By: Kymberly Amara
If you’ve ever wondered how to break out of middle management or have aspired to climb the corporate ladder, shatter those glass ceilings, and ascend to the c-suite, you’ve probably spent a huge chunk of time and energy trying to figure out just how to go about things. Like many things, nothing comes with a rule book, but that’s not to say there aren’t those who are sent to guide those of us looking to enter the C-suite. Thankfully, podcast duo Keith Powell (aka KP) and Ricky Robinson (aka PR) have stepped up to fill these shoes. With 20+ years of experience derived from their respective backgrounds, Keith who has served as CFO and pulls from an extensive financial background partnered with Ricky, the HR guru to create something monumental.
We recently sat down with the gentleman to discuss their groundbreaking podcast, C-CRETS, a platform where the two men share their experiences climbing the corporate ladder, offer career advice, and bring on subject matter experts from all facets of corporate America to offer tips and other relevant information to help job seekers reach their goals, get to the bag, and thrive.
On Spilling The Tea…
PR: “We don’t make the rules. We just figure it out, and we spill all of the tea. When we say “C-CRETS,” we’re really telling the C-suite secrets; we’re telling you how to do this stuff. At this stage in the game, they’re [employers] not really interested in what you know; they’re probably more interested in knowing how you know what you know.”
The guys also point out that a lot of times, employers want job seekers to check off certain boxes but often overlook certain unmet criteria when the potential candidate “looks like them” or someone they may be familiar with. They also emphasize the importance of sponsorship and who is advocating and talking about you in rooms that you haven’t entered yet.
Navigating Corporate America…
KP: “Two things that worked for me and gave me the opportunity to experience different industries and do different things. One, I found ways to align my passions with what the company was passionate about, and I say that in terms of I’m passionate about teaching people, continuous improvement, and community service. I tried to find ways within my finance function to bring those passions to light, but those were also things that the company cared about…The second thing was about my EDP, my employee development plan. I made my boss accountable; I tracked all of that stuff. I had my book of receipts to make sure that I wasn’t having any surprise mid-year and end of the year performance conversations because every couple of weeks, we’re checking in to make sure that things are going right.”
Keith also emphasizes understanding “what needs to be true” in terms of the things that need to happen if you have your sites set becoming the General Manager or Director of a department. You can build your development plan around this and thereby build your receipts to hold your managers accountable.
PR: “I didn’t learn a lot of that stuff until I was mid-way through my career. I had probably stayed in a couple of positions too long. I thought I was doing the right thing and I was presenting the right way, but I wasn’t. When we talk about that employee development plan, it’s part of your marketing collateral but also being able to have your resume type and work on your brand [is important]. Until you learn your personal branding and also figure out what your marketability and value are, that is where it starts to change the game for [people].”
How C-CRETS Began…
After figuring out how to utilize their background and experience at scale, Keith and Ricky settled on a podcast format to make the largest impact.
KP: “We mentor a ton of people, and when we get together, we have a good time because again, how often do you get the chance to be around another executive and to be authentic and to be honest. One of the people that we were mentoring one time said, “you guys need to be recording this,” and we thought no one would listen, but we started writing down things that have been taboo for us, like asking for extra money, what is my value proposition, and lo and behold we go from thinking we really won’t have a lot of people listen to it to having over 20,000 followers.”
PR: “The thing that made this a little easier for Keith is the stars aligned. We were already planning this well in advance of George Floyd, and once all of that happened, I think people had to take a step back and say we’ve been suppressing the truth…In just about a year and a half, we’ve been able to get people who have gone through our executive coaching that have asked us for help more than $2 million. We were already doing C-CRETS before the Great Resignation and before COVID, and the thing about it is the receipts are what they are. We know that there aren’t a lot of us in the boardroom, whether it be females, BIPOC, or Black [people], there’s not a lot of us, and people are upset, and they want to be able to get to the next level, and they want to know what they need to do. I think the way the stars aligned and you had all of the different movements happening at the same time gave people the courage to speak up. Then you have the shutdown and COVID, and now people are like they don’t have to go into the office and be micro-aggressively discriminated against and do all of this travel.
Ricky goes on to point out how all it takes is to see others do something before people get empowered and things begin to spread like wildfire. Which is where we find ourselves today. ”
The guys are only four seasons in, but the information and gems they are sharing are invaluable. Each season is about 20 episodes long and is highlighted by a theme they want to focus on.
When it comes to managing the podcast and still maintaining full-time gigs, they have been able to separate family, work, and the podcast. While there have been many sacrifices in scaling C-CRETS, both men have worked things out with their spouses as they’ve maintained focus on building the podcast.
KP: “I moved into a new job probably two months after launching C-CRETS, but I was upfront in my interview process and came into this role kind of with the ability to speak freely. You have to be able to do your primary job, but they [employers] can’t stop you from doing other things either.”
PR: “We have people who help us put our schedules together. We are trying to be available and accessible to everyone the same way as we are with our podcast because it’s a lot of people that need help.
The two are working on expanding service offerings by introducing an academy that will be a culmination of coaching, lessons, and other pertinent information. They are currently working on the best way to bring the academy to market and make it user-friendly by offering an online option. In the meantime, Keith and Ricky are keeping busy doing speaking engagements and panels while maintaining a healthy coaching schedule and have attained global reach.
As proponents of creating opportunities for generational wealth, diversity, equity, and inclusion, C-CRETS is the go-to, especially for women and people of color looking to shatter glass ceilings and break away from middle management. Perhaps the most comforting thing is that when you encounter Keith and Ricky, it’s like pulling up with family to get a reality check. “What Keith and I bring is some of that truth serum to people, and I think it ends up connecting for folks because they feel like they are talking to family.”