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Corey Briscoe of ABCD & Company: “You can shape your future”

You’re still learning who you are and it impacts how you interact with others. The greatest challenge of leading others is first leading yourself. Imagine trying to negotiate contracts with a guy across the table who has been in business for 30 years. Your vantage point is very different. You’re banking on your guts and passion […]

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You’re still learning who you are and it impacts how you interact with others.

The greatest challenge of leading others is first leading yourself. Imagine trying to negotiate contracts with a guy across the table who has been in business for 30 years. Your vantage point is very different. You’re banking on your guts and passion to seal the deal, not your impressive industry knowledge. It’s when you are unaware of this fact that you set yourself up for failure. I remember being in a pitch and the client basically calling me out when I said “I have great experience doing this.” While I got the business, he was trying to help me be successful in other endeavors. I have learned that honesty about where you and what you can do is valued and rewarded.


As a part of our series called “My Life as a TwentySomething Founder”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Corey Briscoe, Managing Partner & Chief Operating Officer, ABCD & Company, where he oversees daily operations and human capital strategy. Known as “the company culture guy,” Briscoe specializes in molding leaders and uniting people around common goals. His ability to drive strategic agendas has privileged him to work with leaders across various sectors. A masterful orator and strategist, Briscoe has served as an advisor to legislators, university presidents, and corporate executives.

Briscoe’s expertise in building strategic communication campaigns has served many associations, nonprofits, and institutions of higher education with a significant multicultural presence and target audience. His work in this field includes engagements with organizations such as The Apollo Theater, New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Coppin State University, University of the District of Columbia, and Hampton University. He has been the feature of numerous media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, and ABC. He has also been named a “BE Modern Man” by Black Enterprise. The BE Modern Man award celebrates 100 influential men of color “who have done or are doing exceptional work within their communities, within their respective industries and/or globally.”

Briscoe is an alumnus of Howard University, where he served on the Board of Trustees. Additionally, he sits on the D.C. Advisory Council of St. Jude Children’s Hospital. Briscoe holds a B.A. in Political Science, a B.A. in English, and a M.S. in Management. A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Briscoe now resides in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I went to Howard University and imagined that I would end up in politics or run some large fortune 500 company. I never imagined being an entrepreneur. That changed in undergrad, at Howard University, where I met three of my future best friends and colleagues. After realizing that we were fantastic at collaborating, the four of us (Amber, Brittanye, Corey, and Durecia) graduated and started ABCD & Company. We originally started as a management consulting firm, but later honed in on our love of engaging stakeholders through marketing and events.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company? What lessons or takeaways did you take out of that story?

Imagine arriving at a presentation and realizing you don’t have shoes — I wish I was making this up. At home, I don’t wear shoes in my house. When it’s time to leave, I grab my shoes and put them on, right before entering the car. Honesty moment. When I am rushing, I throw the shoes in the car and hastily drive to my meeting. Well I was headed to a large presentation, arrived with 5 minutes to spare, went to put on my shoes and realized I didn’t have them. This is where having great team members and an office in a metropolitan area proves the right decision. As I sat in the car, 2 colleagues stalled, and another ran to Nordstrom Rack to buy me shoes. Who cares that they were 2 sizes too small? With pant legs covering my heels and carefully positioning my feet under the table, I shined and we won the contract. Teamwork wins again.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Besides our quirky name, it’s the experience we give our clients. When you have an ABCD experience, you stay with ABCD. I remember doing a rebrand for a large municipality and in a presentation to the CEO, he had what we call the “eureka moment.” That’s when our client realized that our name, ABCD, is named after the four partners. This culminating presentation became a discussion about the brand genius behind our naming nomenclature. It’s those personal stories and moments that bridge connections beyond the work or better yet, make the work real to our clients that makes ABCD stand out. Every time we saw the CEO after that presentation, he would make a joke about the company name, sharing his newfound epiphany with as many colleagues as he could.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Many people attribute success to mentors and colleagues. I agree with that; there are so many people that are relevant to my success story. But I think the core of my success comes from my foundation — my parents. My parents, who divorced when I was young are good ole blue collar workers, first generation college, champions of Corey. I often reflect on the decisions they made and how it was so important for them to see me succeed. When I was a young child, I remember the sacrifices of private schooling that my mom pushed. I recount the countless leadership lessons that my Dad instilled in me while dropping me off in the carpool line. He would say, “Corey, be the best that you can be.” Clarence and Joyce have been team Corey since day one and I owe my success to their sacrifices and unconditional love.

Are you working on any exciting projects now?

Client projects that do good are the most exciting things for me. Our long-term client the Association for Enterprise Opportunity (AEO), has been a champion of underserved small businesses for almost three decades. When COVID arrived, Main Street small businesses who already had challenges getting money, got hit even harder. The CEO created large corporate partnerships to help get access to capital directly to small business owners. As a small business owner myself, being a part of the team that awarded over 30 million dollars directly to small business owners and facilitated over 100 million dollars in these trying times is fulfilling. Leading a team whose sole purpose was to build an engagement strategy to give away money to deserving minority-owned small businesses is a dream job.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have always believed that the greater purpose of professional wins was to make big impact in the community. ABCD was established with that philosophy in mind. I serve on several boards, but my greatest philanthropic passion right now is St. Jude Children’s Hospital. From serving in leadership positions for inaugural events, I have tried to use ABCD’s brand capital to bring greater awareness to this amazing organization that supports children and families across the country — without ever sending them a bill for service. I serve on the DC’s advisory council and I am committed to doubling down this year in a greater capacity — driving donor engagement to the African American community.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

I love leadership books. I strive every day to be a better and stronger leader. I have read many leadership books and self-help books, but find that Sun Tzu’s Art of War (dating somewhere around 5th century BC) still has the greatest impact and influence on my leadership. I remember being a young entrepreneur and bootstrapping our company. I was a very green COO and trying to make decisions of what should be paid and the political implication of each decision. Do I pay staff? Office rent? Contractors? Call it quits? My emotions were getting the best of me, and I could have easily made a decision that could alter the course of the company. However, it was that guiding principle from The Art of War to make an informed decision and not a gut decision, that forced me to sit and evaluate every variable. We made some tough calls, were late paying some bills, had transparent conversations, and doubled the company revenue the following year.

Can you share 5 of the most difficult and most rewarding parts of being a “TwentySomething founder”. Please share an example or story for each

  1. Trying to convince family that you shouldn’t go get a “real job.”

This is the first obstacle of seeing whether or not you are truly going to be successful. People don’t understand how important good headspace is on this journey. My parents were intrinsically supportive of my entrepreneur journey. However, I hid a lot of my challenges from my parents for fear of their response. The reality is that I was so scared that they would say “give it up” that I tried to paint a rosier picture at every interaction — even when I had no money and some days didn’t know how I would even get to work.

2. You can shape your future.

I think this is the most rewarding part of being a “twentysomething” founder. As people advance in a career, at some point they most likely will struggle with a crisis of identity and purpose, wondering “what if?” If you were a “twentysomething” founder you have already been there, done that, and got the bumper stickers. I remember worrying if or when the company would crash and burn. In my gut, I knew we would be fine, but I was so worried about the future. While other professionals my age were building savings and 401ks, all my money was in my company. However, I realized quickly that I had something they didn’t have. I had autonomy to make decisions. In theory, I could determine how fast or slow I went. I wasn’t waiting for someone to give me a promotion or allow me to work on a project. I was doing what I wanted to do every day.

3. You’re still learning who you are and it impacts how you interact with others.

The greatest challenge of leading others is first leading yourself. Imagine trying to negotiate contracts with a guy across the table who has been in business for 30 years. Your vantage point is very different. You’re banking on your guts and passion to seal the deal, not your impressive industry knowledge. It’s when you are unaware of this fact that you set yourself up for failure. I remember being in a pitch and the client basically calling me out when I said “I have great experience doing this.” While I got the business, he was trying to help me be successful in other endeavors. I have learned that honesty about where you and what you can do is valued and rewarded.

4. Ageism is real.

Despite research that suggests that diversity in age promotes great performance and a stronger outcome, there are people who will automatically write you off because of your youth. It’s not getting the callback on a proposal because they saw pictures of you and your team. This is a fact of life and you have to come to terms with it, but not allow it to cripple you. I have chosen to allow my success to speak for me and I think it pays in the long-term.

5. Trusting non-founders to carry out your vision.

One of the most complex challenges a young founder will realize is trusting others with your vision. This two-sided dragon is at play when founders can’t let go the reins to others or founders give too much authority too quickly to others. This is one of the greatest lessons a founder needs to learn and they need to learn it quickly. I remember hiring a non-founder and assuming that they were going to give just as much to the company as I was giving. These false narratives ruin relationships and can cause long-term challenges. And, unfortunately, there is no one equation to solving this problem. For example, I work with my best friends, but that doesn’t mean you should. It’s objectively evaluating the good, the bad, and the ugly that will save you down the road.

What are the main takeaways that you would advise a twenty-year-old who is looking to found a business?

Be gracious on yourself. You don’t know what you don’t know. I didn’t even know how to correctly file taxes, and yet here I was starting a company. When I started my company, I was so scared of letting people see me struggle or see me in the “start-up” phase. It was my biggest mistake. You only get a certain amount of time to be the new guy on the block and be “green.” I would argue that’s when you should be the most vulnerable. That’s when you seek advice and ask for favors. You don’t have to know everything, you just have to be thoughtful about finding the information that you don’t know.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would choose Tyler Perry. I love a great self-made story. The guy went from sleeping in his car, to trying to fill auditoriums with his plays, to producing iconic films, to joining the elite ranks of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg as a billionaire entertainer. It’s his example of grit and tenacity that resounds so boldly with me. Even today, his passion for offering opportunities to others is exactly why I am passionate about entrepreneurship. I would love to sit down with him and understand what fuels him, how he deals with crushing blows, and how he stays out of his own way.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Twitter and Instagram @ccbglobal. My company is @abcdandcompany

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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