After a nearly 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force, retired Brig. Gen. Bruce McClintock was ready for a new opportunity to serve — leading him to start his own business in the private sector, one that offers strategic insight and advice to new companies using the experience he gained from a far-reaching, successful career.
McClintock received a commission from the Air Force Academy in 1987, serving in a variety of roles as a fighter pilot, White House Fellow and astronautical engineer.
His last assignment before retiring in October 2016 was at Peterson Air Force Base, working as a special assistant to the commander at Air Force Space Command.
McClintock decided to stay in the area and established Zenith Advisors Group LLC, a small consulting group that works with startup entrepreneurs and defense national security organizations to help them achieve their goals.
He said the main reason for building his business truly roots back to his overarching desire to serve.
“My entire life has been about service, serving in uniform,” he said. “Over time, I’ve come to realize there are a lot of ways to give back. One pillar of Zenith is to continue to serve the nation through a different vehicle, doing work for the government.”
McClintock is also an adjunct analyst for RAND Corp., a job he took on thanks to his background in the military.
“After having a diverse career in the Air Force, I wanted to build diversity into my business model,” he said.
Zenith focuses on filling the gap between high-cost consulting firms and individual consultants. McClintock said creating a formal business agreement with clients isn’t part of his business model. Most of the work the company has done so far has been pro bono.
“It’s not about the Boeings; it’s the breweries, local businesses just starting out,” he said. “The business isn’t designed to generate revenue off a startup. I’m trying to find the sweet spot between a transactional relationship and charity.”
McClintock said his vision for the business is helping others climb higher, guiding them to new heights in their endeavors — such as helping startups identify strengths, weaknesses and threats during vulnerable, cash-limited phases in their businesses.
“What most startups want is an income stream, but they lack the resources,” he said. “What they also tend to lack is the experience and insight on how to avoid standard pitfalls of any organizational endeavor.”
McClintock said he loves climbing mountains, both literally and figuratively, whether its Colorado 14ers or organizational objectives. Through his journey, he said, he’s gained the greatest satisfaction in helping friends, family or those he’s led in the military reach their summit.
And because the mountain concept deeply resonates with McClintock, he said it led him to the name of his business.
“I get energy and excitement about the idea of setting an objective or lofty goal and planning to achieve it — gathering the resources and undertaking the effort to get there,” he said. “I was trying to think of words similar to ‘peak’ or ‘summit’ and began thinking about space terms and came across ‘zenith.’ According to its dictionary definition it means ‘highest point.”’
In December, Zenith partnered with Pine Creek High School and Peak Social Insights to give students the chance to develop a logo for the business.
“I reached out to the school and asked, ‘Would you be open to students designing a logo for my company?’” he said. “I couldn’t guarantee that I would use any of the student designs but was happy to give them feedback on their work.”
A panel of judges from the local business sector took part in the competition, giving students feedback and a score on their design. About 20 from Pine Creek’s graphic arts class participated and the top three winners received gift certificates for Amazon.
“It wasn’t about buying a design, it was about hopefully motivating high school students and going back to the business’s vision of helping others climb higher.”
McClintock currently works from home and remote locations such as Catalyst Campus, where he said he might rent space at in the future.
“Right now, the business is in its development phase. I’m in discussion with several people to take on as Zenith adjuncts. The model isn’t to be a big company with a lot of full-time employees, rather to keep it small and focus on helping local companies.”
McClintock hopes to build a team he referred to as “Board in a Box,” where on-call advisory boards provide mentorship, feedback to new companies on the path to business development.
“In the early stages, a lot of startups have the enthusiasm and passion but don’t necessarily know how to vector that. They need people to help set boundaries and sometimes looks like a board of directors,” he said.
And the design of the business gives McClintock the flexibility to serve the things that he thinks are most important, he said.
“It also allows me to serve in a way — that to some extent — is free from many of the encumbrances of the government model,” he said adding, “That’s the beauty of the private path.”