed Business Growth Action Plans at the last session to an expert panel for review.  

“When they leave that last session, we want them to have a very specific set of action steps that they will take to drive the future growth of their business,” Killion said.

Killion and Douglas plan to repeat this program a few more times this year. Additionally, the DK Entrepreneur Academy is developing boot camps for startups, online courses, and leadership retreats.

“We have a genuine desire to not only be consultants and lecture clients, but to really get to know them in order to help them grow,” Douglas said. “It is important to both of us that we provide meaningful, impactful assistance to our attendees.

“The question will be, six months after they have completed our program — 12 months, two years — are they growing their business?”

To learn more and register for the introductory session on March 4, click here and contact [email protected] and [email protected]

Escape rooms becoming popular outlet for workplace bonding

Escape rooms — an immersive, physical adventure in which players are locked in a themed room and must use elements of the room to solve a series of puzzles and escape within a set time limit — are popular venues for friends and family members to socialize.

But they are also growing in popularity for corporate outings, as corporate managers and HR departments can see how escape room experiences actually benefit corporate teams in a number of ways.

Get a first-hand view of how your team works under pressure

A team leader or employer can watch the experience to get a first-hand view of how a team works under pressure. Whether or not it’s a new team or an experienced team that’s been working together for a while, putting team members in an unfamiliar environment and a pressured situation exposes personality and work-style traits that might not have been seen before. 

New leaders emerge

Alpha males/females or the known “leaders” may excel or, do the exact opposite, if they are out of their comfort zone (they may be at a total loss about where to start or what to do next). This latter scenario often opens the door for others who may not previously have been the team leaders to take the reins and suddenly show leadership initiative, as well as the ability to organize and delegate. Supervisors may also ultimately witness unique traits among team members such as the ability to follow direction and be supportive of their team or, contrarily, the desire to work and produce results on one’s own. 

Who likes being wrong?

By their nature, escape rooms are challenging so no one can be right every time. As a result, how people handle being wrong may come to light. Some will try to enforce their will on the challenge, puzzle or lock or even their team. Others will actually seek team input to derive a solution.

Good communications skills rule

Escape room experiences can reveal who has good communication skills and can offer positive reinforcement.  They can also reveal the other side of that coin, i.e. the inability to work together, take direction, admit mistakes or ask for help from others.

The escape room process doesn’t end in the escape room

I urge corporate clients to dine locally immediately after an escape room experience. During activity the team is working together in a very intimate setting which opens the door to a debrief after the event where they can discuss their successes and failures in a comfortable atmosphere. People that don’t normally speak up suddenly find themselves chatting more easily. This may ultimately open future doors to communication which could lead to greater productivity and an improved work environment.

Jeffrey Berkman is the game designer and creator at Escape Room NJ with locations in Hackensack and Madison.