Shifting Beyond the Fear of Failure Leadership Style with Brock Berry at Adcellerant

Shifting from fear of failure to lead the team to higher levels of success takes time. The fear of failure is a common fear among entrepreneurial leaders. It comes from doing something big and scary. It often drives you to work hard and encourage your team to work hard too. However, there is another more evolved way to lead. When you profoundly connect to your mission and vision, you begin to see the opportunity in a way that pulls you forward. This allows you to lead your people with confidence, and you don’t have that fear of failure. My guest today is Brock Berry, Founder, and CEO of Adcellerant. His company was ranked #83 in the 2018 Inc 5000 list. Brock shares stories about how his fear of failure drove him in the early days of starting the business. Now he has more confidence in his vision. He also has more confidence in himself. He doesn’t lean on the fear of failure now. Brock can see the opportunity with more clarity. Brocks shares his journey of shifting from fear of failure.

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Brock Berry: The Transcript

Target Audience: Founder and CEO at AdCellerant. AdCellerant is a digital advertising and technology company focused on making quality digital marketing accessible to every business.

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Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.

Brock Berry
You focus on your team first. And they know that they’re the number one priority. Almost as engaged in the mission of the company to the purpose of the company. The personality of the company that you are building, they’re carrying the torch the same way you would then needs to improve customer service, team who’s focused on being conscious know that we still have to run. They’re almost as focused on the things that you as the business owner should be because you believe in.

[00:00:39].120] – Gene Hammett
Welcome to Growth Think Tank. This is the one and only place where you will get insight from the founders and the CEOs. The fastest growing privately held companies. I am the host. My name is Gene Hammett. I hope leaders and their teams navigate the defining moments of their growth. Are you ready to grow.

[00:00:56].490] – Gene Hammett
Does your fear of failure drive you forward. When you think about the risk that you’re taking. You’re so determined and working so hard hustling that you are just working to avoid any sense of failure. Maybe you put all of your money into this new venture and you have really driven yourself to the bone if you will. Because I’ve been there. I wanted to find out someone else that had been through this too and it made the shift beyond the fear of failure. You may be thinking right now what is beyond that fear.

[00:01:28].830] – Gene Hammett
Well if you’re working through it you’re still operating from fear of failure. It can drive you for but it can also be very stressful. So you have to look about the next evolution of your leadership. I went out there and found someone that really embodies this. His name is Brock Berry. Brock is the co-founder CEO of Adcellerant. There were no eighty three on a list of 2018. You’re gonna be on it again this year that just got the letter. And what is really interesting about this conversation was he talked about you know that shift he made and some of you know the story of that was really compelling about what he was doing before and what he does now and how the company’s even grown faster because he’s no longer has that fear of failure as a driver inside him. So you can tune in to fill the full interview.

[00:02:17].080] – Gene Hammett
Before we jump in an interview. I want to remind you that if you will haven’t gotten the worksheet yet I’ve organized the core principles of fast growth leaders. These 12 core principles will help you be a better leader. Just go to and you can download that absolutely for free. It will kind of give you an organization of the episodes that that would fit into. But also if you go and get that list it would tell you exactly what those core leadership principles are a fast growth companies and leaders.

[00:02:46].830] – Gene Hammett
Just go to Now here’s the interview with Brock Berry.

[00:02:52].970] – Gene Hammett
Hi Brock how are you?

[00:02:56].490] – Brock Berry
Hi Gene, I’m great thanks!

[00:02:58].140] – Gene Hammett
Excited to have you here. Growth think tank. I’ve already introduced you and told you I’m a little bit about the company but I’d love for them to hear your own words so tell us about Adcellerant.

[00:03:06].900] – Brock Berry
Sure. Adcellerant a tech enabled services company focusing on bringing quality digital marketing solutions to treat businesses. We essentially want to bring the same things that Madison Avenue level companies are able to leverage rate to the street or the mom and pop companies that are out there trying to get by.

[00:03:27].330] – Gene Hammett
Well I know that the idea and the concept the technology and everything around marketing shift so quickly that you guys must be on your toes as an organization. You have about 60 employees right?

[00:03:41].700] – Brock Berry
That’s correct. Yes.

[00:03:44].510] – Gene Hammett
When you think about you know leading a fast growing organization you have to be a certain kind of leader right. You have to have embrace change and whatnot. Fairly fairly easily and you have to get others to embrace change as well. But I want to go back to the beginning. We had talked earlier this week in a pre interview talking about the importance of you operating from a place of fear of failure. Tell us about what that fear of failure is and where it came from.

[00:04:15].010] – Brock Berry
Sure. You know when you’re when we started the company in your boot straps you’re still bootstrapped. I think a lot of companies know me a lot but many companies are eager to start with some really nice funding from the outside. Our funding was selling one of our house selling our house maxing out our credit cards selling my cars and borrowing money from my mother in law pretty much liquidating my retirement. So that was the debt that was I pretty much mortgaged my entire life to be able to do this.

[00:04:47].460] – Brock Berry
So when you have that much essentially debt or financial strain on your on you tied to the company that you’re starting it really helps you in some ways work really hard but at the same time you’re kind of working from a place of. I was very nervous and scared a lot of times that the next thing that we did it ultimately caused me to lose equity I put into this business and it was kind of on the on the doorstep of that for the first few years and is extremely stressful.

[00:05:22].360] – Gene Hammett
Had you operated from from a sense of failure before that before we started this business.

[00:05:27].160] – Brock Berry
I don’t think I’d ever worked in a role in my life where I felt like I would fail. He’s been pretty good at what I do. And I had great advice from my dad one time and said I need you. And I said well it’s not going to work. And he said he goes Well when does your boss come to work seven thirty in the morning. When did she leave. So six or seven o’clock at night as well I mean before she does leave after she does work the entire time you probably figure it out. And that’s not always the answer to every question but hard work does pay off. I never really worked a year before until we started that self.

[00:06:08].800] – Gene Hammett
How did that fear of failure drive you to create the kind of company you have today.

[00:06:15].530] – Brock Berry
When you when you or when you’re you know fear failure is a strong motivator. And for me the chain answer the opportunity to lose everything also have two little girls four and six now. Now it’s time they’re basically babies you first started the company. You really have everything in your life on the line.

[00:06:39].050] – Brock Berry
So what it helps you do is it helps you explore every potential opportunity. And also every way that you could potentially take advantage of those opportunities and everything that you’re going to do and you’re in the early stages of any company is somewhat of a risk because it requires some investment. And every dollar we invest in is dollars really didn’t have spent and certainly money I wasn’t going to be paying myself but you what it does is it helps you. You are more calculated in the risk that you take it far more cautious and thoughtful I think about the risk that.

[00:07:16].050] – Gene Hammett
You know a few days ago when we talked about this I asked you about the defining moments of your leadership and you shared a story about the first couple of years you did not. You weren’t on payroll. I have that right. Yeah. You had been paying yourself yet, is that right?

[00:07:34].710] – Brock Berry
Well that’s yes.

[00:07:36].230] – Gene Hammett
Every American can relate to that. I remember the first year I started my business in 2001 I had an e-commerce business and the first year I went from a corporate salary which was like 150 down to 30 thousand. That was what I had paid myself that year and my fiancee now wife said Do you know what you’re doing. Can you make this work. But you had a story about that you know the first time you decided to add yourself to payroll. Take us back to that moment and share the story with us about how that was related to this fear of failure.

[00:08:09].510] – Brock Berry
Sure. You know a lot of people when they start a company to they have their spouse or partner to rely on to help the bills. And one of my co-founders is my wife. So what early stage neither of us are making any money and everything we own is essentially on the table and we were driving to Albuquerque New Mexico to help one of our partners a lot of our products our products are sold or sold. We were driving into Mexico with our kids and my mother and long car. Helped this company sell these products.

[00:08:44].730] – Brock Berry
Customer base and on the way was really the first time you’re ever supposed to get a paycheck. And we were online of course driving down the road checking our bank account. And this is Mom we desperately needed personally to pay bills and the money wasn’t there. And I asked my wife Shelby is like why. What we saw was good pay today. She said yes just check this thing and see it when he’s not there we’ll call the account. We call her account and she said I need to call you want to let you know you still have enough money to pay yourself. So I just put it off and then I check the company bank balance. It wasn’t me money married.

[00:09:26].190] – Brock Berry
So at that point and kind of an inflection point in our psyche maybe even in how we were approaching things we knew that we’re on the doorstep of failure essentially because without serious revenue or sales to solve the problem revenue solves all problems. In my opinion we were going to fail. So we went down to Albuquerque and over the next seven days my wife and I made about 30 sales calls and sold 140 thousand dollars of product. It’s just over simplified. And it was without that week and without that trip and the timing maybe of knowing that you’re on that post earlier I don’t know that we would have come out of that trip save with that partner that company that we work with now to save our a very. Fun and stressful and exciting week because every sale that we made it into the day we’d recount them in the hotel room and think they could help us read that.

[00:10:29].680] – Gene Hammett
I appreciate you sharing that story because it’s very vulnerable to go back in time and realize that you know maybe you might not have made it and you had to really obviously you had something good to sell and because you’ve turned the corner and you’ve built a very strong company from that day when you think about this a lot of leaders let the fear of failure stop them. Why do you think that it stops them instead of the way you’ve used it is to prepare you for it.

[00:10:58].610] – Brock Berry
I believe a lot of times it’s paralyzing not knowing what is on the end of each decision or the options that you may have. A lot of times a leader especially when you’re working on fear you’re too afraid to make the decision that you need to make even though you may think it’s the wrong. Thing to do because if you’re wrong pauses you fail. If you’re at that and if you’re at that point where it’s ultimate failure to the point where maybe you’re going into bankruptcy I think it does cause people to be paralyzed with their ability to make a decision.

[00:11:35].030] – Brock Berry
For us it just made us far more intelligent I think and strategic about the decisions that we’re making. I still think we’ve moved really rapidly and quickly but I think that the best entrepreneurs you can track this back to like Larry Page and Sergey Brin there they’re cautious about the risks that they’re taking because they know that if they’re wrong that leads them to believe it’s an able to continue to pursue their passion. So for us it was a good thing and I could see how for most for a lot of people potentially causes them so they can’t make decisions which ultimately cost them anyway.

[00:12:16].160] – Gene Hammett
I think the outside world views entrepreneurs as these cowboys and the risk takers that they’ll put everything on the line. But the reality is true is they really think about how to minimize any downside and you’ve probably have those structures in place every time you have something new a new product or a new channel that you’re going after. So I really appreciate you sharing that story with us. I’ve been through my my journeys with fear and courage has really been something I’ve had to shift and embrace much more deeply as I’ve grown as a leader.

[00:12:54].020] – Gene Hammett
When you think about where you are now right now you describe a little bit differently. Like you don’t operate from a fear of failure. What how would you describe that now.

[00:13:03].560] – Brock Berry
It’s interesting. Once you cross that point where the company is profitable not to pay you and your ultimate goal for yourself back all the investments that you make. There’s a lot of new energy that is used to you as an entrepreneur is now you’re able to make investments sometimes that to your point of being calculated in the risk and minimizing risk that you’re able to you’re able to make decisions that potentially are even riskier because you have the money to spend it. It doesn’t work. It doesn’t mean you fail. It just means that didn’t work and you wasted some of your investment opportunity for us.

[00:13:42].080] – Brock Berry
That’s been a nice change in pivot we’ve been and make far more investments at one time and then work across all of them simultaneously and quickly fail and the ones that weren’t going to work and then doubled down in the areas where we’re seeing big returns. And I think that’s that is one of the major differences from when we started to where we’re at today is we do make far more investments and they’re far more risky than they were in the beginning. But it’s helped us propel forward a lot faster as we’re able to identify the opportunities more quickly and then continue to double down on those things at a far faster pace.

[00:14:22].960] – Gene Hammett
You mentioned energy inside there. You get energy when you make money or when you close the next big business or that project worked out the way it wants and then some things take away energy from us. When you think about energy is that a very conscious thing in your life as a leader.

[00:14:40].950] – Brock Berry
Are they conscious of the enthusiasm or energy required to be a leader I guess.

[00:14:46].520] – Gene Hammett
Well just what gives you energy and what takes away energy from you.

[00:14:50].210] – Brock Berry
For me it’s seeing our teams seem as you get to be the point. We have 60 people on your team to constantly engage with them on a very intimate personal level and they’re developing in their careers to be their first job. We have a very young company perspective but technology and I love watching these people who perhaps are really good at whatever their particular craft is but then see them pushed into an area that they’re uncomfortable with and watch them develop. I get a ton of energy out of that of those successes.

[00:15:25].340] – Brock Berry
I think what kind of pulls you away is when you fail. And I think that’s a it’s hard for people especially really competitive people we find a lot of leaders are former athletes or former competitors in some sort or another way. And as they fail or they lose I think it can pull them or make them a little less ambitious. Next thing you’re doing so you’ve got to be conscious of that because you have a leader on your team or you as a leader continue to fail. You don’t want it to slow you down.

[00:15:56].900] – Brock Berry
It’s kind of like Kobe Bryant or whoever there at the end of the game. They’ve taken 50 shots that game a 10. You’re still going to take the last shot that doesn’t matter. They’ve already missed 40 shots. Usually they make up right. That’s what you have to do as a leader too. It’s really difficult when it is important that you keep shooting otherwise.

[00:16:17].140] – Commentary
Let’s take a break here. A lot of leaders really struggle with the things that take energy away from them they show up because there’s so much pressure so many responsibilities as a leader. You’re wearing a lot of hats and your time is very stretched if you will. Now if you are feeling less than you have to understand how to really recognize what takes away your energy and what gives you energy and you want to design your day and design the work so that you’re creating a culture that gives you as much energy as possible. And this is going to be helpful for you as the leader but also for the entire culture the entire team. If they have if they’re feeding off that energy so you’re part of your job as a leader is to identify what is. You know zapping your energy but also what is zapping the energy of the culture. And for you to remove those things that if you have your finger on the pulse there really will accelerate the growth of your company. Now back to interview with Brock.

[00:17:14].450] – Gene Hammett
Well I know you. You made a shift from you know leading from a place of fear of failure to a place of seeing the opportunity. Is there anything that kind of was the catalyst to that shift or is it just the natural evolution of the company.

[00:17:28].970] – Brock Berry
It’s probably more the evolution of the company and realizing. That every day that we walk and there isn’t a demon chasing us down the hallway trying to capture us. And I think that’s it’s just a start and we’ll look at it more from you you’re already at the end of the tunnel the light is you’re just fully immersed in that light now and you can focus on more strategic intelligently. Have. Continued but. It does have a lot to do with the financial success of these cash flowing and profitable. You can operate more to the point where you’re broke.

[00:18:12].250] – Gene Hammett
I want to pivot just a little bit here because we’ve talked a lot about that fear of failure. Something I read about your company and I want to get a good idea of how it really plays out inside the leadership but you put team ahead of profits ahead of costs management and ahead of everything internal in the business so how does that really helped the company grow.

[00:18:34].960] – Brock Berry
You’d be surprised and I think a lot of people use this advice. You’d be surprised that you’re focused on your team first and may know that they’re the number one priority. They almost become as engaged and bought in on the mission of the company the purpose of the company is tenacity of the company that you’re building where they’re carrying the torch the same way you insure it then leads to improve customer service team is focused on being cost conscious because they know that we still have to run a profitable business that they’re almost as focused on the things that you as the business owner should be focused on because you believe in them and you prioritize.

[00:19:20].200] – Brock Berry
It’s almost like getting everybody on your team first. If you do that focus on your clients and impact the clients drive more revenue greater profits. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. It’s really not difficult to do.

[00:19:36].000] – Commentary
Let me add something to this. When people feel a sense of ownership you really do change the way they work. That really is something that you can engineer as a leader you can inspire people to feel that sense of ownership. It’s. It doesn’t take stock options it doesn’t take profit sharing it doesn’t take you know all of the normal money features it’s something you can do in the way you lead. Now I help leaders do this all the time but you want to tune into how you are increasing that sense of ownership behind every employee because as you do they show up and they will walk through walls from the loyalty would be through the roof and their ability to creatively add to the value of the company to really accelerate your company growth. Now back to the interview.

[00:20:23].310] – Gene Hammett
But it’s not as common as you may think. You’ve probably worked in other environments where customer first drove everything and it seems like that’s the right thing to do. But from my experience in interviewing a lot of people like you most of the people when I say no most it’s over 94 percent will say team first. Because they really believe in the power of developing and growing the team and making them feel cared for so that they can care for the clients. And it really does allow them to be customer centric but still keep team first. Is that similar to what you’ve seen with your company.

[00:21:06].600] – Brock Berry
Totally. Really important to do that.

[00:21:09].430] – Gene Hammett
What would you say to a leader.

[00:21:11].470] – Gene Hammett
Say that again?

[00:21:13].860] – Brock Berry
Which is it if you do we’ll find a lot of people excited to come to work. And that’s what motivated work.

[00:21:22].830] – Gene Hammett
I share a line onstage as a leader your job is not to get them to do the work is to get them to want to do the work that that small little change in there. The language choice of what to do the work is is a world of difference the way they show up with that spring in their step. Brock when you have interactions with other companies you’re talking about a company you know that they might not be putting team first. What would you say to other leaders that that are considering what that would do for the company.

[00:21:55].880] – Brock Berry
I would say hey if you’re not putting your team first let’s say you’re focusing on profits or the customers first what you’re what you really are missing is fine. But that’s kind of what you’re just saying. When I when I talk to our staff I mean we have really high expectations. It’s not a it’s not just the constant warm hug around. People know the expectations are high. But at the same time even though they know that it’s very transparent about who’s doing well and how well we’re doing. They are so excited because we’re putting them first time in more motivated they’re going to come in earlier and stay later.

[00:22:41].990] – Brock Berry
And then when they see something that isn’t working they feel ownership in what’s happening. So they’re bringing forward this this is happening this shouldn’t be happening right. This really upsets the customer. We should fix that right now. That’s a great idea I never thought of that but it’s because they believe and it’s funny those people that are focusing on profits and customers first let’s say hypothetically they don’t realize that by not putting their team there first they’re losing out on all their ideas on the enthusiasm people can hear enthusiasm and inflection of the voice you’re excited to be at the office. People know it.

[00:23:19].490] – Gene Hammett

[00:23:21].590] – Brock Berry
All leads to profits. Your customers are happy your team’s happy. You’re more likely to be making money.

[00:23:27].830] – Gene Hammett
Well said Brock and very much in alignment with the reason why I create this podcast because I’m connecting with people that are not only fast leaders but and growing fast companies but they really are evolving as leaders I appreciate you sharing with me your evolution from this operation of fear of failure to one up seeing opportunity and being able to make smart decisions and even take the proper appropriate risk if you will. So Brock thank you for being here at the Grove think tank. I really appreciate it.

[00:24:01].640] – Brock Berry
Thank you Gene. I appreciate being on the show.

[00:24:04].930] – Gene Hammett
How what a great interview I loved at the very end where you talked about the sense of ownership when people really feel that inside the role that they have they come to work very differently. It’s exciting to have that message be played over and over again. So if you are not getting a sense of ownership that you want you have people showing up just to do the work you want them to go beyond responsibility. That I’d love to share with you some of the research I have love to share with you some of the coaching I do around this. If you have any questions about that makes you reach out to me at As always lead with courage. We’ll see you next time.

Disclaimer: This transcript was created using YouTube’s translator tool and that may mean that some of the words, grammar, and typos come from a misinterpretation of the video.


GTT Featuring Brock Berry



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