Kyle Brost is a Founder and Principal Consultant at Choice Strategy Partners, a firm specializing in strategic thinking. At Choice Strategy Partners they take organizational strategy to the next level by facilitating the strategic planning process and then developing strategic thinking skills in the organization through training and coaching. He is also the CEO of Kyle Brost INTL, a majority stakeholder and management company for multiple early stage startups.
City where you’re from: Shawnee, Kansas
Hobbies: Time with 3 sons, Cyclocross Riding, Alpine Mountain Climbing, Entrepreneurship and all things Strategy for Life, Leadership and Business
Favorite quote: Your life and your business are perfectly designed to get the results that you’re getting
Hi Kyle, why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
I don’t know that it was a decision to become an entrepreneur, it’s just the only thing that ever made sense to me. There is this burning desire in me to create and entrepreneurship was the only route I felt like I could do that without restrictions.
Who were your biggest influences? Was there a defining moment in your life?
My grandfather is a big influence on me, he has spent his entire life farming the same plot of land. I think he gave me my first glimpse into what it means to act strategically, because strategy is about focus and making trade-offs and he made a lot of trade-offs in order to focus on what he was most passionate about. He also showed me how it doesn’t matter what you do, everything is better with passion, especially when that passion can be seen in your everyday life.
There was a period after selling my second company that I was starting to lose ambition, I had no college education, my company was gone and I had tried a few ideas that failed. I went from feeling like a successful young entrepreneur to feeling like I had nothing to offer the world. Then, I worked with a wonderful team that constantly acknowledged my abilities and praised my insights. I really needed their support in order to start believing in myself again. They taught me how important it is to believe in others and share your confidence with them, so they begin to believe in themselves.
What are you working on? How did you come up with this idea?
With my two partners we are working on making our Strategic Thinking methodology and approach to strategy more accessible. Our work together and the insight for focusing on Strategic Thinking came about through networking. Clint was one of my professors when I was completing my master’s degree and Todd was a friend of my brothers. I saw an opportunity for the three of us to discuss strategy and share insights, through these conversations we kept hitting on how strategic plans fail because there aren’t enough people in the organization who are thinking strategically. So, leaders and executives sit in a board room and draft a strategy and then they hand it off to employees whose focus is on day-to-day tactics, it creates this gap in how the strategy was created and how it actually gets executed. We wanted to fill this gap, so we created a process for facilitating strategic planning followed by training and coaching to help all layers of the organization think and execute strategically.
How is your service different and unique? What has been your favorite moment with it? What’s the vision?
Strategy for businesses is often so stagnate, once each year people sit in a room, review budgets and call it strategic planning. Our service ensures that strategy isn’t just budgeting and that businesses and leaders apply strategy everyday, not just during the annual strategic planning process. Not every choice is strategic, but every choice can be made more strategically, we give people tools and insights to make every choice more strategically.
There is a moment in every one of our engagements where you see the “aha” moment for one of the participants. The moment that something we taught or facilitated completely changes how they see their business, sometimes even their lives. These moments are what keep me going.
Strategy is about maximizing value creation and our Vision is to enable leaders and organizations to maximize their value creation.
Which untapped marketing channels do you take advantage of?
We are big fans of presenting at conferences and facilitating workshops, giving people the real hands-on direct insight is not only rewarding for us, but it is powerful for the participants.
Did you experience failure along the way? What did you learn from it?
We haven’t really experienced failure yet, definitely roadblocks and challenges though. One of the challenges we faced was creating our intellectual property. Because one of our partners is a professor and department head, we rely heavily on research and ensuring that what we produce is supported by research, yet distinct enough from work done at the university is something we are heavily focused on.
Give the readers the best entrepreneurship advice you have.
I think the best entrepreneurship advice I can give is to start before you’re ready. Too many people never become entrepreneurs because they never feel ready. It’s important to realize that entrepreneurship isn’t about having all the answers before you start, it’s the ability to identify the answers and adapt along the way.
Teach us something about strategy, strategy thinking and value creation!
In its simplest form, strategy and strategic thinking come down to three things, Value Creation, Uniqueness and Context. Leaders and businesses first need to know the actual value they are creating and how they create that value. The value you create is defined by your customer, so to really answer this question you need to know your customer and the root-reason that they buy your product/service. I’ll tell you a secret, people don’t buy bottled water because it comes from snow capped peaks, there is some underlying value they perceive that drives their purchase decisions. From all of the competitors and alternatives, what truly motivates a person to purchase your offering?
Your business (and life) are perfectly designed to get the results that you’re getting. If you want different results, you have to combine your resources in a different way. Every company and person has a unique set of resources, but do you treat them as unique or do you simply place them on the same level as everyone else in your industry? To be strategic, you need to know your resources and identify ways to uniquely combine them. However you choose to be unique, ensure that it is maximizing the value your customers care about. A great question to ask yourself is, “what are we willing to resource or do differently than everyone else?” The answer to this question will tell you first if you are unique and if so, how.
Value Creation and Uniqueness don’t exist in a bubble, they exist in some context. Sometimes we call the context of your business, the “rules of the game”. If you run out and start maximizing value in unique ways, but don’t understand the context your business is operating in; if you don’t understand the rules of the game…you’ll still fail. You can’t call yourself a fast-food restaurant if it takes you 30 minutes to deliver an order, because delivery time is a “rule of the game”, it’s part of the context for the fast food industry. So, your options are to know the context (rules of the game) and abide by them or to create so much unique value that you literally change the rules of the game (think disruptive innovation).
These three considerations of Value Creation, Uniqueness and Context can help you think about every choice more strategically.
While working on your project, have you come across any interesting bit of knowledge that you’d like to share? (i.e. any new research finding, any new platforms, some novel management technique, etc)
When it comes to strategy, Harvard professor Clayton Christensen has some great ideas that are just taking shape in his “Jobs to be Done” theory. His theory speaks to knowing the “jobs to be done” for your customer.
What should an entrepreneur focus on?
The most successful entrepreneurs I know do a great job of balancing commitment to a strategy and adapting to new insight. Those who can’t find balance between these two often struggle unnecessarily. So, I would say focus on committing to a strategy and creating a feedback loop that tells you when and if you need to adapt.
What are some of your favorite books?
Three of my favorites are Lift by Robert and Ryan Quinn, Strategic IQ by John Wells and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson
Where do you see yourself and your product in a couple years?
Well, we are currently working on a Strategic Thinking book and adapting our methodology to apply to individuals as much as it does to businesses and leaders. The ability to think strategically has the power to transform lives as well as businesses and we’ll keep pushing forward to enable people with these powerful tools and insights.