Welcome to another special section of the Chairman's Newsletter, where we continue to highlight the backgrounds and expertise of each of our esteemed WWT board members.
In this edition, we feature Brandon Mann, a WWT board advisor and true champion of values-driven leadership.
Brandon is Managing Partner and CEO of Kingdom Capital, a private investment and philanthropic firm that he co-founded with Dave Steward in 2016. Prior to Kingdom Capital, he served as executive director of the Biblical Business Training organization and was an executive at commercial real estate firm Cassidy Turley, now Cushman & Wakefield, where he served on the board and executive committee.
Brandon’s community work includes board and leadership roles with Biblical Business Training, United Way, and the University of Missouri, among others. In addition, he and Dave Steward have co-authored a new book, titled Leadership by the Good Book, that will be available May 12.
Tell us a bit about your background and how you became engaged with WWT.
The way I came to WWT is through my relationship with Dave Steward, which goes back to the early 2000s. I was an executive at Cassidy Turley, a privately owned, commercial real estate services firm that is now part of Cushman Wakefield, and I volunteered through a program at my church in collaboration with the Black Leadership Roundtable and the St. Louis Minority Business Council to mentor minority-owned business owners. I thought it was a way to help and share some of the things I had learned, but I will say I learned more from the mentoring process than I probably gave or shared. As it happened, Dave was mentoring the same small business owner as I was in the program. When I heard Dave’s advice and counsel, I thought, “Wow, this is a guy I need to learn from!” And from that moment on, I have been blessed by his faith-driven wisdom and vision.
In 2011, I transitioned from the corporate world to serve as executive director of Biblical Business Training (BBT), which God had called me to begin a few years earlier. In 2016, Dave and I co-founded Kingdom Capital, a values-driven private venture capital firm. In 2018 Dave offered me the incredible opportunity to join the WWT family as a board advisor.
You mention Kingdom Capital as a “values-driven” venture firm. What exactly does that mean and how do you see values playing a role in WWT’s success and culture?
Anytime anyone asks me why values matter from a business perspective, I just point to WWT. I talk about our core values at WWT (The Path) and the Integrated Management and Leadership (IML) program and how it represents this amazing testimony to developing culture and leadership.
Kingdom Capital’s investment thesis can really be boiled down to three words: Values drive valuation. If you consider the companies listed on the Great Places to Work list and compare them to their peer group, the ones on the Great Places to Work list outperform their peers — sometimes two or three times to one. This performance is rooted in values, which both enable employees and motivate them to go that extra mile. At Kingdom Capital, we our set of values is called SHIELD, an acronym for service, humility, integrity, excellence, love, and diversity. When you have values-driven leaders, more often than not that company is going to be a high-performer relative to their peers and sustainable in the long term.
We are a venture capital firm, so we are always looking for companies that aspire to these values and can scale, which is what our collaboration with WWT is all about.Dave and I are very excited about the values-driven collaboration between Kingdom Capital and WWT, which is rapidly scaling PercayAI. PercayAI provides augmented artificial intelligence software solutions for life sciences, with its origins in drug discovery and development. Over time, the vision for PercayAI is to expand to other sectors and industries. Today, PercayAI is being positioned to help in the fight against COVID-19, and it represents the power of the partnership of WWT and Kingdom Capital.
Given your experience mentoring minority-owned businesses through your church and including diversity as a core value at Kingdom Capital, how do you view diversity as it relates to corporate success?
Diversity of thought, backgrounds, education and culture is embedded in all we do. Our values at Kingdom Capital are rooted in the Bible. Dave is a very spiritual man and faith informs everything he does. The same can be said for me. But we also welcome collaboration from those that have different faith backgrounds or no faith background at all, as long as our values, which are universal, apply to them, too. When that is the case, together we can unpack and reveal a better solution rooted in diversity of thought and perspective. Now, we will not always agree on things, but that is the beauty of it because it makes you think about how others are approaching a challenge or issue. Humility is a key ingredient in this, which is can be summed up as honoring others before yourself.
Are there any parallels between your experience in commercial real estate services and WWT’s goal of becoming a more consultative, services-oriented growth company?
They are more similar than people might think. There’s infrastructure — physical buildings, offices and technology hardware — and then there are strategic services that can optimize and deliver the actual outcomes. The infrastructure is still important and will be in the future, too. But services allow us to more strategically engage with our customers, helping them achieve their business goals. In addition to serving their infrastructure needs, we are able to design and implement enhanced customer and employee experiences which help drive profit center growth. I had the privilege of leading these differentiated, strategic services at my previous firm and have seen firsthand the value that can be developed and delivered to our clients. It is one of the things I am most excited about for WWT’s bright future because we combine the breadth of our infrastructure support with our wide array of services offerings to help customers achieve specific business outcomes.
You are co-authoring a book with Dave Steward called Leadership by the Good Book. What can we expect?
We are very excited about the book, and I am honored to be Dave’s co-author. Dave’s last book, Doing Business by the Good Book, was released in 2004 — so more than 15 years ago. A lot has changed since then if you think about the incredible growth of WWT and the world in general. But, at the same time, some things have not changed, such as the importance of values. The motivation for the book is that we have seen how Biblical values, on which both of Dave’s books are based, have led to incredible success and blessing of many people, and WWT is a great example of that. This new book zeroes in on various eternal leadership principles like how to genuinely serve others, how to love the unlovable, and how to share your faith in action, just to name a few. At the end of each chapter, there are application questions for readers as well as a sample prayer. Additionally, Biblical Business Training has created a companion book study and Bible study for a small group setting. These resources are designed specifically to help readers become leaders! Join the movement at https://www.b-b-t.org/leadershipbythegoodbook. BBT receives all proceeds from the sale of Leadership by the Good Book.
Given the state of the world, what types of conversations is the WWT board having regarding COVID-19?
From the beginning of the pandemic, Jim and the leadership team have been in constant communication with the board in different forms: we’ve received multiple email updates including Jim’s videos, and we’ve held frequent conference calls where the leadership team and board have been discussing our COVID-19 response. The leadership team has been very diligent at keeping the board informed and we are in lockstep with them. The primary focus in all our conversations has been the safety of our employees.
It is also important to note that, as we hear about any employee affected by COVID-19 — themselves or their family or friend — we are literally praying for them at the board level. With Dave’s faith-driven leadership, prayer is not just in response to COVID-19, it is woven into our board meeting agenda. In addition to leading the opening and closing prayers for our board meetings, I’m blessed with the honor of writing and presenting the board devotions which are read at the beginning of each board meeting.
We talk a lot about innovation and disruption. But as a company, many of us probably were not thinking of disruption in terms of pandemic. What types of investments do you think WWT has made previously that have enabled it to maintain business continuity during a time like this?
Over the course of WWT’s 30-year history, there has been constant investment in the IML principles. Culture is not developed in a crisis; it is actually revealed by it. When we talk about preparing for business continuity and preparing for disruption in different areas, for me, if you don’t have the right culture or leadership in place that are integrated and intentional prior to these moments of disruption, you’ll see the cracks come through. The entire executive team has been unwavering in its commitment to preserving and protecting the culture through the IML program and other important initiatives. This focus has yielded incredible continuity, but also customer satisfaction in helping our customers to do things in this environment that are so critical. I think of the wide range of customers we serve, from government to enterprise to service providers, that have critical work to do. If our culture could not rise to this occasion, it really would not matter how great our processes were. Our people have been able to rally to meet the challenge.