Episode 69 – Unstoppable Corporate Communicator with Bradley Akubuiro
Bradley Akubuiro’s parents raised him to have a deep and strong work ethic. His father came to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 17 and worked to put himself through school. As Bradley describes, both about his father as well as about many people in extremely impoverished parts of the world, such individuals develop a strong resilience and wonderful spirit.
Bradley has led media relations and/or public affairs for Fortune 50 companies including Boeing as it returned the grounded 737 MAX to service and United Technologies through a series of mergers that resulted in the creation of Raytheon Technologies. He also served as an advisor to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and to the Republic of Liberia post-civil war. Today Bradley is a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, an advisory firm founded by leaders of the Obama-Biden campaign.
As you will see, Bradley is a wonderful and engaging storyteller. He weaves into his stories for us lessons about leadership and good corporate communications. His spirit is refreshing in our world today where we see so much controversy and unnecessary bickering.
I look forward to your comments on this episode.
About the Guest:
Bradley is a partner at Bully Pulpit Interactive, an advisory firm founded by leaders of the Obama-Biden campaign. He focuses on corporate reputation, executive communications, and high visibility crisis management and media relations efforts, as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion matters for clients.
Bradley has led media relations and/or public affairs for Fortune 50 companies including Boeing as it returned the grounded 737 MAX to service and United Technologies through a series of mergers that resulted in the creation of Raytheon Technologies and has also served as an advisor to Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. and to the Republic of Liberia post-civil war.
A nationally recognized expert in his field, Bradley has been quoted by outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and The Washington Post, and his columns have been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, and Inc. Magazine, where he is a regular contributor.
Bradley is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, where he currently sits on the Board of Advisers and serves as an adjunct member of the faculty.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:21
Well, hi, everybody. Thank you for joining us on unstoppable mindset today, we have Bradley Akubuiro with us. Bradley is a partner in bully pulpit International. He’ll tell us about that. But he’s been involved in a variety of things dealing with corporate communications, and has had a lot of adventures. He deals with diversity, equity and inclusion. But most of all, before we started this, he had one question for me. And that is, how much fun are we going to have on this podcast? Well, that really is up to Bradley. So Bradley has some fun.
Bradley Akubuiro 01:56
Michael, thank you so much for having me is is going to be a ton of fun. I’m really excited. Thanks for having me
Michael Hingson 02:01
on. Well, you’re you’re absolutely welcome. And we’re glad that you’re here had a chance to learn about you. And we’ve had a chance to chat some. So why don’t we start as often and Lewis Carroll would say at the beginning, and maybe tell me about you growing up and those kinds of things.
Bradley Akubuiro 02:18
Yeah, I’d be happy to do that. And, you know, I think it would be remiss if I didn’t start off talking about my parents a little bit before I talked about myself. My dad grew up in the Biafran war in Nigeria, Civil War, Nigeria. And you know, while he was going through school, they were bombing schools, and it wasn’t safe for adults to be out. And so, you know, he was the guy in his family at six years old, who was taking crops from their plantation. They grew up maybe about six hours outside of Lagos, Nigeria, and was moving, you know, some of these crops two miles away, to sell in the marketplace. And you know, at a very early age was learning responsibility, not just for himself, but for the family.
Michael Hingson 03:02
Wow. Which is something that more people should do. So what what all did he do? Or how did all that work out?
Bradley Akubuiro 03:09
Yeah. Well, you know, this was a really interesting time in Nigeria’s History, where you had a lot of folks who were in this circumstance, and my dad was a really hard worker, his parents were hard workers before him, his father was a pastor. And so he had a certain level of discipline and support in his household. But, you know, he knew that he had this kind of onus on him. So grew up at a time then where not only do you have this responsibility, but a big family, brothers and sisters to take care of. He was the guy who was chosen later, you know, flash forward a few years, to come to the United States, to be able to find an opportunity here in this country, and to be able to always hopefully, give back to his family.
Michael Hingson 03:59
So he came, and How old was he? When he came here?
Bradley Akubuiro 04:03
When he got to the States, he was about 17. So came to New York City, not a lot going on there. And, you know, he had to put himself through
Michael Hingson 04:15
school. Did he know anyone? Or Was anyone sponsoring him? Or how did all that work? He had a little
Bradley Akubuiro 04:20
bit of family here, but he had to find his own way, get a full time job at a gas station, and work to figure out what this country was all about, but also how to be successful here.
Michael Hingson 04:32
Where did he stay when he got here then
Bradley Akubuiro 04:36
got a little apartment up on the kind of Washington Heights Harlem area of New York, little hole in the wall and, you know, continue to work to pay that off while he was trying to pay off school. So not easy, but at the same time, you know, a really, really great opportunity for him to kind of start fresh and create some opportunity for himself and family.
Michael Hingson 04:58
So did he tell him at least With a little bit of money, how did all that work? It’s funny, he
Bradley Akubuiro 05:04
asked that question. He did come with some, but it wasn’t a lot. Let’s start off there. But you know, what’s interesting about that is, you know, he put himself through undergrad, put himself through a master’s program, you know, and was doing a PhD program over at University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. And at Penn, he blew through his entire life savings and one semester. And so, you know, was on a great path. You studying engineering, and, you know, a semester and he’s like, Oh, what am I going to do ended up going across the street to Drexel, where they were able to bring him in and give him a scholarship, as long as he was one a TA, which he really enjoyed doing. And he was able to put himself through the PhD.
Michael Hingson 05:50
Wow. So he started there as a freshman then
Bradley Akubuiro 05:55
started, so he went to several different schools started in New York. Yep, sorry, started in New York at Hunter College, did a master’s program at Clark Atlanta University in Atlanta, and then came up to do his PhD at Penn. And then went to Drexel, and went to Drexel.
Michael Hingson 06:12
He moved around how, how come? What, what took him to Atlanta, for example? Do you know?
Bradley Akubuiro 06:18
Yeah, well, it was the opportunity. You know, one of the things that he had learned and had been instilled in him growing up, which he’s passed on to me is, you follow the opportunity where it’s and as long as you’re not afraid to take that risk and take a chance on yourself and your future that will ultimately more often than not pay off in the end. And so he followed scholarship dollars, he followed the programs that would have an opportunity for him. And he went exactly where it took,
Michael Hingson 06:45
and what were his degrees in.
Bradley Akubuiro 06:47
So his master’s degree was in chemistry, his PhD was chemical engineering. Wow. Yeah. What did he What did he do with that? So well, you know, the world was his oyster, I suppose, in some ways, but you know, he ended up you know, going into a couple of different companies started with Calgon, carbon and Pittsburgh, and spent a number of years there and on later on to Lucent Technologies, and fiber optics. And so, you know, he’s moved on to a number of different companies, engineering roles, eventually got his MBA and has been, you know, employed a number of different places and continued over his career to work in a number of different geographies as well, whether it’s like going to Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Atlanta, Massachusetts. They’re now living in Rochester, New York, which I’ve never lived in. But it’s a very charming place. It’s, yeah.
Michael Hingson 07:44
It is. It is a nice place. I’ve been there many times. Yeah. And for customers and so on, it’s a fun place to go. Well, he obviously learned in a lot of ways, some might say the hard way, but he learned to value what was going on with him, because it was the only way he was going to be successful. So nothing was handed to him at all, was
Bradley Akubuiro 08:10
it? That’s right. He had a very strong family foundation. And he definitely learned a lot from his parents and from his family, and they were very close. So I think that he would say that’s what was handed to him, but he certainly didn’t give any get any leg up.
Michael Hingson 08:26
Right. Well, that’s a good thing to have handed to you, I guess. Well, how did he meet somebody from Gary, Indiana, which is a whole different culture.
Bradley Akubuiro 08:36
Well, this becomes a love story pretty quickly. That’s an article.
Michael Hingson 08:42
You can embellish how you want.
Bradley Akubuiro 08:46
Oh, my parents actually met somewhat serendipitously. They were at two different schools. My mom was going to school in Alabama, Alabama a&m. My dad was going to school at the time and Clark, Atlanta and Atlanta. So about four hours apart, Huntsville, Atlanta. My mom’s roommate was dating my dad’s roommate. And so my mom agreed to come with her roommate to go and visit her boyfriend at the time. She happened to meet this strapping young Nigerian man in Atlanta, and they ended up hitting it off and as fate would have it, the other two their respective movements didn’t make the distance but they had a budding romance that ended up lasting now at this point several decades.
Michael Hingson 09:37
Wow. So they’re, they’re still with us.
Bradley Akubuiro 09:41
They’re both still with us
Michael Hingson 09:42
both going strong. That is, that is really cool. So what do you think you learn from them?
Bradley Akubuiro 09:48
I learned a number of things. You know, I learned first of all, and you heard my father’s story, resilience. He has learned to take whatever is thrown at been thrown at him. Be able to not only take it in stride, which I think is good, but more importantly, to turn it around and channel it and to use it to his advantage, no matter what that might be. And he’s instilled that in me and my two sisters, two sisters, ones, older ones younger. And that’s, that’s really been important. You know, when it comes to my two parents, the things that they value a ton are education, family. And when you think about the world around you, how are you leaving it in a better place than you found it. And if you can really focus on those handful of things, then you are going to have a very fulfilling and successful life. And that’s how he measured success. I’ve taken that away from them.
Michael Hingson 10:41
He doesn’t get better than that. And if you can, if you can say that I want to make a difference. And that I hope I’ve made at least a little difference. It doesn’t get better than that does it?
Bradley Akubuiro 10:53
That’s exactly right. So then
Michael Hingson 10:55
you came along. And we won’t we won’t put any value judgment on that.
Bradley Akubuiro 11:02
Thank you for that we
Michael Hingson 11:03
could have for Yeah, exactly. But actually, before I go to that, have they been back to visit Nigeria at all?
Bradley Akubuiro 11:11
Yeah, absolutely. And unfortunately, the most recent time that my parents took a trip back was the passing of my grandmother, a handful of years ago. And so that brought them back. But, you know, one of the things that I’m hoping to do, and I haven’t done it yet, is just spend some real time out there. I’ve got plenty of family that’s still there. So go in and spend a little time in Nigeria that’s longer than a quick in and out trip. I spent some time and we’ve talked about this before Michael, but in West Africa, generally in Liberia. And that was a great experience. But there’s not quite like going back to where it all began with your family.
Michael Hingson 11:49
No, it’s still not home. Right. Well, so you you came along. And so what was it like growing up in that household and going to high school and all that?
Bradley Akubuiro 12:03
Well, there’s a couple ways to answer that. Go ahead. Well, let’s put it this way, I we have a very close family bond. And so you know, when you think about the folks who have finished your senses, who laugh at your jokes, because they think it’s funny, and if you hadn’t told that joke, first, they probably would have told that joke, the kind of family we have. It’s a great, great dynamic. And so I was very fortunate to have grown up in that household with parents who truly, truly embraced that that side. You know, it was also a tough household. You know, my parents were very strict, my father, especially coming from this immigrant mindset, and this Nigerian culture, I mentioned the value of education. What I didn’t mention quite, but might have been a little bit implied, and I’ll say it more explicitly is anything less than an A was entirely unacceptable. There were a number of times where I found myself on the wrong side of that. And, you know, we grew up in different times, as my parents were trying to provide the best life they could for us, and a number of different urban settings. And, you know, one, one period of life for me was particularly studying in high school, where, you know, the school district of Springfield, Massachusetts at a time graduated about 54% of the students that went through that system. And so you’re thinking about one in two kids who don’t make it out of high school, much less make it the college, much less have a successful and fulfilling career in life. And my father, especially, but of course, both my parents want us to do absolutely everything in their power to ensure that those would not be our statistics that we would be my sisters, and I would be able to have every tool at our disposal to be successful. And they work hard at that, despite the circumstances.
Michael Hingson 14:08
So how were they when I’m sure it happened? It was discovered that maybe you had some gifts, but there were some things that you weren’t necessarily as strong as other things. How did that work out for you?
Bradley Akubuiro 14:21
I want to be very clear, the list of things that I wasn’t quite as good at, especially in those days, was long enough to stun you. So you know, it we we work through it together, right? I think one of the things that I admire most about my parents now that I maybe didn’t appreciate enough growing up was just the amount that they leaned in, and we’re willing to be hands on and helping with our education. And so my father would give us times tables when we were in elementary school and make sure that we worked through them. And if we didn’t get them quite right, we would do them again, and we do them again, and we do them again. And And I remember a time when I was in the fifth grade where my father had me up until 1am, doing math problems. And, you know, I was thinking to myself, I cannot imagine doing this with my kids, when I was at that age, and then I swore at that time that I never would, I’ll tell you what my blood now I swear that I definitely will maybe not till 1am, I think there’s probably a more reasonable time. But to be able to invest that level of effort into making sure that your kid has everything they need to be successful. I just have I admire the heck out of it.
Michael Hingson 15:36
I remember a couple of times, I think one when I was oh seven or eight, when we were living in California, and going back to visit relatives in Chicago, or driving somewhere. And my dad said to me, and my brother who was two years older, you guys have to learn the times tables. And we spent time driving, just going through the times tables. And it took me a little while. And a couple of times, I tried a shortcut that messed me up. But eventually I got it all figured out. And he said, when you say the times tables correctly, we’ll give you 50 cents. And they did when I got the time two times tables, right? They did. And also, I was learning algebra from him. My dad was an electronics engineer. And so he really worked because I didn’t have books in braille early on until I was in the fourth grade, I had to study with them to a large degree. So he taught me a lot more than the schools were teaching little kids as it were. So I learned algebra early, and I learned to do it in my head, and still do. And in high school, it got me in trouble in my freshman year, because my math teacher said, Now whenever you’re doing things, you have to show your work. Well, you know, I kept trying to tell her that, for me, showing my work in Braille isn’t going to do you any good. I can tell you what I do and how I do it. And she wouldn’t accept that and she was going to fail me literally fail me in math. Until one day I wrote out, I think one of the problems and I think just in case she took it and went somewhere where she could find somebody to read Braille. I wrote it out correctly. But I got to see an algebra one because of that one thing. By the way, after that, I never got below an A in math. She was insistent that you had to show your work, and wasn’t flexible enough to recognize that there are a lot of ways to show your work. Oh,
Bradley Akubuiro 17:35
yeah. Well, that’s part of the challenge, and not to make this an entire commentary on our education system. But there are so many different ways to your point to get to the right answer. And I don’t think there’s nearly enough flexibility in our system in many cases, except for those who really, truly tried to find it and create that environment for their students. But at a at a you know, broader look, there isn’t nearly enough flexibility to appreciate that we’re going to have many different ways to get these answers.
Michael Hingson 18:04
I think that really good teachers, and there are a lot of good teachers. But I think the really good teachers make that leap and allow for flexibility in what they do. Because they recognize everyone learns differently. But the big issue is, can you learn and can you demonstrate that you learned?
Bradley Akubuiro 18:24
Yeah, well, that’s what we’re all striving for.
Michael Hingson 18:27
It is I was pretty blessed going through school, especially in high school, a lot of the times, I would stay after school and extra period to study in the library because again, not everything was available so that we actually had people who would read material to me or give me information that was written on boards that I didn’t get any other way. And usually, the teachers would come in, we would set up days and they would come in and give me tests. And what was fun about that was we would go through the tests fairly quickly and spend most of the hour chatting and I got to know a number of my teachers that way and that was so valuable for me. One of them especially Dick herbal Shimer, I still know and you know, he’s going to be what 85 I think it is this year, and he will be at five I think August 28. We still keep in touch, he came to our wedding. And he tells me that I’m getting to be closer in age to him and I point out that I’ll never be as old as he is. And he tries to convince me that mathematically I’m getting closer and I say 13 years is still 13 years.
Bradley Akubuiro 19:35
Hmm, yeah, don’t let them don’t let them try to get you. That’s
Michael Hingson 19:39
right. It’s not gonna work.
Bradley Akubuiro 19:42
was gonna ask you if you had a favorite teacher because I feel like teachers, if you put together this for many years have such an incredible impact on you and how you see yourself.
Michael Hingson 19:52
I remember a lot of things from a number of my teachers and I can tell you the names of most all of my teachers. I remember in my freshman year English, our teacher was a Mr. Wilson has actually Woodrow Wilson was his name was an older gentleman. And one day we were sitting in class and he was just talking about philosophy. And he’s talking about people’s ethics. And he said, and I remember it that, you know, a good example is, if you need to borrow a quarter from somebody, be sure you pay that quarterback, where does that come in English? But nevertheless, those are the kinds of things that he said, and other teachers said various things, and they stick with you.
Bradley Akubuiro 20:36
Yeah, no, it’s so true. I mean, for me, my favorite teacher was Darlene Kaffee. She was my fourth grade teacher, taught all kinds of, I mean, touch everything you learned in fourth grade. But the most important thing for me was, she gave me confidence in my writing ability. You know, I had always enjoyed writing, but I never really thought of myself as someone who could potentially be a writer. And she was the first person who sat me down and said, Hey, look, you submitted this assignment. And it’s really good. You could be a writer one day, and you know, she had me write poems, you had me write a number of different things that weren’t class assignments. But there were things that she was like, Hey, if you want to do this, then you got to practice it. And I learned so much from her. But the most important thing I took away was that confidence in my ability to do these things.
Michael Hingson 21:27
Yeah, yeah. And that’s one of the most important things that good teachers can bring to us and not tear you down, because you don’t necessarily do something exactly the way they do or want. But if you can demonstrate you learn that is so cool.
Bradley Akubuiro 21:42
Yeah, it is. Yeah, it is. So,
Michael Hingson 21:47
as I said, I keep in touch with declarable Shimer won his 80th birthday, I flew to Nebraska where they live and surprise him for his birthday, which was nice. That’s awesome. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. And hopefully, we’ll get back there one of these days soon. Meanwhile, I’ll just give him a hard time on the phone.
Bradley Akubuiro 22:08
Cathy’s out here listening when I’m not going to surprise you don’t listen to Michael. But if I show up, then I’ll have a cake or something.
Michael Hingson 22:17
Yeah, exactly. Well, so. So what was high school like for you? I think you said there were some things that happened in high school.
Bradley Akubuiro 22:26
Yeah, high school was a I mean, when you think about formative man, this was a formative experience for me. So it was between my sophomore and junior year of high school, when one of my very best friends a guy who I consider to be like an older brother to me, was shot and killed in the drive by shooting. It was devastating. You know, I had a period over a few months, where not only was he killed, and I found out about it, 45 minutes after I’d left town to take my older sister, with my family to college and 22 hours away. So this wasn’t something he did every night. And I likely had been with him had we not been on that trip. But you know, he unfortunately passed that night with a 45 caliber bullet hole in his heart. You know, my experience with school with with life that I mean, it really took a turn at that point. Because not only had I lost somebody who was very close to me, but the police didn’t catch the guy who did it. In fact, they caught a guy who was a friend of ours that had absolutely nothing to do with it, and put him through absolute hell, only to find out that he wasn’t responsible for this, any of us could have told you that right up front. You know, that was a terrible time. You know, a couple of months later, Michael, we had another one of our close friends who was shot and killed. And the girl who was with her at the time was shot in the leg trying to get away. And you know, and another month and a half after that another one of our good friends was you know, shot in his own driveway trying to get into his car and head to the grocery store. And it wasn’t safe for us. And it was a really, really challenging time, just to exist, much less to try to focus on school and to focus on other things that are going on. How could you do that? When you didn’t know if when you left in the morning, you were going to be able to make it home at night?
Michael Hingson 24:32
Why was there so much crime? Well, that’s
Bradley Akubuiro 24:36
a million dollar question. You know, there’s so many factors that go into it. And since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking more about the kind of, you know, macro factors, but it’s a very specific on the ground situation at that time was there was a gang war between two rival gangs, street gangs in the city. And my engineer who I just referred to lived right in the heart of Eastern Avenue, which is the home of the app and Springfield became there. And across State Street was Sycamore and a number of different folks and rivalries had kind of established then. And so, you know, this was not that there’s ever, you know, really sensical reasons that, you know, these things happen. But this was as nonsensical as it could be, you know, people who are killing each other and dying for reasons that if you were to ask those who survived now, why they would ever pull a trigger and situation like this, they probably couldn’t really tell you or maybe even remember.
Michael Hingson 25:38
So it wasn’t race or anything like that. It was just the whole gang environment, mostly.
Bradley Akubuiro 25:45
Yeah, that’s right. And at the time, you know, you think about the economic factors that go into this. And I talked about this in the context of Chicago all the time, because that’s where I live now. And the situation is just as salient here. But if you were to be on the west side of Chicago, Northwestern most neighborhood within the city limits of Austin, you would be in one of the poorest and one of the most dangerous zip codes in the industrialized world. If you were to go two miles over to Oak Park, one of the suburbs just outside of the city. It’s one of the wealthiest in the region, and it is an amazing neighborhood, and the infrastructure across the board when it comes to the education system, and the amount of money per pupil. If you were to look at the crime statistics, if you were to look at the policing, if you were to look at any measure of quality of life, it is night and day different, but it’s separated by a couple of streets. And that to me is unfathomable.
Michael Hingson 26:52
It is crazy. Chris, you also have some really serious gangs back in Chicago. You know, the notorious was the cubs in the Sox, for example.
Bradley Akubuiro 27:03
That’s right. And you know what the competition? beaters? You don’t get in the middle of those two sets of fans?
Michael Hingson 27:09
Ah, no way. and never the twain shall meet, period. That’s right. That’s very many people who will say they’re fans of both.
Bradley Akubuiro 27:20
I don’t think that’s legal, actually. Ah,
Michael Hingson 27:23
that would explain it. I’ll tell you sports fans are really tough. I remember when I lived in Winthrop, mass right outside of Boston. And every year, I would on opening day, I’d be somewhere in Boston. And if the Red Sox lost immediately, basically everybody on the news and everyone else just said wait till next year. Yeah, they were done. It was no faith at all. It was amazing. And and I remember living back there when Steve Grogan was booed off out of the Patriots game one year and just I’ll tell you, they’re, they’re amazing.
Bradley Akubuiro 28:04
Well look at the dynasties they’ve gotten now. Unbelievable. Although, you know, I live with a die hard. Tom Brady fan. My fiance has been a Patriots fan since the beginning. And it’s been a complete complete nightmare trying to figure out are we watching the Patriots? Are we are we watching the Buccaneers? And are we Tom Brady fans are Patriots fans? You know, it’s a little bit of everything in that house. But I can’t ever say that I’m not happy. I am a fully dedicated supporter of all things. Somebody in SNAP, otherwise, I’m in a
Michael Hingson 28:39
lot of trouble. It is safer that way. Well, I have gained a lot of respect for Tom Brady, especially after he left the Patriots. And not because I disliked the Patriots, but because of all the scandals and the deflated footballs and all that sort of stuff. But he came back and he proved Hey, you know, it’s not what you think at all. I really am good. And he continues to be good.
Bradley Akubuiro 29:03
Yeah, it’s 100%. Right. Well, and that to make this, you know, given a broader topic about Tom Brady, he gets plenty of press. But you know, the fact that he was able to say, All right, you have decided that I’m done in this sport. You’ve decided I’m too old to play this sport, but I have not run to the end of my capability. And in fact, I’ve got a lot more to offer this game. And he went and he took it with someone who would respect that and the Buccaneers and he won another championship. I mean, you can’t you can’t make this up.
Michael Hingson 29:38
No, absolutely. You can’t. And so we’ll see what the Rams do this year. I liked the Rams. I grew up with the Rams, Chris, I’m really prejudiced when it comes to sports and probably a number of things because we’ve been blessed out here in California with great sports announcers. I mean, of course, Vin Scully, the best of all time in baseball, and I will argue that with anyone But then Dick Enberg did a lot of football and he did the rams and he did the angels. And of course we had Chick Hearn who did the Lakers, their descriptions and the way they did it, especially Vinnie just drew you in. And I’ve listened and listened to announcers all over the country and never got the kinds of pictures and announced me announcing and announcements that I got by listening to people in California, so I’m a little prejudiced that way.
Bradley Akubuiro 30:31
Well, and you shouldn’t be you absolutely should be. And I will say this, the power of storytelling that these folks that you just described are able to wield is phenomenal. And it’s a skill that I actually wish more folks had and more different industries. Because if you can tell a strong compelling story, you can make it visual, you can bring people and like that the power it has to bring people together, and to motivate them to act is just unbelievable.
Michael Hingson 31:01
Johnny most was a was a good announcer a pretty great announcer in basketball, but not really so much into the storytelling, but he had a personality that drew you in as well. Well, that counts for a lot. It does. I remember living back there when the Celts were playing the rockets for the championship. And the Celtics lost the first two games. And Johnny most was having a field day picking on the rockets and so on. But Moses Malone, Malone was criticizing the Celtics and said, You know, I can go get for high school people. And we could beat these guys. Wrong thing to say, because then the Celts came back and won the next for Johnny most really had a field day with that. That’s what happens. Yeah, you don’t open your mouth. Alright, so you went to Northwestern, that’s a whole different environment.
Bradley Akubuiro 31:59
Totally different environment. And, you know, I gotta tell you, I owe a ton to Northwestern. The exposure, it gave me two more global mindsets, people come to that university from all over the world, all kinds of different socioeconomic backgrounds, and looking to do so many different things, the academic rigor of the institution, and the resources that were at our disposal, were so incredible that it completely changed my experience. And frankly, the outlook I had for my own self and career. How so? Well, I’ll put his way I went to school, for example, at the same time, as you know, students who had some similar backgrounds to the one I did, to being in school at the same time, as you know, Howard Buffett is the grandson of Warren Buffett, and you know, Bill polti, you know, whose grandson of, you know, the polti, you know, the namesake of Pulte Homes, and you know, literally billionaire families. And so you start to realize, if you can sit in a classroom with folks like this, and with all of the opportunities that they’ve had, the education, they’ve had private schools, things along those lines, and these are good friends, by the way, you know, when you can do that, and then realize, hey, you know what, I can keep up, I can do this. And then you know, you are receiving, you know, grades professors who support you opportunities, in terms of internships, all of these things, and realms that you never even considered possible even just a year or two earlier. It truly broadens your horizons in ways that I don’t even think I could have appreciated before I was into it.
Michael Hingson 33:44
Wow. And that makes a lot of sense, though. We’re all we’re all people. And we all have our own gifts. And the fact that you could compete is probably not necessarily the best word because it implies that there are things that we don’t need to have, but you are all able to work together and that you can all succeed. That’s as good as it gets.
Bradley Akubuiro 34:05
That’s exactly right. And I do find compared to a lot of places, Northwestern have a very collaborative culture. I found that, you know, from faculty, the staff to students, everybody was very interested in seeing everybody succeed. And you know, we believed truthfully, that all of us could there’s enough room on the boat for all of us.
Michael Hingson 34:29
What was your major journalism? No surprise being Northwestern?
Bradley Akubuiro 34:36
Yeah, I was I was a big, big, big proponent of the journalism school and actually still remain affiliated. I’m on the faculty over there and sit on the board of the journalism school and have loved every second of my time, wearing the purple t shirt.
Michael Hingson 34:52
There you go. Is my recollection. Correct? Wasn’t Charlton Heston, a graduate of Northwestern?
Bradley Akubuiro 34:57
You know, I don’t know the answer to that but I will wouldn’t be surprised if it really seems,
Michael Hingson 35:02
it seems to me, I heard that he was doing something where he was he was doing something for Northwestern, as I recall. But that just strikes my memory.
Bradley Akubuiro 35:12
Yeah, there’s some very remarkable graduates from that organization.
Michael Hingson 35:16
So you were involved, as I recall, in our conversations about and about such things in dealing with minority enrollment, and so on, and you met some pretty interesting people during your time there. Tell me about that, if you would?
Bradley Akubuiro 35:32
Yeah, no, absolutely. So my freshman year, we will actually, this was my sophomore year, we actually only brought in 81 black freshmen. And that was the lowest number in terms of black enrollment in a given year at Northwestern since the 1960s. And so, you know, the university was looking around and trying to figure out what what is it that we’re doing? And where are we missing the mark? And how do we not only attract black applicants, because we were able to get folks to apply? The challenge was to actually get them to choose to matriculate. And where are we losing folks in the process. And so, you know, I had been really, really interested in participating in some of the work around minority recruitment enrollment, from the time that Northwestern had recruited me, because I recognized my background wasn’t necessarily what you would consider to be orthodox for the folks that got into schools like this. But they took a real hard look at me and said, We think this guy can be successful here. And I wanted to encourage others who might not necessarily think of Northwestern as an option that was attainable to them, and I don’t even know about it, to really start to understand the opportunities that could be available to them. And so I was, you know, flying to different schools, not only in the Chicago area, but back in places that looked a lot like where I grew up, and telling, you know, folks, Northwestern wants you, and you should really give it a shot. And so that was a fascinating time for me, and my own development, that space.
Michael Hingson 37:11
So what did you do for the school and dealing with the whole issue of minorities in that time?
Bradley Akubuiro 37:19
Yeah, there were a handful of things. You know, there’s there’s one was how do you create programs that channel some of the frustration that a lot of students who look like me had, and so a number of folks, actually, this is the spirit of college students, gotten together, you know, put up signs and decided to kind of protest. And so instead of going through, and just kind of registering our anger, what I did was work with the admissions office. And I did actually formally work as a work study student and worked on some of the stuff, it wasn’t just volunteer, but take this energy that the students had, and create programs like a pen pal program, like a fly in programs, some volunteer initiatives that we can have, that would allow students who are upset about the outcomes, to help change those outcomes by direct engagement with those who might come to Northwestern, and really improve our metrics for the following year. And we were able to do that, both in the African American and Latino communities. What did
Michael Hingson 38:23
you discover? Or what did the university discover about why people might apply, but then didn’t matriculate. And then how did you turn that around?
Bradley Akubuiro 38:32
Yeah, there were a couple of things. So one was, for students who are getting into places like Northwestern, very commonly, we saw that they were getting into places like University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, Harvard, a number of other universities at the same time, particularly if you were to think about the minority students who are applying and getting in, and what those schools had, that Northwestern didn’t quite have, was full need blind admissions processes, which Northwestern did adopt. But the short version of this is, if you got into one of those schools, you are probably going to be able to get if this if your circumstances required a full ride. And so, you know, the economic opportunity was really significant. And you were at a disadvantage. If you were a student who was interested in going to Northwestern, or any of these other schools that was really good, but couldn’t you couldn’t afford to go and you’re gonna go to the place that you could afford to go and maybe that’s your local school, or maybe that’s one of these other schools, but we had to really do something to create the funding to ensure that these folks could go to the school and do it at a at a rate that wasn’t going to break the bag.
Michael Hingson 39:49
And you found ways to do that. Well, I
Bradley Akubuiro 39:52
certainly didn’t do it alone, but the university
there see University found ways to do that. Yes, that’s right.
We started up a commission. So a number of students, myself included, foreign petition at the time, Marty Shapiro, who was the President of University took this issue very seriously as a economic scholar, and genuinely his background is in the economics of higher education. And he started at the school as president, while I was in again, my sophomore year, as a lot of these things were kind of taking shape and taking hold. And as one of the most successful leaders that I’ve met, invited us in students, the leaders in the university who are focused on this, and we had asked for a taskforce to focus on this. And he set one up, and he chaired it. And it was focused on how do we create opportunities for access, particularly for this community that had need, but wanted to be here. And, you know, one of the things that he did pretty early on in his tenure, was to establish a fund that was going to be dedicated to programs to financial need to a number of different things that would directly address this community. And we built on it from there.
Wow, that’s, it’s great that you had a strong champion who was willing to be farsighted enough to help with that, isn’t it?
Bradley Akubuiro 41:22
Absolutely. It would not have been possible without that.
Michael Hingson 41:25
So you met as I recall you saying Jesse Jackson, somewhere along the way? in that arena, especially since you’re in the Chicago area? That makes a lot of sense.
Bradley Akubuiro 41:35
Yeah, you know what I’m starting to put together thanks to you hear that this was a pretty big year for me.
Michael Hingson 41:41
To see, I’m getting impressed. So I did about yourself.
Bradley Akubuiro 41:50
You know, it’s funny. But yeah, there was a convergence of things. And so in this particular year, I did meet Reverend Jesse Jackson. And this started a relationship that’s been incredible and life changing that remains to this day. But the way that it happened, Michael, is that there was a woman Roxana Saberi, who had been taken political prisoner by Iran, and she worked for the BBC. She had been a former Northwestern middle student. So a number of us who are part of the journalism program, Adele had decided that we were going to get together and as college students are wanting to do, we decided to protest and hopes that we would, on our campus in Evanston, get the State Department to pay more attention to this particular issue. And hopefully, it takes negotiating for her really seriously. And while I have no idea whether, at the time Secretary Clinton saw anything we were doing, my guess, is probably not Reverend Jackson, who to your point was just on the other side of Chicago did. And the connection there is Roxanne’s buried, did her first interview with the BBC as a professional reporter with Reverend Jesse Jackson. And he was committed to advocating for her release. And so he actually reached out to us, via the university asked a few of us to come down and join a press conference with him, where he intended to go and negotiate for her release on humanitarian grounds. And I participated in that with another student. And it was absolutely phenomenal and led to so many doors being opened for me.
Michael Hingson 43:35
Wow, what your were you in school at the time?
Bradley Akubuiro 43:38
So this was my sophomore year. Great, great. Again, still part of the great sophomore year. Yeah, and I continue to work with Reverend Jackson, throughout the remainder of my time in college and for some period after college. But there were a number of things, but it all tied back together, because the issue that Reverend Jackson was advocating for at the time that spoke most deeply to me, was this issue of college affordability and access, and you have this program called reduce the rate, which was all about reducing the interest rate on student education loans, because we had bailed out banks. And you know, the autos and so many others, rates of zero to 1% and said, Hey, you’re in trouble pass back when you’re ready. We’ll make it cheap and affordable for you to do that. But we never granted that level of grace to students who are supposed to be our future. And instead, we were breaking their backs was, you know, interest rates of six to in some cases, as high as 18%. Without any, you know, kind of recourse you get stuck with these things for life.
Michael Hingson 44:47
And people wonder why we keep talking about eliminating the loans today or lowering the interest rate and the reality is, as you said, students are our future and we should be doing all we can to say point that that’s absolutely
Bradley Akubuiro 45:01
right. I still firmly believe that and, you know, our loan system, and frankly, the cost of education is just crippling. It’s, it’s, it’s crazy. And this is for multiple generations. And I’m sad for what the future will look like if we can’t figure this situation out.
Michael Hingson 45:23
Yeah, we’ve got to do something different than we’re doing. And it’s just kind of crazy the way it is. It’s extremely unfortunate. Well, so you got a bachelor’s? Did you go get any advanced degree or?
Bradley Akubuiro 45:36
Well, I did actually attend Northwestern. For a good portion, I masters that integrated the integrated marketing communications program over there. And that dovetails really well into where my career ultimately went and where it currently resides. But you know, Northwestern was the educator of choice for me.
Michael Hingson 45:57
So, career wise, so what did you then go off and do? Since you opened the door? Yeah.
Bradley Akubuiro 46:03
So you know, it’s been a number of different things. And this will sound disparate, but it all comes together. I went, after working with Reverend Jackson to Liberia, and I spent time in Liberia working for the president of Liberia on postwar kind of reestablishment of a democracy, which was a big thing. And frankly, way above my paygrade, I got an opportunity to work on it, because I had spent time working with Reverend Jesse Jackson, and that will come back in a second. But there was a student who was doing his PhD program at Northwestern, who had been who is I should say, the grandson of a former president of Liberia, who had been killed in a coup in October. And I had been friends with him, I knew that I wanted to get to West Africa to do some work, particularly around education and social programs. And he connected me with his mother who had been deputy minister of education. And I had been fortunate enough to create an arrangement that I was really excited about to go to Monrovia, and Liberia, the capital city, and to spend some time working on programs out there. And when she found out that I worked with Reverend Jesse Jackson, she called the president and said, This could be a great opportunity. And they cooked up a program where I would actually champion and work on establishing a program and policy around leadership development, and capacity building for the country post Civil War, which was, again, an absolutely amazing and life changing experience, really hard.
Michael Hingson 47:45
What was the world like over there? And what was it like for you being from a completely different culture as it were than over in Liberia?
Bradley Akubuiro 47:53
Well, the first thing I’ll say is, if you live in the United States, and you believe, you know, poverty, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Because, you know, one of the things that you will find in countries like Liberia, and some of the places and post war, Eastern Europe and the 90s, and different kinds of places is, there is a level of resilience and a level of spirit that is built into society that comes almost entirely from experience with incredible hardship, just absolutely incredible hardship. And Liberia at the time that I was over there was amongst the, you know, five poorest countries in the world, after what had been 14 years of concrete civil war and 30 years of civil unrest. But the people that I met could not have been better spirited, and just nicer, more optimistic and incredible people.
Michael Hingson 48:52
So how long were you over there?
I was over there for less than a year and spent some time doing consulting, even after I came back to DC, but was on the ground for less than a year.
And when you came back from Liberia, what did you go off and do?
When I came back from Liberia and I want to, you know, couch this and my rationale, I had worked for Reverend Jesse Jackson on these big kind of global programs that that presidents and heads of state and you know, business leaders and all these different folks went over to Liberia and got this chance to work on, you know, kind of reinstituting a democracy and meaningful ways with the president who later on became a Nobel Prize, Peace Prize Laureate. And you know, what I came to realize, Michael, was that my opportunities were quickly outpacing my experience. And so what I said is, let’s now try to find a place where I can get some of the fundamentals some of the framework for a lot of the work that I had the opportunity to do. And the place that I chose to go is Booz Allen Hamilton is a management consulting firm and you One of the largest public sector practices in the world. And so I went in with the intention of really being able to shore up my skills. And what happened? Well, hopefully they’ll tell you that I was successful.
Michael Hingson 50:11
Bradley Akubuiro 50:16
It was a really fascinating time to be there. You know, Booz Allen, had a lot of significant contracts. This was the time of the Affordable Care Act’s passage. And so, you know, at the time that I went over, I got to work almost exclusively on ACA, and a lot is talked about in terms of the legislative kind of process to get that accomplished. But what is talked a lot less about is the actual opera operationalization of it, and what that looks like to stand up state health exchanges, and different states to actually entice somebody coming from, you know, a psychiatry program at top medical school, that choose to put on a uniform and go to a base at, you know, an Air Force base or an army base, and provide clinical care for those who are returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan. And all of these were provisions of the bill. But actually implementing those things, was a very tall order. And so I got an opportunity to really kind of roll up my sleeves and work on a lot of that work. And that was incredibly formative work.
Michael Hingson 51:22
So it was a real challenge, of course, to get the Affordable Care Act passed. I remember in 2009, I was speaking at a an event for a companies whose hospital boards and leaders of the staffs of the hospitals in the network, were getting together and I went to, to speak, and talk about some of my experiences and talk about disabilities and so on. The person right before me, was a medical expert. He was, it was a person who talked about the whole concept of how we needed to change our whole idea and environment of medical care, and what we really needed to do as a country and so on. And he had been involved in every president’s investigation of how to change the medical synth system. Ever since I think he went this was 2009, I think he went back to Nixon, Oh, wow. He, he said it all came down to the same thing. And he said The best example is, he was doing this as part of the team for Bill Clinton. And they talked about what needed to be done, how to change the medical system, and everybody bought into it, and so on, until it got down to specifics of saying what it was going to cost. And that they needed to deal with some of the provisions that eventually went into the Affordable Care Act. And he said, As soon as the politicians got a hold of it, and said, This is a horrible thing, you’re gonna cause too much controversy, the President’s would all run. And that’s why no one ever got anything accomplished. And he also said that Obama was probably going to get something passed. And he actually predicted almost to a tee, if you will, what was going to pass. And that’s exactly what passed and what didn’t pass. And he said, later, we’ll actually start to worry about the cost of, of medical coverage in this country, but they’re not really willing to face that issue yet. And he predicted we would be able to do something by 2015. Well, that hasn’t really happened yet, either. And now we’re maybe making a little bit of a dent. But it was very fascinating to listen to him predict, based on so many years of expertise, what was going to happen.
Bradley Akubuiro 53:46
Yeah, I mean, that’s incredible. And I will say, a lot of times the policy takes a backseat to the politics on these things. And it takes so much, you know, Will and kind of moral fortitude to get in there and drive these things, particularly when there’s interests on the other side of it. But you know, I’m with you. We’re not quite where I think you predicted we’d be in 2015. But driving towards it now. And hopefully we’ll make more progress.
Michael Hingson 54:16
Yeah, we’re slowly getting there. So what did you do after Booz Allen Hamilton?
Bradley Akubuiro 54:21
Yeah, so the things that I really love the most about that work during that time that the the change in a lot of that kind of management strategy was the change communications aspects of it. And so I knew that I wanted to get more fully into communications. And so the next few jobs for me, were discretely corporate communications, if you will. And so I got an opportunity to follow a mentor to a company called Pratt and Whitney jet engine company, you know, builds jet engines from from fighter jets to, you know, the big commercial airplanes that we fly in, and love that experience. It’s moved to kind of the corporate side of that company to United Technologies in time and worked on a number of different mergers and acquisitions, including the spin offs of Otis, the big Elevator Company to carry air conditioning both of these which spun off into fortune 200 publicly traded companies their own, to ultimately what became you know, the merger with Raytheon. Raytheon? Yeah. Yeah, exactly. It most recently produced Raytheon technologies. And so a really, really fascinating set of experiences for me there. And then
Michael Hingson 55:35
you along the way, also, I guess, we’re part of the formation of bully pulpit international with the Obama Biden administration.
Bradley Akubuiro 55:44
You know, I wasn’t part of the founding, this all kind of happened in parallel with folks who I have a ton of respect for who I now work with bully pulpit, interact was formed in 2009, with a number of folks who came out of that Obama campaign, and then White House. And it started in the kind of digital marketing, digital persuasion space, and all of the kind of, you know, really amazing tactics and strategies that they learned on that campaign, particularly, as social media was starting to become more popularized and more mass adopted, they said, how do we start to apply some of that stuff, as you think about not only other campaigns, but to foundations and advocacy groups into corporations? And you know, you flash forward 1213 years now, and this is a fully operational 250 person agency, where we’re focused on, you know, how do you help organizations of all types, you know, really express their values and find their voices on these really key important issues. But also, how do leaders make really tough decisions on things like, you know, Roe v. Wade, and what that means for their employee base, and what they’re going to do policy wise, and how they’re going to communicate around that afterwards? On through gun reform, and what folks do if you know, you are operating, and buffalo or in Texas, when you know, some of the massacres that happened earlier this year happen. And this has been, you know, really fascinating. And I came over here after being chief spokesperson for Boeing. And it’s been really fun to reunite with some old friends and folks who have been doing this kind of work for a really long time now.
Michael Hingson 57:37
So Boeing, so when did you leave Boeing
Bradley Akubuiro 57:41
left Boeing, a year, just shy of a year and a half go
Michael Hingson 57:45
around during the whole 737 Max thing?
Bradley Akubuiro 57:49
Well, you know, interestingly, you bring this up, I was brought over to Boeing, in response to the 737. Max, you know, I was asked to come over and to really think about what does a world class Media Relations organization look like? That is going to be transparent, accountable, and 24/7? Around the globe? And more than anything, after you’ve had, you know, two accidents on the scale that they had, you know, how do we really become more human and how we interact with all of our stakeholders, internal and external on a lot of this stuff? And that was a really, really, really challenging, but rewarding process to be part of and to help lead?
Michael Hingson 58:33
How do you advise people? Or what do you advise people in those kinds of situations, you had a major crisis? And clearly, there’s an issue? What do you what do you tell corporate executives to do? And how hard was it to get them to do it?
Bradley Akubuiro 58:49
Yeah. So on the first part of that question, it really comes down to being human, you got to put yourself in the shoes of the people that you’re trying to communicate with, and to, if you are a person who lost a loved one, on a plane that went down outside of, you know, Addis Ababa, and Ethiopia, if you if you were, you know, one of the people who lost your, your spouse or your kid, you know, the last thing you want to hear from a company is, you know, we did things right, from an engineering standpoint, what you want to hear from that company, is, we are so sorry that this happened. And we’re going to do absolutely everything in our power to ensure it can never happen again. And here are the steps we’re taking and here’s what we’re going to do to try to make things right and you can never completely make things right. In that circumstance. You can at least be understanding.
Michael Hingson 59:48
I remember 1982 When we had the Tylenol cyanide incident, you know about that. Yeah. And if For us, and what was the most impressive thing about that was within two days, the president of company was out in front of it. And as you said, being human, that’s a corporate lesson that more people really should learn.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:00:18
Yeah, it’s a difficult thing to do. Because I think, and this isn’t just lawyers, but it’s easy to blame it on lawyers, the natural reaction is to immediately think, well, what’s my liability going to be? What are people going to think if they think that I actually did make this mistake? And how do I cover it up? And how do I try to diffuse responsibility? And that is exactly the opposite of what you should do. And this isn’t just good communications. This is good leadership.
Michael Hingson 1:00:44
Good leadership. Yeah,
Bradley Akubuiro 1:00:45
that’s right. And we need more people to really understand that to your point.
Michael Hingson 1:00:50
Well, and with with Boeing, it sounds like if I recall, all of the stuff that least that we saw on the news, which may or may not have been totally accurate, there were some issues. And it took a while to deal with some of that to get people to, to face what occurred that necessarily things weren’t going exactly the way they really should have in terms of what people were communicating and what people knew and didn’t know.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:01:15
Yeah, well, then you ask the question, how difficult was it to get the senior executives to get on board with the new approach. And what I would say is, and this goes back to some of we were talking about earlier, the top down kind of approach to this, and what’s happening and the most senior role matters the most. And the CEO who came in this was after the former CEO was was like, you know, the chief legal officer, the head of that business, and a number of different executives, you keep going on, had exited the company, the new CEO, who came in they’ve Calhoun, currently is still the CEO, they’re brought in this new wave, this refreshing new approach and culture, and was all about how do we ensure that we are being accountable, and that we’re being transparent, because that is what matters in this circumstance. And so with that license to operate, it was a lot easier to come in and convince folks Well, this is how we should approach this from a media perspective, from a communications staff perspective, and across the board, with our customers with regulators, cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Because everybody was on board that this is what we needed to do. And frankly, it’s the only way to not only repair our reputation, because this is 100 year old company has been at the first of so many different things historically, from an aviation standpoint, and helped truly invent modern flight. So how do you create a reputation that people expect coming out of that, but also to respect again, those who trusted the company, because when you step on a fly, you know, you know, as Michael, when you stop on a flight, you don’t want to think about whether it’s gonna make it to the other side or not. You want to trust that it’s gonna make it to the other side and focus on what you got to do when you get there and everything else in your life. And people had for a brief period of time lost that faith. And that is what we were really trying to restore.
Michael Hingson 1:03:15
Do you think you were pretty successful at getting faith and confidence restored,
Bradley Akubuiro 1:03:20
I think we’ve made a good start at bone still remains a client. And I would say that the work that is ongoing is going to take time, because it takes five seconds to lose your reputation. It takes a long time to rebuild it and to regain trust. And I think the company is committed to what it needs to do to do that. But it is a journey.
Michael Hingson 1:03:44
What do you advise people today you do a lot of consulting, and you’re involved in consulting with CEOs and corporations, and so on? What’s advice? What What piece of advice would you give them? Or do you give them?
Bradley Akubuiro 1:03:56
I think one of the biggest pieces of advice, which is been especially a sale salient in a year like this is really develop a clear understanding of who you are and who your company is, and develop some real fortitude around that, because I think it’s very easy for folks to say, the expectations of society have changed. And now it’s hard to just run my business, because I’m expected to speak on this and that and, you know, I don’t necessarily know how to engage in that way. And I said, well find your Northstar. You know, who are you as a company and deliver on that, because if you’re trying to pull and get an understanding of what’s going to land the best with every single incident, you’re gonna find yourself taking issues that are 5050 and losing 100% of the time, you’ve got to really focus on what matters to you as a company and what is truly falling again, that North Star and you’re going to find that more times than not you’ll be okay just trusting your gut on that.
Michael Hingson 1:04:59
You You’re not going to be able to be or it’s really difficult to be all things to all people without people seeing through it when you’re not pulling that off.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:05:09
That’s exactly right. You know, the one other thing I’ll add, Michael, is that I think one of the biggest challenges that folks have that we’ve got to shake them out of is thinking that if you make one statement, or launch one initiative, and you move on, that you’ve done your piece, but I think one of the biggest opportunities for corporate American for leaders that command the resources of major corporations in particular, is to be able to create programs that will be sustainable, and will really, truly invest and moving the needle on important causes, because they have the leverage and the resources to do those things. But one announcement is a drop in the bucket and makes no difference if you do something that’s going to last longer than you as a CEO or as an executive. But it’s going to make a big difference in terms of the outcomes for a community, that’s a legacy worth happening.
Michael Hingson 1:06:04
And it’s fair to talk about that. So the value of media relations, the things that you bring from journalism, training, and so on all the way through the process, it’s appropriate to do that as long as to use your words earlier, do you’re doing it in a human way, is really showing the value all too often people just brag and that that doesn’t add value. And I think people see through that people see
Bradley Akubuiro 1:06:27
through it instantly. And not only does it not help you, but to your point, it hurts to not only in the immediate sense, but over time, it erodes trust, and that is something you can never get back. Operating in that way.
Michael Hingson 1:06:42
Trust, as you said, can be lost in five seconds, and it takes a long time to come back. I’ve seen that in so many ways. And one of my favorite examples isn’t even a human way. But we adopted a dog in 2003 When I was a Guide Dogs for the Blind, it was a dog that had not made it as a guide dog actually when we when she was 12 years old when we got her but the note said that she was what is the word? Non impetuous, strong willed. So we think that she probably just had her own sense and wasn’t really willing to focus it wonderful golden retriever. She went back to live with her puppy raisers for six years, and then she went off and lived at some other place because they were moving to a place that couldn’t keep her. And when she was 12, she was sent back to Guide Dogs for the Blind. The people that that had her said she just really couldn’t stay with them anymore. They weren’t they didn’t want to keep her. She came back really filthy and dirty, totally unresponsive to anyone. There was a big lump on her that they figured was an infected cyst. And we had dealt with some geriatric dogs. So we said we would would take her and then eventually we adopted her, but the lump was an infected cyst. But they said she’s totally deaf. She doesn’t respond to anything. We The vet said, we dropped a Webster’s Dictionary, you know how large those are on the floor, and she didn’t even flinch or respond. So we took her and we started working with her. And over time, we discovered she’s not totally deaf, she was tuning everything out. And we can only think that she must have been seriously abused. She wouldn’t deal with people, she wouldn’t deal with us. And just was afraid of everything and literally had created this shield around herself where she just tuned everything out. We knew we finally made progress one day, she she didn’t like to go in our garage. So we think that she had just been left locked in there, the garage of these people for a while. So she wouldn’t go in our garage and get in our car and go for rides. And this is a golden retriever, right. So she one day we were going to an Event Guide Dogs for the Blind in Oregon. So we were going to be driving from Novato, California up to port up to aggression, Oregon to boring Oregon. And I was taking luggage out to the car. And this dog Panama was her name literally shot around me outside into the garage and into our car. We went oh my gosh. Somehow we’ve gained her trust that she was willing to do that now she was pretty shivery going up in the car. But that was the breakthrough and we found she wasn’t really all that deaf. She had arthritis and other things. But I tell the story because trust can be regained but you’ve got to be honest about it. You’ve got to be open about it. And you’ve got to be genuine but you can regain trust. That’s absolutely
Bradley Akubuiro 1:09:48
right. I love that story. And you know it applies as much to people as it does to animals and salutely This is exactly I mean that is the crux of what reputation And is all about how do you approach a person with that level of respect, honesty, and show them that you care? Because if you don’t show them telling them 1000 times isn’t going to make a difference? No,
Michael Hingson 1:10:15
it’s all in the actions. Well, you’ve done a lot of writing, obviously, in your life, if you’ve written any books, I’ve not written a
Bradley Akubuiro 1:10:23
book, I’m following your lead. I’m trying to learn how you got it done. Because I do a lot of writing, including for Ink Magazine, I have a regular column there. And I’ve just, you know, thought a lot about how do you tell some of these stories in such a compelling way and that format? And I’d love to hear how you’ve done it? Well,
Michael Hingson 1:10:43
I think it’s all about stories and coming from being in sales. I’ve learned that the best salespeople are really people who can relate and tell stories and teach. Sales is all about really teaching and advising. And again, building trust, my best sales guy that I ever hired, when I asked him, What are you going to be selling for us? Because I wanted to see how he would answer it. I always ask people that. And of course, they use the oh, we’re gonna sell your products and all that. He said, The only thing I really have to sell as myself and my word, and I will need you to back me up. And if I have any questions, I’ll ask you. But that’s the only thing I really have to sell. And he’s absolutely right. The rest is stuff. Yeah. But stories are always important. And I think that stories are always wonderful to, to have. And the best people can tell you stories. They sense what you’re looking to know. And they can they can inform and help you see what is relevant to do stories better than anything else. And I’ve had situations where I’ve said, our product won’t work, and here’s why. But here’s what will. And also, again, building trust that always comes back in a rewarding way, somewhere down the line. And I did when I and other people did it.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:12:00
That’s huge. Well, I 100% agree with that. And I do admire the work that you’ve done and the writing you’ve done. And maybe one day I’ll actually do something on my own in terms of writing a book.
Michael Hingson 1:12:13
If you do we want to know about it, and make, you know, make it make sure there’s a good electronic copy that we can convert to Braille or make an audio version of it or both. Yeah, because it’s important to do that, since diversity needs to include disabilities again, or if you’re going to talk about inclusion, we got to deal with disability. So that’s important.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:12:35
Michael Hingson 1:12:38
Well, I want to thank you for being on unstoppable mindset today, because clearly, you’ve demonstrated the value of it, and all the different things that you’ve done, and I’ve learned a lot, and I think we have had some fun, haven’t we?
Bradley Akubuiro 1:12:51
Oh, we’ve had a ton of fun. We gotta do this. This is this is great. I appreciate you having me on. I learned a lot also. And this has been a fun conversation. But thank you. Well, let’s
do it again. They absolutely would love to and I’m sure we are there more stories we can both tell and share. So let’s do it. And also I would, I would hope that all of you who are listening and that you had fun too. So write us let us know you can email me at Michaelhi at accessibe A C C E S S I B E.com. I want to hear from you please. Wherever you’re listening to this, please give us a five star rating. And you’re also welcome to go to my podcast page. www dot Michael hingson.com/podcast and hingson is h i n g s o n. And if you know anyone else who want to be a guest, then we’d like to hear from you. And you know, Bradley as well. If you know anyone else that we ought to have on I’d love to to get your thoughts and meet other people because this is all about showing us all that we’re unstoppable if we choose to be.
That’s absolutely right. Definitely, Michael.
Well, thank you all again. And thank you, Bradley for being with us. And we hope that he’ll be back and that all of you will be back again. Next time for unstoppable mindset. And remember, we’re doing two episodes a week now so it can’t get much better than that unless we go to three. And we’ll do that if we get more guests. So thanks again Bradley for being with us.
Bradley Akubuiro 1:14:19
Thank you, Michael. Take care.
Michael Hingson 1:14:25
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.