Mike Bruns on Leadership and Community: Three Key Takeaways


image15-56Mike Bruns, the founder and president of Comtrak Logistics, a national transportation and logistics company that’s headquarters are located in Memphis, TN visited the Start Co. lab last night to speak to the founders about his story and the importance of leadership and community. His company, Comtrak Logistics provides trucking services including full truckload, intermodal, depot and logistics services and operates in terminals across the country. His company was named one of the 500 Fastest Growing Private Companies, as well as Business of the Year by the Memphis Business Journal.

Mike Bruns has an intriguing quality that was immediately displayed in his presence when he walked into the Start Co. lab. It was his genuine care for community. He believes in worthy causes and people that are passionate about solving a specific problem. Mr. Bruns has worked with multiple non-profit and profit organizations within the Memphis community, such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, University of Memphis Board of Visitors, Church Health Center, WKNO, Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Society of Entrepreneurs, and Youth Villages (where he helped them raise $20 million in private contributions that allowed them to triple in size). Not only does Mr. Bruns believe in the true power of community, but he also stresses the importance of the leadership that drives the development of that communal space. “Anything can happen with a good and respected leader,” he says. A good leader never demands respect because they understand they have to earn it from their team. Here are three ways that Mr. Bruns detailed of how to be a good leader:

Don’t try to change anyone on your team.

You can never change a person because they are who they are. “Get out some sand paper, but forget the chainsaw,” Mr. Bruns said. Recognition is highly underutilized though very important when trying to build a community. A good leader recognizes the different pieces of the puzzle and has the ability to put them together into a system that works. Identify your team’s separate talents and assemble them in a way that allows them to learn and do great things for the company. Don’t try to change people to fit your needs, but instead find the person that has the talent to fulfill that need. “Part of leadership is looking at various people and picking them out and making your home runs.”P1170085

You don’t have to be the smartest person in the room.

You don’t always have to be 100% sure of yourself. The reason being, if there is no failure than there will never be change, and change is what sparks progression. Mr. Bruns confidently admitted to the founders that he was never the smartest guy in the room, but because he surrounded himself with intelligent and driven people he was able to learn a significant amount by doing.

Make the home runs

“If you do only what you’re supposed to do then you break even, but if you go above and beyond then you hit a home run because it’s a surprise.” Do more than the bare minimum. Do more than the minimum. Do more than what is expected. Mr. Bruns heavily stressed that good leaders lead by doing, therefore if you aren’t doing anything and value propositions aren’t in place then nothing will be achieved. Empowerment is key, but it’s a learning process. No one will do anything exactly the way you do, but once progress is being made without you then recognize that you have empowered the people that surround you.

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Everyday Mr. Bruns takes 2 ½ hours to make rounds at his office to establish and secure the community that he has built within his team. He takes time to look, see, listen, and observe. So it was no surprise that at the end of the session he stood up and shook every Start Co. founder’s hand that was present as they introduced themselves and thanked him. He left the founders with a quote that resonated with them, based on the silence that filled the room when he spoke, “Never get too big to forget where you came from.” As the founders continue through the Start Co. 90 day accelerator program with 43 days left, Mike Bruns was the perfect speaker to have at the halfway point to remind them that good leadership and community establishment is as important as anything to the success of your company.

Lindsay Gess is a Start Co. Summer Associate and a rising senior at Rhodes College. She can be reached at lindsay.gess@neverstop.co