Brian is a former environmental and fisheries scientist turned entrepreneur. He is the creator of The Pillar System and author of the book The Index Card Business Plan for Sales Pros and Entrepreneurs. Brian is the owner of Productivity Giant, where he provides services to a client list that ranges from individual sales reps to Shark Tank entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
Southern NJ right outside of Philadelphia. My experiences with my neighborhood friends shaped my life. The kind of childhood where you just went out and played and explored till dark and often beyond. I never realized how tough and resilient it made us until I started raising kids in the age of helicopter parenting and playdates.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
Just because you are passionate about something, it doesn’t mean you have to choose it as a profession. I think when you are younger you get caught up in the “idea” of being something specific when you are older. I was and still am passionate about the ocean, marine life, etc., and grew up wanting to be Jacques Cousteau. But after a lot of schooling and working in the field as a scientist, the day to day was less exciting than the reality – which is why I became an entrepreneur so quickly.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
The overemphasis on hard work and hustle. The pride people take in how many hours they work. All the hustle and talent in the world can’t compensate for a bad strategy (i.e. focusing your effort in the wrong places).
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
Professionally, it was the failure of my first business. We were really good and got a lot of outside recognition and validation, but the economics of it were terrible and I just kept throwing good money and time after bad to keep it going. I learned that being good at something is different than being successful.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
I am very intentional about my business. I plan my weeks and days based on a system I developed and now teach. And then I habitually execute on that plan. I trust the CEO part of me when I’m executing the plan, even if I don’t feel it at the moment.
What is your morning routine?
I’m up around 6 – 6:15. I take care of the dog, vitamins, coffee, breakfast. I’m usually at my desk by 7 am and the first thing I do is plan my day no matter how long it takes. I work on my business from 7-10 am (what I call Pro Time). I rarely, if ever have scheduled calls or clients before 10 am. And in recent years, I’ve pushed it out to 11 am most days.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I’ve only intentionally created one habit in my life and that’s the super habit of weekly pillar execution. The pillars are the weekly activities in my control that I’ve identified will result in hitting my personal and professional goals. I hit these pillars every week. If it’s a pillar, it gets done. It’s the only habit I hold myself to.
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I use focus management instead of time management. Our ability to focus on cognitively demanding activities (our mental energy if you will) is our true limiting resource. It runs out long before hours in the day. So my weekly strategy (pillars) and daily plan are about getting the biggest ROI on the mental energy I expend.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
They validated the principles that changed my professional life forever. The idea that the relationship between input and output was not as linear anymore as it had been in the industrial age. I came to the conclusion overtime on my own, but these books stopped me from questioning it.
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“Disassociate Effort From Reward” – Richard Koch