YEC Member Spotlight: Zachary Burkes, Co-Founder & Director of Government Relations, Gatekeeper Innovation Inc.

3 minute read

Zachary Burkes is a co-founder of Gatekeeper Innovation. They are the makers of Safer Lock, a four-digit combination locking cap for prescription bottles designed to prevent prescription drug abuse among children and teens. His experience lies within Government Relations, Lobbying and Legislative Language — however, due to his role with his company and this product, he has learned a great deal about retail marketing, sales processes with big box retailers, branding and consumer product launch.

Who is your hero?

Hard to narrow it down to just one business hero as I admire so many, but a few come to mind — Jim Rohn, Zig Ziglar, Grant Cardone. My hero in life is definitely my mom; she raised four kids on her own and sacrificed so much for us to always have the best.

What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?

“Start from wherever you are and with whatever you’ve got.” — Jim Rohn

I think this quote is most fitting for many people out there today. Often times, I come across people who aren’t sure of what they want to achieve and have no idea where to start and are paralyzed by this. They just know they want to be “successful,” but haven’t fully defined what that means to them. There have been many times in my career where I didn’t know where to start or how to get started, but I pushed ahead and set high goals for myself. While this has its own set of challenges, I’ve found the time it can take to organize the perfect plan can set you back and ultimately cause you to miss the opportunity to dominate. Instead of organizing a thorough plan, you could be out there acting and making things happen without missing opportunities.

What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?

The biggest mistake I’ve ever made in business is not setting high enough goals. Your goals should scare you. Think about it — would you rather set low goals and hit them or set very lofty goals and fall just short? I’ve learned to always push myself, my company and those around me to do better because it can be done. On top of that, don’t be naive about the amount of action required to reach these goals.

Another mistake I often see young companies making is relenting on quotas or sales goals. As you can tell, I’m a sales guy and I find this troubling on several levels. In fear of looking as though they aren’t hitting quotas, oftentimes companies will relent and allow salespeople to aim for a smaller goal — all but assuring they won’t hit the numbers they need. It sets a precedent and quickly erodes other areas. Sales can solve a litany of problems — don’t relinquish here.

What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?

I try to start my day with the same routine each day. Prior to going into the office, I think it’s important to get some sort of exercise, some time to yourself and then go from there. When I get to the office, I try to start the day with my toughest decisions.

What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?

Cash is king. Be wary of where and how you spend it.

What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?

Get on the phone. Seriously, not enough people focus on sales to grow their early, growing company. Also, while running customer satisfaction surveys are important, learning about why someone didn’t become a customer has proven to be vital for my business. Lastly, it’s all about action — maximize your action and learn from those who have done it before.

What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?

“Success is your duty, obligation and responsibility.” — Grant Cardone

Everyone defines success in their own ways, but few treat their success as a responsibility. If you aren’t doing all you can to maximize your potential and be successful, you’re selling yourself short. I try to approach success as my duty and obligation and I find this is beneficial in a number of ways. For one, I set my goals so high and approach them with a sense of obligation that I’m more inclined to do the action necessary to reach them.

For me, I define my success as doing everything I can in my power, taking the necessary action to reach the highest goals possible for myself. If I’m constantly up, working at my craft, not resting on my laurels and striving to make others around me better, then I am fulfilling my duty and responsibility to success.

The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.