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Leadership Insights Navigating Challenges in Corporate America

Summary Keywords

business, career, constantly, consumers, feedback, goal, hanes, heard, leaders, leadership, leading, learn, learning, listening, love, part, people, products, supply chain, work, years

Speakers

Melissa Aarskaug, Narrator, Nadine Hall

Show Notes

In this episode of the Executive Connect Podcast, Melissa Aarskaug spoke with Nadine Hall, a former executive lead of HANES Brands. Nadine shared insights into product differentiation, personal branding, and the critical skills needed for success in corporate America. With a focus on continuous learning and active listening, she emphasized the importance of understanding consumer needs and fostering strong partnerships. Nadine reflected on her career journey, navigating challenges, and finding a balance between her professional and personal life.

Topics included:

  • Consumer-Driven Differentiation: The significance of finding a market differentiation driven by consumer insights, a principle applicable not only to products but also to personal branding.
  • Crafting a Personal Branding Statement: How to construct a personal branding statement by highlighting career interests, targeted roles, key achievements, and identifying one’s unique strengths or “superpower.”
  • Critical Leadership Skills: The importance of continuous learning, asking insightful questions, and honing the skill of active listening to understand others’ goals and challenges.
  • Navigating Change: Practical advice on navigating change, emphasizing the value of clear communication, strategic planning, and aligning your team with a shared purpose.
  • Building Strong Partnerships: The key to building successful partnerships—recognizing common ground, acknowledging diverse skills, and finding ways to collaborate effectively, even in challenging situations.
  • Feedback as a Gift: Highlighting the importance of feedback, viewing it as a gift, and graciously accepting both positive and constructive feedback to foster personal and professional growth.

In conclusion, Nadine encouraged aspiring leaders to embrace a positive attitude, adhere to basic principles, and work collaboratively with diverse teams.

Thank you for joining us on the Executive Connect Podcast, where powerful stories shape meaningful connections!

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:

Nadine Hall has strong expertise in growing and obtaining a competitive advantage for leading multibillion dollar apparel brands and product lines in the men’s, women’s, and children’s innerwear, activewear, athletic and technical apparel and CPG categories, taking Hanes, Champion, licensed Polo Ralph Lauren, licensed DKNY (Donna Karan New York), and L’eggs hosiery to a #1 or #2 market share position in the United States.

Nadine is currently a Board Member of The Adeline Sugar Company, where she oversaw tremendous growth and a $50M successful shareholder payout. She is also a former Vice Chair and Co-Creator of the Women’s Leadership Council of the United Way of Forsyth County and a current Board Member for the University of North Carolina at Greensboro Bryan School of Business & Economics – Consumer, Apparel, Retail Studies and for the United Way of Forsyth County Foundation and former Board Member for Reynolda House Museum of American Art, part of Wake Forest University.

www.linkedin.com/in/nadinehall1

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 00:38
Welcome to the Executive Connect Podcast. I’m so excited to have my friend Nadine Hall, a fellow executive leader with over 25 years of P&L experience, managing some of the biggest and most iconic brands like Hanes, Champion, Polo, Ralph Lauren, DKNY, and several others. She has navigated various distribution channels with some of the top retailers like WalMart, Target Amazon, Macy’s, both internationally and domestically. She’s here to talk to us today about leadership. Welcome, Nadine.

Nadine Hall 01:16
Thank you, Melissa. It’s a real pleasure to be with you. And I appreciate the kind introduction today.

Melissa Aarskaug 01:23
So I’m just going to jump right into it like I normally do. Clearly, you’re a branding expert for what some would probably consider products that are hard to differentiate. What’s your approach to differentiating the products you’re positioning? And how can these principles be applied to leaders looking to stand out and position themselves favorably in corporate America?

Nadine Hall 01:48
Yeah, it’s a great question. What we would say is that there’s a real, you need to find a place of differentiation in the market that is driven by consumer insights. So what do consumers want from their products? What solutions are they looking for? And then you innovate the products to deliver those benefits and communicate in a compelling way, both in the store or online or in advertising. We think about personal branding, a lot of the things can continue in that same vein. So it’s a continuation of that theme. So we think about as we start to think about a personal branding statement, think about career interests, think about targeted roles you’d like, think about your current role and things you’re good at doing. So we might say that there’s a phrase that would say I am this, I am a sales leader. And then you would talk about in what in what case who you deliver certain sales goals? Or you’ve increased sales in new channels or you’ve gotten new customers on board. And then you think about what things are you known for? I’m known for my ability to do what? To grow business in difficult times. To make categories exciting to retail partners, those kinds of things. And lastly, you might think about what is my superpower? What are some things I’ve really, really enjoyed doing? I’m good at doing. And a tip there is to ask some key people who have worked with you in the past and known you over time, because often they can tell you what your superpower is, even though maybe you’ve missed it. So it’s another tip for trying to figure that figure that one out.

Melissa Aarskaug 03:19
I love it! Sounds like we need to own it more and use words like “I” and your “your superpower”! That’s such an important thing like what are you great at? As someone that is very experienced in leadership roles, what do you consider the most critical skill or maybe mindset trait for a successful leader in this in the world today?

Nadine Hall 03:46
Yeah, I think part of it is is a sense of continuous learning. So that just approach of continuously learning and continuously upgrading your abilities. Thinking about questions that you can have that will help you understand other people and their businesses or their situation. So kind of what is your end goal? What is the thing you’re trying to accomplish in your business or in your life? What are three top imperative? So if nothing else happens, what three things have to happen? And then the last, what are your top three challenges? What is your biggest problem? What are you trying to solve? Because often if we can solve that problem for someone else, then you get on board and you start thinking about other things you can work on together and how that can progress. The other thing I’d say is also listening. To develop a skill of listening with a desire and a purpose of understanding others. What their goals and motivations are, what their challenges in their work that they’re trying to accomplish, and what their general approach is, what their thoughts are. And that way you really have a sense of what the person is really about, but also what the business situation is. And it’s much easier to find sort of a place where you can work together towards a solution.

Melissa Aarskaug 04:58
So I love the one listening actively listening or I forget saying that goes, “Listen to understand not listen to respond”. I think most people listen to respond. And we’re not really hearing what other people are saying clearly. And so I think I would agree a lot of times what people are trying to say, and what they’re really saying, is misunderstood a lot of time. As we navigate complex workforce, and the world we live in today on teams, and the way we are as far as wanting things yesterday, and now, and not patient. And so I myself constantly work on the listening. Because I would agree it’s one of the most difficult things these days with so many dynamic things going on.

Nadine Hall 05:52
Right? It’s a great point was it it is hard, because there’s so much coming at us all the time. And we we do process information very quickly. A thing that has helped me is to say, “I’d like to share what I think I think I heard you say, so you can help make sure that I’ve understood you” and then kind of cover the key points. And so they’re invited in to help you make sure that you’re clear on everything. So that sense of I’d love to just summarize what I think I heard you say, is a great way of kind of keeping the dialogue open and learning more and making sure that you sort of you have it, you’re clear.

Melissa Aarskaug 06:27
Yeah, so like telephoning it back, right? Because I’ve heard sometimes they’ll say something that comes back around. I’m like, “Wait, that’s not what I meant!. That’s not what I said. That’s not how I said it!” So you’re actively practicing, repeating what you heard and make sure it was indeed, what you heard. And that’s really great advice that I love. What would you consider the defining factors that encourage you to navigate your career and the different roles you’ve taken in the apparel business?

Nadine Hall 07:00
Yeah, I think I’ll cover since the time I started with Sara Lee Corporation, then we were spun off to Hanes Brands. So I’ll I’ll cover kind of the key junctures there. And that was after I had my MBA, so I would consider that some more, more clear kind of career journey at that point. So the first was, I joined Sara Lee Corporation, Hanes hosiery, because I felt like I’ve learned a tremendous amount about business, about consumer marketing and about customers. And so I thought it was a great place to begin. In those days, they had fantastic training and mentoring, both informally and formally. And the executives I met during the interview process were incredibly impressive in every way. And they like to teach kind of teach and mentor people. So that was the place I started. And then I had an opportunity to, to make a change over to a leadership role years later. That was a lateral. And what I determined was Hanes Brands had, or Sara Lee in those days, had a lot of businesses in the mass channel, so Walmart and Target. And I realized then I had never worked on those businesses. So I thought to myself, you know, I’m not going to even be considered for some of these roles where you have to know those customers really well. Even though it wasn’t in sales directly, it was part of the kind of teamwork we had for trying to present solutions to customers. So I took a lateral move back into the hosiery business. And it was great, I knew the product. And I knew a lot of the people who are still there, but I just was able to learn those mass customers. And that made me have a chance. I was asked to lead the C9 by Champion business, which was our Champion product line at Target exclusively. And so I probably wouldn’t have been in line for that. But we had the same senior executive on the Target side for both businesses. That was a great business as a huge team effort. We grew it from about 50 million at retail to over a billion dollars in annualized retail sales. So a huge team effort, a wonderful group of people who worked on that. And then I had the opportunity, I was asked to come back to the innerwear side of the business, so underwear and socks, and lead those businesses. And, those are some of the largest businesses that Hanes had, and very much profitable businesses. So that was a chance to really grow there and understand the full P&L, a broader view of the supply chain, and how our business fit into the to the title company. And most recently, one of my roles was in the men’s business. We had a portfolio in men’s underwear and sleepwear of, of key brands, so Hanes Champion and licensed Polo business. And that was really an opportunity to think about the portfolio brands we had and how could we sort of get to every consumer across the board. You’re given a mix of those brands and a mix of retail channels and our including our own stores and sites. So there’s sort of a kind of a focused view on continuing to expand learning, thinking about what I didn’t know, and how I could have that knowledge. And also, I’ve been very lucky to have had a number of mentors who’ve been thinking with me a long time about, what are the things that you’re going to need to learn and know to continue to advance and to grow?

Melissa Aarskaug 10:20
I love it. And it sounds like you pushed yourself out of your comfort zone constantly. It sounds like you had, you know, I hear a lot of times this, I forget the saying, that if a woman has doesn’t have 80 or more percent of the skills, they won’t apply for the job or take the challenge. And it sounds like every time you knew you had some of the knowledge, but you had some growth to do. And so you kind of pushed yourself out of your boundary and asked for help. And it’s sounds like you had champions that were pulling you along and supporting you and working with you. And really mentoring you it sounds like as well in these roles. And I would always say like Target to me and Walmart are like the big leagues, right? They’re like the big leagues. And it’s a total different supply chain, then like the local mom and pop, right?

Nadine Hall 11:15
Yeah, just the size and scale. And certainly I think about businesses like C9 or some of the there was a huge as Target on also men’s underwear at Walmart. These are large scale businesses and the supply chain has to be very robust in our demand and supply planning. So how much are we going to sell of what and when does it need to be here that has to be very carefully coordinated. But it was a great opportunity to really do some terrific things, hopefully, for our customers, but also for consumers, too. So you’re right, like mentoring and support of, and advocacy in some cases for by others has been something I’ve been very grateful for. And there’s been a lot of it. And the other thing that’s interesting is that mentors sometimes come from unusual places. I heard someone say that years ago, who he ended up to be CEO of a company. And he said the across his career, he sort of traced his entire career. And he said, You know, I had mentors who were in totally different functional areas, very much senior to me, I didn’t even think they knew me at all. And he said they would take an interest. And he said, I always just sort of appreciated that and tried to gracefully accept whatever help or coaching they were giving. He said some of those people became some of my largest advocates, because they saw in me, you know, a partner in marketing, who was really appreciated by someone who has a very senior executive, for example, in sales or in supply chain. That they saw something in this person was quite exceptional, for sure. But thinking about, you know, if someone sees something in you, and they want to help or support, it’s wonderful to just graciously accept the the help and support and to have that kind of breadth. Because those folks are remarkable and what they know, both about leadership, but also about their functional disciplines.

Melissa Aarskaug 13:13
Yeah, it sounds like you’ve had to, like pivot the ship a few times, right? You know, we were going down one direction, and the team was executing a strategy and with rebranding and changes, you’ve had to really pivot teams of people and strategy and which is not really easy these days to pivot and change. So how did you handle that landscape and from a leadership perspective, and, really give your team confidence in the changes? I know now, there’s a lot of change going on in our world. And I think that now it’s more important than ever to be adaptable to change and open to change. And you kind of touched on it as well, you had champions internally that were teaching you things. So what do you think from for aspiring professionals and leadership roles? Any feedback or suggestions for them? When they’re, you know, maybe their landscape is constantly changing or pivoting? Or reorging?

Nadine Hall 14:25
Yeah, there’s like a couple of things is to think, kind of, think constantly and be open to new opportunities. Think about what where how you could potentially attack a problem or address an issue in a in a new way. And also think about a broad view of the data looking at all the data that you have or the performance of the business, but all the details are getting into great level of depth and understanding and talking to the team about ideas they have what they think is really the central problem, what they think are opportunities, and then communicating that in a simple way. And having a plan that is both strategic in nature, but simple in execution as much as possible. And then making sure there are different folks who are leading each part of that. I also think there’s a lot to seeing the bigger purpose of what we’re doing. So some might say, we’re in the active apparel, sports bra business, or we’re in the men’s underwear business. But we would say, you know, we’re in a place where we’re trying to delight consumers, with our products, meet their needs, for solutions they want and provide those products at prices that pretty much everybody can afford, and find in retail locations that are easily accessible. Certainly, now, the Internet back years ago, was just trying to get product distributed broadly. So we would say that as well as we always took our position in the communities in which we did business very seriously. So we had a number of, at Hanes Brands, a number of medical missions to other parts of the world where we had facilities, where we built schools and certain other locales, or when there were kind of difficult human tragedies or unexpected disasters, we would provide product or water or whatever was needed. So those things really sort of, I guess, put a different sort of view on what what our purpose is, it’s the business purpose and delighting consumers and customers, the solutions, but it’s also serving the bigger community of humanity.

Melissa Aarskaug 16:37
That’s impressive. That’s, you know, leading multibillion dollar P&L is not, you know, a small task. It’s a Herculean effort to move and position brands across multiple lines. So you’re hitting male, female, age, all the buckets, and it made me think, you know, how do you balance that? So that’s not an easy task, easy feat? How do you balance kind of that personal/professional side with, you know, driving revenue for a large publicly traded company, right? They’re expecting profit, profitability, revenues increasing, branding getting stronger, better, absorbing more market share constantly? I mean, there’s only so many pairs of underwear one can have, right. So. Or wear at one time, right? So how do you balance that personal/professional life day to day?

Nadine Hall 17:35
Yeah, I think one thing, the professional side is having a lot of clarity about where you’re going strategically, or, or if nothing else, these things have to be accomplished, in this way, and by this timeframee. And then backing into what is the action plan to get there, based on the data that you have the performance of business today, the characteristics of the business, and working at it with a fair amount of relentlessness or intensity. Because we used to say these are large businesses. And so if we make in a large business a mistake, it can be very large. And so part of its just being very clear on what the facts are, where you are, you know, where you’re going, and what is the path to get there? And what’s the backup plan if we don’t, if we struggle along the way, so how could we kind of recover the timeline or some of the investment we’ve made. And then personally, I think the balance of the two is never, I think, a simple thing to do overall. I would say generally, I’ve had a lot of help, and, that I think you find friends or others or or partners, marriage, or marriage partners who are who are set up to help and willing to help. And when you have to travel constantly, that they’re there to help, which is great, my husband’s been wonderful. I think also you think about in there are often key priorities or key times where you really have to be physically and I’d say mentally present, and trying to make sure you as someone said to me was the brain and the person stays with the body. So when you’re there and it’s important to be with family, or important to be at work that in that setting that you’re there fully, so that other parts of it are taken care of. And I think the last thing is is just a bit of constant sort of reprioritizing of you know, this was the schedule for today. But these other things can wait and there’s something more important or it’s going to take more time to do this, whatever it is and just have to figure out a way. I think also for me one last thing is I had the blessing early in my career of a job I did not like and so it was a huge huge blessing, although it didn’t seem so at the time. But that was a reminder of if you do things you really enjoy doing, it never feels like work, you know, because you, you run to it and you run from it, of course does for family and other things. But it never feels like work and the ability to constantly work at it or relentlessly go after something is much easier. So I just remind everybody about that. The other thing is, some people would say, Well, you know, I like this part of the work, but less this well, maybe over time, you could do more of the part that you like better, you think you’re better at doing it. And as well, I think some people say, Well, I love my work. But I have, you know, my work is very much like in the area of technology or finance or engineering. But I have this creative side well, in hobbies, you can pick something that lets you explore your creative side, so that you can continue on in your career. And so the balance that comes there in that way.

Melissa Aarskaug 21:00
I love it, so many really good nuggets in that I think the first one I heard was, you are not only leading a team, but you’re leading yourself, right? You’re leading yourself through your day to day and you get through your day. And you’re like, Okay, I was supposed to get these things done. I didn’t. So we’re gonna pivot to this maybe the next day and then giving yourself grace, right. It’s one thing to say I didn’t get my 20 things done. That’s it, I got to work late and exhaust myself and get it all done. But I think what I heard was leading yourself. And I guess the flight attendant say at best, right? You put your mask on first, so you can, you know, put your kids masks on. And so playing that in your head, right? So you lead yourself pivot, give yourself grace and realize we’re all not yet a chatGPT AI bot. So we’re just humans trying to figure it out on this earth for now. Right?

Nadine Hall 22:00
It’s so true. And I think you put it beautifully. Listen, I love what you said about about thinking about, you know, kind of giving yourself a chance like, well, tomorrow, we’re going to hit this harder, or we’re going to reallocate time, or I’m gonna ask some other people to help me so we can kind of crest the hill, I think part of it is the sense of like, we’re working to be better at what we’re doing all the time. So we’re not worried about something didn’t work, or we weren’t as good as we wanted to be what we’re just working to be better all the time, I think is a big thing. I think the other piece of it is that whatever we do, we just work on being our best at doing that, right? We’re just, we’re just trying to give everything we do our very best. And it’s not always possible. But I think the goal is, you know, I’m going to try and do my very best wherever I am. So I often say to people who are more junior in their career, like, if you want to be at this other level, at some point in your career, then just do the best you can and whatever you’re doing right now, because often also people think how we do small things is how we do big things, you know? And so those small things, seemingly small things are assigned both to ourselves and to others of like, what is our approach? How do we think about things? How do we execute things? How do we plan things? How do we approach things strategically, so part of it’s saying, I’m going to do the very best I can at whatever I have in front of me to do whatever my assignment so to speak, is I’m going to do it with the best of my ability. And, and you also find that way, you tend to find you learn a lot that way you learn a lot about yourself, but you also end up in a place where you have more opportunities to do different things because people see you as like, wow, she could figure that out or she asked for help when she was trying to think about this or she had a new approach and just went after it until we could make it work. So things like that sometimes, you know, the success of one thing breeds breeds to another.

Melissa Aarskaug 23:59
And I love that and the other thing I always think too is doing things to the best of your abilities and if and when you make a mistake, it’s okay as I’m a personally a recovering perfectionist and I realize sometimes my biggest mistakes were some of the best blessings in my life. And like you said, work really hard at it. And you know, not dwelling on it, get it across the line and then if you make a mistake, learn from it and ask for help or hey, I did this assignment. What do you think, you know and asking feedback for people and it doesn’t have to be senior people. It can be sideline downline around line your kids, your mom, whoever is your counsel. And I love what she said because we all are just trying to do our best job. And we all were we all are where we are today with what we have and aspiring for these other roles is really I love what you said it’s so great is Learning and keep trying to the best of your ability, because it will show over time.

Nadine Hall 25:07
Yeah, is really true. I love what you said about that sort of like, we don’t have to be perfect. In some cases, some things just have to be finished and completed, right, they just need to be completed by a certain time. Some they need the timeline is you got more time, but they have to be done with great precision or to other things are very complicated. And you have to sort of create a new business model or think about something that the team has never done before. So you’re gonna need a little more time, and you have to talk a lot together about okay, here’s where we want to go. How do we have to work our way there. So I think those things are really, really important. And I think what you hit on a great thing, Alyssa, which is feedback, and I think learning to ask for feedback and saying, you know, tell me about how you perceive that that session went to tell you about and you say, What things do you think I were I was strongest to doing what things do you think I could improve? And how would you suggest I do that. So learning to ask for feedback and to accept it graciously. Because you know, all feedback is a gift. And as someone said to me, once we know we like at the holidays, or our birthdays, we like some gifts more than others. So feedback is a gift, we have to remind that and thank the person for helping us by giving us feedback that maybe we need to hear, as well as compliments and things that you really just do more of that is a great thing. So I think some of those basic things like accepting feedback, having a positive attitude, being prepared, working hard, those kinds of things, really they make a difference over the long haul. They really do.

Melissa Aarskaug 26:42
Absolutely, absolutely. I think as we embark on the end of the year, hard to believe we’re at the end of the year. I always think, you know, resets goals, right end of the year goal, and not be so hard on yourself, whether it’s weight loss goals, or this goal or that goal and realize that it takes time to get where we’re going wherever that goal is, it takes time and effort. And I just want to add just any final thoughts or maybe three key leadership takeaways you’ve learned in your Mega career that you can share with our leaders.

Nadine Hall 27:28
I think, like I said, previously, listening is a is a great skill to develop. And you’ll be surprised when you when you talk to someone you say, We came from this meeting, what what were your kind of key takeaways? Or what did you think about this point, people will will see things that you never would have seen. And it’s just a wonderful way to get to know somebody. And then when you go back and you work with them on something else, you have this understanding of them and how they view the world. And it’s incredibly broadening. And you realize, boy, the two of us sort of joined forces, we’re going to be unstoppable. So listening I think is critical with like you said within a goal of understanding and then maybe sometimes repeating back to people, I think I heard you say the following do you mind if I share, share that with you. So you can help me make sure. The second thing is what I call back to basics a little bit about we talked about earlier. So so we’re going to be positive, enthusiastic, we’re open to learn, we’re, we’re doing making our best effort, we show up on time ready to go. Those things don’t cost anything, don’t take a lot of extra work or exceptional IQ. They’re just the basics. And when when we get a stray, sometimes we just get back to basics, it really helps us. And the last thing I’d say is working well with other people just figuring out a way like is there any bridge between us? Do we have anything in common? Do we have almost nothing in common but we have this person has great skills that I don’t have maybe that would be wonderful complements was working together. But just finding a way to do that. And in situations that are more sensitive or more difficult, or when the business is especially challenging is finding a way to defuse the situations to put others at ease, to put everyone in a position where we’re prepared to work together as a team and sort of be our best together even if we’re all struggling or it’s a very difficult environment. So those kinds of things that defuse the tension and provide a platform of moving forward together really, really remarkable because you know, there there are tense moments in these businesses and things have to things have to happen that are very difficult. So being able to harness that group effort is is a big thing.

Melissa Aarskaug 29:48
I love that that’s such good advice to be able to be likable. I forget who wrote that book, The likability factor or maybe it was like Dale Carnegie or something like that. It’s true. We’re working with culture, race background ages, you know, working with different the baby boomers do things different than Gen X, the, you know, people from Japan do business different than the people from the US and being mindful that it’s a cultural thing too. And it may or may not be you. It’s just their perspective of things. I love that I’m actively working myself in that space. So that is great advice needs you and I appreciate that. I want to thank you so much for being here. I love so many words of wisdom, so many nuggets. How can the listeners connect with you? Is there a social channel? that’s best for you?

Nadine Hall 30:41
Yes, probably on LinkedIn. So if you put in LinkedIn linkedin.com And then in and then it’s Nadine Hall, one number one. So N A D I N E H A L L. And then the number one.

Melissa Aarskaug 30:55
I love it! Connect with Nadine, she’s amazing. Wonderful. Thank you so much for joining Executive Connect Podcast.

Nadine Hall 31:03
Pleasure. Thank you so much. I really appreciate and humbled by the invitation to join you. It’s just terrific to be with you today.

Melissa Aarskaug 31:11
Thanks so much. Well, thank you for listening to Executive Connect and tune into us again next week.

Narrator 31:18
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.