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An Interview with Tech Entrepreneur and Founder of Continental Global Brian Colpak

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Brian Colpak interview

Brian Colpak is an experienced manager, tech entrepreneur, and founder of Continental Global. Previously, Brian has worked as a managing partner and the go-to person for project management in large companies. Before starting Continental Global, Brian had led several other companies—including Future Technologies, where he was President and CEO, that was recognized as one of the top 100 fastest growing companies in Massachusetts.

Mr. Colpak has always had a passion for technology and is currently devoted to securing part of an upcoming project in Dubai where he will be heading up an eleven-member team of seasoned technology executives and former state department personnel. This opportunity is a testament to his commitment and work ethic at Continental Global.

Brian is a devoted family man. He and his wife Christine were blessed with a baby boy – Dereck – who was diagnosed with Autism at 18 months old. From that day forward, his goal was to help these special children and create a platform to support their needs.

Mr. Colpak served on the Board of Advisors at his son’s school, the New England Center for Children. For five years he supported the school with his time and donations.

Brian sat on the school’s Executive Event Committee to raise awareness and drive donations for children with autism. Events he organized included the 6th Annual “Night of Music,” where he worked alongside Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker and former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis.

Brian, Thank you so much for talking with me. For an entrepreneur, every day is challenging. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

My best days at work are the ones where everything comes together. As a leader and entrepreneur, I specialize in leading my team to get things done, and it takes a lot to be able to bring together a group of people to create solid work. My worst days are when that doesn’t happen.

Who are the clients/what are the projects that you most enjoy working on?

Everyone enjoys a challenge. When you get projects that are not interesting or challenging, it can be a real drain on your motivation. Unfortunately, when you work in IT, it is best practice to avoid any problems that are a significant challenge — you never want to be puzzled. You want to deliver quick solutions to your clients. That’s why, as a team leader, I strive to keep people interested in their work without creating a problem for clients. We are constantly updating and innovating to make our systems more efficient, which helps maintain a spirited work environment, while also keeping things simple for the people we work with.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

My biggest ‘a-ha’ moment: I discovered just how important it is to remain consistent in the workplace. In order to succeed, you have to have a degree of consistency so people know what to expect from you. And that’s not only about clients but also employees. Your organization as a whole will work 10x better if you learn how to approach everything while maintaining consistency.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

The most important part of my professional journey has been in bridging the gap between being a businessman/entrepreneur and being a leader. They are not the same thing. Unfortunately, so many businesses out there fail because the leadership is incapable of leading. Management is an art.

What risks is your company facing? Also, since you are in the tech sphere, what is the importance of Innovation in this industry?

To be honest: There aren’t many risks at the moment. I’ll say this, however: The biggest threat to any company in the tech sphere is not innovating enough. This is an industry that is constantly on the move, and you really need to keep pace with your competitors if you want to succeed.

Let me ask you a hypothetical question. With unlimited financial resources, what would you do apart from investing some of it for business growth?

With unlimited resources, I would fund autism research and awareness campaigns. You can do quite well using just limited resources in the business sphere. Send unlimited resources to a cause that deserves it.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

This is an everyday occurrence for me. I truly believe that when you do something you love, you end up getting lost in it. And I love the work that I do.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I love to spend time with my family and friends. I cherish my lovely wife and son, and they are something I focus on every single day of my life. I also have two wonderful parents, Claire and Donald, who are 89- and 88-years-old. We go out to dinner once a week, and I greatly enjoy spending time with them.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

The things I have done for my son, Dereck, are the most important things in my world. Simply making his life a better one is something I believe has made a huge difference in the world. The same can be said for my wife. There is nothing more important than family.

On the business front, I make a difference by leading a team of specialists and experts in the IT sphere.

 

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Interview

Bryn Carden, Founder of Styles for Smiles and BF Hats Thinks Business and Philanthropy can go Hand in Hand

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Bryn Carden, Founder of Styles for Smiles and BF Hats Thinks Business and Philanthropy can go Hand in Hand

Bryn Carden is a versatile young entrepreneur with a deep sense of compassion and the desire to help make the world a better place. In 2017, she founded Styles for Smiles – a company selling bracelets to support the Smile Train Organization. The proceeds from selling Bryn’s designs have already helped fund cleft palate repairs for 16 children in developing countries.

Bryn Carden, Founder of Styles for Smiles and BF Hats Thinks Business and Philanthropy can go Hand in Hand
Bryn Carden

BF Hats, another design brand Bryn is engaged in, donates a portion from every purchase to Ronald McDonald House of Dallas – combining Bryn’s passion for style and philanthropy.

Bryn is a Neeley School of Business student at Texas Christian University and an active member of the Delta Gamma sorority – an organization empowering women to stand up to their full potential. Ms. Carden values mentorship and donates her free time to make an impact in other people’s lives as a participant of the Neeley Mentorship Program and Riff Ram Reading Program.

Ms. Carden leads other women by example with a kind, compassionate and authentic approach, promoting health and wellness, strong ambition, and generosity. She is a proud Miss Kemah Teen USA, inspiring others with her beauty, positive attitude, and love for people.

When she has free time, Bryn can be found modeling, traveling, skiing, paddle boarding, exercising, and spending time with her friends and family.

Bryn, Thanks for talking with us. You are a college student and an entrepreneur. How do you find the time for all your projects? What’s your secret?

If you love what you do, any project- work or not- is never a job.  With each entrepreneurial activity I take under my belt, I make sure that it is backed with passion. Further, any business backed by passion is already on track for something amazing at the core of its being! Prioritization is important, and what I’ve found to work best for me is prioritizing things by DAY. Some days I spend focusing on studying, schoolwork, etc. whereas some days I spend more focus and energy on self-care, marketing, and growing my businesses and personal brand.

I’ve also found time management to not always be about the daily increase, but about decreasing what is unneeded in the day. Hack away at the unessential, and stay far away from procrastination. I place emphasis on tasks in order of priority. The app Trello is something I cannot live without. Being a list maker, this app/website allows me to create lists of what I need to do, order the tasks in the level of importance, and archive them when completed. For example, one of my lists on Trello is “Free Time to do” – complete with “create a new vision board, organize the pantry, go through clothes and donate car wash…”. This allows me to always have something to do, and never sit there with empty time.

Why did you decide to pursue your college major?

I love math and numbers because it is a problem with a definite answer. I declared a Business Finance major to mix real-world problem solving with my passion for people and growing my own brand. I love and adore the field of business for what it is. I find joy and curiosity in knowing that you can take your own ideas and from nothing, grow a vast brand, company, and new adventure, shaping it into the mold you desire! There is a competitive edge to the world of business that I also find fascinating.

What are the projects that you most enjoy working on, and why?

One of my favorite projects has been finding recipes deemed to be unhealthy, and reworking them through healthy alternatives. Some of my favorite swaps consist of regular rice to Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower, flour to almond flour, and noodles to zucchini noodles. Here are two of my favorite recipes I created through trial and error!

I’ve also started to recently take clothes that sit in the back of my closet and find new ways to rework them. I’ll take Pinterest and magazine inspiration, and work pieces into something of a modern-day trend. It also sounds funny, but one of my recent projects has been helping style, my friends, as they come to me with an event where they need a dress or outfit, head to toe. Styling and taking what I love about my friends, and formulating fun fashion finds for them is another great adventure. 

I also LOVE organization and after getting inspiration from watching the Home Edit on Netflix, I’ve found new ways to organize my closet, desk, and fridge/pantry.

What has been the most important part of your college journey?

Finding my forever people… the girls that have laughed, cried and shared irreplaceable memories with me. Coming into college, I made an effort to become friends with everyone I met. You are never “too cool, too popular, or too busy”, to smile, chat with, or be kind to someone. Everyone is in the same boat when coming into college… We all are from different areas of the country, with different and similar stories that have shaped us into the individuals we are today, all starting with a new blank slate. These girls have taught me the power of true, genuine, love for others- SO incredibly important.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

During my freshman year of high school, it all came together. In high school, many teens “find themselves”, and craft the person that they want to be. Society has depicted what we girls should look like, talk like, and act like. It was then that I realized the most valuable version of myself is the unapologetic version. As Miss Kemah Teen USA, I placed an emphasis on expanding my platform of helping girls feel confident and comfortable in their own skin-one of the most important aspects of a young girl’s life. Before high school, I struggled with self-confidence and was a victim of insecurities. After my ‘a-ha’ moment of simply being true to ME, I then realized the importance of not seeking outside validation. When ignoring others’ opinions of me and instead surrounding myself with people who accept all of what you are, life becomes more joyous! Through TCU, I read and simply chat with the little children at a local, economically disadvantaged elementary school. One of the little girls asked me, “How are you so happy all the time?”…. The answer was simple. I pour my energy into positive affirmations, self-love, and spreading love to others. Anything that drains my energy and holds me down, such as insecurities, is immediately replaced with positive thoughts.

Do you have a role model or an entrepreneur you admire? Why?

Without a doubt, my role models are my parents. I can still remember clear as day, looking forward to our evening walks when growing up. What made these evenings so special was my parents smiling and laughing as I tiptoed in my beloved long, yellow, never washed Princess Belle gown. In the eyes of my seven-year-old self, the world was innocent and I was lucky enough to be the center of their world. My parents have also always been unapologetically themselves. My father’s jokes, the mind of an encyclopedia, and knowledge of every Rolling Stones album release date fascinate me. But ask him for the Netflix password… and forget it. My mom never fails to be a shoulder to lean on, something I plan to mirror as a mother one day. Society pressures today’s youth to conform to what is considered “cool”, but my parents always remind me to stay authentic.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

Hiking with my family in Sedona, Arizona, my mind became completely revolved around the scenery, as I took everything in. I was in awe and simply felt as if I was in another world! The beautiful view made the miles on miles of hiking way easier.

How do you recharge your batteries after a long day?

One thing I have struggled to master is letting myself fully rest! I love to be on the go, and my mom always jokes with me that I only rest when I am simply EXHAUSTED! However, after a long day, I crave my nightly routine which calms my mind and prepares me to wind down. I engage in nighttime yoga that benefits the brain, body, and all-around soul. As I wind down at night I spend 5-10 minutes stretching out and detoxifying the tenseness of my body from the long day on the computer, working out, and everything in between. Further, a good face mask and lather of skincare (Drunk Elephant Night serum, bio-oil, Malin + Goetiz eye cream, and more all listed in Vitamin B), do wonders to the skin. I keep a few of these in the fridge overnight, the most calming addition to the eyes at bedtime. I LOVE a good sauna session, and when I have access to one (the TCU recreation center makes it convenient), it would be my ideal wind down!

What would you do with unlimited resources?

If my resources were unlimited, I’d start by sharing my resources, getting everyone involved in this share. Each person has some sort of passion that they would be able to spread their own greatness like wildfire if able… If unlimited money was on the table, I’d mirror companies that have made it big such as Google, or Ikea, who take their funds and spend a large portion not only expanding their businesses but giving back. These companies would be a great reference to the power of contributing to charity to a great extent… While doing so, I would travel. Italy, Spain, Thailand… While doing so, I’d certainly place an emphasis on expanding educational availability worldwide when traveling. I’d contribute to schools in developing countries by donating supplies, teachers/role models, food, etc. Where schools are not available, I’d bring in the resources to build from the start. 

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

Simply by showing kindness and compassion to everyone I meet. You never know the exact measure of how great you will impact someone by just a smile, but kindness is a domino effect.

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Interview

An Interview with Medicare Expert Matthew Bussard

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Matthew Bussard - Medicare Expert

Matthew Bussard graduated from Colby-Sawyer College in 2017 and is the go-to financial service broker for Medicare users across Rhode Island. He volunteers at clinics to help clients enroll in Medicare, alleviate any unnecessary medical expenses, and answer healthcare benefits questions. He is passionate about making a difference in his clients’ lives. Mr. Bussard understands the importance of proper healthcare, especially among the older population. He works hard to address his clients’ issues as quickly and efficiently as possible and is always available to guide them through the enrollment process.

Matthew handles initial Medicare enrollment, upgrading to better healthcare plans, billing, finding a new service center, and anything in between. As a broker, he cares the most about establishing trusting relationships and serving people in the long-term.

Mr. Bussard enjoys giving back to the community. He participates in local cleanups around his hometown of Providence, coaches little league, and donates to The Hunger Project. Mr. Bussard is also a proud member of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), known for demonstrating exceptional professional knowledge, strict ethical conduct, and outstanding client service.

Matthew, Thank you so much for talking with us. Tell me about your best and worst days at work.

Thanks for having me. My best days at work are when I leave a meeting knowing I put the client in a better position financially than they were in before they met me. The worst days are days when I’m working really hard and still leave quite a bit for me to accomplish the next day.

People from different age groups go on medicare. Which age group do you like the most and why?

I love helping people going on Medicare for the first time at 65. Oftentimes, I’m able to answer a ton of healthcare questions they have which makes them feel relieved and satisfied.

What was your biggest ‘a-ha’ moment?

Learning the importance of A+ customer service. Medicare is something you receive at 65 and keep for the rest of your life, so you really need to be there every step of the way if you want to make a true impact on someone.

What has been the most important part of your professional journey?

Building strong habits from the professionals I look up to. Some of the most successful people I’ve met are willing to show you everything they know if you only ask.

What are some of the risks Medicare is facing right now?

Not too many. Medicare has been around since the 1960s so until that ever becomes replaced, there will always be a need for helping seniors with healthcare.

What would you do with unlimited resources?

Get more things done much faster. I’m my own boss, and I don’t have any employees, so every single task I need to do gets completed by me only.

When was the last time you totally lost yourself in doing something?

Organizational tasks at the office. When you’re rearranging files, checking your book of business, housekeeping, things like that can make time fly by.

What do you do when you’re not at work?

I love staying active and getting time to spend with my friends and family. I love my business, but hard resets are always important. You have to have a life outside of your career, and it’s hard for me sometimes to put the laptop and phone away late at night or on the weekend.

How do you feel you make a difference in the world?

I make a difference in the world by providing an incredibly unique yet important service to my community. When you reach retirement, there’s nothing more important than your healthcare, and I’m thankful to be in a position where I can solve some crucial problems people have. It could be lowering their monthly healthcare costs. Maybe signing up for benefits like dental, vision, hearing, and others that they currently do not have. Whatever the case may be, I’m able to make a positive impact in their lives, and I’m very proud of that.

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Interview

An Interview with Yasmin Bashirova around Strategic Finance Management for Start-ups

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Yasmin Bashirova

Yasmin Bashirova is the Chief of Staff at an e-commerce start-up on a mission to bring trust and simplicity to the peer-to-peer used car market.

She graduated from Stanford University with a B.S. and M.S. in Energy Resource Engineering. After graduation, Bashirova worked as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs in New York City, where she provided data-driven financial analyses for capital decisions such as M&A deals, IPOs, and LBOs.

Combining her engineering and finance background, she delivers data-driven results for projects in the finance, product development, and marketing sectors. Bashirova’s top skills include research, data analysis, economics, and strategic leadership. She also speaks four languages, including Azerbaijani, French, Russian, and English.

We recently got a chance to Interview Yasmin Bashirova about strategic finance management for start-ups.

How did you get started in strategic finance management for start-ups?

Starting out as a Chief of Staff at Shift, I had to wear many hats and found strategic finance to be most aligned with my background. In a growth stage company, the strategic finance arm is crucial for scaling the company in a sustainable fashion, so it’s been exciting to be a part of an impactful team.

In your experience, what does strategic finance look like at a start-up as opposed to a big business?

I never worked in a strategic finance arm of a big company, but a guess would be that the experience is most likely more focused / niche vs. broad. When you’re in a small company, as the team is still small, you have an opportunity to work with more business partners and capture more business management and decision-making than you would in a big company FP&A role.

What was the biggest takeaway for start-ups during Covid?

Managing your runway early on is crucial. As we saw during COVID, start-ups that weren’t well-positioned for the recession and couldn’t pivot in time ended up not making it through the difficult macro environment. 

How do you think your background in engineering has prepared you for success in the field of data-driven finance? And more specifically, would you say your background has any perks when it comes to finance for start-ups?

I think studying engineering in school prepares you for any kind of job, even if your role doesn’t end up being super technical in scope. Engineering teaches you how to become a structured thinker. In computer science, for instance, I learned how to decompose large tasks into smaller manageable steps. This type of mindset is something I encounter every single day in my work in strategic finance. If a business has a problem, the answer is rarely a binary decision dependent on one variable, so isolating for different components that drive the issue is an engineering approach that I use in strategic finance on a day-to-day basis.

When it comes to finance, how do start-ups strike a balance between short-term growth and long-term resilience?

It’s tough to summarize this question in a quick interview, as this is the billion-dollar question that many companies are dealing with every day. From my perspective, the business model needs to have a profitability path in sight as the business scales. The heaviest costs from the unit economics components need to decrease as the network effect becomes more prevalent. When operational or corporate expenses are growing linearly with the company’s topline, that’s when issues start to arise because the business model will never become profitable unless there’s a sudden change in the profitability profile.

What was the biggest challenge you faced while coming up with a financial strategy for a start-up? And how did you overcome it?

Start-ups are resource constrained relative to big companies, so the biggest challenge I faced was building out tools and dashboards from scratch. In order to come up with a strategy, you need to understand the state of affairs for key drivers and challenges for the business, and getting clarity is not the easiest thing in start-ups as the data is not perfect. I overcame this challenge by partnering with operational and technical leaders and letting their expertise drive the analysis from the bottom-up vs. judging based on my assumptions.

What are some tools that are essential to your craft? If you have a problem related to strategic finance, what kind of things can you rely on to help you find an answer?

Most of my work is done in Excel/Google sheets. The majority of my analysis relies on pivot tables and excel formulas like index match, as well as scenario planning using what-if analysis. It’s tough to point to one tool as the panacea for the problem; usually, the combination of all is what you need.

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