In business as in life, making new connections with others can alter one's fortunes. Brad Austin knows this principle well, because for him, making new connections and building relationships is a passion.
"So much of your success depends on knowing people and having people help you, so how you build relationships and extend them to other people in your life is critical," says Austin. "It really is a passion of mine. I've seen lives change by a single relationship."
Austin has seen it, because a single relationship was recently the catalyst in changing his life.
Last winter, a business associate suggested Austin apply for the open job of president of Harmon Inc., a leading U.S. glass and glazing service contractor. "I was having lunch with a friend from Apogee and he asked if I was going to put my name in for the job," says Austin. "I hadn't even thought about it, but he recommended I should."
Apogee, as in Apogee Enterprises, is the parent company of Harmon Inc. as well as Viracon. It was at the latter where Austin, over 32 years of employment at the architectural glass fabricating company, rose through the ranks to become senior vice president.
Austin took his friend's recommendation to heart, and after submitting his name and going through the vetting process, he was offered and ultimately accepted the job of president in April 2010. "I had been at Viracon for 32 years and thought the president job at Harmon was a great opportunity to jump-start the next chapter of my career," he says.
He now oversees all business operations of Harmon Inc., all the while holding true to his business philosophy. "My philosophy is: Do what you say, treat people with respect, and build great relationships," says Austin,
And one of the first actions he did as president was to travel to all 11 Harmon U.S. offices to build as many relationships as he could.
Continual learning is key to success
Austin traces his success to his thirst for knowledge. "I am a believer that you must always be learning new skills," he says. Among his many skill-building ventures over his career was attending the Minnesota Management Institute in the 1980s as a young and promising employee of Viracon, which used the program to develop management candidates.
"MMI was a great alternative to an MBA program," says Austin, who adds that he was one of the youngest members of the class. "I was more of a sponge than many in the room who had more experience."
Austin not only soaked up new business knowledge, but his flourishing zeal for networking was reinforced through the program. "The concept of networking is a byproduct of the program because you're so immersed; you share stories, and learn and gain perspective and experience. It was great!"
To this day, Austin says he always enjoys encountering fellow MMI alums. "To get in conversations with them and share experiences, to me, is very rewarding."
Outside of Harmon Inc., Austin sits on the board of the Owatonna Foundation and he just completed a term as president of the Glass Association of North America. Also, as the father of an autistic child, he is an active fundraiser for the Autism Society.
Visit the Minnesota Management Institute website for more information on the program.