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Episode 6: Driving the Bus in Business and in Life — Talking with CEO George Heinrichs

George Heinrichs‘ resume is filled with awards and accomplishments for his aptitude for business as well as social justice. But George would not have gotten where he is today, the CEO of a major company, without facing barriers both professionally and in his personal life.

Our hosts, Jeff, Erik, and Dave, are familiar with George from his role as a Board Member of No Barriers. He helps to extrapolate the No Barriers message to the corporate world and how to use adversity to fuel success.

George HeinrichsBefore our podcast team had secured a studio space, we holed up in a coworker’s basement, huddled together around a small table in the corner to hear George tell us about his accomplishments in his typical humble demeanor.

He started by explaining his work at his current company, ANDE, and its purpose with decoding DNA at such speed with little equipment needed. ANDE has power to be the ultimate public safety tool. It’s used to improve the safety of our world; capturing terrorists, helping children out of child slavery, solving cold cases, and helping end the backlog of rape kits in the U.S.

Before ANDE, George was the CEO and founder at Intrado, an advanced 9-1-1 call services company. After 9/11, George became particularly aware that the infrastructure of 9-1-1 was not keeping up with demand.

But we wanted to know how George ended up in these public safety roles that changed the landscape of response times and rate of captures. So, George went back and told us about his time as a police officer. It was there he learned a lesson that would be the catalyst to founding Intrado and leading the way at ANDE:

“It was the criticality that people’s lives were on the line and if you did things right, you could make a difference and those people would be alive . . . you wouldn’t be the cause but you could be the fix.”

Between the red tape, the technological barriers, the resources needed to make progress in his career, we wanted to know how George tackles these obstacles.

“Showing up and putting your heart in things, you can work through almost any problem.”

On the importance of failure and refusing to let that define your business:

“Our company probably failed 3 or 4 times but we just weren’t smart enough to know it was time to quit . . . we’d stick it out, we’d find a way.”

George speaks about the lessons of refusing to give up, and to keep everyone on a team accountable and constantly aware of the purpose behind their work. In the case of Intrado, people’s lives were on the line with each 9-1-1 call that came through and his team was responsible for keeping their response system working at maximum performance at all times.

Having that purpose behind your work is something George explores further. He talks about his childhood and the impact of growing up in a traumatic environment where his mother was the victim of domestic violence at the hands of his father. His empathy with vulnerable folks who were victims of crimes became the driver in his life and his career.

“I am a believer you have to be doing something you believe in.”

George explains that his technology has the potential to drop the crime rate in the U.S. by 30-50% and how early intervention can help get us there.

He credits the success of his companies to everyone he works with — not just management or higher ups but every single member of a company. It’s crucial that everyone on his Rope Team believing and sharing the same value set.

His biggest takeaway when everything seems to be against you:

“I figured out the most important part was dress up and show up.”

And whatever problems arise, you have to keep trouble-shooting and trying as many alternatives as you can (in true No Barriers fashion):

“Life’s lessons will be repeated until learned.”

George explains why No Barriers is so important for corporations and the business world in addition to the other populations it serves: youth, veterans, those with physical barriers; and that’s because these are universal tools that can be applied to the success in personal and business terms, and in turn, that success can help bring good to the world.

Check out George’s company at Ande.com.

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George: For a lot of people, it’s about giving them this experience of overcoming barriers. Once they’ve done it a few times, they start believing in themselves. Once they believe in themselves, this is like a perpetual motion machine. Then, there’s no stopping them.

Erik: It’s easy to talk about the triumphs, but what doesn’t get talked about enough is the struggle. My name is Erik Weinhenmayer. I’m an adventurer. I climbed Mt. Everest and the Seven Summits, the tallest peak in every continent. I happen to be blind. I can tell you it’s been a struggle to live what we call a no-barriers life. To define it, to push the parameters of what it can mean.

Part of the equation of this life is understanding this process of growth that we’re all striving for, to dive down into that experience and illuminate the elements, those universal elements that we have to harness along the way, like wave points on a trail, like holds on a rock face that lead us forward towards change, towards growth, towards transformation. That unexplored terrain between those safe, dark places that we find ourselves in and the summit, is a map that we can use to navigate our lives. It’s a far messier, greater map than we’re led to believe, with more flailing and bleeding along the way. But there is a way forward. That map is what we call no barriers.

This is the No Barriers podcast.

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