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  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Pivoting to Fill Client Gaps

Brandon Andrews of Material Handling Skills discusses how he works with companies to align their requests with business goals. He helps organizations reduce the risk of an investment in training development by also identifying a strategic gap in performance management and support. We also talk about tips for navigating conferences, approaching new vendors, and how to work through client indecision.

Notes from the Show

Brandon Andrews is the owner and consultant of two boutique consulting firms, Deed Not Word and Material Handling Skills. In our discussion, Brandon shares how his work and experience with Deed Not Word found gaps in needs for his clients, particularly in technical and professional skill training development. This created a pivot for MH-Skills to meet clients where they are and get in the door.

When working with clients, Brandon helps them align their requests with business goals that will actually solve their problems. He also pinpoints a big focus on developing leadership and performance management that will support the implementation of technical and professional management. This is a strategic, operational gap he sees in companies that reduces the effectiveness of an investment in training programs.

Another shift Brandon has had in his business is finding his natural and authentic voice for LinkedIn. He explains his breakthrough and how he transitioned his writing to align with his thoughts and in person, situational language.

In this conversation, we also talk about Brandon’s experience with a recent conference in the material handling industry. He shares tips on how he prepared for this new experience, how he maximized his time and practiced with less risk on the first day, and we share some thoughts on managing customer indecision.

What's Inside:

  • Pivoting your offers to get in the client’s door.

  • Filling strategic and operational gaps with training and organization development.

  • Finding your authentic voice on LinkedIn.

  • Maximizing potential client interactions at conferences.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:37

Hello, everybody, and welcome back to stop the noise today my guest is Brandon Andrews, who is the owner and consultant at Deed Not Word consulting firm. And he's also training consultant and owner of materials handling skills, which does workforce training and deed not word does organisational development or material handling skill. Welcome, Brandon.

Brandon Andrews 1:03

Thank you, Susan.

Susan Tatum 1:04

It's always nice to talk to you.

Brandon Andrews 1:05

Yeah, it is. I always look forward to our conversations

Susan Tatum 1:09

Brandon and I have done a bit of work together in the past and been fortunate enough to keep up with each other. So and he's he's got some interesting stuff to tell us about today that I'm I'm looking forward to to diving into so thank you for being back here. And one of the first things that that I want to talk about with you, Brandon is that you've got these two companies, and there's a reason for that. But you know what, tell us a little bit about your background other than what I just said, for the folks that don't know you as well as I do.

Brandon Andrews 1:38

Yeah, of course. So I went out on my own as a consultant in 2021. Prior to that, I was I was an infantry officer in the army for 10 years. At the tail end of that experience, I decided to teach ROTC at Xavier University in Cincinnati, and I pursued my master's in human resource development, I made that transition into the corporate learning and development space, kind of landed on my feet at a material handling company based out of Cincinnati, building out technical training programmes and then went into the leadership development space from there, after a couple of twists and turns, mergers acquisitions, a couple of riffs and some some other things along the journey. I decided to go out on my own to consult in the leadership and organisational development space. And that's where Deed not word got started.

Susan Tatum 2:31

All right, so what was your intention with deed not word for the service issuers providing?

Brandon Andrews 2:37

Yeah, that was focusing predominantly on the leadership and organisational development space. So my intent or idea behind this was to help companies and specifically leaders operate more effectively, what I see are a lot of, of leaders struggle with developing people at the same time as building your businesses. And what happens a lot is people look at these developmental opportunities as additional things that need to happen, when actually they are enablers to making your business successful.

Susan Tatum 3:15

Right. That makes sense. So you started having conversations with folks in the market and kind of testing your ideas does I recall?

Brandon Andrews 3:24

Yeah, my first client kind of landed right on my lap, I had a senior leader from one of the organisations that I worked for, reached out to me while I was working at a neurosurgery clinic as a training and OD consultant internally. And he was trying to get me to stand up a learning and development department at his organisation of about 2000 people. And I said that I wasn't really in a position to do that, at that point in time. He said, We need your help when you start a business, and I'll hire you. And that initial request was, it came in as a Technical Training Development Programme. And that was something that, you know, I'm not necessarily thrilled about doing all of the time, it's a lot of the tedious work, a lot of needs analysis, and really detail oriented, backed gathering in order to create those standard operating procedures and push it out to the organisation. And what happened was, during my initial conversations with this company, I ended up partnering with a sudden business unit within them about 500 people with their senior vice president of operations, we we started to discover that some of their leader fundamentals weren't present. And I had been able to take these fundamentals kind of on a test run at at another company while I was still working for them, as far as how are we setting the expectations? How are we modelling the behaviour providing feedback, recognising performance and giving that support to the people on our team so they can actually be successful? I saw that those things were lacking. So as I was building out my company thought, You know what, this is a lot of fun. And this is what I want to do. This is what I want to sell.

Susan Tatum 5:06

Okay, so was it their feedback that you were getting at some point? Like, when did you realise that materials handling training was going to be important?

Brandon Andrews 5:18

Yeah, when once I had those foundational things established at that client, as far as the superintendent development, the leadership, the the managerial skills, then we were able to go and target those more technical skills, because I knew the infrastructure would be there to support it. And so that it would be more successful, instead of them just throwing a bunch of money at technical skill development. Once that contract ended. And I started looking for other opportunities. I was talking with other senior leaders within the industry, and trying to find more clients in that leadership and OD space. And everybody was saying, I need technical skill training. And when I say technical skill training, I'm talking about upskilling our engineers, and the engineers in this material handling space come in the controls or software space, mechanical and electrical space, their field service technicians, the people that maintain the systems at different customer sites, as well as the the installation crews. So it took me a couple of months of being beaten over the head by these people saying no, we don't have a need for leadership training, we don't have a need for goal setting or performance management or for you to come in and help us structure our organisation and for for scale and growth. But we do need to train our people in the field. It took me a while and lots of conversations with you to figure out that, hey, I'm missing some some opportunity here.

Susan Tatum 6:41

So in spite of I mean, I think I heard you say there was, you resisted it, because it wasn't work that you really wanted to do. But you also had kind of a like an emotional, I don't know, we'll just say ego response.

Brandon Andrews 6:55

Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, I have a huge ego that gets in the way, a lot. And it takes a long time for me to get out of my own way. I had making that transition from being an active duty infantry officer where all of your skills and everything are probably displayed on your chest and your uniform, going into a realm that you have to prove yourself, in a different sense, was was a difficult transition. And I was being labelled the trainer, when I went into different environments. And to me that was, it is a fraction of what this profession of what people development and human resource development is. Training is one type of an intervention. So hearing that that reductive title for that stopped me a lot. And it got in the way of me being able to build a business that focused on training itself. So I had to get out of my own way, and embrace that and say, okay, if I'm capable of catching the, my target audience with the idea of a I can build technical training programmes for you, I can hire technical writers, I can bring in facilitators and instructors, and get you the equipment that you need, those people can do that work, while I get to go do the fun stuff that I enjoy of the organisational development and the building the business piece,

Susan Tatum 8:23

they made it work for you. But you know what I also hear in that Brandon is because we think and talk a lot about being a strategic advisor versus being a vendor. And we all want to be strategic advisors. And I think what you just described was, okay, I'm almost when they talk to me when they think of me as the trainer now I'm the vendor.

Brandon Andrews 8:43


Susan Tatum 8:44

So conventional expertise or wisdom or whatever would say, we don't we don't want to go down that route. We want to be the trusted adviser. But in your case, it's working for you. Right?

Brandon Andrews 8:56

It is, I was able to secure a client late last year through the request, again, was through technical training we need controls engineers to be upskilled for the jobs that we have right now. And coming in and asking the simple questions and doing a little bit deeper dive into what they actually needed. What they were looking at was, it was more of a lagging reaction to their business of they couldn't complete the jobs that they had right now to the quality that they wanted to. They're also projecting significant growth going into the next year going from a $16 million company to a $25 million company within the year and they weren't looking at are we upskilling our engineers or hiring the right people in to make sure that we're capable of finishing the jobs that we're bidding on and the ones that we've won. And then what does five years down the road look like? And what's our talent population look like as far as our our people development, so that initial contract was or just structuring a training programme, but it turned into now we're going to talk about performance management, we're going to talk about writing corporate objectives, and how those trickle down and cascade down into tangible, measurable goals or sub departments. So again, coming in through the technical training piece, and then getting to do what I enjoy.

Susan Tatum 10:20

So what were you doing? I mean, is there any like tips or things in particular that you did while you were doing the training part to keep you in play or to move it towards being more strategic with it,

Brandon Andrews 10:35

I'd like to, I like to ask more questions around the the execution and the implementation of what they're asking for. In my field training is viewed as it, you're going to fix people in some way, there is a skill gap. And if I just give somebody the right skills, then they're going to go off and do this thing correctly. But what ends up happening is if I go to a training, or something, so let's say project management, I go in, I learned some project management fundamentals, I've got all these new, great tools, I go back to the job, and I tried to implement them, I probably have a boss that's gonna go, ah ah, Brandon, we don't have time for you to mess around with this. We've got projects, we're losing stuff, here's our burn rate, your margin is just eroding at this point in time, and the brain and takes all of his notebooks and everything that he just got from this training, he shoves them in the drawer and goes, well, I guess I can't use that. Well, now you just paid $15,000 to send me to a project management certification programme, and I can't use any of it. So I will ask, Hey, are your managers supportive of this? What things are you going to in place to support the transfer of knowledge and the use of knowledge. So it goes back to my leader fundamentals, the last one, number five was around supporting for success or supporting for performance? If I don't see that managers, supervisors, directors, VPS, C suite level, people are going to protect the knowledge and transferring that knowledge onto the job site and into people's day to day work, then I see that there's a strategic gap, there's an operational gap that needs to be addressed before, I will say, hey, let's do a technical training programme, because they can throw 10s of 1000s of dollars to any vendor to build these things, but they are not going to get a return. Because they haven't protected that investment.

Susan Tatum 12:31

Do that require working your way to having conversation with different people?

Brandon Andrews 12:36

Yeah, typically, I come into organisations at the, I try to come in at the at the economical buyer level. So that could be director or VP, depending on the size of the company. And yeah, it takes a little bit of of navigating through that my initial poll into these engagements is usually by somebody that I've worked with in the past, and it gets handed off to somebody else, and then gets handed off to somebody else. And then before you know it, you're you're kind of building your little network in there, and you get more of an understanding of what the organisation as a whole needs to make sure that what they are requesting is actually going to solve their problem. A couple of years ago, I had the opportunity to attend a a course, based off of a book of the six disciplines of breakthrough learning. Lloyd Pollock is one of the authors. And in there, there's a, there's a great decision tree for interacting with, with your economical buyer, or the people on the organisation to decide whether or not the thing that they are requesting is actually the thing that is needed. So I've been using that as a as a tool, and then really driving in that initial conversation of how do I tie what they're asking for to to a business goal, and how we're going to measure it and what those results look like and what behaviours need to be changed from that.

Susan Tatum 14:02

So it's six disciplines of what was the book?

Brandon Andrews 14:03

breakthrough learning.

Susan Tatum 14:07

Okay, so you just got back from Big Conference?

Brandon Andrews 14:10

Yeah, yeah, I went to modex, which is it's a biannual conference, in the material handling baggage handling robotics, type space, pretty much anything that has to do with the supply chain. So that goes from Warehouse Management Systems, distribution facilities, augmented reality, all of those things. And there's about well, 1200 vendors present at this. So this one was in Atlanta, and it was the largest conference I've ever been to, and I went solely to try this, this new brand, and my new marketing and to get my name out there.

Susan Tatum 14:49

So what did you learn?

Brandon Andrews 14:50

I learned that these are exhausting experiences. I learned that I did not prepare as much as I should have. That's not true. I went into it without experience. So I went into it with with an idea of what it was going to be. And I prepared to the best of my ability, I had to remind myself that I was going there just to try it. And not necessarily to walk away with with contracts and in business, but to get my name out there.

Susan Tatum 15:24

And meet people

Brandon Andrews 15:25

right, yeah, and to meet people. So I, um, you know, through your advice, I got Sales Navigator, and started playing around with that. And when I went onto the conference website and pulled down all of the vendors that were going to be there, and I started working through the 1200 that are on there. And trying to, I was looking through their descriptions, and I was narrowing them down to okay, I only want material handling companies, I'm not going to do anything in robotics, and really just filing down or winnowing down what I was looking for. And then I said, Okay, I want the companies that are 10 to $50 million. And those are the ones that I'm going to target at this point. Because those are the people that don't have internal HR departments, they don't have training and development or learning and development groups. And they it's a good opportunity for me to come in and to help them grow their business.

Susan Tatum 16:16

So you set out you arrived at this conference with a list of company and people specifically that you wanted to try and talk to. And so how'd that go?

Brandon Andrews 16:26

Well, the the first day I was there, I was on the floor for two days, it's a four day conference. And I was told the first two days are the are the big days. And I went to I went to companies that were not on my target list first, to try and to knock off the cobwebs, and to make my mistakes there. And it was a lot of fun. And some of the ones you know, turned out to be great conversations. In the first day, people like you have these walls of salespeople out in front of these displays. And the first day they're like, oh, yeah, come back here. Here's the VP of sales. Here's the the president of our division, day two was totally different. Everybody was guarded. And you really didn't get those introductions to the decision makers and the buyers to the same degree as day one.

Susan Tatum 17:17

So just to be sure that I'm following you on this. Listeners following it. So the first day, you found you were stopping by Well, first of all you practised.. thinking, then you found a lot of salespeople kind of hanging around the exhibits? They weren't. They weren't terribly busy at that point it sounds like

Brandon Andrews 17:37


Susan Tatum 17:38

And, and but they're open to talking with you as salespeople generally are. So I mean, that's, that's another good tip there, I think. And then when you talk to them about what you do, they introduced you to the appropriate person for you to be talking to.

Brandon Andrews 17:53

Yeah, that's what I'm saying. I, one of the things that I found was good for me to have practice is going up to those first couple of booths, I realised that the the people that I was running into, they weren't the buyers, and weren't the people that you know, we're going to be able to say, hey, yeah, come in and help our team or develop this here there, and trying to just have a conversation with them and find those really common pain points that I'd know through research and having been in this this industry, that you all of these businesses struggle with their onboarding programmes, all of these businesses struggle with how do we upskill for our growth and to serve our markets, all of them struggle with how do we lose out more margin or our communications not good, or our teams don't interact properly? So trying to get those people that I'm talking to, to relate to what I'm saying? Or for me to find the space that says, oh, yeah, you're on a dysfunctional team, you got a solution for you? Oh, yeah, your your engineers aren't able to design for XYZ system, or you feel like every system that you create is a brand new one, even though you do 100 jobs a year, and you're recreating the process, I got something for you, and then being able to say, hey, I can help you out with that. So

Susan Tatum 19:15

yeah, okay. And then the second day, everybody was busy. They had to meeting

Brandon Andrews 19:19

Yeah, I learned at that time that that's when a lot of the the executives were in on on day two, and they were in their in their scheduled meetings. So after having made some of these contacts, you know, the next time I attend one of these, I should be able to have direct meetings instead of just trying to go up and sell on the fly.

Susan Tatum 19:40

Well, did you? I mean, how how's the follow up going?

Brandon Andrews 19:44

The follow up is going well, I I went back every night, took my stack of business cards, sent the follow up emails sent the LinkedIn request, made sure that things were included key things were included from our conversation as reminders to them as to who I was, because I'm sure they were everybody was interacting with 1000s people over the course of those days. And then it follow up over the last three weeks, emailing, LinkedIn, phone calls. And, you know, it's, it's hard for me, I'm afraid of the no all the time, or that somebody's not going to pick up the phone. And, you know, Susan, you and I talk, I'm pretty open about these things. But like, the the competence piece behind it, and the fear of rejection. So I have a posted note on my desk that says, get rejected, so that it reminds me to just pick up the phone and call, but it's still hard.

Susan Tatum 20:38

You know what, and I would love to say that you get over it. And you do. I mean, you do get beyond it. But it's I mean, I, I find myself sometimes that you can be having it things can be going great. The pipeline looks good, you're having some good conversations. And then you have a couple of days, when you get a bunch of nose or you get a bunch of time wasters or whatever. And you're like, is it really worth this?

Brandon Andrews 21:02

Yeah, I went into this conference, I got a call before from a previous client that went on to a new company. It's like, hey, my boss wants to talk with you. He's setting up a new branch and blah, blah, blah, and I meet this person, and he's like, Yeah, we're ready to buy. I send over the proposal after the after this conference and everything. And then two days later says, Yeah, we're gonna hold off. And I thought that it was just, I was like, here we go. Here we go. We're off dealing with with one that you think that is absolutely in the bag. It's not in that's, that's difficult. Well,

Susan Tatum 21:34

so it's, it's absolutely in the bag, because your former client said, it's in the bag. Did you ever talk to the guy that you were sending the proposal to?

Brandon Andrews 21:43

I did. I met with him face to face and said, I just need to get I'm just going to run this by my boss for funding, and we're will be good. And then it stopped.

Susan Tatum 21:52

We're gonna hold off.

Brandon Andrews 21:53

Yeah, we're gonna hold off and it wasn't like a a firm no, we're done. It's a we're going to hold off for a couple of months here. And

Susan Tatum 22:00

have you heard of it? It was we talked about there's a book called the jolt effect. J O L T. It's by I can't remember his name and I'm very embarrassed. He's a he wrote the Challenger sale. And anyway, he wrote this book called The Jolt recently, I think it was I'm not sure that year a year ago or so. But it's all about why deals get stuck. And it's got some good stuff in there about how to unstick them. And one of the things that was in there was that he found the mistake that salespeople were making. And I don't want any of us to consider ourselves to be salespeople, but they're there. But what he found was that the tendency was when things start to try to focus on what's going to happen if you don't do this. And that's not the way to get these things unstuck that what we should be focusing on is reducing the risk.

Brandon Andrews 22:58

Okay. when you say reducing the risks, are you talking about finding or as as a consultant? Or like, how do I broaden my, my infamy?

Susan Tatum 23:09

Well, I think it's more the risk of deciding to work with you. Or, you know, and it can be, you know, we forget that the our clients in many, many of people's clients, their job is at risk, you know, if they if they make the wrong decision, and things go off the rails, they could lose their jobs. That can be one. That's one and several things that could be causing it. But yeah, anyway, give that a shot.

Brandon Andrews 23:32

That makes sense. It's, it's Matthew Dixon and Ted Kenna.

Susan Tatum 23:37

Thank you. I'm going to put a post it note on my monitor, because I talk about them all the time. And I don't know why I blacked out on that one. Gosh, all right. So one more question that I have for you, that you mentioned, we were talking about. What do you wish you'd had more help with? Or had happened faster? As you were getting started? And it was you talked about finding your authentic voice? specifically on LinkedIn, but I think that that goes everywhere. What what approach were you taking that wasn't working?

Brandon Andrews 24:09

Um, when whenever I was writing some type of collateral for when I would have somebody that would say, Hey, do you have like a brochure or something that covers what your services are? I'd start to write these things and they felt salesy to me, it just, it felt flowery, and not me. And this goes back even to like some of the original stuff that I was building out for, for Deed not Word. I've got all these different drafts of these, these brochure looking things. But then if I look at them, I also have these other versions and this is something I've always done where I just write in my natural voice, which is really sarcastic and pithy and I don't pull any punches when I might speak and if you'd look through My notebook, I've got these little bubbles that that come out that I wouldn't really share with with other people. But I started writing things like that on LinkedIn, as well, and drafting my website or material handling skills, and none of it felt right. And my son now 11 month old son was going through some, some teething or had an ear infection or something several months ago, oh, no, is after second flu shot. And he was not sleeping well at all. And I was holding him in the middle of the night. And it just kind of hit me. And he's half awake, half asleep, comments started flowing from me. So while I was holding him, I started typing them out on my phone, which is not something that I typically do when I'm not working, I'm not working. But these ideas came. And it was just, it was my, my authentic voice of when I would be sitting in a strategic planning session with a leader and how I would normally speak through these things. So I came back down the next morning and started writing some of the the copy or the text or from my website around that natural voice. Instead of this salesy jump that isn't me,

Susan Tatum 26:16

you know, I wonder if you know, a lot of people now it's fairly common to see that as AI things that are transcribing, when we have zoom calls, and they used to annoy me. I like to record things when I can for the same reason. I'm going back and seeing what were the words, I like to see the words that person I was talking to actually used, you bring up another good pace for the having a transcription like that, to see what things you said, when you were in a situation that you were, were talking to people that it just came out of your mouth. And then it's hard to remember that under another situation, your son being sick, kind of opened that up for you. But I wonder I'm thinking that using transcriptions for to help with an authentic voice could be useful.

Brandon Andrews 27:03

Yeah. If we could just record my thoughts all the time.

Susan Tatum 27:06

Because it bubbles around your head? Oh, well, well, you had the breakthrough. And that's, that's great. Well, is there anything else that you I should have asked you that I didn't get around to that you wanted to talk about?

Brandon Andrews 27:19

And this is where my mind goes blank? No, there's there really isn't? Isn't anything beyond what we were talking about. This was a really fun conversation, just like all of ours have been.

Susan Tatum 27:30

I think it's, it was really, it was really useful, Brandon, and thank you so much for for sharing all of this. I think that there are a lot of folks out there that will identify with what you're talking about, and it will be very helpful. I appreciate it.

Brandon Andrews 27:43

Well, thank you very much, Susan. I look forward to our next our next chat.

Susan Tatum 27:55

Me too. Take care. Take care.



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