I am CEO

HR Expert Shares Valuable Insights in Accelerating People Leadership and HR Skills

Full Episode from I AM CEO Podcast - IAM2025

In this episode, we dive deep into an insightful conversation with Andrew Bartlow, an experienced human resource and talent management expert.

Andrew has 25 years of experience and is the co-author of the book “Scaling for Success: People Priorities for High Growth Organizations.”

Through his consulting and advisory work, Andrew helps businesses clarify their priorities and align their organizations for accelerated growth.

In addition, he founded the People Leader Accelerator, a development program for startup HR leaders. Join us as we explore Andrew's journey, his approach to helping others, and his strategies for success.

Website: www.seriesbconsulting.com

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Full Interview:


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Andrew Bartlow 00:00

I've built my products and my services around helping others to figure out how to deal with the thorniest issues that I faced when I was in their shoes. So I just really try to put myself in other shoes and help them navigate through the choppy waters that I learned a lot from through making mistakes and maybe those people can make fewer mistakes with my help now.

Intro 00:20

Are you ready to hear business stories and learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and level up your business from awesome CEOs, entrepreneurs, and founders without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresh values your time and is ready to share with you the valuable info you're in search of. This is the I Am CEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:51

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the I Am CEO podcast. And I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Andrew Bartlow. Andrew excited to have you on the show.

Andrew Bartlow 00:59

Hey, thanks a lot. Good to be with you.

Gresham Harkless 01:01

Yes, absolutely. Excited to have you on. And of course, before we jumped into the interview, I want to read a little bit more about Andrew so I can hear about some of those awesome things that he's working on.

And Andrew has 25 years of human resource and talent management experience. He is the co-author of Scaling for Success, People Priorities for High Growth Organizations. He has a master's degree from the top program in his field and has all the certifications you can imagine.

Andrew leads series B consulting, which helps businesses clarify their priorities and align their organizations to accelerate their growth.

He also founded People Leader Accelerator, which is the preeminent. Developed program for startup HR leaders and created a SAS software product for small business owners.

So one of the things I absolutely love about Andrew is all the awesome things that he's doing. He's definitely the definition of a thought leader.

I was listening to an interview and you definitely got your 10, 000 hours of experience. I think even from graduation on and all the awesome things and organizations that you work with. But one of the cool things I read about is that he said he devours books like doughnuts and he burns off the doughnuts with tennis and I try to do the same thing that my English major but I don't burn off with tennis.

I try to burn off maybe on the peloton or something, but nevertheless, excited to have you on the show. Andrew, are you ready to speak to the I Am CEO community?

Andrew Bartlow 02:16

Yeah, sounds great. And I think you're burning off some of those calories with that giant water bottle. I saw you drinking out of it, huge.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:22

Yeah, that's absolutely my do it.

It's my workout definitely in the morning, and it carries me a little bit through the day. So that is a good thing. Maybe I'll add that into my workout regime.

Andrew Bartlow 02:31

There you go. There you go. Thanks for having me.

Gresham Harkless 02:34

Yeah. Excited to have you on. So what I wanted to do was rewind the clock a little bit, hear a little bit more on how you got started, what I call your CEO story.

Andrew Bartlow 02:41

Yeah, Thank you. My career has been in human resources. I went through a master's program, the arguably the best master's program in the field and actually, I don't know if we pick this up in my bio, I'll be teaching a class back at my own alma mater coming up this summer.

I'm really excited about doing that. Yeah. Mastering business fundamentals, I believe is the title of the course. So how did I get started? Really, through the back door. I was a functional expert in human resources for decades and then had a chance to branch out on my own. The company that I was the head of the human resources function for had a lot of success.

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Got acquired, changed its headquarters and I pulled my parachute. And that gave me the flexibility to do my own thing. And so that started by writing a book, getting my thoughts on paper and then trying to figure out a way to get those thoughts and those ideas and those principles that were there were hard one through decades of of mistakes out to more people.

And that led to my consulting and advisory practice as well as a development program for other HR leaders.

Gresham Harkless 03:51

Nice. I absolutely love that. And I was listening to an interview. I think speaking of tennis, as I brought up you had a lot of experience with larger organizations. And I think even the organizations that, end up getting acquired and Fortune 500 companies, I think as well, too.

And going back forth to the more of those small, nimble startups I imagine provide a lot of experience. experience and some of those maybe mistakes as well, too, that you are able to share in your book and your work.

Andrew Bartlow 04:16

Yeah, it's interesting how many people seem to make a career on one side of the fence, but like tennis, I've been on both sides of that net both at the, huge enterprise organizations like GE and Pepsi and Wells Fargo, and also at a bunch of startups that most of which you wouldn't have heard of.

They aren't around anymore, but many of which have gone on to have a lot of success. As well.

Gresham Harkless 04:39

Yeah, that's absolutely awesome. So I wanted to drill down in here a little bit more on how you've taken that success and information and how you're putting that into place now. Could you take us through a little bit more on what it looks like serving the clients for you now?

Andrew Bartlow 04:51

Yeah. Yeah. I have changed my definition of success and my definition of service. I've been in house and in-house operator and practitioner again for decades. And now I view my role as supporting others to do that work themselves. So I think of myself more as an advisor or as an educator now.

And so that's what I've built my products and my services around is helping others to figure out how to deal with the thorniest issues that I faced when I was in their shoes. So I just really try to put myself in other shoes and help them navigate through the choppy waters that I learned a lot from through making mistakes and maybe those people can make fewer mistakes with my help now.

Gresham Harkless 05:36

Yeah, that's huge. And I imagine when you're going through those issues that choppy water, those things aren't going the way that you want it to go. You probably feel a little bit more isolated, like you are doing it wrong, maybe even, and you feel that, I don't know what to do next or even who to lean on.

So I appreciate you being that advisor and providing that in so many different ways.

Andrew Bartlow 05:57

Yeah, you hear about a CEO or a founder being the loneliest job, like you're alone at the top, often have a small pyramid, very small. It's also lonely being a sole HR practitioner or the top functional leader where there aren't very many other people what you do inside an organization.

And who do you turn to for advice? You're supposed to be the expert with all the answers. And so now I'm marrying those two roles, both as a CEO founder myself of a couple of different organizations, as well as an advisor and mentor. An educator to those H. R. professionals that are still in-house.

Gresham Harkless 06:37

Yeah, that's huge to be able to lean on that. Because I think we sometimes forget that, of course, you have the experience, the knowledge to get to whatever that position is, but how do you continue to sharpen the saw? How do you continue to get better?

And I feel like a lot of what you do is to help facilitate those conversations and the knowledge and the growth and the sharpening the saw for those professionals.

Andrew Bartlow 06:56

Yeah, I think there's a gap. I think there's this big gap in terms of learning and development. You've probably heard of the 70-20-10 adult learning paradigm, where 70 percent of any learning you do is done on the job, and then, 20 percent through self-paced reading and, maybe 10 percent in a classroom.

I think that to be really effective, you've got to have the right content and the right cohort or right community. HR professionals, once again, that's it. It's a lonely job. It's a hard job. You're pulled between different constituents, whether it's a CEO, founder, executive team employees that, need service, need support or looking for advocacy mid-level managers that are just trying to get something done.

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Gresham Harkless 07:40

That makes so much sense. And is that a lot of what you're doing with the people leader accelerator, being able to have those open dialogues and that the peer group that you talked about so that you can move forward. Do feel like you're not alone?

Andrew Bartlow 07:52

Yeah. Thanks for peeling back the layers there.

It's a people leader accelerator is a really niche community, and that's one of the primary elements of our secret sauce is that it's so niche. It's not for everybody. It's only for strategic human resources professionals at investor-backed founder-led

So that's a pretty small bullseye especially in today's market where venture capital isn't flowing as freely as it used to.

So it's a really niche community. It's people that are in similar jobs, similar companies, experiencing similar challenges. You go deep, you go really deep where you're reading 100 plus pages a week. We have writing assignments and homework and you're accountable to each other. And we never record.

In today's world of scalable software and sages on stages we never record anything because we want people to feel really safe and really comfortable talking about their troubles, sharing what they're dealing with and being able to let it all hang out and that builds trust and community and that allows people to learn faster and learn in a much more engaged way.

And so we always keep the cohorts really small. We've never accepted more than 10. I'll have to go past that this time. We're oversubscribed. I'll actually have to limit the cohort, which I guess is a good thing for me. But it's intentionally very small and very niche.

And that makes it, I think, more valuable. For the people that are part of it.

Gresham Harkless 09:33

Yeah, absolutely. And I think by niching down as you talked about as well, too, that really helps, to create that connection and relationship and building and, growth as well, too.

So I wanted to switch gears a little bit and I want to ask you for what I call a CEO hack. This is a little bit more of an apple book or even a habit that you have.

Yeah. But what's something that makes you more effective and efficient?

Andrew Bartlow 09:53

Boy, here's an oldie, but a goodie. I think of the Franklin Covey concept of big rocks. And there was a really silly video in London that I remember with a guy with a strong accent and a big personality that was filling up a bowl with rocks and gravel and water and sand.

And I've turned back to that, multiple times. So, it's about prioritization. You have to figure out what those big rocks are. In your life, in your profession and get those done first. If you're not making intentional time for those most important things, for me, it's my little girls.

I'll go pick up my girls after this after this interview. I'm much more intentionally spending time with my 8-year-old and my 10-year-old. Taking time off to have adventures with them than I ever did before. So there might be some personal rocks, there are certainly some professional rocks as well.

But if you're not prioritizing those things, they don't fit in the bowl. They don't fit in your waking hours. If you're just chasing after the last Slack message or the last email that came in. You really have to make some choices to make sure that the most important stuff gets attended to.

Gresham Harkless 10:59

Yeah, and I think the intentionality of that is so powerful.

So what would you consider to be what I call a little bit more of a CEO nugget?

And you might've already touched on this. It could be something you would tell and give advice to a mentoring HR professional that maybe he's getting started, or it might be something, if you were to hop into a time machine, you might tell your younger business self, or potentially even one of those startup CEOs.

Andrew Bartlow 11:19

Yeah. So much of what I've already talked about. So I'll try to focus for purposes of this discussion.

And that is wherever you are in your professional journey, clarity and focus is tremendously valuable. You're much more likely to move three things a mile than you are at 30 things an inch. And being thoughtful, making intentional choices about what those three things are versus just letting the 30 happen is much more likely to make you successful at whatever you're doing, whether you're a company leader, an HR professional, or just an individual trying to be a good dad.

Gresham Harkless 11:56

Yeah, that's so powerful. And I think it goes back to the Pareto principle where sometimes we don't realize that the things that are making the biggest impact and being that all the time that we're spending.

Andrew Bartlow 12:07

Yeah, and one of the challenging things for leaders, actually, let's peel one more layer back of the onion is that often the leaders think it's a lot more clear than their teams do. The further we move you get from where the decisions are made, and think of this as management layers, so the people that are on your direct staff, that maybe you're participating in leadership team meetings, they probably have a pretty good idea what your priorities are that you may have instinctively as a CEO.

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But the next layer down, the directs to your directs, or the third layer down, or the ninth layer down if you're at a big organization, they probably have no idea. It's a telephone game that it keeps getting translated with a certain percent lost or misunderstood at every level.

And yeah, you can do some direct communication through all hands or town halls or newsletters. But just really leaning in the internal communication about what you're doing, what's important and why will help you align an organization. And for me I have no real employees, but I have this cloud of friends and community members and faculty and adjunct and other partners that I work with and I try to be really clear and communicative about what we're trying to do and why, and that just keeps people aligned.

Better than they would be otherwise. It's clearer in my head than it is in theirs. And I need to keep reminding myself of that.

Gresham Harkless 13:36

Yeah, and that's huge. So, I wanted to ask you now my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO and our goal is to have different quote-unquote CEOs on the show.

So, Andrew, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Andrew Bartlow 13:48

Oh, wow. So the acronym CEO stands for chief executive officer. And I won't do anything cute with trying to replace those words. But I think right at the center of that is executive. And that doesn't mean big business title in a fancy office with a big paycheck.

That means execute. So a CEO ensures that execution happens. So being a CEO means you get sh*t done. Hopefully, we don't have to, worry about my bad language on yeah. So, what does the CEO mean to me? It means making sure that sh*t gets done.

Gresham Harkless 14:32

Nice. I love that. They get sh*t done because I think so many times we can get lost in the sauce, so to speak, and think about all the things that need to be done and getting the business done.

Andrew, truly appreciate that definition. Of course, I appreciate your time even more.

So what I wanted to do now is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional that you can let our readers and listeners know. And of course, how best people can get ahold of you, get a copy of your book, find out about all the awesome things that you're working on.

Andrew Bartlow 14:57

Thank you so much and really appreciate the conversation. I put out way too much content on LinkedIn. Look me up follow me on LinkedIn. Andrew Bartlow. My book is Scaling for Success. My coauthor Professor Brad Harris is the Dean of the MBA program at HEC Paris, the best business school in Europe. So he knows what he's talking about, he's the academic wing of that work. So check out the book, Scaling for Success. And then if you're a people professional, or if you know an HR professional that might benefit from some support and some learning, a peer community of how to be more effective, how to be more strategic check out People Leader Accelerator.

And then I guess the last, I work on a lot of different stuff. Like we've talked about this, this portfolio. I have a B2B SaaS product coming out in the performance management space. We're still in stealth. I'm working with beta users right now. But at some point in the not-so-distant future On Track Performance, hopefully you'll hear about it.

And we'll help organizations get more aligned, be more clear about who's working on what. And I think that just ties into our discussion as well.

Gresham Harkless 16:07

Yeah, absolutely. Of course, we're gonna have the links and information and the show notes as well, too, so that everybody can follow up with you to make it even easier. So thank you so much, my friend, and I hope you have a phenomenal rest of the day.

Andrew Bartlow 16:17

Thanks a lot.

Outro 16:18

Thank you for listening to the I Am CEO podcast powered by CB Nation and Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at iamceo.co. I Am CEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and everywhere you listen to podcasts.

Subscribe and leave us a five-star rating. This has been the I Am CEO Podcast with Gresham Harkless Jr. Thank you for listening.


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