Leadership Born out of Unexpected Places

Founder and Chief Executive Officer Bryan Brenner joined local leader Scott Abbott’s podcast Moments to Momentum in early January 2021. They discussed his story of founding First Person and leadership lessons learned along the way, specifically in 2020.

The farm and family

Bryan was born and lived in Williamsport, Indiana, until he was four years old, when the Brenners moved to a wealthy doctor’s farm not far from his birthplace. Bryan grew up tending to the tenant farm with his family, cultivating livestock and crops, working late nights to pull off demanding manual labor. He credits his parents and his farm experience for his later desire to be an entrepreneur and leader.

Aspiring to do “bigger” things and pursue more financial stability than he experienced as a child, Bryan set out for Butler University at the age of eighteen. In the podcast he alludes to his college career as a time for extreme growth as a leader and “turning nothing into something beautiful.”

After Bryan married his now-wife Elaine during his junior year, the newlyweds graduated from Butler with liberal arts degrees and set out to forge their path in Indianapolis. Now, the two have been married for twenty-four years and have four children, ranging from college-aged to ten-year old girl.

The business

An “accidental entrepreneur” and leader, Bryan started his first organization when he was just twenty-three years old. Despite Bryan’s early wishes to become a missionary, Elaine’s father approached Bryan to take over his insurance agency. A consultant led them to believe they’d be almost a perfect match because of their shared values; however, their personalities were nearly complete opposites, sparking his affinity for organizational performance and management.

When he took over operations at the firm, Bryan admitted he didn’t know what a “P&L” was. But, today, First Person Advisors is the largest benefits, compensation and organizational performance advisory group in the state.

The “moments to momentum”

The crux of Abbott’s podcast is to expose inflection points in leaders’ stories and lives. Asked of his most impactful moments, Bryan detailed when his father told him – at the raw age of fourteen – that he was the “man of the house” after his parents separated. “Words create worlds,” Bryan said of this moment of immense gravity, citing his need to set high expectations and obligation to fulfill his true potential.

Since day one on the farm, Bryan has believed passionately in the power of contribution to drive meaningful change. Referencing today’s calls for diversity, equity and inclusion, Bryan says that change cannot take place if society doesn’t buy-in together. Change can’t just happen. It needs to be coordinated, organized and created.

For a deeper dive into Bryan’s leadership and founding story, listen to Scott Abbott’s podcast Moments to Momentum.

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