Setting goals for constant improvement

September 28, 2009
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Pete Brand, co-founder of Mindscape at Hanon McKendry, a Web site development and Internet marketing company, discovered he was an entrepreneur while still in grade school.

“My entrepreneurialism started really young. I was in fifth grade and we had a project in class where we needed to grab the newspaper, find out what we wanted to do for a living, and then go find out what the wage paid and construct a budget of what it would cost to live,” he said.

“I remember … when I turned it in, I was all fired up … but I was a little disappointed at the end of the day because I knew I wasn’t old enough to get a job.”

But then Brand decided he would not let his age be a deterrent.

“I was never one to listen to what other people said. Just because I was young did not mean I couldn’t get a job. I just had to figure out how I was going to get it done,” said Brand.

“That Saturday, I woke up and told my mom I was going to go make some money.”

Brand spent the rest of the day knocking on neighbors’ front doors, asking if they had any yard work he could do. After a day of pulling weeds and digging up dandelions, Brand came home with $20.

“My mom first looked a little nervous at how I got the $20, but then she looked really proud. I remember that feeling of how I just felt so good about what I accomplished,” he said.

After graduating from Grand Rapids Catholic Central High School, Brand enrolled at Aquinas College.

“I made the dean’s list within the first six months — but it was the wrong dean’s list,” he said. “It was the one that said ‘shape up or ship out,’ and I decided to ship out.”

At the age of 20, Brand was married and working at a minimum wage job. He decided it was time for a change. He began a home cleaning service called B and C House Cleaning. The ‘B’ stood for Brand and the ‘C’ represented a friend who never took to the company past naming it. Once again Brand began knocking on doors, looking for cleaning work.

Pete Brand
Mindscape at Hanon McKendry
Position: Co-founder and owner
Age: 39
Birthplace: Grand Rapids
Residence: Grand Rapids
Family/Personal: Wife, Amanda, and four children.
Community/Business Involvement: CEO Roundtable steering committee; currently looking for board opportunities.
Biggest Career Break: Finding mentors who invested their time in him.

Then, one homeowner sat him down to talk about a different kind of business opportunity.

“I ended up knocking on the door of somebody who was impressed that I was knocking on doors and showing some initiative. They invited me over to their house to talk with some people about a business opportunity,” said Brand, about this first encounter with selling Amway products.

“At the time, I had a mullet. … I had an earring and a Fu Manchu mustache, and all the attitude to match.

“They went through and showed me this plan on how to build my (Amway) business. I looked at it and told them, ‘That’s easy. I can do that.’ They said, ‘Great. We’d love to have you be a part of it.’”

Brand agreed, but with a few conditions: “I am not cutting my hair. I am not removing my earring, and I’m going to do things the way that I think they should be done,” he said.

“But within about two weeks, I realized I needed to cut my hair, remove my earring, and I needed to listen to someone who had accomplished something that I had not accomplished in life — because I had not accomplished much.”

Brand sold Amway products from 1990 to 1993 and during this time encountered his first mentor, Gary Libby, whom he met through Amway.

“There was a really successful business guy who was willing to teach me what he had done — to teach me to be successful,” said Brand.

“He helped me look at things in a positive way versus a negative way. I guess it was my first introduction to (positive) thinking.”

For the next five years, Brand represented different products for various companies across the U.S., but stationed himself in Grand Rapids. One such company was Neogen, an Arizona-based company that sold nutritional products.

“My claim to fame in that business was, I recruited 2,500 distributors in a 90-day period all around the United States — and this was pre-Internet days,” he said “It was all conference calls and $2,500 phone bills, because technology was so much more expensive back then.”

He started speaking at weekend seminars about how to be successful in network marketing, along with a colleague and his most influential mentor, Tracy Dieterich.

Then, in 1998, he received an offer from Nextel and began managing Nextel stores in both West Michigan and Chicago.

“I would work in the office here for three days a week, then go to Chicago for the last two days of the week. Then I would flip-flop them,” he said.

No matter where Brand was working, mentorship remained a source of education for him.

“It was pretty much all about mentors. From the first person who met me and took me under their wing, I had always kind of been seeking people,” he said.

“I could give you probably five or six different mentors that played a significant role in my development. I probably chose that route — mentorship — over education. It’s not that I don’t think education is important, because I really do.

“I think that all of us need to continually educate ourselves to bring more value and get better. The minute we think we’ve arrived and have accomplished everything we want to, then we’re dying. I think that’s true personally, as well.”

In fact, it was a common mentor that brought him together with Mindscape co-founder Paul Ferrier. The two found they each possessed a unique skill set, and in 2001, Brand and Ferrier used those skill sets to form Mindscape. The company grew, and in 2008, it merged with Hanon McKendry.

In 2009, Mindscape at Hanon McKendry won the Small Business of the Year Award from the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce.

The 39-year-old Brand is big on goal setting, and as he approaches his 40th birthday this year, he has set the goal of being in better shape, both physically and mentally, than when he was 25. To achieve that goal, Brand conducted a bit of an experiment. To hold himself accountable, he used social media to post his thoughts and progress for the first month.

“One of the main reasons people don’t take action is because they’re afraid of failure. When I started that experiment, I started to look at how to get past that hurdle, psychologically,” he said.

Brand broke his goal down into small action steps, such as walking seven miles a day and spending an hour a day educating himself on topics related to his field.

“At the end of 30 days, I had developed a new habit, and now I’m actually starting to lose weight, I’m starting to see the results. But if I would have said, ‘I want to lose 30 pounds in three months,’ that would be so monumental of a task, and every time I would step on a scale, I would be discouraged and the fear of failure would re-immerge, and I would probably quit.

“I took action, I saw the results and it increased my belief. Now if I apply that same exact model to other areas of my life or goals that I want to obtain, I already know the thought process I’m going to go through. It’s a process, a system — a way of going through things. That experiment taught me a lot.”

Brand, who considers himself a homebody, likes to spend time with his second wife, Amanda, and their four kids.

“Doing stuff with my wife and my kids is definitely top on my list. I’m not a very social person, really. I get done from work and I go home and I hang out. You can either find me walking along Riverside Park with my wife or doing something with my kids.”

Whether it’s personally or professionally, Brand is always looking to improve himself.

“I want to continue to make sure I can become more valuable every single day,” he said. “I want to become a better person, a better father, a better husband, better at my profession. I just want to constantly be improving, and I always want to look at how something can be accomplished rather than why I can’t.”

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