Navigating a Complex Industry Through Service Leadership, with Shawn Burcham

Jan 29, 2020


Shawn Burcham is the author of Keeping Score With GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success and Founder & CEO of PFSbrands which he and his wife Julie started out of their home in 1998. PFSbrands has grown to 130+ employee-owners across 18 states and is now 100% employee-owned.

Shawn decided to take a major risk in quitting his job and starting a business from the ground floor in 1998. Since starting PFSbrands, Shawn has started and grown over 10 businesses while also investing in other businesses where he feels he can help owners become more successful, including the business coaching company GRITT Business Coaching. It’s because of these varied experiences that Shawn truly believes empowering employees to think and act like owners are the recipe for success.

Shawn is passionate about helping others become more successful in work and in life. He believes in taking care of employees and providing them with opportunities where they can excel. He has a non-entitlement mentality and a straight-talk approach. He believes that all leaders need to care, have fun, and hold people accountable to high expectations. Shawn is a true entrepreneur that has taken the risks necessary to lead a company to double-digit growth for 20+ years.

What you will learn in this episode:

  • Why Shawn took the leap of faith of quitting his job to start his own business with his wife Julie
  • What specific challenges and opportunities Shawn has faced in his career in the high-volume, low-margin foodservice industry
  • How the complex PFSbrands business model has grown to include franchises in 42 states, and why Shawn integrates his past in athletics into his business leadership
  • Why Shawn decided to go with an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) for his company, and what risks and advantages are offered by an ESOP
  • Why Shawn developed his GRITT Business Coaching and decided to write his book Keeping Score With GRITT: Straight Talk Strategies for Success
  • Why Shawn feels his core purpose in life is to help others find success and create opportunities for the people around him
  • Why Shawn and his team offer a game called “Profit and Cash” to help teach financial literacy and dispel misconceptions about how businesses operate
  • How the GRITTrac software that Shawn’s team developed works to help CEOs and their teams track and understand their company’s systems and progress
  • How Shawn’s unique career path and business philosophies have helped him surround himself with business leaders who believe in sharing knowledge and lifting each other up
  • Why the tight labor market is the biggest challenge and greatest complexity Shawn and his business face at every level


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