Driven: How Did I Get Here Ep.6 – How to Parlay Early Experiences and Contacts into Future Success

Brian Provost VP of digital strategy at Define Media Group, about how he accidentally stumbled upon his first business and parlayed that into the success he has achieved today.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a lot of things. There was a period where I wanted to be an attorney, a race car driver, a Green Beret…

You graduated from Texas A&M, what was your major?

I had a double major in finance and accounting. I always kind of felt that there was this entrepreneurial or business focus that I’ve always been interested in, and those just felt like the best way to learn the inner workings of how business actually works.

Were there any main influences at the college level that drove you in a certain direction?
Texas A&M had one of the more impressive early internet labs. Much to my GPA’s chagrin, I would spend a lot of time just screwing around in the internet lab.

What happened after you graduated?
My first business was a motorsports venture where we tried to create the ‘US Open’ of motorsports. It was just more playing than it was a real business, but it was a real business in the sense that I had to learn all the day-to-day stuff. It was more of a lab for me if nothing else.

A lot of us were big parts of other online motorsports communities, so we coalesced this universe of well-known influencers within the car community, and put together this event. That experience taught me a lot about community building on the web and even things like housing the data from all the races. I kept building to this point where between that and teaching track clubs on the weekend, I created a massive rolodex. I didn’t know it at the time, but I had all these really cool contacts in the industry that I knew on a personal level.

So after the motorsports business when I tried to formalize an internet offering and consulting company I walked into a business right away at the highest level. I don’t think I was really prepared to be walking into boardrooms at the Fortune 500 level at that time. I was a mid-20s guy and was just used to hanging out with these guys.

What advice would you give to your younger self?
I would have told myself to become a little bit more technical a little bit quicker. We’ve got the Weather Channel which is in 60 plus countries and each country has millions of pages. I quickly have to shift from the 50,000-foot strategic guy to working with the devs and figuring out technical issues. To be more of a proficient technical marketer, I think that would have made me a stronger asset to not only my team but to my career.

What do you find provides the best insight when you are interviewing new candidates?
It took us over four years to find our latest hire. We protect this business so much from a lifestyle perspective. We’re always trying to find the human level stuff? Like, how is this person going to fit in a team? As people will tell you they tend to hire IQ and DNA over expertise because expertise is going to be invalidated in a year or two. So hire really strong utility infielders and expect them to rise to the occasion.

Take away quote: Each turn in life is another opportunity to form a relationship that’s probably going to pay off down the road, so don’t skip out.

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