Tylerites Join Up, Form New Venture Core Insights
By CASEY MURPHY
Tyler business owners Brian Brandt and Michael Lujan have teamed up for a new venture.
Brandt, a former pastor and owner of Summit Solution Group, which provided training and consulting; and Lujan, owner of Mentoring Minds, which produces learning products used in schools nationwide, have now started Core Insights.
The new company, which the men co-own, provides premier training and strategic guidance for businesses, nonprofits, ministries, schools and individuals. In the last three months, its clients have included those in construction, banking, nonprofit, city services, health care and education, said Brandt, who serves as the company's chief executive officer.
Core Insights helps companies with time management, business etiquette, branding and intergenerational workforce. He said a lot of their training entails "soft skills" every organization needs, such as training accountants on how to run a business, communicate better with their clients and brand their organization.
Brandt, 46, said he has always had an entrepreneurial side to himself and he believes Lujan's mind works the same way.
When Brandt was about 5, he started selling peanuts at 10 cents a bag for his local booster club in Lawton, Okla. At 16, he realized the town lacked a teaching tennis professional and he began coaching to fill that void.
Lujan, 52, said he and his wife Lisa Lujan "have a social-minded perspective on almost anything we do." He said while their focus with Mentoring Minds has been primarily around children and education, they have had a lot of people come to them from the nonprofit world. He considers it a blessing to have found Brandt. "He comes right out of that world, straight into this world. It's really important to us," he said.
Brandt worked for 15 years for two of the largest Christian camps, Kanakcuck Kamps in Branson, Mo. and Sky Ranch near Van. He moved to Tyler in 1997 and he and his wife of nearly 20 years, Ann Terese, have three children.
About eight years ago, he became executive pastor at Grace Community Church and at the same time, started Summit Solution Group. Seven years ago Brandt started working on his master's degree in global leadership and became involved with Leadership Tyler. Through his experiences, he discovered he had a passion in developing adults in their leadership, communication and strategic thinking.
Both Brandt and Lujan are heavily involved in the community.
Lujan was an assistant principal for Douglas Elementary School and Mrs. Lujan was a banker. The combination led to them starting Mentoring Minds out of their home in 2002.
They founded the business after developing an innovative study aid, designed as a flip chart, that would help elementary teachers and students in Texas better meet new state educational standards. They maxed out their credit cards to print the first 6,000 copies. Now, the company is a full educational publisher, producing innovative learning products used in schools across the country, reaching students in kindergarten through 12th grades.
The Lujans, who have been married 17 years and have two children, have grown Mentoring Minds into a multi-million dollar business with about 65 employees. The couple was named the Texas Small Business Persons of the Year for 2011 by the Small Business Administration.
Mentoring Minds is going through a massive growth spurt since going to a national level, Lujan said. The company is trying to keep up with demand to meet the needs and he believes professional development, which Core Insights will provide, is going to be a big part of that.
"It's exciting," he said.
Since starting Mentoring Minds, clients have asked the Lujans if they could provide professional development training. He said they tried but it took the company off its core service of providing educational tools so they had to turn people away.
Lujan met Brandt at community functions and hired him as a coach for public speaking. After Brandt facilitated the strategic planning for the Tyler Area Chamber of Commerce's Board, of which they are both members, Lujan knew he was the right man to go into business with, he said.
Brandt said Core Insights will fulfill Mentoring Minds' professional development by serving its customers in that way. When the opportunity came along, he said it was right in line with his passion of helping develop people and businesses. On Jan. 30, he left his job at the church and folded his company into Core Insights, starting work there on Feb. 1.
Brandt said the area has consistently asked for a higher level of training, consulting and coaching, which Core Insights will provide. But it is not just a local company. Within the next few months, they will have served clients in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Jersey and New York, Brandt said, adding that he hopes to one day take it to an international level.
"We've kind of skipped the infancy stage and we're running pretty hard and making a national mark," Brandt said.
Lujan said with his profession, he sees education go through massive changes with new standards being set every five or six years, which presents opportunities for professional transitions. With new core national standards adopted by 46 states, such as changing from TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) to STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) testing, massive changes in management issues have to happen -- from one way of thinking and a set of standards that need to be taught into a whole new set, he said. Through Core Insights, they can help educators' transition as smooth as possible.
Brandt agreed, saying they are hearing from school principals who are telling them, "This change is happening and we need help." He said they will help them prepare "to usher in the new standards."
Core Insights has built a team of trainers and consultants around the country they use as contractors and the company uses Mentoring Minds' marketing, accounting, sales and other staff members. Brandt said it could be said that he is the sole employee of Core Insights or that the company has 85 to 100 people employed.
Brandt said the strategic guidance aspect of what they do -- through coaching, strategic planning and facilitation -- is the key. Most companies have a good idea about what their goals are but don't know the steps they need to take to get there. He said they can help them look at that, break it down and decide what they need to do next.
For example, he said, a company might have an employee who has 95 percent of what it takes to get to the next level but has 5 percent tripping them up from advancing. Core Insights can go in, help them cut off the rough edges and really shine in a new position.
"People walk out with a smile on their face," Brandt said. "They enjoyed it, they know they learned some new information that can help them and they know what they can do differently when they walk back in that office."
Core Insights is based at the Mentoring Minds headquarters, at 4862 Hightech Drive. More information can be found at www.coreinsightsleadership.com