It is our hope that our readers will learn that regardless of their past or present circumstances, regardless of their position in life, that each of them is an important individual and each has the opportunity to better themselves to be a positive influence on the larger Individuals they are a part of (whether that be family, friends, work, etc.). It is not your past experiences that define you, but who you are and how you present yourself in the now that defines you. We want to empower our readers to understand that it is their influence and their life that is their single largest responsibility, and we want to empower them to use their influence on others in a positive manner. They are all the “I” in team.
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Brian Smith. Brian leads an organization of professional business consultants that aspire to provide objective solutions to their clients on a daily basis. He is also the author of The I in Team Series; the first book (Individual Advantages: Find the I in Team) was released in October 2018. The next two books (Be the I in Team and Build the I in Team) will be released in 2019 and 2020. Brian’s passion is helping small business owners, company executives, managers and employees personally reach all of their company and individual goals through one-on-one and collaborative consulting. Building viable teams so that they can succeed on their own is his goal.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share a story about what brought you to this particular career path?
In 1995, I sold my first company: Business Accounting Solutions (BAS). I was offered a position with the company that purchased BAS, which led to me working for a large NASDAQ traded oil exploration company. My one objective with this company was: design and implement a world-wide ERP system. During my employment, the company was purchasing small oil exploration companies around the world; it was during this time that I began to see the deficiencies and disfunction that technology was inflicting upon humans — which I later termed in my dissertation: Technology Induced Attention Deficit Disorder.
When I started writing about the effects of technology on humans, I found that my perspective of the term “individual” had changed; this is when my current company, Individual Advantages, was born. Each time our large oil exploration company bought a smaller oil exploration company, I watched as we integrated the employees into the larger systems. The companies being purchased lost their culture, and as a result of this the individual employees lost their identity. It was this repetitive action that led to my epiphany, which is now the foundation of our company. People, process and technology encompass almost every business model, and it is the work that my team has been doing for the past 22 years which led us to write Individual Advantages: Find the “I” in Team, part one of The I in Team Series.
Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?
This is really a tough question. However, one that comes to mind is from a trip to Prudhoe Bay, Alaska where I was working on implementing a new piece of software for an oil exploration boat that used seismic to locate the oil. It was the late 1990s and I had faster access to data, which was really an advantage; the use of wide spread WiFi and other advanced connectivity was still a long way off.
We developed a piece of software that linked the boat to the data processing center, allowing for near real-time access to the boat’s position and the data from actual seismic work. I was flying in from Denver to deliver a laptop that contained the program that would allow connectivity to the boat data systems and to the Anchorage/Denver based data centers.
I arrived on a plane from Anchorage and was met by a helicopter. The helicopter had the doors open on the side for its short flight to the boat. When I got into the seat, I strapped myself in and my suitcase was secured in a basket to the side; I kept my laptop bag in my lap as it had the system with our software on it. The laptop I used at the time was a Panasonic Toughbook. This was because I was traveling all over the world to areas very remote (where most oil exploration occurred) and equipment needed to be able to take some abuse.
As we took off, we were hit with what I would call a very strong gust of wind. The helicopter tilted to the side I was sitting on and instinctively I grabbed the handle on the door frame, allowing my laptop bag to fall almost three-hundred feet to the ground.
After landing and being riddled with anxiety, we secured the laptop bag in a better place and flew to the boat. We arrived on the boat during a safety drill (apparently, they had these often). There was a man standing against the railing in a safety suit, and the men in the helicopter with me informed me that it was called a gumby suit. As I walked up to listen to the safety drill, the guy in the gumby suit jumped into the Arctic Ocean; specifically, the Beaufort Sea.
I can’t think of a better term to describe what happened next because all hell broke loose as people scrambled to get the man out of the freezing water. Needless to say, by this point, my nerves were on edge; I had a million-dollar piece of software that had a significant impact on this ship. This particular ship cost a hundred thousand dollars a day just to operate properly and it drove a quarter million dollars a day in potential revenue. Since the computer had just plummeted to the ground, I had no idea if it would work. Then, some guy just leaped off the boat into water that couldn’t have been more than thirty-two degrees.
Well, our moment of truth had arrived. We went down into the ship and I pulled the equipment out of its bag. The screen was completely shattered, but other than that the system seemed okay. We hooked it up to a docking-type connection and fired it up. It worked.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
This one is easy. In the early days of Individual Advantages, LLC., I was much more involved in the direct sales efforts we had with clients. This meant that I multi-tasked and I went through the motions of life very quickly. Having developed a routine for my mornings, I often found myself not really paying attention to what I was doing to prepare for the day. Primarily because I was thinking ahead to what was going to happen that day or the next.
One day, we had a very high-profile presentation for which I was leading the discussion. As I practiced my presentation in my mind, I went through the motions of getting ready. It was a nice day, so I decided to drive my convertible sports car, however, it was parked in front of another car in our tandem garage. As I continued to focus on my presentation, I hopped into the car blocking the convertible, pulled it outside, then hopped into my sports car, put the top down, and parked it out front. I put the other car back into the garage and went inside to say my goodbyes.
As I was leaving, my mind was still focused on the presentation; everything was great as I was ahead of schedule and, since my mornings are routine, I was feeling very confident. As I traveled down the highway into Denver, the traffic began to build which required me to focus my mind from the presentation to the traffic. That’s when I felt more of a breeze than I was used to; I had forgotten my pants.
I managed to get ready that morning with a suit jacket, socks, and tied shoes on but no pants. I performed my entire morning routine, including moving cars around, without pants. The lesson I learned that day was that I was going too fast and needed to slow down. Slowing down is such a powerful lesson that it is the largest chapter in our book and the one piece of advice I give to people — literally — every single day.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
At the risk of sounding cliché, all of them; when working with humans, every single project is interesting. However, there are some very unique ones that stand out. One of the clients we have now is in an industry that stereotypically is identified as menial: restaurant kitchen exhaust cleaning. This is one of those industries that consumers may not even know exists; it’s basically taken for granted. However, in the US there are over 5,000 restaurant fires a year and the primary reason is grease buildup and the primary preventative method is cleaning.
The industry is fairly unregulated in the United States and the rest of the world. The project is designed to improve the culture within the companies performing this cleaning service. The derogatory way in which restaurant owners, managers, and employees refer to these professionals is one of the primary reasons that the industry still struggles to perform at its best. Our goal is to elevate the understanding of what this life-critical business does for our client’s market.
Another project we have underway is the introduction of a new surface coating product for the United States market that can purify the air through a process called photocatalysis. Our client, Activa North America, has partnered with Activa Coatings to bring this smart-coating product to the US.
Finally, we continue to develop The I in Team Series which will be a more personal leadership and mentorship program, including two more books and a lecture and education series designed to build on what our definition of individual is: “It is our philosophy that the word individual has a dual meaning: one person/many persons, one action/many actions, one word/many words. One is an individual; collectively, they are Individual. (Characterized by a lowercase and capitalized “I.”) For example, a group of individuals create one Individual family; a group of individuals create one Individual country; a group of individuals create one Individual world.”
Can you share the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
I believe the most interesting, and perhaps the most appealing, part of our book is centered around the fact that I was born into a lower-middle-class family, to young, uneducated parents. Growing up in a home that was unstructured and fragmented led to me making some truly horrible choices with my life. It’s interesting because even through the chaos and having a broken internal foundation, I was able to bounce back and live an American dream, where I now own over forty viable companies, I married my life partner of over twenty-eight years and raised three amazing children who are all focused on making this world a better place. My first daughter is a surgical nurse working at a very prestigious children’s hospital, my second daughter has helped me immensely with getting my philosophies to print so that others may benefit, and my son has joined the Navy in a full-ride ROTC scholarship at the University of New Mexico.
What is the main empowering lesson you want your readers to take away after finishing your book?
It is our hope that our readers will learn that regardless of their past or present circumstances, regardless of their position in life, that each of them is an important individual and each has the opportunity to better themselves to be a positive influence on the larger Individuals they are a part of (whether that be family, friends, work, etc.). It is not your past experiences that define you, but who you are and how you present yourself in the now that defines you. We want to empower our readers to understand that it is their influence and their life that is their single largest responsibility, and we want to empower them to use their influence on others in a positive manner. They are all the “I” in the team.
Which people in history inspire you the most? Why?
Wow. Abraham Lincoln comes to mind. I think he understood what it meant to be individual, alone and collectively. Winston Churchill also comes to mind. His ability to influence the houses of government collectively (and then a nation) to come together as an Individual to stand up to the tyranny of Hitler not only inspired his own nation but inspired other nations to follow in suit.
Which literature do you draw inspiration from? Why?
Fiction. I love books that dive into the, “What if?” Concepts can be safely explored through fiction and it serves as a place where you can think, “What if I applied that concept to this area of my life? What influence would this concept have in the areas where I make a difference?”
How do you think your writing makes an impact in the world?
I think that my writing may inspire people to slow down and live more presently — that is, they will begin to take notice of their present moment more often. Once this begins to happen, people will focus on the impact they have around them and the influence they are wielding. When people understand that being the best for themselves will enable them to be the best for those they influence (in a positive, non-egotistical way), there will be a dramatic increase in the change individuals and Individuals have on our future.
What advice would you give to someone considering becoming an author like you?
Write. Don’t focus on a specific topic at first; just write what comes to mind. Once you turn the art of writing into a regular habit, you can review your past writing and begin to formulate what it is you may want to share with others as an author; that may be fact or fiction and it does not matter. There is a certain amount of personal healing that happens when you read your own thoughts days, weeks, or even months after you put them to paper.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
That Individualism is not singular to a person alone; that it isn’t even really an American ideal. Individualism is bigger and more powerful than that and can include selfishness and selflessness all at the same time. It requires honesty and a little objectivity. There is not one single person on Earth who can say they are where they are, or they are who they are, solely due to their own effort. We must recognize those who have helped us on our path, whether their influence on us was positive or negative. Experiences change us, and we are each living a unique experience every day.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
1) Emotions are great but should never enter the workplace. (I once ripped up a check for $3,500 out of pure, emotional reaction.)
2) I may become great at what I do, but I owe that greatness to someone else as much as I do to myself. (I recognize that I alone did not get myself to where I am today, but I also do not discredit myself.)
3) A receptionist is one of the most important people in an organization. (I have never been good at administrative work and find myself valuing my receptionist more and more for doing the work that I cannot do; this point is often expressed as the “the world needs ditch diggers, but you cannot have a foundation without a ditch!”)
4) Making a lot of money does not mean people will respect you or like you. (People will like and respect you for your character; money should not influence who you are as an individual.)
5) When people challenge you, slow down and listen to the challenge, not your insecurities. (Ego can get in the way of learning. When others challenge you, do not view it as them challenging who you are. View it as a learning opportunity and see what you can gain from the experience. Do not allow your ego to inhibit your learning capabilities; there is always something to learn from others.)
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, especially if we tag them. 🙂
Tim Ferris — I think that his understanding of the world is parallel to my own, but he has a much deeper understanding of how the perceived leaders see it. I wonder how someone like Mr. Ferris, someone with immense positive influence, could affect positive change in association with my definition of Individualism.
Bradley Cooper — I am amazed at his ability to take on roles that span the emotional spectrum and often times parallel to our definition of individualism. I find his work enjoyable and I have to believe that his ability to be so successful at what he does, stay out of the public eye as he does on a personal side, means that he has a lot of good insight to offer someone like me working to make life better for others.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
We have a few social media accounts that I will list below:
The I in Team Series:
IA Business Advisors (DBA of Individual Advantages):
Thank you so much for this. This was very inspiring!
— Published on January 18, 2019 at medium.com