“Get a brand or die a generic” is the blunt advice Jackson State University (JSU) alum Michael D. Brown delivers to college students and others across the country. The speaker, trainer and author spoke to student leaders at his alma mater last week with that message.
He says his philosophy is resonating with students because they, like others, are finding that companies only want to hire the best and the best is getting better.
“I tell students they must have something different that makes them stand out — they must be known for something,” he said. “Without that, their careers begin to die and that affects their personal lives.
For Brown, it’s all about passion. Using the word passion, his program, which is not just applicable to students, sets out an admonition for each letter as follows:
P — preparation; work on it every day.
A — aspiration. What do you want to be?
S — stay focused.
S — setting the piece in place.
I — invigorate yourself; keep yourself excited.
O — omit the negative. Things happen in your life; you learn from them and move on.
N — nailing the brand. Now that you’ve figured out what you want to be; you must make it happen.
“People who are memorable such as Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump have a brand they have created for themselves, and they never stop working on it,” he said. “Find your passion and connect to it.”
He finds that most students don’t realize they have to work at branding themselves. His words often are a wake-up call to those who haven’t participated in activities or done anything to set themselves apart.
“Many students are moving home with their parents because they can’t afford to live on their own, or the pay increases they get aren’t enough,” he said. “I try to tell them how to not graduate into poverty.”
Brown earned an MBA in global management after leaving JSU and worked for a number of Fortune 50 companies. He was often called upon to set up and conduct training sessions for employees. Fueled by the passion he felt for training and the encouragement he received from others, he developed his own training points for customer service and personal advancement.
This highly-motivated 35-year-old’s passion keeps him going. “My goal is to give more than I receive,” he said. “Getting e-mails and notes from students and professors telling me that I’ve helped them or they’ve changed the way they teach motivates me. I can stay energized because I’m doing what I love so it’s not work.”
He uses the passion and ability-to-stay-fresh formula and says it’s how he survived corporate downsizings before he started his own training/coaching business. Now a resident of Los Angeles, Brown grew up in Lexington where god parents in the neighborhood and three Catholic nuns influenced his life and values.
“Because my mother worked, they took me on and made sure I was okay,” he said. “They were a good influence on me. They taught me that I could get respect and still drive people in a for-profit world. I find that motivating people works in today’s world where they want more than a competitive salary, want more out of a job.”
Toward that end, Brown developed a customer service presentation that was recently published as a book, “Fresh Customer Service: Treat the Employee as #1 and the Customer as #2 and You Will Get Customers for Life.” His expertise in customer service has led him to consult with Fortune 100 companies such as BP and Wells Fargo Financial along with nonprofits including the Ford Foundation.
“In years past, workers stayed in one job and didn’t expect their employers to care about them,” he said. “Today, employers have to be more creative in attracting new talent and keeping it.”
Now he is working on a second book around the “get a brand or die a generic” theme. “I like to get away to develop new ideas, to travel, reflect and write,” he said.
In addition to being a speaker and trainer, Brown is a contributing writer to BusinessWeek.com and has been featured in The Christian Science Monitor and Diversity MBA Magazine on developing customer service strategy and business management.
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at firstname.lastname@example.org.