Jim Brenner: Relationships matter

Staff Sketch

Chief External Relations Officer Jim Brenner is excited to return to his alma mater and lead the W. P. Carey MarComm, Alumni, and Corporate Relations teams.

“I’m definitely surprised by how much the campus has changed since I was a student. The food at the MU has definitely improved! What doesn’t surprise me is how frustrating parking still is,” Jim laughs.

Jim graduated from ASU in 1989 with a BS in mechanical engineering, but prior to transferring to ASU, he spent time studying at The United States Military Academy at West Point, where he learned several life lessons that have stuck with him to this day.

“At West Point, the highest level of punishment was for something called ‘failure to set the example.’ Whether it’s getting your crew up for a 5 a.m. run or spearheading a new initiative, as a leader, it’s your job, not only to wake up and go run, but to be at the head of the pack, in the mud with your team, showing enthusiasm and giving it your all,” he says.

Jim was thrilled at the chance to come full circle and return to his Sun Devil roots.

“I love education and marketing. But the people at W. P. Carey are what really stood out to me,” says Jim. One of the career mistakes he made in the past was taking a job at a company without getting to meet his team.

“After that, I made a conscious decision to meet the people I’ll be working with before accepting a new position. As I went through the W. P. Carey process, I meet a large group of people from the various departments I’ll be working with. It was a good opportunity to see that this was the place for me. Youhave to make sure you’re going to be with people who you like, because we’re going to be spending a lot of time together,” says Jim. “Meeting with everyone definitely emphasized the adage that business is personal.” 

Jim empathizes with students.

“I look at our students here, 18 or 19 years old, it’s difficult to know what you want to be when you grow up. I started out wanting to be an engineer. I was good at math, and I knew engineering was a field that paid well,” he said. But as he progressed through his career, he came to realize he was more passionate about marketing.

“I was fortunate that at Quaker Oats, I was able to work in many cross-functional teams. Every time I met with the marketing folks, I thought, ‘Wow. Marketing can really make a difference.’”

One of his mentors encouraged him to pursue a marketing position at Quaker so he went back to school and received an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

"It’s wasn’t common at that time and at Quaker for an engineer to become a marketer, but I learned that my engineering skills and my MBA positioned me well to be successful,” says Jim.

Since then, Jim has worked for companies such as Coca-Cola, Nautilus, and LasikPlus. But after a time, felt the calling to do something different.

“I started thinking that maybe I want to do something different with my life. I moved my family back to Arizona, where I grew up, and I moved into higher education. Now I get a chance to come back to my alma mater and make an impact.” Jim is excited by the opportunity to create a better future for people through education and to help continue innovation at W. P. Carey.

“It’s a challenge for all of us collectively and it’s something we have to keep in the forefront as we move forward. How do we stay #1 in innovation?” Jim has some big ideas and has only just begun.

Professional

What have you learned on another job that you’ve applied at W. P. Carey School?

People often don’t feel engaged at work because they don’t feel like they are part of the group, they don’t know what’s going on or why. They don’t know their role in broader vision and how they can make a difference. Communication is essential. The tighter you feel connected to your tribe, the more you’re engaged. If you have good people and you get them engaged, you will be successful.

What’s your favorite W. P. Carey School event?

Spirit of Enterprise: I’m looking forward to finally seeing it happen. 

What was your first job and what did it teach you?

I was a paper boy and can claim the prestigious title of the 1979 Scottsdale Progress Carrier of the Year. I had the largest route with the most customers in Scottsdale. I was a little kid who actually had money. I started buying model airplanes and remote controlled cars. When I got into my teen years, I began using my funds to buy motorcycles, refurbish them, then sell them. And that led me to a degree in engineering and eventually business.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?

The older you get, you realize how small the world really gets. Everyone knows everyone. Relationships matter. People matter. If you treat people right, deliver results, and recognize that relationships are important, you’d be surprised at the connections you make.

What is something in your field that you’d want to learn more about?

I’m fascinated by fractional attribution. I’d like to learn how to measure it better. Right now, 100% of the credit goes to the last method we used to reach out to people. So if someone saw one of our billboards, then watched a YouTube ad, then clicked on an email from us later on, we attribute that lead to email, but it was a mix of different things that got them to us. There are all these touchpoints. There are many new data tools that can give a more complete picture of our marketing and I’d love to play with those and learn more to better connect with our students.

Personal

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

I went sky diving with some of my fraternity brothers back when I was an undergrad. It wasn’t like it is today, where you jump in tandem with a professional who takes care of all the safety stuff. It was a lot scarier back then, you did it alone. And it’s not something I think I’ll do again.

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?

I’d be a greaser with long hair, scruff, and dirty fingernails, working in a custom hot rod shop.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

I’m dying to go to Israel and do a biblical trip with the family. I heard the people there are awesome, and there’s so much history.  

If you could have one super power, what would it be?

To fly. Without a doubt. 

What movie can you watch over and over?

I have three favorites: Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Shawshank Redemption, and The Sound of Music.

Preferences

Salty or sweet? Salty
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Soda or energy drink? Both
Cat or dog? Dogs
Truck or car? Trucks
Board games or video games? Board games
Fiction or non-fiction? Both
Facebook or face-to-face? Face-to-face
Breakfast or lunch? Dinner
Morning person or night owl? Morning person