Building Brent Darnell International: Brent Shares His Decade of Experience

February 13, 2013

What were YOU doing 10 years ago at this time? It may be hard to recall or even harder to realize that 10 years have passed so quickly. For business owner and emotional intelligence expert, Brent Darnell, this past decade has been a life changing journey toward pursuing a dream, learning the raw truths of growing a business from scratch and gaining a deeper appreciation for balance in all aspects of life. To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Brent Darnell International, Brent candidly answers 10 critical questions about this memorable journey:

Give us the back story. Where did you work and what did you do before 2002?

Brent Darnell: I graduated from Georgia Tech with a Mechanical Engineering Degree and worked in the construction business for 20 years before starting my own leadership development firm. I was a program manager for a leadership development program for Skanska and loved the work so much I decided to go out on my own.

What exactly is Brent Darnell International – what do you do?

BD: We teach people skills to technical people and train them like athletes. We use emotional intelligence as a foundation for all of this training along with physical peak performance. My wife, Andrea Robbins takes care of the physical side of the program.

How were you inspired to create this business – What was your “Aha” moment?

BD: I saw a huge need in the industry. Most of these technically excellent people had trouble with the “people” side of the business. This was the missing piece for them. Over time, we added the physical component because we saw the tie in between the emotional and the physical. Also, I noticed that many of these folks were overweight and under a lot of stress. That ultimately affects performance as well.

What was the best piece of advice you were given when you first started this business?

BD: Business is all about relationships.

Was there ever a moment in your childhood or early on that you knew you might do something like this for a living?

BD: It’s strange, but it seems like I’ve used all of my experience and combined it into what I do now. I quit construction and became a full time actor and writer for three years. Those experiences have served me well. We use lots of improvisation for learning, and my experience as an actor helps me with training and facilitation, and my writing experience has helped me with the books I have written.

(Want to try some improv with Brent? Click here for a special upcoming event!)

What has been one of your most rewarding moments?

BD: I don’t know how many times people have thanked me for their experience in these programs. One man told me that he is not only a better leader and a better superintendent, but he is a better husband and father. But being named one of the Top 25 Newsmakers by Engineering News Record for 2011 was the most rewarding moment.  They told us at the awards banquet that statistically, you are more likely to win an Oscar than a Top 25 Newsmaker Award.  I was so humbled by being a part of that.

(Click here to watch Brent’s acceptance speech for the ENR Newsmaker Award.)

What is a significant obstacle you had to overcome?

BD: My second year in business, the work totally dried up. I rested on my laurels after the first year and did nothing to create connections and relationships. It was a hard, but good lesson for me.

Is there anything you wish you had done differently?

BD: I think everything I did, including all of the mistakes, has helped to make the company what it is today. You have to go through those setbacks to learn—and without them—you don’t grow.

What is one piece of advice you wish you could tell all other new business owners?

BD: It’s all about relationships. And don’t give up on your dream!

Now with 10 years under your belt, where would you like to see Brent Darnell International in the next 10 years?

BD: My aim isn’t to grow. It’s to deliver great service to a limited number of clients. My wife, Andrea and I also want to keep an eye on our life balance. We don’t want to take on too much work. We want to continue to make a difference. We are looking at ways to deliver this work to more people through webinars, more books, and larger groups. Technology is allowing us to explore those options.

In just 10 years, Brent has built an impressive business while still maintaining the healthy work-life balance that he has helped so many others to reach. With this experience and wisdom, it’s safe to say that Brent has graduated from “new entrepreneur” to a seasoned business owner in his own right. Congratulations Brent! There are so many companies and individuals who also wish to offer you their sincere thanks for choosing the path you did and helping to change their lives! Here are just a few…

“I think we have saved a couple of valuable employees for the company, but more importantly their home and personal lives as well. Well done my friend.”
-Jon H.

“Thanks for helping me change my life.”
-Tom W.

“Thanks for helping me change my life.”
-Tom W.

Read more testimonials for Brent’s work here.


Forget About Your People And They Will Certainly Forget About You

August 29, 2011

I attended the SMPS (Society for Marketing Professional Services) National Conference this past week in Chicago and there was a common theme running throughout the conference:

It’s all about your people.

This goes for both internal and external customers.  This concept may seem trite and redundant and many of you will say, “Duh!”  But I think it bears repeating because during these stressful times, we tend to forget that.  Even if it is unintentional,  many companies neglect to truly take care of their people and their external clients.  They are in survival mode, and they buckle down.  The focus is internal, and we forget the people sitting across from us.  Keep in mind that, as a business owner, your people are scared, unsure, and likely approaching burning out with the amount of stress involved in trying to get new work.  This goes for clients as well.  Get up right now and go talk to someone near you.  Ask them how they are doing, and perhaps more importantly, how they are feeling.

During these stressful times, we crave connection with others, so do everything within your power to create those connections.  The golden rule says to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  We talk about the platinum rule which says,  “Treat others the way that they want to be treated.”  Remember, others may want to be treated differently than you would want to be treated. The platinum rule honors that difference.

Both individuals and companies can focus on ways to create more connections with others both internally and externally. Increase the social activities during work hours and after work hours. Involve the families. Let people know you care. Celebrate the wins. Celebrate the personal milestones of births, anniversaries, birthdays, weddings, and graduations.  Mourn the losses personally and professionally with your people.  Let them know that you not only know about their life, but you care about what happens to them.  If you don’t take these steps, be prepared for a mass exodus when the economy turns.  People will go where they feel cared about and nurtured.  Period.  And if you have leaders in the company who don’t subscribe to this notion of taking care of your people, remember that the number one reason people leave their jobs is because they don’t like their boss.

This isn’t hard to do, but it takes effort and focus.  And the payback can be tremendous!  If you have any success stories with this people approach, please share them.  I would love to post it on the BDI Blog!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Primal Safety Coloring Book

August 18, 2011

This week’s “Buzz Book” is such a neat concept! There’s no trickery—it’s exactly what it sounds like, a coloring book. But read on, there is a connection between construction work and coloring books that makes a lot of sense.

Brent’s not implying that construction workers should be picking this up on their lunch hour with a box of crayons. Instead, this book is intended to facilitate the very important conversation about work safety with your children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.

There’s no arguing that technical careers hold a daily safety risk unparalleled to any other job. And just as much as it’s important for the workers to know and practice good safety habits, it’s equally as important that the youth in their life begin to understand these same habits from an early age. Whether they follow in their family’s footsteps and continue a career in the construction industry, or are simply in a car that drives by a construction site one day, the lessons learned in this book are important. These safety skills are applicable to any career and help to foster a mindset of safety and caution. Furthermore, when a worker shares this with someone close to them, they’re going to remember these same principles the next day on the job and the importance they carry in keeping them safe and bringing them back home to their family.

The best part about this book isn’t just the great graphics, fun captions or that it’s written in both English and Spanish—it’s that all proceeds of this coloring book goes to help the families of those who have been injured on construction projects in the memory of Brent’s father, Bob A. Darnell.

Buy it here!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Big Mama’s Country Cookbook

August 11, 2011

We’re buzzing over this week’s book for a whole new reason—it’s delicious!

This book is so much more than a collection of recipes. It’s a collection of memories, the snapshot of a lifestyle and the history of an entire family portrayed through the love and enjoyment of “down-home” Southern cooking. Brent was born and raised in the Deep South—Mobile, Alabama to be exact. Understanding the culture of this Southern community is key to appreciating the pages and pages of recipes that follow. In Brent’s words, “Mobile is a place where people have names like Bubba, Shirley Boy, Booger Red, Cotton, Snort, Bubby and Aunt Vila (pronounced Aint Vila). People live in shotgun houses and “set” on front porches.”

The only thing more vivid than this colorful description of Brent’s childhood is the irresistible aroma your mind creates while reading through the recipes. This cookbook offers everything from simple and practical recipes like “Clean Out the Cupboard Vegetable Soup” to more adventurous ones like “Ben’s Gumbo.”  There are recipes you’ll be dying to try like “Nanny’s Fried Sweet Potatoes” and things you may never have heard of like “Esther’s Mayonnaise Cake.” But one thing is pretty certain– every recipe in here is as delicious as it is Southern.

While the recipes may make up the content of the book, it’s the memories and history you can sense behind each dish that make up the heart of the book. Readers may not have the same Southern upbringing as did Brent, but this is a book everyone, whether brought up in the East, South, North or West, needs to add to their personal library!

Buy Big Mama’s Country Cookbook here!


Thursday’s BDI Buzz: Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys

August 4, 2011

We’re still buzzing over the Tough Guy series! This week looks at a book that addresses three of the industry’s most common obstacles that lead to burnout and weigh on an employee’s health and happiness.

Continuing with the Tough Guys series, this particular book offers some of the most immediately applicable advice. Construction workers endure physically and mentally strenuous work environments. In addition, they’re often working on a tight deadline that keeps getting tighter regardless of project set-backs. Throw in finding time for family, eating healthy and getting enough sleeping and there just aren’t enough hours in the day. So you can see how easily stress and poor habits can easily get out of control…

What this book successfully provides is a no nonsense guide to exactly what’s in its title: stress management, time management and life balance. The book really gets through to even the “toughest” of readers by first examining what your stress is doing to your mental and physical well-being. There are some great testimonials from people who didn’t know their sluggishness, headaches and other health issues were actually related to a completely non-physical cause, stress (all testimonials can be found at http://www.brentdarnell.com). By heeding to Brent’s advice in this book, we can all learn to better identify and manage stress, make better use of our time and find a balance between work, family and what we are most passionate about.

Buy it here!


The New BDI Blog

August 1, 2011

Welcome to the NEW home of the Brent Darnell International (BDI) Blog. Formerly found HERE, you can now follow and stay up to date with all the BDI Blog’s postings on Word Press. Comments & ideas are always welcome additions to the discussion and we hope to hear from you soon!

COMING SOON….each Thursday will feature a review and sneak peak of one of Brent’s newest books. Be sure to check back this Thursday for the review of Stress Management, Time Management & Life Balance for Tough Guys!”

And as always, you can browse Brent’s entire book collection, including the best-selling People-Profit Connection, right here.