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Adaptive Leadership: Embracing Fractional Models

Summary Keywords

clients, company, consultant, coo, cxo, departments, executive, expertise, fractional, full time salary, hiring, jennifer, love, outsourced, people, roles, set, startup, team, work

Speakers

Narrator, Jennifer Clark, Melissa Aarskaug

Show Notes

In this episode of the Executive Connect Podcast, host Melissa Aarskaug spoke with Jennifer Clark, a seasoned fractional CXO, to delve into the evolving landscape of fractional roles in modern business. Jennifer, with over 25 years of extensive experience across various industries, provides valuable insights into the world of fractional leadership.

Topics included:

  • Understanding Fractional Roles: Jennifer elaborates on the distinction between fractional and full-time roles, shedding light on the emergence of fractional CXOs in recent years, particularly in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. She explores the difference between consultants and fractional roles, emphasizing the embedded nature of fractional executives within organizations.
  • Benefits of Fractional Roles: The discussion revolves around the myriad advantages companies gain from engaging in fractional roles. Jennifer emphasizes the cost-effectiveness, strategic guidance, and the ability to leverage expert leadership on a part-time basis, benefiting both startups and established organizations.
  • Challenges and Solutions: Melissa delves into the challenges companies might face when integrating fractional roles into existing structures. Jennifer shares her experiences, emphasizing the importance of setting clear expectations and communicating the role of fractional executives within the company.
  • Future Trends and Opportunities: The conversation touches upon the future of fractional work, predicting an upward trajectory in its adoption. The discussion revolves around the increasing relevance of fractional roles in a world where companies seek specialized expertise, cost-efficiency, and flexibility in their leadership structures.
  • Personal Insights and Career Choices: Jennifer shares her personal journey transitioning from a full-time executive role to embracing the entrepreneurial venture of being a fractional CXO. She talks about the motivations, challenges, and the fulfillment she finds in this new path.

This episode underscores the transformative impact of fractional roles on organizational structures and the changing dynamics of leadership in today’s business landscape. It offers a comprehensive exploration of the benefits, challenges, and future potential of fractional executives in steering companies toward success.

If you have any questions about today’s show or have a topic you’d like us to cover, reach out to me at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com.

Please subscribe so you can catch all our future episodes.

About today’s guest:

From start-up to intrapreneurship at Fortune 100 companies, Jennifer Clark has enjoyed building or growing businesses and teams that have had a lasting positive impact on a wide variety of industries from cannabis, healthcare, consumer goods, and technology. She specializes in implementing the right processes, technology, resources, and talent to effectively launch and scale start-up and growth stage companies and get organizations “unstuck.” Jennifer is passionate about developing our next generation of business leaders and entrepreneurs serving both as a role model and mentor, particularly for women and minorities.

www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferludwigclark

About me:

I’m an energetic executive with 15+ years of experience steering companies to new heights of growth and scale. An engineer at heart (I started my career as an engineering manager on one of the world’s largest concrete bridges), I’ve become a trusted leader and business builder in the technology and cybersecurity space.

www.linkedin.com/in/melissa-aarskaug

Transcript

Narrator 00:08
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast, a show for the new generation of leaders. Join Melissa Aarskaug as she speaks to a wide variety of guests that bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth. While no one has all the answers, by building a community of open minded and engaged leaders, we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.

Melissa Aarskaug 00:39
Hello, and welcome, everyone to Executive Connect Podcast. Today. I am so excited to have Jennifer Clark here today to discuss fractional roles. Jennifer, tell us a little bit about you.

Jennifer Clark 00:53
Yes, sure. Thanks, Melissa. Thanks so much for having me. I’m very excited to be here. So a little bit about myself. I’m currently serving as a Fractional COO, which I know is the topic of our discussion today. I have over 25 years of experience working in various industries, from healthcare to technology, and food and beverage, and with different sizes of companies, everything from Fortune 100 publicly traded companies to privately held smaller startups.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:08
I love it. Thank you so much for being here today. I’m just gonna jump right in. Tell me exactly for the listeners, what is the difference between fractional roles and how they’re different than full time roles?

Jennifer Clark 01:44
Yeah, that’s actually a very common question that I get. The world of fractional CXO is very new, I would say, and probably has accelerated over the last couple of years since COVID. And we’ll talk probably a little bit more about why that is. But essentially, a fractional CXO is an executive who helps a typically a startup company. But it might also be a company that has an executive level role. That’s somewhat in transition, and they need someone to help fill in that space. So, the way I like to think of it at is sort of hiring a COO as a service, in my case, a chief operating officer. But I would say there are also other fractional roles that are very popular, particular CFOs, chief financial officers, chief marketing officers and chief revenue or growth officers are probably the most common ones that are out there. I would say the difference between a consultant and a fractional CXO is a consultant is often coming into your organization, looking and seeing what the whatever the opportunity could be. So, in my case, maybe how the operations are running, and providing advice and recommendations of where the company can go next. And from there, the company often takes that can take that advice or make tweaks, and then they move forward with implementation. The difference, I would say with a fractional role, is you’re a little more embedded into the company. And so oftentimes you have recommendations and advice, but you’re also responsible for implementing that. And you also serve as a key leadership role, where the team often is taking direction from you to move forward with those implementation, or the running of the company, which would be different than kind of consultant where they’re sort of there to help advise but not really directly overseeing the team.

Melissa Aarskaug 03:38
That’s a great explanation. I always I know, we were talking a little bit before. One of my children was asking me about how to explain fractional roles. And I, when I think of fractional roles, I also think personally as well, like I know, I’ve outsourced different things in our home from yard work to housework to food services, and you name it I feel like the world you nailed it is evolving quite a bit to leverage and increase your productivity personally and professionally to get the results that you need to drive whatever the position is for so what are some key from your perspective? What are some key benefits of companies engaging in fractional roles? Whether it’s like, like I said, companies or people?

Jennifer Clark 04:32
Yeah, definitely. Um, and I very much can relate to that analogy there where we oftentimes have people come in help and they’re almost embedded as part of our family, right, sort of our fractional family members that help get things done. So what I would say is where, you know, I there are different types of fractional roles. But what I would say is probably the most common and I think this actually started often mostly in the tech world, is if you are a startup company, and maybe only have a handful of employees, and you have a handful of capital and resources to deploy, right, it’s very costly to bring in someone early stage like a Chief Information Officer, Chief Technology Officer, which you want the benefits of the advice, the strategic, strategic direction of that leader. So oftentimes, instead of hiring someone full time, let’s say, as a CIO or CTO, or you know my case, the COO, you can really have someone come in and help you on a set project that you need strategic help with, or at times, you can also hire someone for a set number of hours. So for some of my clients, I serve as a fractional COO for one day, a week, or I have someone else and actually, I serve in that role for three days a week. So for a fraction of the cost of what it would have for someone full time salary, you can basically get that strategic advice, the executive leadership, the coaching and the mentoring, but not have to pay for a full time salary. And from a fractional perspective, you can work with multiple companies, I would say probably on average, somewhere between one and three customers or clients, if you will, is probably about the norm. But you can also help, you know, multiple companies at the same time to piece together your own sort of full time salary while someone else is you know, also having you part time as well.

Melissa Aarskaug 06:43
That’s great. I I’m I’m sitting here thinking of all the other questions I want to ask you. But what do you do for companies who’ve never used fractional roles? Or they’re very, or hiring it? Were in sourcing everything who’ve never outsourced in a fractional capacity? What are some challenges or obstacles that those companies might face when integrating these type of roles into their already existing organization? And really, how can they overcome those challenges as well? I guess the second part of the question.

Jennifer Clark 07:13
yeah, and maybe I’ll share sort of a personal experience I had with one of my main clients, things have gone very smoothly. But I think part of it is how you communicate, and set expectations with existing employees of that company. So for one of my clients, right now, they’re actually a publicly traded company. They don’t have a COO right now. So I’m sort of filling the void, if you will, of helping one of their business units with the COO services. Now from the onset, I first came in and kind of did an assessment of their operations to say, what’s working well, where did I see opportunities for improvement, and then they wanted me to come in kind of this expanded role to help with the implementation. So one is they had to sort of set expectations with the team on what my role was right. And they actually said, Jennifer is a little bit different than a consultant where she really is going to come in and help lead you through these improvement efforts. I think partly what distinguishes also a consultant from someone embedded, someone serving in a fractional role is I’m very embedded in their systems. So I would have an actual email in the company. So when we’re doing, you know, email correspondence, even sometimes with outside, you know, vendors that we’re working with suppliers internally, I look like I’m, you know, I’m a member of the team and really am acting as such on behalf of the company. Also, if we need to do calendaring, you know, messaging through Microsoft Teams, or G chat, or whatever it is, you’re also embedded in the system. So people can really directly have access to you that is very different than a consultant where you’re really engaging with that client, outside email systems. But also in terms of running team meetings, one on one sitting in on the executive calls, I’m doing all of that. So really, outside of personnel decisions. Now certainly, I am providing advice on hiring or any performance management issues. But obviously, as a not as an employee, I am not doing any direct hiring or you know, performance management. I would say that would be a key differentiator, but I think part of it is like really setting the expectation. I know that we’re like trying to first part of our team, we want you to think of her as somewhat your manager, go to her for advice, mentorship. And so I really become a trusted resource not only to the rest of the executive team, but also managers direct reports or other people who can come to me for advice.

Melissa Aarskaug 09:52
I love that. When I think of I also when I think of it in today’s world working more working, nothing’s ever enough kind of the culture thing more, more, more, more more, I want to think of fractional roles, I also think of it emotionally like job sharing increased responsibility and satisfaction across the organization. So you hit on it right when you were mentioning that is, you’re really focusing on what you’re doing. It’s gonna help other departments reduce burden, burden, burnout, spread the word responsibility across the board. So not one person is doing 50 things on their list a week, maybe they have, like 10 key things they’re focusing on. And I also think to like, when you’re focusing on 50, things, it’s becomes really difficult to be productive. So when you’re overwhelmed with too many things to do, you’re really not as effective doing the things you need to be doing. And then it really kind of, if you’re really engaging part time with somebody who’s an expert in an area for a limited amount of hours, so they’re just focusing on that time for for those key initiatives that they’ve been engaged for.

Jennifer Clark 11:07
Yeah, that you bring up a couple of really good points. So one is I am a firm believer of prioritization, if you have 20 projects going, you have 20 balls in the air, air, something’s gonna fall right and slip through the cracks. So as you were saying, most of my engagements are quarter by quarter. So I’ll sign an engagement for quarter and then we’ll kind of decide one month prior to the end of the quarter if we’re going to continue to the next quarter. But for every quarter, we’re very strategic and specific about these are the priorities for the quarter. And that’s what I’m specifically working on with the teams to get over the finish line. Once we hopefully get those. Once you hopefully get those in place, then we can move on to the next priorities for the next quarter, right? I think the other thing which you brought up in terms of just communication in some ways, a lot of times I’m serving as kind of a go between, amongst the functions, especially when you get to a larger size organization, there could be tension between departments, or functions, or politics at play, etc. And in some ways, like, I don’t have those, those conflicts, if you will, because I’m technically a member of the team. And so I’m really, truly there to help with all the pain points across all the functions without really having a loyalty to in my case, like the operations team, because I’m sort of an outsider, but also on the inside. And so really, I see a lot of my role is more kind of the connector and the glue across the departments to break through the barriers of like, I want to say this to this other department, but I can’t really say that they may take it the wrong way. So if everyone can kind of use me as that buffer, if you will, I can take the feedback and really understand where the challenges are and why we’re not breaking forward. And then keeping who said, what anonymous, I can usually start to forge a path forward of getting everyone together. And like, here’s what I heard collectively, collectively, between all the departments, and figure out how we move forward really, without thinking about the politics and people’s feelings being hurt. And really just focusing on what’s the improvement opportunity and moving forward. So I have seen a tremendous increase in collaboration and communication amongst the departments, since I’ve joined some of these organizations, which is another good benefit of having a fractional person, because they can kind of cut through some of those, you know, layers, if you will, that might exist.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:37
Yeah, I love that I’ve been a part of consultants, not a bunch of fractional roles. So this is fascinating to me, because you’re right, there’s a big difference between that. So switching gears, you know, you touched on a bit at the beginning, what trends do you foresee in the future of this type of work and fractional world? How might companies look at that, for their, for their businesses?

Jennifer Clark 14:06
Yeah, you know, I, I see a tremendous opportunity to see an increase in the amount of companies that are leveraging fractional executives. I think both for startups, it definitely makes sense, right? You have limited capital, limited resources, and you need to stretch all those dollars until you get a viable product to market and see the revenue growth, right. I think it’s a matter of getting the word out. Because a lot of people that I talk to that our founders, entrepreneurs don’t even know this is even an option for them. And so then many of them struggling with getting the marketing that needs to be, you know, out there to help your product or service get out there. But there’s a trade off, right? It’s like you need the executive to maybe help or a Revenue Officer or whatnot. Or you need a CFO to help with a capital raise and deployment but they’re like when do I hire that person? There’s that push pull struggle, right? And so I definitely think in the startup space are really made so a lot of sense. I think, but also, you know, because some of my clients are saying are larger organizations and are also are not startups. But I think anytime you’re in some sort of transformation or transition, and you’re not sure maybe what the right type of candidate that you need for a COO role or whatever it might be, I feel like this is a great opportunity in some ways to also test the waters. Now, for myself, I consider my career path as a fractional COO. I know some people take them as an interim role, because maybe they haven’t found the right opportunity, but they want to be contributing and working still.It’s kind of a good way to test the waters, I would say on both sides, I see it sort of like dating, right, you go on a few dates before you decide if you’re making some sort of commitment for a long term relationship. And I think this is a really good way to also do that, too, as a fractional executive. You can see what the culture is like, what things are like once you’re actually inside the company and see what the type of work is, if it’s what you’re looking for in terms of your career. But also, it’s an opportunity for the company and the employer to also make sure that that executive is the right fit or see what direction they might want to go with the company, especially if they’re in a sense of transformation. And they’re like, Hey, we could hire this type of CIO, or maybe this type of CIO, like someone who’s very tech savvy, maybe someone who’s more data, and analytics savvy. And you can kind of test the waters and see really what you’re looking for before you’re diving in, and then maybe realizing, oh, we’ve maybe should have hired someone who had this experience instead. So I think I see it, and I think a lot of people from executive standpoint, especially I think, in a world of post COVID, where we saw the great resignation, and people are really prioritizing different things in their career, a lot of people who were senior leaders, were unfortunately leaving, and a lot of women in particular, who were feeling undervalued or maybe not challenged, or the right environment. And I think this is also a way to still serve an executive role, but maybe have some better work life balance or flexibility, picking out clients that you feel like really meld with your values and your working style. And so I see a lot of people maybe moving in this path to kind of keep that buffer from the burnout, like you were saying, or, you know, kind of just keep some better work life balance. So I see that trend continuing is kind of a win win, both for individuals as well as companies.

Melissa Aarskaug 17:28
Yeah, I think to me, I was switching gears a bit from a technology standpoint to like a lot of the tech companies are using like AI and automation. Those resources are really, really expensive right now. And sometimes they’re doing very routine tasks. And those tasks can be outsourced to maybe like a fractional CSO. I know, I work in a lot in the cybersecurity space. And some of these salaries are half a million to a million dollars a year. And like you said, if you’re a startup and you’re trying to get going and get expertise, like outsourcing, some of that or outsourcing those kinds of functions. And I also think of it you know, we didn’t really touch a ton on it, but I think of remote workers, right, as well like setting up their computers. It’s also a risk to organizations, when you have all these people spread all over the globe, protecting the information of the company as well. So I think that there’s so many ways to look at fractional roles. I think, I agree. I think it’s the wave of the future. I think salaries are really expensive, you know, expertise, it’s hard to find someone that you need and, you know, very specific roles. It’s in some cases, you’re looking for a unicorn, depending on the position, they have startup expertise or this expertise. So it would be helpful to hire maybe multiple, you know, CFOs that have done, you know, raises or different things like that, that have different expertise.

Jennifer Clark 19:05
Yeah, definitely for different areas of expertise. I think the other thing is right now a lot of companies are having to tighten up, right, there’s been reductions in personnel at a lot of companies. But that doesn’t mean that that expertise isn’t needed. So as companies are downsizing, because they have to be really cost conscious. This is another opportunity to maybe piecemeal some roles that weren’t really ever full time to begin with, but you needed the expertise and so you hired someone full time and now realizing that you can like you were saying, piece together a few fractional people. So myself having been somewhat in food and beverage, right if you’re a company and you have like some amount of product development, but you’re not developing around the clock, you know, every day for a year. You could maybe outsource a food scientist, let’s say or a Chief Innovation Officer or something for a specific project of something you’re developing for a quarter, let’s say, and then you can kind of roll that person off, right. And then maybe in a couple quarters, you need someone to help set up, I’d mentioned, let’s say data analytics, we need someone to come in and set up all of our data warehousing and whatnot. So you kind of piece together, like you’re saying these different fractional roles, depending on where you are in your company. And there’s actually a few companies out there, that will actually help with placements of teams. So maybe you’re looking for a CTO, as well as a UI developer or software engineer. And so they will actually help place a team of a fractional leader plus some other people on their team to actually help implement. And that’s something that I’m seeing being more popular to where you can actually, like, have the fractional team, if you will.

Melissa Aarskaug 20:51
Yeah, I love it. I’m all about it. It’s funny, I was part of a, you know, pod during the pandemic, let’s say, a community of people, men and women, and one of the things we were talking about during the beginning of 2020,  March of 2020, is like, how can we gain multipliers in our lives, so we couldn’t go anywhere, and see our friends, so some of us were using fractional services to hosts like a virtual, like, Happy Hour networking event, or because we couldn’t go anywhere, and just all these fractional things. It’s not just finance, but like you mentioned in UX and other space spaces, marketing, I think it’s a really big thing to look at. And we touched on it a little bit about, you know, burnout, and, you know, jobs sharing and increased satisfaction across the organization. I know getting to know you, I love this, your personal mantra is you only live once, which I love that mantra. I know, mine is like, you know, one of mine is like you do you, boo. Right? And so not as professional as yours, right? But tell me what that means to you and how you’re living your best life because you were an employee, employee, and now you’re doing more fractional work. Tell me about that. How that is now for you.

Jennifer Clark 22:15
Yeah, you know, it’s been really interesting. Over the years, I have a sense of adventure. And I’m constantly wanting to learn and pick up new things, right? So it’s probably no wonder that I stumbled upon this thing of the fractional CXO world because it is new. And I’ve always liked to be a trailblazer. And someone who’s like, I’m not sure what that is. But like, I’ll figure it out and try it out. Right. So I, you know, I was coming off of a previous role as Chief Operating Officer, and probably had figured out that what I was looking for next in my career, and where I was, wasn’t quite aligned. And so I made the difficult decision to actually take a step down without having the next thing lined up. I’ve been working for 25 years, I’ve never ever done that. My husband was definitely a little nervous about that move. But he’s like, I’m gonna trust you, and you’re gonna figure it out. And so I spent kind of four months in transition, trying to figure out what was next for me. I was finishing off my executive MBA at the time. And I, you know, hadn’t quite found the right fit. And in kind of the only live ones, I’m like, I’m not looking for just a job, right,  and a paycheck, like I want something I feel really passionate about, and that I want to do next. And I’ve always thought that about every role that I’ve taken, I’ve loved every role that I’ve ever had. And at a certain point, if I don’t love it anymore, that has been my sign that like, I’ve accomplished as much as I can, here is time for me to move on. I know I’ve said this mantra to several people, including my husband, he thinks like, these are unrealistic expectations. But I’m happy to say that for most of that 25 years, it really was true, right? So when I thought about what I wanted to do next, what I realized is I actually, you know, mentor several women, other people who are, you know, founders kind of informally. And I really liked the idea of having a portfolio of companies and people that I could help. It’s like, how do I take all these years of experience from running a company, very large scale? I worked at Abbott at the very large companies where I first learned sort of the ins and outs of operations, and then move to very small startup, you know, employee 15,50, helped take you through an IPO and like how do you grow and scale a company, you know, with tremendous growth. And so I think I, I happen to stumble upon it, where I met someone who was a fractional CMO, and it kind of just started from there, but I was really intrigued by it and kind of the you only live once and like, I’ll just start it and see how it goes. And if I don’t like it, I’ll just pivot in a few months and then I’ll at least know right, so hard it is more of an interim, because I hadn’t found the next thing that I was really excited about. But after about three or four months, I’m like, I really love this. I love being an entrepreneur, running my own business, finding clients during the business development, but also being able to help multiple people in different trajectories of their companies has been really rewarding to add that value and the years of experience I’ve had, and helping people move to the next level. And also being able to mentor people who are a little more junior in their career. Being in kind of a senior role, too, has been really rewarding. So at this point, I am not searching for anything full time and I’m just going to continue with the fractional work because I’ve really enjoyed doing it.

Melissa Aarskaug 25:44
I love it. i You’ve made me think about things I can do fractionally like what else can I do fractionally I know, I just outsource my fitness goals to somebody

Jennifer Clark 25:57
I need I need to be doing that. I’m gonna take some inspiration from you there.

Melissa Aarskaug 26:01
Yeah, I I’m like, you know, I need an accountability partner. Can you be my accountability partner? I think it’s just thinking, you know, professionally and personally thinking of ways to gain multipliers in our life too right? Like, how can we, you know, live our best life, yet, you know, keep growing and learning and developing? I love what you mentioned about the roles because I think the other cool thing about fractional work for you, Jennifer is all the different industries you’re going to get to work with and the people that you’re going to get to work with and all the different problems you’re going to have. And as a lover of problems, I think it sounds really interesting to learn different industries and be able to help and grow companies and make them more profitable, and build a more more productive team and scale it. So I would love just closing kind of closing here. Tell us a little bit about your business and a little plug for yourself on how we can help you, follow you, learn about more about what you do. If you wouldn’t mind as we close.

Jennifer Clark 27:11
Yeah, for sure. You can find me on LinkedIn, Jennifer Clark, you said which I know there’s probably 1000s of us out there. So specifically Jennifer Ludwig Clark. The name of my company is called Launch Spot Consulting. I generally am doing fractional work in the healthcare space, food and beverage, but really could be any CPG product technology. I and I would say health and wellness I do. I actually was part of early stage startup in Cannabis. So I would put that in there under healthcare and food and beverage. But honestly, I’m open to anything. I feel like a lot of it is transferable skills. And like I said, since I love an adventure, I like to learn in the process too. So even moving to a similar industry, and helping with transferable skills and operations. I definitely be open to but I would say also my expertise is a lot of new we need to build this out, and this doesn’t exist. And so you need a creative operations person to design it and implement it. And I would say also transformation. So like this isn’t working well and we need someone to come in and redesign it and then re implement is kind of where I would say my forte really is.

Melissa Aarskaug 28:28
I love it. Thanks so much for sharing that and find Jennifer on LinkedIn connect with her. She’s a wonderful person. I love her energy. I love talking to her. And you only live once. Have a great rest of the week. Thank you all for listening and let’s do it again. Jennifer.

Jennifer Clark 28:47
Sounds great. Thanks.

Narrator 28:51
You’ve been listening to the Executive Connect Podcast. If you have questions or ideas on how to bring leadership to the next level, email us at executiveconnectpodcast@gmail.com And don’t forget to subscribe, so you can catch every new episode. Until next time.

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Bryan Hancock Headshot — Founder of Integrity Development

Bryan Hancock

Founder of Integrity Development

Integrity Development

Executive Biography

Bryan Hancock has been managing real estate investments—and overseeing development and construction projects—for nearly two decades. He has deep roots in Austin, Texas, and comprehensive knowledge of the opportunities and challenges in this fast-growing market.

Through his development and syndication companies, which he built from the ground up, Bryan has developed 50+ urban infill projects and managed $25M in real estate sales with approximately 35% return on investment at the project level. He also co-founded two private equity funds.

Bryan brings in-depth industry awareness, sharp business acumen, and extensive in-the-trenches experience to his work as co-founder and principal of Integrity Development. He partners with a team of professionals and industry experts (many have been involved in Austin real estate for 40+ years) to identify value-added and opportunistic investments that protect capital and reduce risk for lenders—while delivering outsized returns for investors.

Earlier, Bryan founded and directed Inner 10 Development, a residential development firm focused on Austin’s top zip codes and surrounding communities, and H2i, LLC, a real estate syndication company. He steered these organizations for 17+ years, overseeing the acquisition, buildout, and sale of single-family and multifamily properties, including a 350-unit urban infill joint-venture project.

Bryan was successful in delivering strong returns while minimizing risk for bankers and investors by taking a targeted, data-driven approach to opportunity analysis, due diligence, and strategic decision-making. He zeroed in on potential risks and developed proactive mitigation strategies to protect and grow investments.

Concurrent with his work at Inner 10 Development and H2i, Bryan established Gentry Lending Group, a private-equity debt fund. He also served on the board of Bullseye Capital Real Property Opportunity Fund. These experiences provided Bryan with a grasp of both investor and banker viewpoints, including an understanding of risk and liability on the lending side. This aspect of his background continues to shape his real estate decisions to this day.

There is another unique aspect to Bryan’s career—a corporate history that differentiates him from other investors and developers in this field. Bryan has built organizations, controlled multimillion-dollar projects, and supported billion-dollar programs for some of the world’s largest companies: Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Dell, CACI, and Charles Schwab. He managed teams and vendors in the US, China, France, and India, and often balanced up to 10 projects at a time. He was trusted with a Top Secret Security Clearance from the United States government.

A business-savvy leader and lifelong learner, Bryan holds an MBA in Finance and Entrepreneurship from Texas Christian University and a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin.

Bryan founded the Wealth Investment Network, co-founded RealStarter (a crowdfunding platform for real estate investors), and was a member of the Urban Land Institute and Central Texas Angel Network. He has been a guest speaker at 20+ national events, including conferences and meetups through the Information Management Network (IMN), SXSW, Rice University, Bay Area Real Estate Summit, Soho Loft Conference, Texas Entrepreneur Network, and many others.

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Melissa Aarskaug Headshot — Founder of Executive Connect

Melissa Aarskaug

Founder of Executive Connect

Senior Executive, Board Member & Advisor

Vice President of Business Development
Bulletproof, a GLI company

Executive Biography

Melissa Aarskaug is a global executive and business leader at the forefront of the technology/cybersecurity industry. She shapes strategy, leads teams, and partners with Fortune 500 companies and other enterprise clients to protect their organizations from risk and noncompliance—while improving operations and accelerating growth.

For 15+ years, Melissa has taken the reins to propel organizations to the next level of performance. By combining business acumen and revenue optimization with the sharp mind of an engineer, she uncovers and seizes opportunities for profitable growth in the US and around the world.

Melissa has established a distinguished career with Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), where she is a key member of the senior executive team. Throughout her tenure, she has assembled teams, developed new markets, and influenced P&L impact, ultimately positioning GLI as the #1 provider of testing, certification, and cybersecurity services to the global gaming and lottery space.

After achieving this feat—a big win for GLI and game-changer for clients worldwide—Melissa steered both GLI and Bulletproof (acquired by GLI in 2016) into untapped verticals: finance, government, healthcare, higher education, hospitality, and retail. An enthusiastic, knowledgeable growth driver who cultivates partnerships and rallies teams, she led GLI/Bulletproof to dominate these markets as well.

Before joining GLI, Melissa shaped and executed strategy as Vice President of Business Operations for LV Investments, where she built and optimized a portfolio of commercial and industrial properties. Earlier, in a very different role as Project Engineering Manager for Fisher Industries, she directed and mobilized a team of 550 employees and contractors to develop the world’s largest concrete bridge. Previously, she headed a major engineering project for Pacific Mechanical Corporation.

A curious, lifelong learner, Melissa holds dual Bachelor of Science degrees in Civil and Environmental Engineering with minors including Business and Mathematics. She is a Karrass Master Negotiator and C4 Executive Coach who actively pursues ongoing education and inspiration as a member of Chief, Austin Technology Council, Austin Women in Technology, and Toastmasters International. In addition to her own personal and professional development, Melissa is committed to helping other people thrive both inside and outside of the workplace. She actively mentors and empowers team members at GLI/Bulletproof, and is an executive leader and coach for Global Gaming Women. She founded Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) Austin and is a current or past board member of many organizations, including Emerging Leaders in Gaming, Ballet Austin, Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired, the Society of Women Engineers, and the American Society of Civil Engineers. She has been a Junior League volunteer in Austin, Las Vegas, and Reno for 15+ years.

Throughout her career, Melissa has inspired individuals, teams, and entire organizations to think differently about innovation, cybersecurity, leadership, and business development. She was honored as one of the “Emerging Leaders in Gaming: 40 Under 40” and she continues to share her ideas and expertise through publications, podcasts, webinars, and presentations.

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This is the Executive Connect

A show for the new generation of leaders. Join us as we discover unconventional leadership strategies not traditionally associated with executive roles. Our guests include upper-level C-Suite executives charting new ways to grow their organizations, successful entrepreneurs changing the way the world does business, and experts and thought leaders from fields outside of Corporate America that can bring new insights into leadership, prosperity, and personal growth – all while connecting on a human level. No one has all the answers – but by building a community of open-minded and engaged leaders we hope to give you the tools you need to help you find your own path to success.