The OneAccord team has seen a flurry of new faces over the past couple of years, but among them stand a handful of the old guard. Richard Brune is a partner in the company who initially met Jeff Rogers right about the time Jeff was co-founding the company in 2005.
“At the time, OneAccord was a little bit more project-focused, back in their early days,” said Richard. “When I talked to Jeff originally in 2005, they had a vision of interim leadership on a fractional basis. They hadn’t developed that out yet, but I was interested in fractions, I didn’t want to become a project-based consultant.”
Richard was in the process of transitioning out of running a company in St. Louis, and he was looking for something more local. He took on an interim role at a Seattle-based company and they offered him a job, so he put the question of OneAccord on hold. After two years, the stars aligned. Richard joined the team and hasn’t looked back.
A few things appealed to Richard about the company: the values, the chance to be part of a team, the opportunity to help businesses without owning them himself. People often said he ought to start a business in one of the industries he clearly knew so well, but Richard knew plenty of things he didn’t actually want to do himself. His experience working in and selling to retail made him an ideal retailer, for example, but he wasn’t interested in being a retailer. OneAccord gave him an opportunity to instead collaborate with others to help businesses in industries he knew inside and out. He could help retailers, distributors, marketers, salesmen, siding manufacturers and all sorts of business owners rather than being an owner himself.
Go West, Young Man
Richard was born in New York and grew up in Delaware. He was fairly business-oriented from the start.
“From a selling standpoint, I’ve always been selling stuff, probably since I was in second or third grade,” said Richard. “I used to sell part of my lunch, because I didn’t get an allowance. I had my own businesses, a lawn business and stuff like that, growing up. I had a lawn business and a painting business that put me through college, and I had exposure working retail in stores.”
Richard attended college in Michigan, where he earned a business degree with a triple major in marketing, psychology and economics. After graduation, he took a trip to Colorado and Nevada. It was his first time seeing anything west of Michigan, and it made an impression so strong that he turned down a job at IBM during the 1981 recession to head west for good.
“I just decided I didn’t want to live on the East Coast, and I didn’t see myself in a suit working at IBM, even though IBM was a premier company, especially during the recession,” said Richard.
He knew jobs were available in Dallas and Houston, so he set his sights on Texas. Before he got there, an old roommate called. He had a spare room in his house in a town called Redmond, if Richard was interested. Richard decided to bypass Texas to try his luck in the Seattle area. If he didn’t find a job, he figured he could always be a fry cook at the restaurant his friend managed (Ivar’s on Third Avenue). This was both his safety net and his motivation to find a job.
Richard succeeded in his search and began running a sales and service center for Senco pneumatic mailers and staplers in Kirkland. This was his launch into a career that, over the next few decades, would see him building and managing some of America’s most well-known consumer brands as well as gaining experience in distribution, wholesale, direct consumer-to-sale and, of course, retail.
Growing Business: Distribution, New Markets, Licensing and More
“My sweet spot is tangible products sold through distribution, so it could be B2B or B2C,” said Richard. “I think I’m also a little bit unique in OneAccord because I have a real blend between sales and marketing, having held senior sales and marketing positions in addition to running the company. I can’t think of a distribution channel I haven’t sold. I’ve done broadcast media to clubs to mom-and-pops to mail to internet. There’s not a distribution channel I haven’t had exposure to and understanding of.”
He’s also an expert in the marketing supply line, from start to finish, which gives him the ability to see operations from a business development standpoint. If you’re wondering where you can grow your business, Richard probably has a few ideas. Part of his expertise is understanding channels and distribution. Businesses aren't limited to finding new retailers when they want to grow; they can also find entirely new, often surprising, markets.
For example, Richard spent some time with a company that produces siding for an auto dealer. The siding was primarily for corporate identity, so other brands were one option for growth, but Richard pointed out that every building needs siding. The company’s growth potential was far bigger than they realized once they looked beyond the auto industry into entirely new markets.
Part of the reason Richard sees opportunities where business owners may not comes down to his ability to switch between thinking strategically and thinking tactically. People are usually strong in one or the other. Richard is strong in both.
“I’m really good at strategic, but I can go quickly to tactical,” he said. “Part of what I do well is being able to visualize the tactical elements of the strategy, so I can adjust strategy in a moment to help make it work.” This ability to see the big picture, recognize an opportunity, then breaks down the steps it will take to bring that opportunity to fruition is part of what makes him so effective at creating a plan with clients and then working with them side-by-side to accomplish it.
Another area Richard knows inside and out is licensing. Throughout his career, he often worked with companies that led their markets — Senco, Stanley, Hartman, REI, Swiss Army — and gained exposure not only to their core brands, but also to the process of licensing those brands. He launched Victorinox Travel Gear line for the Swiss Army Brands as well as the Disney Brand for Skyway Luggage Company.
Family Man and Farmer
Away from work, Richard is an outdoorsman and family man. His son and daughter
“For fun I like to backpack and camp, enjoy our mini hobby farm with horses and animals, hang out with my wife and my kids.” Richard’s son recently married and is planning a move to Kentucky. His daughter is a lab animal vet who was recently accepted to a doctorate program in research at the University of Washington.
OneAccord helps business owners meet their goals by not only laying out a plan of action, but walking alongside and guiding them through that plan through to the finish line. This series highlights the people who make that possible.