(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the third in a three-part series on Kevin Kragenbrink, a local business executive involved in coaching that includes small business clients and entrepreneurs.)
Kevin Kragenbrink told us early in our interview that he never lives anywhere more than five years. He’s also tended to change jobs on a somewhat similar basis.
He had been at California State University at San Bernardino for five years when he met Reuben Estrada, a franchisee of Sandler Sales, a training company. The two clicked, and they launched their own business coaching firm in November 2004 in Ontario, CA. It was named Estrada Strategies.
“Kragenbrink Strategies was too hard to say,” the company’s current President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) laughingly told us.
Kragenbrink remained at Cal State until June 2005. By September of that year, he was in Knoxville running the firm’s East Coast office.
“I like it here,” he says. “It has been an adventure – good and bad, success and failure.”
During 2009, Kragenbrink thought he might have to close the firm. He and his partner had developed a business plan that called for selling franchises.
“We sold a few, but closed a bunch in 2008 and 2009,” he explained. “It took a long time for the market to stabilize.”
Today, Estrada Strategies offers three lines of service – training, coaching and, interestingly enough, monitoring.
“We are structured to meet business needs based on size, not sector,” Kragenbrink explained.
As far as training, he says, “We get them together as peers, but we drive the curriculum.” Estrada offers three clubs, geared to individuals at a certain level. There are clubs for entrepreneurs, CEOs and company chairmen.
The coaching services are “most similar to the athletic model,” Kragenbrink says as he draws the analogy of melding the skill sets of individuals into a team that functions effectively and efficiently.
The monitoring component involves use of a web-based, proprietary system to capture initiatives and monitor progress.
“We’ve worked with hundreds of businesses over the last nine years,” Kragenbrink said.
The company moved its corporate headquarters to Knoxville in 2012 after Reuben Estrada died.
We asked Kragenbrink about the lessons that he has learned in his career. These are the ones he offered.
- Admit that you don’t know what you don’t know or you’ll be “eaten alive.”
- Recognize that every successful person has to “keep the learning going,” formally and informally.
- Acknowledge that every top professional has a coach. In the case of entrepreneurs, realize that you can’t get there “just because you’re brilliant.”
- Develop a plan. Without it, you’ll never be as successful as you could be and more stressed than you should be.
- Recognize that “culture matters in who you hire, who you fire and how you operate.”
- Nurture community relationships, since success happens through networks as much as other things.