Mark Hopkins - Shortcut to ProsperityIt was good to catch up with Mark Hopkins as part of his book tour for Shortcut to Prosperity. As I have read more about Mark and his work, he has solid experiences in his work career, his career transitions, and current endeavors. His message will resonate no matter the generational perspective we have. It is one centered in purpose, meaning, and leading more fully in our careers.

A special thanks to Mark for answering these questions.

Q: What leadership and life lessons did you learn while at Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric?

Hopkins: HP and Emerson each, in their own way, taught me about the importance of differentiating—as a company and as an individual. Companies (and people) who have differentiating capabilities can name their own price. Me-too companies are left to compete on price and in today’s global market that is almost always a losing strategy.

From a leadership perspective I figured out how good it feels and how powerful it is to care about the people that you work with. People who know that you have their back and truly care about them will run through walls for you. It comes down to trust, and organizations that make trust a core value outperform those who don’t.

Q: What was the trigger point for you to start Peak Industries?

Hopkins: The trigger point came at HP. After 8 years with the company, I realized that there were things that I would do differently if it were my company and that HP was much too large for me to change from the inside. I realized how cool it would be to start with a blank sheet of paper and create something from the ground up. I also realized that I didn’t have the experience that I need to do it right away. I needed to find a company (Emerson Electric) whose structure allowed them to hire me into an executive position within a smaller division where I could get the experience I needed.

Peak Industries was an opportunity to capitalize on my point of differentiation—world class manufacturing knowledge and capability— to start a very modest manufacturing company that we were eventually able to build into a leading medical device contract manufacturer.

Q: Why your focus on non-profits and micro-lending now? What led you to this shift in focus?

Hopkins: I define prosperity as an existence that enables you to apply your passions, personal strengths, and values to work that is personally satisfying and fun while providing the financial resources to experience your envisioned life. I am fortunate enough to have developed a level of financial security that has enabled a shift toward work that I now find more personally satisfying than building another company. The purpose of writing the book, as is our philanthropic work, is to make it easier for others to have a more prosperous life. I get great satisfaction from sharing the knowledge and resources that can make that happen.

Q: When you work with or talk with Millennials, what shifts do you see in the way they work? Do you see more of an entrepreneurial spirit?

Hopkins: People are great at adapting to their environment, and the millennials have adapted to theirs. I am amazed at how comfortable many of this generation are with respect to working in start-ups and at a much faster pace than I experienced at their age. My generation is upset by the increasing uncertainty of employment, pensions, and even social security. Many of the millennials that I interact with seem to take it on faith that they live in a different time and that they had better be prepared to take care of themselves.

Q: What message does Shortcut to Prosperity bring the different generations?

Hopkins: For people early in their career, Shortcut provides an alternative to the current job that the status quo and a fairly arbitrary path has led them to. It shows them how to do the self-assessment necessary to understand their strengths, passions, and what prosperity might mean to them. More importantly, the book shares the habits and strategies of prosperous people that came before them that all feel lucky to have figured it out and are eager to share the magic with others. The book shares inspiring stories, not necessarily of people who made millions (some did), but of people who are living their own definition of an amazing life.

When I embarked on the book project, I underestimated the number of mid career people who are feeling less than fulfilled but don’t know what to do about it. The book’s insights are just as relevant for this group. The message for this generation is not to quit your day job but to develop a plan that allows you to move toward your personal vision while still meeting family and other commitments.

In short, the book is for the minority of people who, for whatever reason, and at whatever age, have come to the place where they realize the status quo isn’t good enough. And just as importantly are willing to do something about it. If they have the will, Shortcut to Prosperity can help show the way.

Mark Hopkins earned engineering degrees from Cornell and Stanford and then spent the next twenty-five years deciphering the factors that make some people prosperous, successful and happy After building a leadership career with companies like Hewlett Packard and Emerson Electric, Hopkins founded Peak Industries, a medical device contract manufacturer, which he grew to $75 million and later sold to Delphi. He then founded Crescendo Capital Partners, a private equity firm, and Catalyst, a private foundation supporting Colorado-based nonprofits and micro-lending in the developing world.  He is the author of Shortcut to Prosperity: 10 Entrepreneurial Habits and a Roadmap For An Exceptional Career. For more information, please visit Mark’s blog and follow him on Twitter @10shortcuts.

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What trigger points ignited a change in your career direction? Where do you go to find your next steps forward? Add your insights below.