Today, we have Brandon White on the podcast. He’s a full-time MBA, class of 2018. Brandon was assigned to the second infantry division in South Korea and served as a platoon leader and communications officer. He has also served the 11th signal brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, including two deployments to Afghanistan as an Executive Officer, Logistics Officer, and Company Commander.
Brandon talks about his time in the army and all the leadership positions he had when he was there, what led him to Haas, and the impact of all the current global issues on his family and how they deal with it.
He also talks about the core values he shares with his children and how the pandemic didn’t stop him from venturing into entrepreneurship. Lastly, he shares some parting words to the Haas community on fighting racism and other -isms and leaving this world a better place.
“You’re not going to love everyone you meet. You’re not going to love everyone you work with. Obviously, there are going to be challenges, but generally, this is an environment where people want to see what your limit is, what’s the sky for you, and try to support you in getting there with wherever you struggle.”
“I like to try to help people see a different perspective or think about their lives in the future. When I feel like I can provide insights, I can always try. I like to think about it, and I think it’s challenging.”
“Everything is founded on honesty and truth. If you want to be someone that provides value, is respected, is looked up to, is thought of in a positive light, it starts with honesty and truth.”
“Whatever you do, you have to sow a good seed to reap the harvest. And if you’re not willing to do that, then don’t expect it.”
“If you’re at Haas or you’re associated with Haas, you have lots of privileges that others do not. And I feel like if we don’t continue to try to use that privilege for good, to fight racism, to fight – there’s a million -isms I could throw out there – find the -ism that you’re passionate about and do use your privilege to fight that, to leave this world a better place.”
(Transcripts may contain a few typographical errors due to audio quality during the podcast recording.)
Sean: Welcome to the OneHaas alumni podcast. I’m your host, Sean Li. And today we’re joined by Brandon White FTMBA. Class of 2018. Brandon was assigned to the second infantry division in South Korea. He served as a platoon leader and communications officer.
[00:00:25] He has also served the 11th signal brigade at Fort Hood, Texas, including two deployments to Afghanistan as an Executive Officer, Logistics Officer, and Company Commander. Brandon is passionate about educating veterans on the power of graduate and postgraduate studies. Moreover, aiding veterans in the transition process from service to school.
[00:00:46] And this is obviously, in honor and celebration of veterans month. So, welcome to the podcast, Brandon.
[00:00:54] Brandon: Indeed. Thank you very much for having me.
[00:00:56] Sean: Brandon, start us off from the beginning. I’d love to hear where you’re from, where you grew up.
[00:01:02] Brandon: Yeah, absolutely. So, I was actually born in Ohio in a small steel town, Youngstown. Moved a bit in my youth and lived in North Carolina for a few years and then also finally settled in Texas, in the Dallas Fort Worth area. So, I consider that home now. That’s where I lived for a time before going to West Point, up in New York. Spent four years there and then joined the army.
[00:01:23] And I had a great time in the army. It was a really transformational experience for me, something that I will never fully appreciate. But I always knew that there was something else that I had an itch for it.
[00:01:37] I didn’t know what that itch was but I knew that there was something else. I thought that I would take a chance to pursue whatever that itch was to figure it out. And that’s what led me to business school and led me ultimately to Haas.
[00:01:49] Sean: Well, I had to ask, do you have any ties to the army or the armed services?
[00:01:54] Brandon: Direct tie. So, my grandfather on my mom’s side was in the army. He passed away when I was pretty young. So, I didn’t get to know him very well. I have a picture of him in uniform with my grandmother that I do keep. But that’s really my only big connection. I do have an uncle who was in the reserves for a long time. So, it was definitely a big foreign decision for me.
[00:02:16] Sean: I mean, what inspired you to go to West Point?
[00:02:18] Brandon: So, I mean, there’s a couple of different things. So, one, I had no idea what it was at first. I had a friend I played football in high school and ultimately in college, that was a couple of years ahead of me. He went to West Point. He hated it. He quit and came back, but that was my introduction to it.
[00:02:35] I watched him on TV play the army navy game, which is, you know, our big game at the end of the year. That is always nationally broadcast. So, I got a taste for it there. And then one of the coaches came to recruit another kid on our team. And he talked to, I think, four or five of us there, and hyping up West point and the army and this and that.
[00:02:54] And he talked to my parents, and I was like, this is the best option. I’ve heard, like I got out of these, check it out. So, me and my dad went on a trip up there to West Point. It was cold and snowy, which I’m not a fan of. I much prefer the South, which is why I live in Houston now.
[00:03:10] But it was too good of an opportunity pass up. It’s all in the prestige of the school. It’s free education. It’s the opportunity to play at the next level, which I was not sure that I would ever get, on top of being part of an organization that was bigger than me in that organization be in the military and the army.
[00:03:31] I wasn’t completely sure about it going in as a young 18-year-old, but the ideal was very much appealing to me in the back of my mind. So that’s kinda what led me there.
[00:03:41] Sean: What did you study there?
[00:03:42] Brandon: So, I was a management major, so that’s our version of business. Again, going back to having that itch and always knowing that the army is probably not my long-term goal. Like, let me be involved in this great organization and get everything that I can out of it and also put everything I can into it.
[00:03:59] And then just see what happens next. So that was my mindset. I was like, let me pick something where I feel like I can gain some skills that might help me beyond the army was my thought process back then.
[00:04:11] Sean: Can you talk a little about all the roles that you had in the US army? I mean, some of these titles are just so obscure to me as a civilian, like the battalion logistics officer or company executive officer and platoon leader, these sound like all leadership management roles.
[00:04:31] Brandon: Yeah, they are. They’re all leadership and management roles. The difference between most of them is, a few are very operational in nature and others are more administrative. Good examples of operational are a platoon leader. And that was my first main role when I went to Korea, responsible for 15 to 20 people depending on the time.
[00:04:51] And making sure that when we’re given a mission that we’re able, we’re trained, we’re ready. Our equipment is good and we’re able to execute that mission when called upon. So, you are the general manager of that unit in that group of people, which is a crazy responsibility to give to a 22-year-old at the time.
[00:05:10] And Korea is, you know, a lot lower stakes, but I had classmates that went straight to Afghanistan and straight to Iraq, most of them. And they were leading troops, many of them like 40 soldiers at once in an austere environment. But that’s what West point is for, it’s a leadership academy. And there’s one example of an operational role. The other best example that I had, and probably the best experience that I had, was as a company commander. For many people, especially if you don’t do 20 years, that’s the culminating experience of your time in the army.
[00:05:40] And actually this Guidon Plaque behind me is from my time as a company commander in Afghanistan and so very similar to a platoon leader but bigger, more responsibility. So, if you think about being a general manager as a platoon leader, you’d be like, whatever the next level is, district manager or division manager of an organization.
[00:06:02] So at that point, I was responsible for about a hundred to 115 people. When we went to Afghanistan, we took 75 of them with us. And your scope is a bit broader because you have more experience, you actually are responsible for some of the judicial side of the army, in terms of things happen, you have to, for lack of a better term, discipline. I was going to say punish but that sounded cruel. Discipline, good order, and discipline are crucial to what we do and in order to be successful. So, there are times where that happens, right. The platoon leader doesn’t have that authority to do it. It’s the company commander that does, and above. So that’s how those roles play out from an operational perspective.
[00:06:49] The battalion logistics officer is more of an administrative role. So as a logistics officer, I was responsible for all the logistics in our battalion. So, our battalion was 400 plus folks. We had everything from Humvees to maintenance trucks and I was a communicator in the communications branch we call signal.
[00:07:12] So we’re responsible for everything as simple as water and food for a mission to networking equipment, switches, and routers to the tactical radios that we use. We were responsible to ensure that all that equipment that needed to be there was there.
[00:07:29] So we helped the company commanders ensure that their equipment was maintained, ready to go, made sure that they had enough water, make sure that there was a fuel point if we needed to have a fuel point, all that back-end logistics stuff to ensure that a mission could be successful is what a logistics officer does.
[00:07:50] Sean: That’s amazing. So, I guess, what led you to business school? You had a management degree, you had all this experience leading teams. Why the MBA?
[00:08:00] Brandon: Yeah. For me, I did have a solid foundation in terms of my background but all I had done since I graduated was the army. And the army provides you with a ton of skills that are relevant to what the world does, no matter what you want to do.
[00:08:13] Which is why a lot of companies have realized that veterans should be sought after not only because they provided a service to this nation but because they have real skills that are valuable to companies, right? You cannot buy the leadership experience that you get in the army or any service.
[00:08:31] There are very few other opportunities that I know of in this world where you will be given 40 people, men and women, that you are responsible for to take them to the most austere environment you can think of and do whatever it is you’re supposed to do.
[00:08:44] Brandon: I knew that what I had was valuable but I also knew that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. And what I don’t know is different industries, different functions, how the business world works. And I had a lot of friends to include Kenny that I talked a lot about my next steps and what made the most sense.
[00:09:01] And especially since the government does provide a lot of great things and the GI bill is one of them. To me, it was a no brainer to not pass up this opportunity.
[00:09:10] So I always thought it was a great place to obviously meet amazing people, build my business foundation. And then really, I needed another two years to figure out what I wanted to do. My hypothesis was always consulting made the most sense to me because there was nothing I was super passionate about but I liked the idea of working with a team, being pretty rapid pace, but also being exposed to many different things. So, I dove into consulting and that held true to me. And that’s still true to me today and that’s why I enjoy it and continue to do it.
[00:09:42] Sean: I guess, what inspired you to look into consulting? I’ve never really heard of consulting until I came to the business school. Funny enough.
[00:09:50] Brandon: Yeah. It’s funny you say that. I really hadn’t either, hadn’t thought twice about it, like consulting is such a broad term. What does it really even mean? Yeah, again. I leaned on my network from West Point and from people I had met at Haas at that point. Kenny had to expose me to a ton of people.
[00:10:05] And I had reached out to people I knew that had gotten out of the army and just trying to pick their brain and see what made the most sense and why they did what they did. And when I listened to everyone, I heard the ins and outs of their experiences and why they did what they did.
[00:10:20] I think consulting stuck out to me is something that I could do probably right immediately and add value, but also continue my education in the business world, to maybe lead me to something else at some point. Or maybe not. So yeah, to me it seemed like the best of both worlds.
[00:10:38] The only thing I really struggled with is I know in consulting, the hours are crazy. You have to travel and all that stuff. But, talking to my wife and other folks, I thought it was something that was worth the sacrifice at least. You can get that foundation really quickly and you can really learn whatever it is you’re focused on or even learn about a broad spectrum of industries. And I think again, that’s an invaluable experience that’s hard to find in other places that are unlike consulting.
[00:11:07] Sean: So, let’s segue that into what you do now. You’re at EY Parthenon. Can you talk a little bit about what you do there in strategy and operations?
[00:11:35] Brandon: Yeah. So, at EY Parthenon, been here for two years. So, I’m in what we now call our transaction strategy and execution Parthenon group. So, we focus on all things, mergers and acquisitions, carve-outs separations, restructuring, bankruptcies, like we do the full suite of services for small to fortune 500 companies.
[00:12:00] Sean: Are there any particular industries that you’ve touched that you’re more passionate about or interested in?
[00:12:08] Brandon: There isn’t an industry that I’ve found myself super interested in yet.
[00:12:13] Brandon: You know, what I tell people and what I have looked for and sought after is people that I enjoy being with. A culture I enjoy being around much like Haas. Haas was purely, I enjoy these people. This is obviously a great school but I love the people that are here and any place Kenny goes is probably a pretty solid place to be because I know him as a person. I’ve known him for a long time. But as I met other people, Haas is just a great atmosphere to grow and learn and just be around people.
[00:12:44]and I looked for similarities in EY Parthenon, where I felt like I want to be challenged but I also want to be supported and I want to have a good time doing it. So, I think I’ve, I have been able to find that and it’s never perfect. You’re not going to love everyone you meet.
[00:12:58] You’re not going to love everyone you work with. There’s obviously going to be challenges, but generally, this is an environment where people want to see what your limit is like, what’s the sky for you, and try to support you in getting there with wherever you struggle.
[00:13:14] Sean: I think while we’re on that topic, I’d just be really curious to hear, I mean, you were in the army all these years and then, at Haas, what were some of your biggest struggles that you had overcome over the years?
[00:13:39] Brandon: I don’t want to call it a struggle but doing it all with a family, I have two kids that are teenagers now, so they’re going through a lot in their lives and they’re learning and they’re growing and they’re hard-headed and all those things that come with being a teenager.
[00:13:57] So, you know, trying to find yourself while also helping your kids do the same thing cause these are very formative years for them. It’s definitely a challenge. So, we’ve gone through a lot of transitions over the last four years, leaving the army, going all the way to California, which was thought of as a crazy idea when it was first presented by me. Getting settled there, then moving back to Texas, my kids have been born and raised here in Texas. So, that’s what they knew.
[00:14:27] Sean: Having these two teenage kids while you’re going to Haas, what was that school experience like?
[00:14:34] Brandon: I thought it was great. There’s always trade-offs with everything. I think it helped me prioritize things, it was tough. I mean, I’ll start by saying my wife is just a rockstar. I’m not saying it’s impossible because I know single parents that make it happen, but I could not have done what I did without her and her support.
[00:14:51] She was in school too. But she held down the Fort. So then if I had to go to a recruiting event or I wanted to go network with, or just spend time with classmates to enjoy the experience, she was the one that had to hold down the Fort. And so, that’s number one, how I got through, there’s no way it would happen otherwise.
[00:15:10] And then, I mean, it’s just the Haas community. My classmates loved my kids, were always down to support. People offered to babysit all the time. My kids were kind of at the age at that point where they didn’t really need babysitting but it was there. Like we had some money on call and something went wrong. Yeah, but having that support network from Haas was very helpful just knowing it was there and whether we used it or not.
[00:15:31] Sean: Did you guys live in Berkeley?
[00:15:32] Brandon: We lived in Albany. So, we lived in the village. They went to Albany schools, which was an interesting experience but it was good overall.
[00:15:39] I’m glad that they went through that experience and came to California with me. I’m hoping that it opened up some perspective for them that they might not realize now, but I think maybe a few years down the road, they will because we went on trips. Like I took them to Nigeria, which is a pretty transformational experience for me.
[00:15:58] I’ve never been to Africa at all. I’ve traveled obviously with the military and some other places just personally, but going to Africa was an awesome experience. And to do that with your family was pretty, I mean, you can’t beat it.
[00:16:12] Sean: So, tell us a little bit more about this Nigeria trip.
[00:16:16] Brandon: So, we went there for a wedding. My classmate Akin a and her spouse Omo invited a bunch of us. I want to say it was maybe like 15 of us to include my family and classmates. Yeah. We went out for the wedding and then obviously to just see and experience the country. So, we had a whole itinerary and lots of good food and fun, and Africans like totally different world than what I’ve known and what I’ve grown up around.
[00:16:41] Sean: You guys go.
[00:16:42] Brandon: We went to Legos. We spent pretty much, we were there for, 10, 11 days. We ventured out to a couple of historic spots outside of the city. But we stayed in the city every night. So yeah, we went to different markets. We went to the beach one day. I was an HSA at Haas and we did a, I can’t even think of the name of it, we did like an info session. We did an info. Yeah. We did an info session out
[00:17:11] Sean: Investor in Nigeria. Wow.
[00:17:13] Brandon: Yeah. So, we had, I don’t remember how many people are, it’s a whole program and they put together. So, the first part of it was us doing like our typical info session that you would see on campus.
[00:17:23] Here’s all the great things. If you have any questions, let us know, which is really awesome. When you think about it, going to another country and having people show up to see and learn about a horse. Obviously, we know lots of international students come to the school but I don’t know that kind of really just speaks to Haas and its global brand.
[00:17:41] And then the second half of it was just kind of like an entrepreneurship panel. So, a bunch of Nigerian entrepreneurs came and they had a moderator that kind of talk through their experience, their struggles, their ups, their down. So, we just got to participate and listen in that, which was a really cool experience. So, I mean, it was just an awesome trip overall. We kind of did a little bit of everything.
[00:18:02] Sean: You mentioned it is a little transformative. Did you say or did anything really stand out to you from your first trip to Africa, I guess?
[00:18:09] Brandon: For me, I think it was more about my family and kind of what they were experiencing. My wife has traveled a lot. She lived in Germany for eight years. I want to say her dad was military for a long time. He retired a few years ago. So, she had traveled a lot. So, it wasn’t transformative for her, but my kids, like they’d been to a few states in the US, obviously Texas, saw California with us moving to Berkeley.
[00:18:33] But definitely nothing out of the country. So, for me, it was transformative and seeing the perspective, because I feel like when I went to Korea on my first real overseas experience, especially from a long-term perspective, I was there for two years, I feel like it opened my eyes to like, what else am I missing in this world?
[00:18:52] I love this place. Why have I not been here before? So, when I thought about my experience as a 22-year-old, and then thinking about my kids who were, they would have been like 14 and 11 at the time, something like that. And what that would do for them and maybe what that might lead them to in the future.
[00:19:11] Just having that perspective that you can be very sheltered and your experiences in life, especially if you grew up in one place and that’s kinda all you know, which is one thing I am very thankful for. Because I didn’t travel the world or anything, but I grew up in a few different States and kind of saw how people lived in differences and the good and the bad, which, you know, kinda built me up to my experience in the army. So, I was just very happy to give that to them at their age. I think that’s really what I mean by transformative.
[00:19:44] Sean: No, that’s really nice. I gotta say, I can’t imagine the first settlement take my son back to Asia. There’ll be a bit, but we’ll see.
[00:20:10] Brandon: Yeah. Traveling with a 10-month old can be very interesting.
[00:20:17] Sean: Yeah. While we’re on the topic of your kids, with all the things that have been happening in our country this year, really curious to hear, what kind of impact that’s had on you and your family?
[00:20:27] Brandon: So, let me start with my kids cause that was the first part of your question, I think. And it’s really hard to get anything out of. At least, my kids, I can speak for them, for sure. We’ve had many conversations about how you need to operate in this world, how some people may perceive you, whether you know it or not in this world
[00:20:48] And things really have come full circle to me as a parent because I remember my parents have any of the exact same conversations with me. And I always thought they were crazy. Like, what are you talking about? No one’s treating me differently. I just wanted to fit in and have fun and just be another kid.
[00:21:04] But they had obviously seen the ugly side of the world. Yeah. For them, like they’re not, they have never shown outwardly that they’re impacted by it and in any way, negative or positive. But I know it does have an impact, right? It does, whether you recognize it now or 10 years down the road like I did, you’ll feel that impact eventually.
[00:21:28] But for us as a family, especially me and my wife and talking about it, there’s a balance. It’s like, how much do you, I want my kids to live a good life. I want my kids to feel like they can do anything they want in this world without fear. But then there’s a reality that’s not necessarily true.
[00:21:48] So, if I do let them go out in this world and something happens and I didn’t share things that they need to look out for or how to operate if they get pulled over or whatever, then I would never, I couldn’t live with that. So, I think for us, ever so often, especially as events happened, George Floyd or Ahmaud Arbery or anyone, after enough of them, we always sit down or try to, and sometimes it’s individually, I’ll talk to my son, as a man or we’ll sit down as a group, and talk together.
[00:22:27] And just have the talk, it’s hard to describe the talk because it can be such a broad, you can talk about so many different things that they need to look out for or be worried about or just historically what has happened to disenfranchised communities. So, yeah, I think when you ask that question, I think just, we look for balance in the two and like me trying to empower you with enough where it’s all in like the mentality that I can do, whatever I set my mind to, and there’s nothing that’s going to limit me. With the reality of, there are people in this world that don’t see it that way, and we’ll try to limit you or limit us as a group for whatever reason they think is valid. So, I think that is my ultimate struggle and will probably always be, honestly.
[00:23:16] Sean: It’s interesting to hear that because I sometimes struggle with wanting to ask that question. It’s like what you mentioned in the beginning, why is the responsibility always on you to push for diversity equity inclusion. Why is it your sole responsibility or and it’s and why? Part of it’s why do we even have to think about these things or bring these things up? And I always say this because I’m an immigrant. I moved here when I was seven from China and my parents never have to warn me about anything and that’s messed up, you know? And that’s crazy. It’s just so unfathomable that you have to have these conversations with your kids. But we gotta fix, we gotta fix this shit.
[00:24:06] Brandon: That’s a great way to put it. Like we just have to, because if we don’t, like at the end of slavery, I don’t think, I dunno, it’s kinda hard to put this in perspective. But let’s just go 40 years ago. No one would think that we’d still be in the place that we are now. I’m assuming my grandparents, and I haven’t had this specific conversation, which maybe I should, would think that we’d still be fighting some of the same fights that they were fighting today.
[00:24:36] And it ebbs and flows and there’s definitely been good things that happened. And there’s been a ton of progress. But there’s definitely still something not quite right, whether people want to acknowledge that or not.
[00:24:48] Sean: Yeah, that’s something that actually, as you’re talking about this, I’m really curious about, because growing up as a kid in Michigan, I grew up in Southeast Michigan. It was upper-middle class, relatively affluent educated people. As an immigrant, I came over and never really dealt with any racism or discrimination, at least in the pocket that I grew up.
[00:25:22] I have to say I was very fortunate, in that sense, but. No, I do see a shift in tone and conversation of society, right? A lot of things that we used to joke about, that’s just it was never appropriate to start with, but it’s definitely not appropriate now. But I wonder how much of that is because I have grown older and so obviously the people around me are more aware and conscious of our biases of even just how society has trained us to, or instilled us to, have this unrecognized anti-blackness, right. Things that we need to recognize. But I guess, sorry, my question is, as an adult, I have a lot of awareness and I’m really curious, you know, in your conversations with your kids, have you seen things shift or change at least amongst their age group, compared to when you grew up, right when you were their age and the stuff that you had to deal with.
[00:26:20] Brandon: I definitely see a shift and I think that’s definitely been proliferated by technology. We didn’t have smartphones in high school. We didn’t. We very much, even though many people would argue and it’s true, still live in bubbles, even on social media and having access to the world, like we truly lived in a bubble in our one small town or area growing up.
[00:26:48] So that’s what you knew and it’s not like you couldn’t watch the news and hear about some of these things, but there was no easy access to it. And I don’t know how many teenagers sit down and watch the nightly news to see what’s going on. But now with everything being so prevalent on social media, and in the millions of apps that the kids are on these days where they can see things like Mike, I know my kids see things as they happen.
[00:27:15] And kids talk about them. And we always ask them that. Did you hear about this? Did you see that? And the answer most times is yes because if it blows up on social media, they have access to it instantly. Maybe even before I see it. So, I think the awareness is there just because it’s a split second and you have access to whatever that thing is.
[00:27:39] Which is good and bad. Cause some things you might want to protect your children from seeing. I don’t want my kids to see someone getting shot in the street while running. But I’m also glad that they are aware of it, for lack of a better.
[00:27:54] Sean: I guess my question is, I don’t know if you would know this, but do you find that the kids and their peers are having constructive conversations around the societal issues? Or is it just….
[00:28:05] Brandon: Think there are some conversations, right? To what level or what depth they are, I don’t know. I think that kids I know have kids based on stories from my daughter mainly that are willing to speak up when they see something wrong going on, someone being treated the wrong way because of the way they look or their race or their whatever that probably was brought up or materialized because of everything that they’ve been exposed to with black lives matter. And with the things that sports leagues are doing these days, the NBA with the slogans on their jerseys, like kids love sports. And they’re into those things. So when they see that, it’s just an example and that speaks to the power that athletes have.
[00:28:54] And I think they are very influential with the youth. I’m like, my daughter loves LeBron James, for example. So, LeBron James is speaking out against something. She knows about it and she’s probably going to be apt to agree with him which I think is a good thing in that case, yeah. I don’t know if I fully answered your question, but I do think that the conversations are being had and, yeah, but they are kids again so they, you know, they also talk about hair and girls and boys and whatever
[00:29:23] Sean: I’m just
[00:29:23] Brandon: to talk about as kids.
[00:29:26] Sean: Sorry for going down that tangent. I just, especially because we’re about the same age. I graduated in ‘07 and I was just really curious. Cause I have a 10-month old and you have teenagers. I was really curious, what is the world our kids grown up in because obviously, I have my glasses on. And what I’m exposed to. But I don’t know. I’m just really curious about what they were exposed to. So, you definitely answered it.
[00:29:50] Brandon: Good. Good. Yeah. I love, cause I think it challenges me when I think about this. Cause I don’t always think about it, but I love to talk more about it because in my role at EY and my role at Haas and just in life, I like to try to help people see a different perspective or think about what their life could be like in the future.
[00:30:08] So, you know, a lot of people want to have kids, a lot of people our age haven’t had kids yet, or they’re on the verge. So, know those questions are very pertinent to them. When I feel like I can provide insights, I can always try to. So, I like to think about it and I think it’s challenging.
[00:30:21] And I think, kids are a struggle, man. They have their own personalities, their own thoughts, dreams, and aspirations. And you might differ. And then you throw the world on top of that and everything that’s happening in it, they call that parenting.
[00:30:52] Sean: So, I do have to follow up a question on that. What are some of the core values that you share with your kids or that you impart on your kids? Really curious.
[00:31:05] Brandon: Yeah. I think to me, it all starts with everything is founded in honesty and truth. Kids like to tell white lies to get out of things, for sure. Like I get it, but
[00:31:16] Sean: Adults, too.
[00:31:19] Brandon: To be fair, myself included. But you know, if you really want to be someone that provides value, is respected, is looked up to, is thought of in a positive light, it starts with honesty and truth. And if you can’t get that piece, then I think you’re stuck in the mud. And then, for me, it goes to hard work next. And I think that really comes from both my parents. My mom worked and she also did the stay-at-home mom thing.
[00:31:47] My dad always worked long hours. Never saw him complainant. I never saw my dad take a sick day. Like, I was convinced he was invincible. So, I think there’s true value in hard work and that doesn’t necessarily mean toiling behind a desk for a corporation.
[00:32:03] Because I have definitely shifted in that mindset, in the past few years, which has led me down some other paths, for the future.
[00:32:13] But, I think whatever you do, you have to put in, like you have to sow a good seed to reap the harvest. And if you’re not willing to do that, then don’t expect it. If you’re going to sit upstairs and play video games, I point out because my son’s room is right above me, don’t expect to reap a lot from that, unless I was like, unless, because kids are making money off of video games these days, I’m like, I heard some folks make millions of dollars. If that’s what you want to do, tell me. So, I could set you up, let’s get….
[00:32:39] Sean: Professional e-sports.
[00:32:42] Brandon: But whatever it is that they want to do in life and obviously they’re trying to figure it out. Still, they’ll throw out many things but you’re going to have to work hard if you want to reap the benefits from it.
[00:32:50] So I think that’s another value that I really want to impart on them. And just be grounded, I guess still, I could give you, I could probably just around forever about this, but another big one and I’ll stop. There is just be grounded in faith.
[00:33:08] And I think that reverts back to being humble, understanding that the world is bigger than you, understanding that your blessings don’t just come from within the me or I did this mentality is one just not a good one in my opinion. But also probably won’t lead you very far in life.
[00:33:44] Sean: You’re a shining example of confidence without attitude. That last value, I do have to jump into something we chatted about briefly before this recording, which is around your pursuits, right? Your outside pursuits, around entrepreneurship. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
[00:34:04] Brandon: Sure. I’ll start just by saying like I’ve always had, it goes back to the itch. I feel like I keep saying that was never a word that I used a lot, but there’s always a thought in my mind that there’s something else for me to do in this world. There’s somewhere else where I can add value to.
[00:34:20] Not only myself and my family but the world. So, I’m always trying to think and seek ways to do that. I’ve, for years, thought about what’s next. I have, my brothers and my cousins that I talk to all the time about, where do we need the invest in? Should we be doing real estate?
[00:34:36] Can we open this company? What kind of skills and expertise can we use to further us and then also further our families? And that’s led to a pursuit that me and my wife are currently in now. And we started last, it really started almost a year ago, a little bit, a little more than a year ago.
[00:34:56] We got interested in opening up an event venue. And this is through my social media scrolling. I actually found this thought and I pursued it. There was a course that was offered and I was like, I waste money on a lot of things. Let me try to waste money on something that may provide some value back to me.
[00:35:17] So, I presented to my wife. She. She got on board with it because she likes to host events and she does a great job at that. So, I was like, why not make money doing something that you enjoy? So, that’s where the seed was sown and dug into the course and went out to seek space, find somewhere where we could open a space.
[00:35:40] And we were looking to get into a strip mall type facility where we could lease out a part of the space and then holds everything from a birthday party to a micro-wedding, is a big thing now that we didn’t know at the time, to anything under the sun, like workshops and trainings. And we’ve been very fortunate to get a little bit of all of those, even just in the early stages.
[00:36:01] So going back to that time, so we started looking for a venue and then the pandemic kicked off and we’re looking at each other, should we do this? Like the world’s shutting down, does this still make sense? And you know, we kind of sat on it for a while and just thought about it, prayed about it.
[00:36:17] And, yeah, I think there’s an opportunity in every challenge, the pandemic, cause it’s definitely been a challenge, to say the least for everyone. And, we try to take advantage of that challenge and turn it into an opportunity and we continued to pursue it and continue to seek out advice and ultimately found a spot. And, we had a bit of leverage because of the pandemic and the state of the economy and where people are out. So, we felt like we got a pretty good deal in order to be able to open up and start off on the right foot. That matriculated to building out space.
[00:36:50] And as of last Friday, actually, we officially are open for business. So, we held our first event on Sunday. It’s a church that’s growing here in our area, which we are very happy to have and we have events booked out all the way into 2022. I can actually say now as of like two days ago. So, I mean, I think we definitely have a long road ahead of us.
[00:37:11] The pandemic’s not over and that could definitely impact our business but I, again, try. We’re going to try to find the silver lining in everything. And I think, whether it’s this business or something else, as long as we are willing to put in the work and be persistent, I know we can be successful. That’s what we’re hoping to do.
[00:38:17] Sean: These are extremely opportune times. I mean, that’s the virtue of entrepreneurship is problem-solving right there. Clearly a lot of problems right now across all sectors and that need to be solved. And, I had never even thought of what you just said, like micro weddings, people still want to get married. And, they want to do it safely and responsibly and micro wedding. That sounds amazing. I actually know a couple of people that did that. Just wasn’t invited because it was micro but really curious, like what are some other events that are popping up that I guess normally wouldn’t happen as much outside of COVID.
[00:39:07] Brandon: So, we have. A lady who was a gymnastics instructor. She used to actually go to people’s houses and do this. And people have less appetite for that, given the circumstances.
[00:39:29] But they seem more willing to have a small class of five to 10 kids. So, we have, it’s not starting until next spring but we have a little gymnastics class that’s going to be a couple of times a week. There’s a lot of people that are into entrepreneurship now. The pandemic has a lot to do with that.
[00:39:46] And the millions of folks that are unemployed or the people that are seeing that that could have been me very quickly. I have people in my family who lost jobs and they are trying to seek out the next thing. I’ve had soldiers that have reached out to me that I’ve worked with, that are in that same, Hey, I lost my job. Do you have any advice or can you write me a recommendation? Entrepreneurship has definitely become a lot bigger for a lot of people. And so, they want to do things like small pop-up shops. So, we’ll have a couple of vendors in our space. They sell everything from cigars to clothes to, we have a lady that has a steam school, which is science, technology, education, non-education engineering arts, and mathematics. So, they added the A for the arts. She has a little steam school that she opened. So, she came and had a booth at our pop-up shop. And yeah, people are just looking for things and people want to meet. They want to get together. They want to get out but they also want to do it responsibly.
[00:40:48] Here in Houston, we are able to have events. There are some limitations on numbers and stuff like that and you have to wear a mask, which of course we enforce. But we still want to allow people to have those events as long as we’re doing them in a safe way.
[00:41:02] Sean: That’s really cool. We’re talking earlier that I had a coworking space and I actually had someone call me today, just a friend of a friend because they want to open up a coworking space and they were asking me for advice and I was just telling them one of the huge downsize of a coworking space.
[00:41:38] The biggest upside is you’re building community, right? The downside is that unlike a restaurant or unlike what you’re doing and event space, once I run out that square footage, it does, there’s no turnover on it, right? It’s you can keep turning your space. I, if I’m a restaurant, I can keep turning over that table.
[00:41:55] Yeah. And there’s no cap to your revenue in a way. Whereas coworking, very limited potential. I actually never thought about turning my space originally into like event space or just opening up for events as well. That would’ve been a good revenue source.
[00:42:14] Brandon: And I think that’s one of the beautiful things about the pandemic is like, some of these ideas are being forced into people. It’s like you adapt or you go out of business. You’ve probably heard a million podcasts or articles or whatever where some companies have done very well and adapting. There’s many instances where restaurants were not able to switch to the takeout model and they didn’t fare very well and there were others, that’s all the writing on the wall. It’s, Hey, if my restaurant not opens, but I still can cook. Like people will order my food because they still like to eat and they still need to eat.
[00:42:51] I mean it’s, to your point earlier, we’re just solving problems. We’re providing a service that people need. And as long as you can do it in a way that’s safe in this instance, and it’s valuable and we have the services that they’re looking for then, yeah, it’s just matching.
[00:43:07] And to your point of building community, one thing that I’ve really loved because we’re relatively new to the Houston area. I work from home now and this is where I spend 95% of my time, opening the space.
[00:43:21] I get reached out to almost on a daily basis with people I’ve never met before. And you get to hear their hopes, their wishes, their dreams, their nightmares, what has worked, what hasn’t. And you know, that’s not in every case because some people just want to have a birthday party. So, hook them up on the birthday party.
[00:43:37] Of course come to celebrate, but others are looking to do more and they want to share that with people. So yeah, your idea of building community, I hope that we can continue to do. And that’s one reason it was so awesome to have a church as our first event because the pastors of the church are very passionate about building community and helping the community down.
[00:44:00] We’re looking for more ways to do that because you can do so much with space. You can feed people, you can….
[00:44:07] Sean: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:44:08] Brandon: People can celebrate, the opportunities really are endless. And that all that does is build community.
[00:44:15] Sean: Yeah. Initially, we told me it sounds a little counterintuitive, right? Because it’s we’re in a pandemic and you’re opening up space.
[00:44:22] Brandon: I’m crazy.
[00:44:23] Sean: But as you talk more about it, it just it’s hitting me. Like this makes so much sense. If I want to have a birthday party, I definitely don’t want to have it in my house. It’s, you have 2000 some square feet there. I have 600 square feet downstairs. And it’s definitely, that’s a better option to be at your space. So, the is still have these needs or just even families. And so, this is a, you guys are really solving a problem for people. So it sounds like that is exactly the case. That’s awesome.
[00:44:53] To wrap things up, I really just want to, I know on date, I just want to end on a lighter note. I just want to hear if there’s any books or shows or anything, podcasts that you’ve been consuming lately.
[00:45:09] Brandon: So, I literally today just finished The Greatest Miracle in the World, which is a great story about many things that we talked about, having that drive, and no matter where you start in life or what lot you’ve been given, you can be successful. You are the greatest miracle in the world, just you, yourself.
[00:45:29] And all the things that you’ve been given will allow that greatness to shine. So that’s one thing that I’ve read recently. I listened to, unfortunately, or fortunately, I’ve listened to a ton of political podcasts over the last, I don’t know, it feels like forever. But that seems to be a bit over now, which I am happy to say that it’s, more or less done.
[00:45:54] I’m a big fan recently I’ve for better, for worse, been on Instagram a lot. And I follow the guy who was, of course, I took his name is Nehemiah Davis. Look him up on Instagram. He’s a serial entrepreneur. He’s from Philadelphia., was a garbage man. He worked in an airport, he just had all these, he had a fruit stand at one point.
[00:46:14] He had all these like jobs. I think he hauled furniture. And he got fired from all of them. So, he says, I don’t know him personally, but he seems like a pretty standup guy. And finally, he started surrounding himself with the right people and he started listening to inspirational podcasts.
[00:46:35] He started saying affirmations, any transition that into events spaces. And now he just does a whole lot of digital project products. He does a whole lot of digital products like eBooks, training courses about entrepreneurship in general, about events spaces, about marketing, because he’s pretty heavy into marketing now.
[00:47:00] And he’s just you will never hear a negative word out of his mouth. It’s all about positivity and it’s all about pushing forward. It’s all about, I can do it.
[00:50:50] Sean: That’s awesome. Any other parting thoughts before we end?
[00:50:57] Brandon: The last thing I would say, just thinking about, I feel like we talked about life, in general, is just, you only have one life to live, and it can in quicker than you could ever expect. So yeah. I’m not saying I have perfected this cause I have not.
[00:52:06] And my wife will tell you that, but like you got to live life to the fullest. There’s stuff beyond this computer that I’m sitting at now, my kids are gonna grow up. One of them is leaving the house very soon. Our youngest he’s soon to be 15 months, he’s growing faster than I ever expected.
[00:52:23] So, you got to take the time and I get this from my wife, you gotta take the time to enjoy that stuff because if you don’t, and this is especially for business school students because I feel like in many ways, we’re type A personalities, we’re hard charters, we want to be successful.
[00:52:38] And a lot of times that means putting in a million hours to climb the corporate ladder. And there is a lot of value in that and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do that. But if there are other things in your life that you see value in, make sure that they get the priorities that they deserve, which again, I have not perfected, but a parting thought.
[00:53:01] Sean: Thank you for sharing that.
Brandon: Cause I feel like I’d be remiss to not say this because I feel like, if you’re at Haas or you’re associated with Haas in many ways, you have lots of privileges that others do not. And I feel like if we don’t continue to try to use that privilege for good, to fight racism, to fight – there’s a million -isms I could throw out there. Find the -ism that you’re passionate about and do use your privilege to fight that, to leave this place a better place than we joined it. I think we are given that responsibility because of the position we’ve been put in, no matter how we got here. Many people struggled, some people didn’t, but we’re here now and we need to use our platforms and that’s something I’m challenging myself with.
[00:54:04] Is using our platform for that good to fight all the things. Cause I don’t care if you want to look locally, you could look in China, you could look in Africa, you could look anywhere, find that thing that speaks to you and there’s no wrong answer. And people always say, you need to prioritize this, prioritize what’s important to you. That is not what it needs to be and try to make it. So, um,
[00:54:28] Sean: Thank you so much for sharing that. And thanks again for coming on the podcast. This has been a real pleasure, Brandon.
[00:54:32] Brandon: Yeah, I appreciate it.
[00:54:38] Sean: Thank you for tuning in to this episode of the OneHaas podcast. If you enjoyed our show today, please remember to hit that subscribe or follow button on your favorite podcast player. We’d also really appreciate it. If you could give us a five-star rating and review, you can also check out more of our content on our website at haaspodcasts.org, that’s podcasts with an S at the end, where you can subscribe to our monthly newsletter and check out some of our other Berkeley Haas podcasts. Until next time. Go bears.