Episode 273 Featuring Alex Bond

A Scholastic Approach to Entrepreneurship with Dr. Brandon Chicotsky

A Scholastic Approach to Entrepreneurship with Dr. Brandon Chicotsky

Dr. Brandon Chicotsky is the Assistant Professor of Professional Practice in Marketing at TCU's Neely School of Business. Prior to joining the faculty at TCU Neeley, Dr. Chicotsky served on the business faculty at Johns Hopkins University and subsequently as a Clinical Assistant Professor of Integrated Marketing at New York University.

Dr. Chicotsky’s career began in United States Congressional lobbying for military aid appropriations for allies abroad at a “top 3” firm, which provided professional inroads in the Middle East enabling his subsequent appointment in the private sector. Dr. Chicotsky’s entry into private equity was in Tel Aviv, Israel through an externship with New York University as a graduate student, which involved capital fundraising for a portfolio of technology startups from investor communities in Europe and Asia. 

This deal-flow led Dr. Chicotsky into Chief Marketing Officer roles in early-stage, and later, venture-backed endeavors, which began a decade of company building, capital fundraising, and more recently, angel investing and marketing advisorships.

On this episode, Dr. Chicotsky and I discuss the general demographics of entrepreneurs, how technology and marketing strategies have changed over the years, his new book Sales Millionaires: Industry Tales and Life Lessons from Those Who Made It (now available for purchase on Amazon and Barnes & Noble), and much more.


What is TCU Sales Center

Brandon Chicotsky: I'm a full time professor in marketing and focus on data analytics, marketing management, and innovation spaces. And with that, I sometimes involve myself heavily in the TCU sales center, which has quickly become a national leader.

Alex Bond: Can you explain that the TCU sales center a little bit? 

Brandon Chicotsky: Yeah. So we teach market applied or enterprise sales. We work directly with companies that partner with us. We have over 260 students and would grow if we had the capacity. We grew beyond our staff or lectureship and executive lectures. And with that, we actually have real sales.

So we put students through intensive training, about 150 hours, and then they actually sell real product to the market. And with that, they engage the management director level and C suite level. 

Embracing Experiential Learning: The Crucial Role of Practical Experience in Sales Education

Alex Bond: From my experience, there is no better teacher than experience. Is that the case for you? I mean, that, that feels like kind of the point of actually getting students out there selling instead of just kind of learning about selling.

Brandon Chicotsky: Yeah. I mean, the word got out. I think you and I both see that and I know companies do as well. The average earnings upon graduation is over 86, 000 at this point, with many at six figures, and the target earnings with commission can really, it has no ceiling. 

And so it's quicker for our students to ramp up upon joining a company, which means it's more cost effective to hire a student who's done the real thing, and our students are being pulled now from all over the country, and moreover, I think because we are so focused on doing the real thing, not playing dress up.

And having real market applied principles as opposed to some of the 20th century unethical approaches like yes, pattern and rejection handling and body mirroring and things like that, which are important to know about as to what took place and how people were mistrained or say misguided. 

And now what we focus on is pipeline due diligence empathy for the client to ensure there's alignment strategic listening, which is really having a line of questions to help understand the pain and ultimate touch points that the customer needs or the client needs that perhaps our service or products can provide solutions for helping quantify what that value is to ensure that we're at a cost positive or a net positive approach and what's offered and then ultimately getting to a deal that's good for them. 

Navigating Career Aspirations: Exploring Trends in Content Creation, Entrepreneurship, and Sales Pathways

Alex Bond: Most of the people that I know, or what seems like the most popular careers nowadays are usually like something content based, like someone wants to be a podcaster or YouTuber, a writer or something like that, something in the content sphere or entrepreneurship.

I'm curious if you have any insight when you talk to your students, if. If some of them are trying to just take a class, or if you're all, if you're talking to people who are looking for entrepreneurship sales or whatever as their career. 

Brandon Chicotsky: Well, I've been an angel investor for several years and I have 22 vested positions. I'm part of 10 syndicates. And I can tell you that if you go on, save my angelist profile, some of the touch points involve web 3 in the future marketplace. Some of it involves media. And this is somewhat of a Gen Z area of competence, at least from a consumer's perspective. 

And so I can more credibly tell them what to avoid, perhaps, and where to participate. And these flash or hype markets where a lot of the interest or the trends take place are often at their expense, if they're, say, thinking they're investing or, or maybe giving them free time and free data away as to their consumer media consumption. 

But as to the content creator experience, I caution against it, unless the student really has an objective and a broader picture in mind as to how they want to monetize and also aware that the content that they give to a platform is not necessarily owned. 

Curriculum Insights: Exploring Key Topics in TCU's Student Education

Alex Bond: I'm curious before we kind of go too far down the rabbit hole, what some of the materials on your syllabus are, what specifically are the different topics that you're teaching students at TCU. 

Brandon Chicotsky: Sure. So right now I have just about 400 students. It's the largest enrollment under one professor at TCU. And I think that's happened because one, the class I teach now called marketing management is for all majors. 

And as a course that catches everything in business, so to speak, everyone from information sciences, or excuse me, information systems to supply chain, real estate, finance, accounting, with all these incredible students in our class to show them marketing is to show them how in the future they're going to need to build in house marketing teams to grow their customer base or user base and to procure the right enterprise deals.

It's a B2B framework. Also many of these executives or future executives that will pass through the TCU Neely School of Business are going to probably have to fire some marketing agencies or some marketing directors or other. And so I want them to have the discernments and capabilities. And that starts with understanding what marketing is from a rudimentary standpoint, then moving into case study to see how it's applied in the market with examples.

And the last thing is we have a course client for each team and students are put into teams. Where real businesses in the mid market who have real marketing challenges are then solved by our students in teams. And then their biggest grade weight of the class is determined on whether or not the solutions they provide are substantiated, defensible, and ultimately has to sniff test of the companies in me.

Alex Bond: Cause when they're pitching an idea to an investor, that's something that they have to do, right? You know, I mean, that feels pretty replicable in the real world. Is that the intention? 

Brandon Chicotsky: Well, it's not so much that everyone goes into venture scale and needs to fund raise or capitalize through stage financing, stage financing. I think the ability to understand product market fit or message market fit into marketing experience is really about running in house operational marketing. And then third party, third party contracting with a good discernment. 

If they do go and fundraise for whatever business that they're part of, whether it's something that needs mezzanine financing or something that's maybe at zero and needs to go to one, the skills or the peripheral knowledge that they get about marketing. So from the internal operations to the external marketplace that they evaluate will certainly help them make the case. 

Academic Journey Reflections: Navigating the Path to Becoming a Professor

Alex Bond: And how was your path to academia? For example, my aunt, she went to school, then went to grad school. Then went for her master's or PhD or her became a T.A. Became a professor and essentially just went to school and never left. I'm curious if your story is the same or if you took maybe some time off after college, worked in the real world a little bit and then came back. 

Brandon Chicotsky: I've always run two careers at once. One of them has been as a student moving into academia and the other has been as a business operator or chief marketing officer. And now more in the advising and consultancy experience as an investor. 

And I do some syndication work too, which has been really interesting and going back into a fundraising experience and then helping, helping select and evaluate deals on behalf of capital. So when I was a student as an undergraduate, I knew within the first 10 minutes of my first class that I wanted to one day be a professor and give back.

I also gave myself a good, what I thought would be 30 or 40 years as a trajectory to merit the insight and maybe have the kind of late stage altruism to give back. It just happened sooner than I ever anticipated in part because some of the windfalls came earlier than I ever thought would happen. 

And that might be attributed to running these 2 careers at once where I, unlike most people would organize my day in such a strong regimen and with such rigidity that to break it meant I felt uncomfortable, rather, as opposed to doing something hard made me uncomfortable. 

I actually liked doing those hard things so regularly that without them, I actually got uncomfortable. So, I used to do an all nighter once a week and schedule it so that I could gain an advantage in some of the things I was doing. I don't do that now. It's not so much responsible for health or, or maybe my my overall stamina.

But at one point, I could was, I could sustain that. I'm a student right now. I'm a law student at Texas A& M School of Law here in Fort Worth, Texas, where TCU is also located. And the institution is top 30 as a law school in the country. The program I'm in, which is a master's of legal studies and real estate focus is been already helpful in some of the syndication work and real estate development work I do. 

But to answer the question more succinctly, I made sure that every company I joined or any big success I had. I then started a new academic chapter to explore questions that I have for the next chapter coming up and by running ahead and also studying slowly, if that makes sense. I was able to build that to career track and ultimately arrived to a ranking professorship and full time while also having the bandwidth while in the role to spin up companies, invest and advise and do other things. 

Alex Bond: That's not easy, man. I mean, is that kind of two trajectory, that parallel path, something that you would recommend to other people? Do you think that like, I mean, it sounds like you're very happy and successful because of that. That's also decently unconventional.

Usually people go career or they go college. I know I worked while I was at college, but not it doesn't sound like to the extent of which you were is is that path that you're referring to something you would recommend to Gen Z or 19 to 24 that might be listening right now. 

Brandon Chicotsky: Well, I mean, you run a studio and production operation on the side. So you've got something going on. And I know you probably you and I both would suggest to people that If you have bandwidth and something that you want to build as to enterprise or maybe family or recreation, rather go all in. 

And when you do that, you get more out of it. So the input output ratio then starts to make more sense as opposed to someone who's kind of middling into something or puts their toe in the water. I mean, I looked at it like my evenings were either going to be on some mindless media consumption or what I think sometimes young people might get into like a death scroll. 

Or something that they're doing in socialized behavior that isn't necessarily constructive or helpful because they're not around people who are brilliant enough or enterprising enough or forward thinking enough or other, or maybe from a higher value net worth experience or community or family or other.

And I think you can strategically put yourself in position socially. That is really, that creates great residual. But if you have other control factors, like what you do with your time and also where you put your energy, your capital and your focus, I kind of think of it the same way strategically, which is I have a really, really good time when I'm around the business community.

I love the people that I meet. I think they're often above average intelligence, if not sometimes brilliant. And there they see they have a market scope that is proficient and narrow, but also broad in the way that they're that they're aware and reading. And so I get really good insight that way. And then on the personal and private end of things, the way I read and the way I build companies or maybe organized capital or other in that in those areas. 

Those moments where I'm fully alone, I get this synthesis and I think by having a two track approach to career, which for me was academia and business and for someone to whom I recommend building a two track career, which could be something totally different, like, say, their daytime work in sales and their evening work in arts or something like that. 

By going all in and having this long form growth, you begin to synthesize all the different interdisciplinary ideas And then at some point, you see this merger convergence of capability where maybe you can fundraise effectively and a syndicate. But you also can do it effectively for your independent brick and mortar studio. 

Or maybe another example could be something like a student of mine has 200, 000 followers on 1 channel and 200, 000 followers on another channel. And yet she's studying accounting. 

And by understanding accounting and going into that thought space, she's been better able to organize some of the systems that support in a software stack, her generative growth of users. And by having that system thinking, she's getting synthesis. 

Strategic Entrepreneurship Focus: Identifying Key Skills for Optimal Advancement

Alex Bond: I'm curious if you have an opinion on what kind of entrepreneurship concentration you would recommend people to focus their energy on if there was one skill that might be the most advantageous to really put a lot of energy into.

Brandon Chicotsky: I mean, the students of mine that are most entrepreneurial and are the most numeric typically succeed. And I don't necessarily on the idea of the project they're working on. I just mean in the long run, I'm on my 10th year of lectureship and that's what I've seen. And I'm saying, I'm really talking about finance. Finance is the skill, it's the language of capital markets. It's also how they're going to best understand their performance and their P and L. 

And It's also the language that investors speak and understand and think through and dream in and so when we are fluent And have a conversation with a startup founder, it's more assuring that their idea that where they believe something is scalable or has product market fit or other, and they also understand the unit economics of what they're doing and the capital term sheet of what they're proposing.

That typically means we have someone who's mature, typically a higher emotional intelligence because it took time to learn the language and took time to think through how their business is modeled and and valued and will be valued. And I just see a kind of soft correlation in that EQ intelligence. There's an intelligence and then there's an emotional intelligence space.

And I'm just noticing that those with more financial competence typically have that higher EQ. And that means they can better calibrate decisions, think in a more analytical and responsible way, as opposed to just driving passion for all the time and focusing on things that can really break a business, like too much emphasis on company culture as opposed to the customer and growth metrics and stage finance value and perspective windfalls. 

Evolution of Technology and Strategic Marketing: Insights from an Academic Perspective

Alex Bond: I'm curious from your perspective, Brandon, how specifically technology and strategic marketing practices have evolved throughout your career. I think you have a advantageous position being in academia to be a little bit more hands on and seeing where trends are moving, where trends are moving toward and from. Do you have any insight on that? 

Brandon Chicotsky: Yeah, I mean, when I first got started, everything was about the cloud, the cloud, the cloud, that everything went to big data, big data, big data, and then blockchain, blockchain, blockchain, and now everything's AI, AI, AI. 

And we'll soon move into probably something more concrete or consequential with metaverse, metaverse, metaverse, or whatever else that next kind of pop or innovation or bubble space is where you see a buzzword fly through most of the deal flow put in front of angel syndicates. I can tell you that on trend, what's used internally is often just better software, better dashboarding, better UI UX for operational automation systems and just operational marketing. 

I mean, from the CMO desk, what I saw is we could tell a story with some data insights about our existing and prospective customers that storytelling helped us inform all of the different touch points in our marketing campaigns. 

And those working with us, like budget procurement, if it was an in house conversation, or maybe it's about allocation and just more responsible messaging and in ways that we can create more predictive analytics to get better marking return on investment and more responsible expenditure.

Now, I think what we have are software tech stack build outs that engage customers where people used to, in an analog format, engage in an effective way that now informs a machine learning system. That system then has to, with monitoring, execute in a way that a person would as to decision and decision trees.

And then now as those decisions are rendered, they're evaluated and then reprocessed. And that's really fun to see. I've seen chatbots become more sophisticated of late. I've seen internal Slack conversations become an evaluative tool to determine inefficiencies in ideas or recurring themes or other that should be acted on and haven't been acted on.

So prompts that are coming also internally that then can better inform campaign calendaring and such. I've seen some really good attribution metrics that we didn't used to have where an agency would run a campaign and give claim to how people would click through or buy something. 

And now I think we can better substantiate how some campaign or a message or other had attribution. Attribution is a big term that really signifies how money was made in the marketing experience. 

Unpacking the Entrepreneurial Mindset: Exploring What Sets Entrepreneurs Apart

Alex Bond: I'm curious if there are certain, I don't know if you'd call them behavior profiles or demographics that really might maybe paint the picture of who an entrepreneur is, or maybe if there are. If it's more like environmental factors that affect who or what might, might become an entrepreneur.

I'm kind of always just curious, talking with entrepreneurs on the show, everyone's like entrepreneurs are different and special. And I'm kind of curious how or why, because you're seeing people who are turning into them. What's your insight there?

Brandon Chicotsky: No, the most successful entrepreneurs are probably in their forties, fifties and sixties. And they're people that are not necessarily special, but rather have a special expertise. And the moxie to go and get something done where there's a pain point or a gap to fill. 

Oftentimes they're not trying to scale something nationally or internationally. They're building a company that can stand on its own, often bootstrapped or family funded, and in that maybe they go and get some leveraged capital and collateralize or create a kind of forced liquidation schedule to build out something from an analog process to something in a more modern form business.

I've seen that a few times, and I'm also finding that some of the most entrepreneurial people are folks that are not necessarily edgy wearing a hoodie or speaking in a language of the future or in some kind of futuristic technological biz blab. Instead, they are finance majors who are organizing capital to buy boring businesses that are at breakeven or barely cash positive, better operationalizing them, rolling them back up into a higher speculative value, and then finding a marketplace.

I'm seeing a lot of that acquisition model as the baby boomer generation has a lot of stagnant businesses that. Have some analog process that could be improved upon and, and, and sometimes these companies are at such a low valuation relative to their potential impact in their market ecosystem or their small market sector that they really are good buys.

And so a lot of my students who are focused on that kind of approach, who are very entrepreneurial, are very systemized. They often wear suits. They're respectful. They have no problem with the authority of banks or any kind of any other kind of capital issuance communities. And if anything, they're deferential to them. They're at the country clubs. 

I find them to be mature and easy to work with. I think the kind of edgy artist persona that maybe builds software in their dorm room and tells everyone where to stick it, and then they go and build something that the world has never seen before and raises venture capital and everyone demands to participate and it runs up their cap term sheet value.

Well, it's so anomalous that it's actually probably a bad model to follow. It's also not necessarily the persona I would encourage my students to live as. But if someone really is just bent on being different and maybe came from an alternative community, such as say an offshoot, long tail gaming experience or some music musical community or other, and they can match that with financial competence, the understanding of how capitalize and grow a company, knowing what growth metrics apply and how customers should be listened to and engaged all the time.

And in that obsession with customer, customer needs and customer path. I think then perhaps we can allow eccentricities or or say, encourage eccentricities to be as pronounced as they as they desire. But I can tell you that I'm in a business school that's upon graduation a top 10 earner for our graduates, and that's not income adjusted or I should say cost of living adjusted around the country rank number nine in America.

If you come through TCU School of Business, no matter what major you're in. You're going to average into a top 10 earner and the higher end of that is often folks going into finance firms or into management consulting firms. 

Or doing something that contributes in generative capital, then later after knowing something, seeing something, participating in something, they then go start companies as opposed to claiming to be born an entrepreneur and refusing to take direction or insider social cues or whatever it is that maybe is lamberized in some kind of wonder a boy or wonder girl syndrome that you oftentimes find in the hoodie.

Sales Millionaires: Industry Tales and Life Lessons - A Deep Dive into Success Stories

Alex Bond: You have a new book currently available for purchase called sales millionaires, industry tales and life lessons from those who made it. And it's not your first book. I'd love to give you the opportunity to talk about that a little bit. 

Brandon Chicotsky: Yeah. Thanks. So Sales millionaires is inspired by the TCU sales center, which has four principles that I think deserve stories around them. These schools are setting our students on a career as earning path that is really, it's unmatched in the country from what I've seen.

And when you've got companies like Boston consulting group coming down or Meta or VMware and some of the legacy companies hiring our students in along with mid market companies on the rise, particularly in logistics and some of the spaces where you see an explosion. And in a growth and excitement, I recognize that there was there was more story to tell.

So what I did is I interviewed 14 millionaires who made their money in sales to illuminate the lessons and insights that they had. And through these interviews, I also drew in the same principles that we teach at the TCU sales center and baxed it up with formal scholarship, which you'll find throughout the book interwoven to take anecdote and substantiate it as to how it correlates in real life. 

Alex Bond: Are there certain commonalities that you found throughout millionaires and those stories? Is there, is there maybe like a through line that you noticed, you know, all these people had this in common?

Brandon Chicotsky: Yeah, they're ethical. They actually care about their client. Yeah, there's client empathy. And while they may not always get to establish a relationship with their counterpart, their client is someone they care about no matter what the client's condition, no matter how the client treats them necessarily. 

And ultimately what they're trying to do is help cost do cost savings or help them increase revenue or grow their user base or customer base or ensure that their operational efficiency increases or something that is of service or helpful.

And they do it at first by due diligence, understanding who the client and the enterprise around them is about and what they need, but perhaps from what they can research in a deep dive. Then when engaging the client, they do so in a way that doesn't waste their time. It's not vague, it's direct, it's clear.

And then when they sit with them or meet with them, they are actively listening and by listening, they're able to better align whether or not there's something they can do to help. And if they can't help them, if there's something in our product or service offering that is not meant for the client or the company, they do not sell.

Instead, they build that relationship. They maintain their honesty throughout. And likely what happens is the counterpart becomes a referral engine. For someone that for someone for whom the salesperson can help and that social proofing and that relationship base really does go far and then oftentimes these people who made so much money in sales.

They are operating at a high dollar value because the people that they built relationships with the companies are engaging. This executive presence that they built through all of their learning, well, it often has more impact and consequence and bigger contract volume. And when you are dealing with people like this, I find that there's a common thread, which is that they're respectful.

They're often not even the most articulate, but they're just thoughtful. They listen. Well, they do not spend Much time talking when they're in a sales experience, they spend more time listening, they have humility, they're coachable in house, their pipeline is something that matters to them. And that means that they're really learning as much as they can about their prospects before they ever talked to them to honor their time.

They have product knowledge and feature knowledge and those things that I'm sure matter at the very end of the conversation, but they recognize what's most important is the pain point and the needs payoff of their, of their client and the counterpart. And along the way in their career arc, they're helping people.

They're training people under them. They're ensuring that their training and learning never ends. And that's mostly about the industry space, their industry sector. It's learning about their counterparts. It's, it's showing up to their client relationship, touch points and life events, if that's ever appropriate or relevant.

And they're also looking ahead to what the market asks of them and what innovation likely means they're using in their own technology within in house and their own modules in house new new systems that accelerate and in creative and efficiency for how they see data. How they build pipeline, how they conduct research and how they evaluate their own sales calls or other to determine where they can be better and more client empathetic.

Alex Bond
Alex Bond

Meet Alex Bond—a seasoned multimedia producer with experience in television, music, podcasts, music videos, and advertising. Alex is a creative problem solver with a track record of overseeing high-quality media productions. He's a co-founder of the music production company Too Indecent, and he also hosted the podcast "Get in the Herd," which was voted "Best Local Podcast of 2020" by the Richmond Times-Dispatch in Virginia, USA.

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