Chairman and CEO Brad Brinegar: Unleashing Potential - McKinney

Chairman and CEO Brad Brinegar: Unleashing Potential

February 28, 2018

McKinney’s Chief Strategy Officer Walt Barron recently wrote an article titled “It’s Good to be Selfish When Doing Good.”

He said, “If you’re not passionate about a pro bono cause, it will be too easy to deprioritize it, and the work won’t be as effective.”

Many of us came to McKinney from toxic cultures, committed to building something better. So we staked our claim to “The No Assholes Rule” well before it became a cliché and a book. But we learned the flip side of “no assholes” can be “conflict avoiders.”

Nothing great happens without friction. But you need people who, when they strike flint against steel, take care to improve the ideas without tearing down the people who have them. Knowing that led us to a far more powerful articulation: “Passionate people, in it together.”

“Passionate” is the fuel. “In it together” is the engine. It’s a well-worn truth that people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. And there’s growing recognition that purpose-driven organizations outperform their competitors. So what is McKinney “in it together” for?

I found my purpose through the wisdom of a guide on a high school trip to the Boundary Waters wilderness area: Always leave the campsite better than you found it. At McKinney, I’m surrounded by people hardwired to discover the underappreciated and turn it into the obviously special. It’s from that truth we discovered McKinney’s purpose: “To find and unleash the untapped potential in our world.”

The untapped potential in the world of our clients and their brands, for sure. The untapped potential in our people? We can never do enough. But it’s also about unleashing the untapped potential in our broader community. Two recent McKinney efforts come to mind.

North Carolina had earned a well-deserved reputation as the most progressive state in the South. So we were alarmed by passage of HB2, or as it was known throughout the world, the “bathroom bill.” We immediately reached out to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and EqualityNC to lend our support for repeal.

We drafted a letter to the governor that was signed by the leaders of over a hundred major companies, including Apple, Google, Airbnb, Microsoft and Twitter, expressing reluctance to do business in a state intent on limiting the potential of the LGBTQ community. From then through Election Day, we fielded “Stop HB2,” a multi-pronged campaign to keep a spotlight on the problem and get the vote out, knowing new leadership was needed to get this legislation overturned. Roy Cooper was the only candidate to unseat an incumbent governor, and he quickly moved to erase the blot on North Carolina’s reputation.

“Finish Your Diploma,” is an Ad Council program sponsored by the Dollar General Literacy Foundation. Over 40 million American adults are trying to find their way in the world without the benefit of a high school degree. Conventional wisdom is they lack ability or ambition. We discovered that nothing could be further from the truth. They want the degree, but are overwhelmed trying to make ends meet. And they are reluctant to lean on their loved ones for support.

McKinney’s “No One Gets a Diploma Alone” campaign helped them realize their friends and family are often eager to provide that support, knowing a degree would benefit them all. Last week, Ad Council President and CEO Lisa Sherman traveled to McKinney to thank our team for a campaign that so far has helped over a million people find free classes and begin the journey to their degrees.

There are countless other examples. We’re also proud of the role we played in seeing and helping unleash the potential of our headquarters city, Durham, North Carolina. Once that renaissance was underway, we helped nine charities raise over $1 million — and become far more visible — with the Triangle Corporate Battle of the Bands. And by gamifying the experience of living on the edge of homelessness with, we helped Urban Ministries of Durham lead the global conversation about this chronic problem and gain the resources to unleash the potential of hundreds of people in our local community.

Once in a while, someone will ask whether pro bono efforts are a drain on our resources. We know it is quite the opposite. When we leave the campsite better than we found it — when we find and unleash the untapped potential in our world — we don’t use energy, we create it. We top off that tank full of “passionate.” And then everyone wins.