David Brim on business, marketing & life.

$1.4 Million dollar award helps Entrepreneurial LaunchPad take off at UCF

Contributor: David Brim March 11, 2013

Seven years ago I took a leap of faith and transferred to UCF with the goal of getting my degree and starting my own business.

I often get asked…Why UCF?

Why not just stay in Pittsburgh, finish school and start a business there?

Well, something told me to go to UCF…maybe it was because I heard that UCF “Stands for Opportunity”, or that I perceived Orlando to be a place for dreamers.  Ditching the snow for Florida sunshine didn’t hurt either!

Regardless of what it was, I made that leap of faith and moved to Florida with the goal of starting my company.  Leaving my comfort zone, family, friends and girlfriend (now wife) to move 15 hours away where I knew nobody was a risk, but something inside me told me that this was right.

This was one the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

I jumped and UCF caught me.

There are many reasons why College is a great place to become an entrepreneur, but UCF’s commitment and dedication to entrepreneurship, innovation and partnerships separates it from the pack.

UCF has many different programs available to assist entrepreneurs and companies of all stages.  I’ve had the opportunity to see first hand how UCF’s entrepreneurial programs can help a company grow.  Today was an exciting day as UCF announced another initiative to assist young entrepreneurs…The Blackstone LaunchPad.

Jim Atchinson - presendent of seaworld parks

Jim Atchison, president and chief executive officer of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment and a UCF Board of Trustees member, said he would have been the first to sign up for the new Blackstone LaunchPad initiative if UCF had offered the program when he was a student.

The Blackstone Charitable Foundation awarded UCF with $1.4M to open the UCF Blackstone LaunchPad entrepreneurship advising office in the student union.

When we have students serious about entrepreneurship as a career path, we want to do everything we possibly can to help them be successful,” said Cameron Ford, an associate professor of management who will lead the Blackstone LaunchPad initiative.

I attended the event today and had a blast.

Speakers included:

  • Stephen Schwarzman, Chairman/co-Founder of Blackstone
  • Senator Marco Rubio
  • UCF President John Hitt
  • UM President Donna Shalala
  • CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Jim Atchison

The event was very exciting!   You could feel the entrepreneurial energy and enthusiasm in the air.

As a UCF alum I was very pleased with this announcement.  Individuals with an idea coupled with the passion and resourcefulness to bring that idea into existence are those that will create wealth and jobs in our region.  The challenge is that students rarely have the business experience, contacts or insight to bring their idea from a concept to a viable business.   The Blackstone LaunchPad will give them this and so much more.  I’m proud to be a UCF Knight and look forward to seeing how this wonderful initiative progresses.



Junior Achievement Presentation

Contributor: David Brim June 20, 2011

Today I spoke at the Junior Achievement CEO academy to a great group of promising high school juniors and seniors.  The Junior Achievement CEO academy boot camp is a very cool program.  Students must apply to be enrolled and a certain amount are selected.  Students then attend the camp at Florida Gulf Coast University where guest speakers come talk to them about various business related topics.  In addition to listening to presentations the camp goes a step further and breaks the students into groups that develop and present a business plan at the end of the week.  Business leaders from the community then come and judge the competition.

I was asked to speak about entrepreneurship with the goal of motivating the students to begin pursuing their entrepreneurial journey and have a great week at the camp.

Many people at this age, and many others, want to launch a successful business, but don’t necessarily have a start-up or business concept yet.

Rather than talk about how to market a business I focused my presentation on the following topics:

  • Developing a personal brand– How it provides a solid foundation for entrepreneurial & professional success.
  • Gaining experience and specialized knowledge-Becoming a student of the “game” you choose to play.
  • Standing on the shoulders of Giants-Connecting with and leveraging mentors, advisers and thought leaders.
  • Growing & managing your brand online-Beginning to reveal your expertise online & reputation management
  • The Entrepreneurial mindset- What to be prepared for, being a problem solver, putting yourself in a position to succeed, etc.

My logic was that whatever business these students decided to go into these principles would help them.

The presentation above doesn’t include the personal anecdotes or additional depth I added regarding the topics referenced, but I still thought it would be worth while to share the presentation slides here.

After the presentation the students asked a number of questions, some of them were specifically related to start-ups they wanted to launch.  It was very exciting to see their passion at such a young age.  When many high school students are out hanging with friends, or playing sports, these students committed themselves to learning more to become successful in business.  It was a fantastic experience and I look forward to helping out with Junior Achievement more in the future.

Warning: Build your personal brand now, or you’ll regret it later

Contributor: David Brim March 6, 2011

February 17th I spoke at the University of Central Florida for their “Entrepreneurial Speaker Series” in front of an audience of 50-60 ambitious business students.  The topic was on marketing strategies for entrepreneurs….I decided to take a slightly different direction to help students from falling into a very common trap that can severely injure or even kill a professional career or start up’s chance of success.

The information I shared with the students I spoke with is relevant for many of my readers and others out there.  With that being said I thought I’d share it here as well.

First off a small back story to put everything in context…

Over the last six months or so I’ve given probably five different speeches/presentations, primarily to start-ups and second stage companies.  This actually included a talk at the Florida Technology Partnership event in Ft. Myers two days prior to my talk at UCF.  As I was in my hotel room in Ft Myers, after my speech to a group of CEOs and marketing executives, I had a thought….I’ve given essentially the same presentation the last five times or so that I’ve talked focused on marketing strategy, SEO, Social Media and branding.  Though this presentation was good I realized this information and delivery is perfect for those who already have companies and are trying to grow them, but will it add the same value to motivated college students.  Many of these college students aspire to be an entrepreneur, but don’t have a venture in mind let alone a product or service to market now.

What should I do…Should I give the same presentation or craft a new one.  My talk was scheduled for 1 hour and I altruistically always want to make sure my audience gets the most from my experiences and insight.

Unsure of how to approach it, especially with a  day and a half to go and lots of work to do at Brand Advance the next day…I decided to sleep on it and plan my attack on my drive back to Orlando from Ft. Myers (about 3-4 hours).

I started to go through a simple marketing exercise that I take my clients through at Brand Advance and thought about who I was trying to reach and influence….what are their problems, motivations, experiences, etc.  What can I offer to impact them the most and add the highest value.

In the case of students, learning new marketing tactics to grow brand awareness of a business isn’t as important and essential as learning how to market themselves…after all you are the only product you will have for the rest of your life.  If you can perfect marketing and building your personal brand through the process you will learn and understand how to market other brands as well.   Building brand you will continue to pay dividends and attract great opportunities into your life.

Personal branding is more important today than ever before.  Unemployment is extremely high, more people are graduating and more people are getting laid off from their jobs.

What does this mean?

It means that you have more competition for both obtaining a job, and growing your entrepreneurial ventures. What causes you to stand out and land that good job, find investment funding, gain experienced mentors, or align yourself with those who will be energized to work on your start up?

It’s your personal brand- made up of your credibility, past achievements, experiences, the way you carry yourself, who you associate with, and the knowledge you have in your respective field.

Here’s how I foresee many falling into the trap…

  1. A student graduates excited to get a job in their field
  2. Realize that unemployment is extremely high and get a job in an un-related field to pay the bills until they can find a better job, or launch their start-up.
  3. They end up working in that unrelated job for years, not building experiences and credibility in their respective field and not keeping educated on new trends and industry knowledge.
  4. When the market turns around in a few years an employer is going to hire either a fresh college grad that they can mold, or hire someone who was laid off in the field with industry specific experience.
  5. The college student working in an unrelated field to pay the bills will be stuck in a weird spot…they won’t have enough industry specific knowledge to get a relevant job or launch a viable start-up that solves a market need.
  6. They then are at a time to move on in their life and get married and have a kid at some point making it even harder to close the gap as others who get on the inside track in an industry so to speak.

So the question becomes….How do you solve this and avoid the trap?

Here’s my thoughts…

  1. Get Educated…I’m not talking about a school education, though in some fields like medical and education this is essential.  I’m talking about keeping up with industry trends and learning how others in your field are staying on top of their game.  School is great at teaching you how to learn or the basic fundamentals in a given area.  Truth be told many of the trends that can really help you can’t be taught in school because the teachers are too busy teaching older text book lessons to keep up with them.  Even if they did teach you something innovative or forward thinking they are also teaching everyone else.  You need to learn more than other students in your classes….remember you are competing with students graduating at schools all across the country as well as those experienced industry professionals who have lost their jobs.
  2. Stand on the Shoulders of Giants / Get Connected…It’s essential to begin developing relationships with influencers in your respective field.  These influencers can connect you to other influencers and if you’ve built your personal brand, have credibility and deliver good results this can be a continual never ending process.  You can meet potential business partners, employers, investors and much more.  Also- those who are more experienced in an industry also will be able to see trends that you may not that can assist you in developing new ventures.  Building your network of mentors is also another very wise thing to do.  They will have a personal interest in seeing you succeed and will be able to connect you to others in their network to assist with your endeavors.
  3. Flex your expertise / Build your brand awareness:  Once you’ve found innovative trends and can begin constructing your own thoughts on various industry topics begin flexing your expertise by starting a blog utilizing wordpress.org or blogger.com.  I also recommend identifying top bloggers in your field and build a relationship with them by commenting on their blog or talking with them on twitter…If possible see if you can become a guest writer for their blog, which in many cases will have thousands of readers.  I also would suggest finding online groups and physical networking groups (ex: Linkedin, Google/Yahoo Groups & Meetup) to join as well as answering industry related questions in Q&A sites like yahoo answers.  Revealing your expertise through blogging and online networking will work wonders…I have gotten clients from my blog, job offers, new venture opportunities, media coverage and much more.
  4. Leverage your successes: Often times people will achieve something that can differentiate them from their competitors, but will not put it out there.  It’s not bragging, it’s establishing credibility and showing your value.  Create an achievements page, it’s essentially an interactive resume.  It’s much more powerful than a regular resume because it can go more in depth, show pictures and even link off to other pages where you elaborate.
  5. Control your brand online or someone else will:  You ideally should want to own the page when someone types your name into Google with content that you want them to see.  Employers will search for you, potential business partners, customers, investors and many more.  This is a huge part of building your brand online.  You want it to be easy for others to find you and when they do you want their findings to represent how you want your brand to be perceived.Purchase your own domain name if you can get it, or some sort of variation.  This can be done at godaddy.com.  Get a wordpress blog up, which should take about 10 mins or so and start blogging!  Also be sure to watch what you post on Facebook as well as what others post.  Know your brand and what you are trying to convey and don’t do anything contradictory to that because it may end up online.  Everyone has smart phones with cameras and video recorders these days…Your slip could be the next viral sensation and really damage your brand.
  6. Launch a start up:  Once you’ve taken time to build your personal brand you should have connections and an understanding of trends occurring in the market place.  In my mind at this point it’s not a bad thing to start planning and getting your start up concept in motion.   Even if you fall flat on your face you’ll learn.  Don’t get discouraged entrepreneurship can have a lot of ups and downs, but more potential risk…more potential reward.  Note:  I would never recommend running up your credit cards and sinking all your money into a startup.  This kind of financial strain is never really a good idea unless you have some strong proof of concept.  Best case scenario….Your start up will be a success and you’ll create a job for yourself or better yet an asset that will make you millions.  At a minimum you can equip yourself with something to differentiate yourself from others in a job interview.  Working on a pet project and showing potential and traction is in my eyes much more impressive than a coffee grabbing internship, unrelated job, or high gpa.  It shows that you are a self starter, are resourceful, disciplined and can add the same value to another organization as well.By the way colleges are a great place to launch a business for a large variety of reasons.

Anyway I just looked at the clock and it’s 3:48 am…time flies when your in the zone.  Another thought on that note…be prepared to work long hours at times.  Launching a start up and building a personal brand, especially when working another job takes a lot of hours.  Don’t let your health suffer, but be prepared to put the time in.  It will eventually pay off.

Remember:  If it was easy everyone would be doing it!

I hope this post helped.  If you please share it with others in your network via Facebook, Twitter, Digg, delicious or Stumble Upon.

Good luck on your journey to success and watch out for the trap!

Let me know what you thought about the post in the comments below.

A Lesson in Communication from Sun Tzu

Contributor: David Brim July 24, 2009

I’ve always enjoyed reading inspirational or thought provoking books when I have the time.  I’m kind of a geek at heart and love learning about history, ancient philosophers and other wise men throughout the centuries whose names have lived on and words have remained relevant long after their time.  One such person is Sun Tzu, an ancient Chinese philosopher and military strategist.

Sun Tzu is most popular for his book The Art of War.  Though this book is filled with military strategies and tactics there are core lessons that can be extremely beneficial in many different situations such as sports, business or even personal relationships.

I was reading the art of war and came across a good quote that I thought was a very good lesson to reflect on.

“If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, the general is to blame. But if his orders ARE clear, and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers.”

Having employees and interacting with vendors, partners and clients everyday I can completely appreciate the value of clear, concise and candid communication.  It is very easy to think that someone understands what you are trying to get across just because you understand it.  If you’re not clear it leaves someone to play the guessing game and try to perceive what they thought you’ve meant.  This is how mistakes happen….breaks in communication.  It’s always better to over explain giving several examples and very specific verbs and adjectives that articulate the exact message you’re trying to get across.  This leaves no room for error in the communication process, only disagreement or insubordination as Sun Tzu said referred to.  I strive to improve my communication skills daily in all of my interactions.

Have you had any experiences recently where you’ve noticed a break in communication that you or someone else could have prevented by being more clear?

If so please share

Stumble or digg this post if you see the value in the quote and post.


GroupTable helps Bentley Student Group win Competition

Contributor: David Brim February 7, 2009

I recently came across a blog post done by Nick Rac, a student from Bentley University.  He gave his personal account on how GroupTable helped his group not only eliminate many of the problems they had, but played a part in helping them win a $1,000 contest at his school.

With his permission I have re-posted it below.

Thanks for the great testimonial Nick

During my junior year of college at Bentley University I was enrolled in a mandatory course entitled GB 301.  The course was primarily a project class in which a real world business with a real world problem approached our class and asked for consulting.  After being broken into groups of 5 we were given basic information, and a few assignments – from this we were to formulate a 70 page business plan for the client, this was a competition style course with a $1,000 cash prize for the winning team.  This course is extremely well-known and feared by Bentley students as it is extremely time intensive is a serious time commitment for ANY student.

After holding my group’s first group meeting it became apparent to me that all 5 of us being able to meet in the same place at the same time would be extremely difficult and I began to search for free group collaboration software.   I gave a number of products a good thorough testing and decided on one outstanding product: GroupTable.  The next group meeting was introducing the application to my team and explaining how I wanted to implement it into our project – everyone was excited to use GroupTable and we all agreed that it would be essential to our group’s success…little did we know that it would probably save the project.

Over the course of the semester we met on a regular basis of twice per week in person and twice per week via GroupTable.  Once the semester got a little busier we were all struggling to make our meetings and began meeting 4 times weekly on GroupTable and only once in person.  We were the only group (of 20 total) which had implemented the use of collaboration software, which gave us a true advantage.

Typical college level group projects function in one of two ways:  1. All members of the group meet in a single location and work on each part of the pject one piece at a time. Or 2. All members meet, distribute the work amongst the group, disburse and meet again to review and combine each assignment.  A group project using GroupTable functioned very differently.  We were able to meet in person, assign out work AND collaborate with one another at any time. GroupTable’s clutch moment for us was when a group member had an unexpected trip home to London.  He was able to meet with us, submit his work and share the ideas he had brainstormed during his travel time.

When one of us had a question or idea during the day we would simply post the question/idea to the private GroupBoard discussion board and wait for other’s input.  During our online meetings the chat allowed us to talk real-time with one another to discuss issues, ideas and concerns.  These two features combined with the “Binder” feature (which allows users to upload documents to share) were essential to the success of the project.  At the end of the project we calculated that each group member met for 4 hours on GroupTable for every hour they met in person, impressive considering we averaged 250 hours of work PER PERSON for 14 weeks.

In the end we ended up winning the course competition and the cash prize.  Our group was able to finish the project 5 days before the deadline (normally groups are running to Kinkos at midnight the night before to get the plans printed and bound). Our presentation was killer, our plan a huge success and we were able to do an impressive class presentation on how we used the GroupTable software.

In a business school like Bentley the majority of our courses require a large amount of group collaboration, Bentley teaches that in the business world of today you MUST be able to function in the group environment.  This can be difficult for many people as it requires commitment, flexibility and pat.  GroupTable addresses many issues associated with any type of collaborative work and I continue to use it to this day for large group projects.


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