Brian Minick is the Chief Operating Officer at ZeroBounce and a thought leader in the email industry. In this interview with The Industry Leaders, he shares his top advice for business professionals, namely the three things he wishes he’d known when starting out.
For those who don't know anything about you or your work, can you provide a bit of background?
I’ve been in the technology and marketing industry my entire professional career. First, at a small design agency, building websites and getting companies visible online. From there I went on to help a company start from the very beginning reimagining the flooring industry and helping small retailers on the web.
As I learned how to scale a business, I moved more into Operations. I started designing automated procedures through tools to help our teams be more efficient. I found that many procedures needed simple tweaks to make significant differences – consistency was key.
Along the way, I started a few small businesses. I learned many different little things that gave me a lot of experience to be where I am today (ads, subscriptions, e-commerce, CRM, automated emails).
Fast forward to 2019, and I found myself running the Operations for ZeroBounce. From there, I took over our Sales and Support teams and have focused on our customer experience and an efficient sales pipeline.
Was any one person who was instrumental in helping you get from where you started out, to where you are now?
There are many people I could give credit to that challenged me along the way. Every person I ever worked for has opened my eyes to a new piece of technology, design, direction, idea – and helped mature me professionally.
There’s one person who’s always stayed top of mind for me when I think about my past and what I’m doing today. Between 2009 and 2014, I worked with Mark Lorberbaumm. He is the son of the founder of the largest flooring manufacturer in the world, Mohawk Flooring. He had an idea to revolutionize the flooring industry for mom-and-pop retailers across the US. I helped him execute that plan.
Along the way, we went to our very first trade show in Connecticut. It was three of our sales team members and myself. We were packed with people coming to check us out during the show.
I was there for technical support; I had no idea how to entertain people at a trade show or how to sell. Well, the booth was overflowing, and people naturally started to talk with me as I was the only one left. As the day continued, I had honest conversations with business owners who simply wanted to build bigger businesses. I showed them what we created and how they could use it, and they absolutely loved it.
I was the only one from our team who sold a deal at this trade show. The tech guy, not a salesperson.
When I got back to our office, I sat down with Mark. He patted me on the back and said, I knew you would outsell our team. I said, what? What are you talking about? I didn't want to talk to anyone. He told me I missed my calling and I should really look into sales. I laughed and shrugged it off. He always reminded me of this as we continued to grow and grow.
Eventually, I left the company, and an opportunity at ZeroBounce arose to manage our Sales team. I had no experience doing this, and Mark’s voice was in the back of my mind. I went for it, and it's been history since.
I’ve found myself in love with selling. But not for the sale. I loved it because I connected with people. We were aligned on something that we both knew would work for them. My career has never been the same since. I owe it to him and the FloorForce sales team.
Is there a particular piece of advice you were given in the early days of your business journey that you still benefit from today?
The most significant piece of advice that I learned from my idol, my Father, was to outwork every single person around you. He always reminded me no matter the task, if you put the energy into it and never give up, you will separate from your peers. This statement was so true.
I find so many people are just so willing to give up or refuse to put in the hard work. There are simply no shortcuts in this world. You have to work for it. What I love most about this is that I have complete control over this and whether I fail or succeed.
What is the most important lesson you've learned about leadership in your business journey so far?
To never forget about your team and always have their back.
Any one person can take something and go pretty far with it. Especially a person who will figure it all out. But to take it further, you have to trust the people around you and know they will do it as well or better than you. This is how you build a business and lead future entrepreneurs to do the same. We would not be where we are today without the dedication of our team.
What are the top three things you wish you'd known when you were just starting out?
1. It’s not going to be easy. Buckle up and drive ‘till you can’t see anymore. Stop, get out, look at the scenery, and start over.
2. Make everyone around you successful. Figure out ways to make them be successful. If they are successful, your customers will be successful, your business will be successful, and you will be successful.
3. Don’t get comfortable. I’ve found that as soon as I get comfortable, that’s when I know we need to change something. We can all pick many brands that just sat there and smelled the roses for years. They kept raking it in while others kept innovating around them. Those companies are shutting their doors a few years later for refusing to move forward and change with the times. This particularly stands out to me with Blockbuster. They easily could have been a bigger and better Netflix. But they chose to stay comfortable instead.
In your experience, what is the most effective way to build a strong network of mentors and advisors to guide you in your business endeavors?
Surround yourself with like-minded people and ones with experience outside of your direct field. I find some of the best advice from others comes from people who are in different industries.
So many times, I’ve heard brand-new ideas come from industries outside of Tech. I’ve always been a bit mentally cocky about the tech field. We all think we’re the smartest (sorry, but it's how we feel). Break out of this mentality and remind yourself that you want to be the dumbest person in the room.
Listen more, talk less.
How do you determine when it's time to pivot, and what factors should you consider in making that decision?
Pivoting is a crucial part of business. You have to do it at some point. But you have to make sure you’re pivoting for the right reasons. I’ve done it right and wrong on many occasions.
As I’ve gotten more experience, I’ve identified when pivoting will be a wrong decision. For example, if you change your business direction based on a piece of unique customer feedback, it could really handcuff you in the future. You have to really evaluate how this change attracts new customers. Make smart decisions.
How do you stay motivated and inspired during the business cycle of ups and downs?
I try to think of the ups and downs as natural parts of business. It’s like the stock market. If you’re in it for the short haul, you’ll generally lose or be heavily stressed. If you stop thinking about the days or even weeks and start thinking bigger, like years, your perception changes. As you zoom out, the ups and downs mean less. It’s the future that you’re focused on.
Looking back, what one thing would you do differently if you could start your journey over again?
I believe everything happens for a reason. I’m very happy with where I currently am. The only thing I would do differently is take my own advice sooner. I would have started those start-up businesses earlier. I might be even further along than I am today.
However, I really do regret nothing. But my message for everyone is to start now, not tomorrow or later… now. Also, be the absolute best at whatever you do. I don’t think you can fail if you are the best at what you love.