Brenda Stoner is PICKUP’s founder and Chief Executive Officer. As a seasoned executive, she brings to the role over 20 years in starting, building, and growing companies in technology and life sciences. Brenda understands the devil in the details and has brought together extraordinary teams to deliver operational and financial success. An inherent go-getter with a remarkable talent for promotion, ideas, and programs that really work, Brenda has created substantial wealth opportunities for many investors.
Brenda began her career as an engineer with Texas Instruments working in defense-related manufacturing for military avionics systems and then growing into roles in semiconductor marketing and distributor management. Combined with a deep understanding of the industry and an inherent entrepreneurial drive, Brenda launched her first company, TestChip Technologies. As an outsourcing supplier to top semiconductor manufacturers, TestChip provided revolutionary solutions for technology development, accelerating time to market for new IC technologies in this ultra-competitive market. Brenda very successfully exited TestChip and launched her next venture, Drucker Labs, which manufactured and wholesaled organic liquid nutritional supplements for professional health care providers, growing the business from $200K revenue to $8M in 18 months.
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Table of Contents
Let’s learn a little about you and really get to experience what makes us tick – starting at our beginnings. Where did your story begin?
Brenda Stoner: My story begins with my father, who was an entrepreneur. As early as 12, I knew that I wanted to have my own business someday. Because of that, I set out to get as much experience, knowledge, and education as I could to prepare for the journey.
To equip me with the training I needed, I joined Texas Instruments and learned a lot about the inner workings of a big corporation. After working there for about six years, I started my first business and have been the founder of five additional companies since then. For me, entrepreneurship is all about building things, creating jobs, and providing solutions that didn’t exist to real-world problems. The more practical the problem, the more I like it.
Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Brenda Stoner: Mark Harward was a co-worker with me at Texas Instruments and became my first co-founder. We started our first business together in 1994 in semiconductor design. This was a tough challenge in a difficult business. Plus, neither of us had ever founded a business before.
While we worked together to create this business, Mark taught me how important it is to be a servant leader to your team. I learned richly from him about what makes a good boss, which is exemplified in how you treat people and how you build your team. It’s understanding what people need and having a servant leadership mentality that will help your business succeed. I’m really grateful to him for teaching me these lessons and for the business we built over the course of seven years.
What are the most common mistakes you see entrepreneurs make and what would you suggest they do?
Brenda Stoner: I think the fine line between success and failure in an entrepreneurial organization is how deeply you touch your customer or solve the real-time problem before you start the coding process. A lot of people jump to the solution before they fully understand the problem. In PICKUP’s case, we went out and bought a pickup truck and started driving around to see how the business would work. We didn’t actually start coding anything until we were about four months in. As an entrepreneur, you must be willing, intrepid, and daring enough to go out and experience the problem, whatever it takes. If you’re getting into pharmaceutical delivery, go do the actual delivery. If you’re solving website redevelopment, go actually write one.
As an entrepreneur, you must define your process prior to even starting to develop it. You must talk to customers, be on the ground floor and drag your knuckles through the dirt to see what the problem really is. That way, you’ll really learn the nuances around what your solution needs to solve.
Resilience is critical in critical times like the ones we are going through now. How would you define resilience?
Brenda Stoner: When I think about resilience, I envision it as a plastic object. Plastic can be thermoplastic, which means it can be remodeled to whatever function it needs to be made into. Plastic may also be a thermoset, like tupperware. Once it is built it is really unchangeable. Build an adaptable platform and be ready to recast. You will likely need to do that at least once.
In the same sense, though the pandemic was hard, the harder part is what we’re going through now – recovering from it. These days, we are set with a host of unrealistic expectations. Everybody raced out to buy airline tickets and go on flights and expected everything to be exactly back to where it was. But the reality is that there’s a wave of challenges right now, including a mental health crisis, broken supply chains, and labor shortages. Being able to respond to this change is a leadership challenge of a lifetime.
Resilience is being able to understand that the world has changed and our response to it needs to be different than it was pre-pandemic. Resilience is about being able to look at your new world and figure out how to reshape our businesses, our families, and our teams to not only just survive this period, but also start to thrive again. Back to the discussion of thermoplastic.
When you think of your company, 5 years from now, what do you see?
Brenda Stoner: In five years, I see PICKUP embedded in the complex last-mile supply chain for the specific use cases that we uniquely solve, helping leading retailers and commercial partners expand their fulfillment capabilities for fast, convenient delivery service, especially big, heavy, and high-value goods. I see us as being part of that fabric of how this problem gets solved and rapidly growing to provide Buy Anywhere Delivery Anywhere (BADA) experiences everywhere.
What do you consider are your strengths when dealing with staff workers, colleagues, senior management, and customers?
Brenda Stoner: My biggest strengths are having empathy and strong listening skills when working with my team. I don’t micromanage and instead, I set a vision and inspire people to achieve the mission by solving problems on their own. A clear and simple cultural alignment is critical in a fast-growth environment.
People tell me they’ve noticed that our whole team is aligned in everything we say, and that’s because we’re all marching towards the same goal. The key to doing this is to set out on a very simple goal that everybody understands and then letting people be a part of solving how we run the course.
What have you learned about personal branding that you wish you had known earlier in your career?
Brenda Stoner: As a leader, you must attract people who can resonate with you. For example, I really care about PICKUP’s Good Guys, who are the workers delivering for us in the field. I get emails from one or more of them every day and I make sure to respond to them.
I care about them when they walk into the door we stand up to shake their hand. It’s really important to give them this level of attention because it sets the tone for the culture of the company. I’m ruthless about making sure people have what they need and knocking down barriers. It’s critical that you know your own brand and leverage it so that you’re getting the most out of your team.
How would you define “leadership”?
Brenda Stoner: It’s important to have a platform as a leader. You may be a sales driver, you may be an empathetic leader, or you may be a servant leader. All those characteristics are good and they all work, but you have to know what it is you stand for.
What advice would you give to our younger readers that want to become entrepreneurs?
Brenda Stoner: My advice is to do your time and get the knowledge and experience you need to be an entrepreneur. There’s a lot of people who think they can just come right out of college and start something. While this has happened to some people, not everybody is that lucky. It’s irresponsible to become an entrepreneur before you’ve earned your stripes. You are messing with people’s time and livelihoods, nothing is more critical.
If you want to be an entrepreneur, you should first go work for the biggest company you can find. Work in every department and learn everything you can about the endpoint of entrepreneurship: massive scale. Be a curious steward of every department and function in a large business and try to understand what makes it work. Then, you can use what you learned to set out a vision and roadmap.
As entrepreneurs, we want to create something and then build it into something magnificent. The only way to know how to build a billion-dollar company is to work in one. So, if you really want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must have the knowledge and experience to understand the job well.
What’s your favorite “life lesson” quote and how has it affected your life?
Brenda Stoner: “Never, ever ever give up” from Winston Churchill.
Small caveat. If your business model is not viable, you should know when to pivot or move on. However, if you did your homework and you did the early learning of finding a real problem you’re trying to solve, then you will get to the point along with the life of your venture where you find that things aren’t working so well. But if the problem is still there, then you shouldn’t give up because you can always change the end.
This quote is a reminder that when you see something is not working, don’t be afraid to change to something else. The path to success is crowded with people who changed their pathway along the way. Being persistent is the key.
Larry Yatch, VIP Contributor to ValiantCEO and the host of this interview would like to thank Brenda Stoner for taking the time to do this interview and share her knowledge and experience with our readers.
If you would like to get in touch with Brenda Stoner or her company, you can do it through her – Linkedin Page
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