Reading time ( words)
Broken to Better: 13 Ways Not to fail at Life and Leadership is simply one of the best books I’ve read this year. In fact, I was so impressed that I decided to reach out to the author, Michael Kurland, to talk about his book, what led him to write it, and what we should all learn from it. Michael was gracious enough to take time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts on building his business and why he wrote a book about it. I think you will find it provocative and thought provoking.
Dan Beaulieu: Michael, I know you are a very busy guy so thanks for taking the time to talk with me. First, please talk a little yourself and your background.
Michael Kurland: My pleasure Dan. I’m the co-founder and CEO of Branded Group, which is a national facility management company located in Orange County, California. While I had a dream to work for the New York Mets, my career took a different turn. I landed in the facility management industry, and, although I didn’t know a thing about it, I needed to pay my bills. Over time, my sales and marketing skills, along with my ability to build relationships were what set me apart from my peers and provided the foundational elements for me to launch my business.
When I lost my job, I decided that I could do facility management better, so I sold everything I owned and headed across the country to launch Branded Group.
Beaulieu: And that is what I found fascinating. At the beginning of the book, you describe how you were kind of at the bottom and you made the decision to move forward and change your life for the better. Can you elaborate by giving some details about that time?
Kurland: This time of my life was filled with physical, mental, and emotional challenges. I’d lost my job, gotten divorced, and had a major foot injury that kept me from working out regularly which led to weight gain. All these circumstances came together to put me in “victim” mode, and I began to feel sorry for myself.
Then one day my roommate (and now Branded Group President, Jon Thomas), who’d seen me spiral over and over said something that was the trigger to make a change. After I’d apologized to him for yet another misstep, he said “Don’t be sorry. Be better.” The rest is history.
Beaulieu: You know that takes a lot of courage. What was it that made you pick yourself up and move forward?
Kurland: I realized that I could be a victim or victor. The choice was mine. No one could make this for me. Because I’ve always been a fighter and never wanted to fail, I chose to be a victor and began to take steps to improve my physical, mental, and emotional health. I developed a healthy eating lifestyle, re-started my exercise routine, and began regular meditation and gratitude journaling. Little by little, I began to see improvements, and this gave me the motivation to continue.
Beaulieu: What was the hardest thing about doing that?
Kurland: Self-reflection is never easy but if you want to be better, you have to take a hard look at yourself. This doesn’t have to be a negative thing. During this process, I evaluated my strengths and weaknesses. I did what I could to address what wasn’t working, that is, my unhealthy eating habits, some of my childhood trauma, and not exercising. Then, I made inroads to improve each of these areas.
Beaulieu: So, you sold everything and started over in California. What was that like?
Kurland: One of the things I discovered was that I loved the beach. I knew I wanted to live and work by the water. Even though I was on the East Coast where there are plenty of beaches, the area was already saturated with facility management companies. Through my research, I discovered that the West Coast wasn’t and so that’s when I decided to move and launch my business in California.
Beaulieu: You not only picked up and started over, but you started what is now an extremely successful facility management company. Where did the idea for that come?
Kurland: Facility management is not a new idea. Companies have been providing these services for years. Yet, what I noticed throughout my various jobs in the industry was a “churn and burn” mentality. Sell the service and move on. My success was primarily due to the relationships I’d built with my customers, knowing what they needed before they did and helping them to be successful by creating memorable brand experiences—not just fixing broken HVAC systems. I took my personal “Be Better” philosophy and transferred it to my business. We created the “Be Better Experience,” which encompasses the entire client relationship from onboarding to daily management.
Beaulieu: What was it like starting that company? What were the first days like?
Kurland: The first days were exhilarating and exhausting as I’m sure any new business owner can relate to. My co-founder and I were wearing several hats and doing things we hadn’t done before. I was traveling across the country trying to secure new clients while Kiira Belonzi was doing all of the service calls and keeping the trains running as best as she could. When I returned home, I’d do all the accounting and billing. It was organized chaos, but we both knew we would do whatever we needed to be successful.
Beaulieu: Can you talk about the company? What do you do?
Kurland: Branded Group is a full service, national facility management company. We diagnose and resolve any facility issues that arise for our clients. Our Be Better Experience and our team of industry experts provide services such as on-demand maintenance, construction management, and special project implementation for multi-site commercial facilities.
Beaulieu: How did it become one of the fastest growing companies in the country?
Kurland: I believe it’s because of our culture and our commitment to “be better” for our clients, community, and each other. Our core values are at the heart of all we do, and we strive to align purpose with profit. We continually examine our processes and programs to make them as efficient as possible and we treat our employees fairly, rewarding hard work, dedication, and innovation.