2016 MBAs To Watch: Joe Braman, Minnesota (Carlson)

Joe Braman-Minnesota-PoetsAndQuants_MBAsToWatch2016

Joe Braman

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Age: 29

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota

Undergraduate School and Degree: Lewis & Clark College, Bachelor of Arts in Rhetoric and Communication Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?  Prior to enrolling at Carlson, I owned two businesses and worked in financial services. My first business out of college brought me to Sarasota, Florida in 2009, where I joined Coldwell Banker and found my calling in real estate helping families who were struggling with the foreclosure crisis.

I was then recruited to work for Fisher Investments back in Portland, Oregon. I was drawn to Fisher due to their fierce loyalty and dedication to their clients’ best interests. At Fisher Investments, I worked in business development as well as Human Capital. While I was living in Portland and working for Fisher Investments, I started my next business, Braman Enterprises LLC, which owned and operated a small network of ATMs in Oregon and Washington.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Between my first and second year at the Carlson School, I spent the summer officially launching Braman Brothers Real Estate LLP (BBRE), the company that my brother and I had been developing together during my first year in the Carlson MBA program. BBRE is a real estate sales and development company working to create greater access to safe, affordable, and ethically managed housing in the Twin Cities. Through our partnership with Coldwell Banker Burnet, we help people buy and sell residential real estate in the Twin Cities metro area. We donate 10 percent of our net profit to Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity, our official community partner, and reinvest the remaining 90 percent to develop a portfolio of safe, affordable, and ethically managed homes.

Where will you be working after graduation? My brother, Charlie, and I have been lucky enough to receive incredible support for and experience great success with BBRE. I will continue to work with Charlie to grow and develop the company after graduation. Our goal is to maintain our current growth, which would allow us to purchase or develop our first property and place the first family in a safe, affordable, and ethically managed home by the end of 2016. By 2021 our goal is to have 8-10 properties providing 15-30 families with safe, affordable, and ethically managed housing.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Starting my first year at the Carlson School, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to serve as the president of Compass, the school’s LGBTQ student club. Additionally, I am honored to be a recipient of the Sands Fellowship, which is awarded to Carlson School student entrepreneurs whose businesses are aimed at addressing some of the most challenging social issues faced by the Twin Cities community.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of using my time at the Carlson School to bring all of my personal and professional goals and values into alignment, while also achieving both academic and business success. During my time in the Carlson MBA program, I was elected to the board of directors of OutFront Minnesota, the state’s largest LGBTQ advocacy organization. I was also recently elected as the vice chair of that board.

During that time, I was also working to become an outspoken LGBTQ leader within the Carlson School community as president of Compass. I feel a personal sense of responsibility to ensure the school is sending our future business leaders into the world with the skills they need to be strong allies to the LGBTQ community. This is important to me because the homophobia I have faced in my professional life up to this point has forced me into the closet at most of my places of employment. I have been determined to use my time at the Carlson School to prove to myself and others that authentic leaders are the most effective leaders. The Compass team has been successful in recruiting five extraordinary first-year MBA students who are ready and willing to continue the mission of Compass after we graduate, which is incredibly gratifying to see and also proof to me that authenticity is the most powerful source of leadership. I have been able to take this value and apply it to my business as well, and I believe it is one of the reasons we are experiencing success so far.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the fact that my brother and I have built a business that is rooted in conscientious capitalism and social responsibility. The success of our business is directly tied to an increase in access to safe, affordable, and ethically managed housing in the Twin Cities. We get extra satisfaction from knowing that we are actively working to inject a sense of social responsibility into an industry that has historically left those less fortunate behind. With this as our foundation, we’re able to see the path forward for our business much more clearly and can make decisions that we feel confident are the right ones for our clients and our community.

Who is your favorite professor? Carlson Ventures Enterprise Director Toby Nord is my favorite professor. He has been an incredible personal, professional, and academic mentor to me. One of the greatest things about Toby is that he has always been able to challenge me and my thinking in ways that no other professor has ever been able to. His persistence and bluntness are coupled with incredible patience and curiosity. He has helped shape my entire academic and personal experience at the Carlson School, as well as the founding of BBRE.

Favorite MBA Courses? The three courses immediately come to mind when I am asked this question: Persuasion & Influence, Leadership and Personal Development, and the Carlson Ventures Enterprise. All of these classes have material and lectures that are immediately applicable to the outside world and the business I am running.

Carlson Family Foundation Chair in Marketing Vlad Griskevicius, who teaches Persuasion & Influence, is one of the most engaging professors in the entire university. He took what was already incredibly interesting material and transported it from scenario to scenario to help us experience the kind of learning that truly embeds itself in you.

Toro Company-David M. Lilly Chair in Human Resources Theresa Glomb, who teaches Leadership and Personal Development, knows how to make a classroom push the boundaries of personal comfort in the ways that must be done to help students explore their potential as authentic leaders.

Finally, the Carlson Ventures Enterprise is the experiential learning hallmark of the Carlson MBA experience. As an entrepreneur, the course allowed me to work on projects for clients that needed help doing feasibility studies for their ideas, creating business plans, and researching the viability of our clients’ ideas. It was exactly what I love to do as an entrepreneur and an invaluable experience.

Why did you choose this business school? The Carlson School was the only school I considered, and it was the only school I applied to. As an entrepreneur, I felt that I was taking a risk in attending business school rather than continuing to work full-time at developing my next business. However, after I sold my last business and knew I wanted to move back to Minnesota, I researched the Carlson School and another MBA program in Minnesota. It was clear to me that the only way I would consider taking the time to get an MBA was if I could spend that time at the Carlson School, utilizing the resources of the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship and the Carlson Ventures Enterprise. The Carlson School is an incredible place for entrepreneurs to come to launch a business, which is exactly what I wanted to use my time there to do.

What did you enjoy most about business school? The community is what I enjoyed most about the Carlson School and it is what I will miss the most. A part of this could be that I was very skeptical about how I would be received as a gay man in a business program as small as the Carlson MBA. So I entered the program with incredible apprehension. However, the Carlson School community has welcomed me with open arms, supported me personally and professionally, and I have created lifelong friendships along the way.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? Business school taught me how to say “no.” There is simply too much to do in a day, and business school forced me to create a personal priority list (literally, on a white board at home that I looked at every morning). If I received a request that did not fit in to one of those categories, I made myself say “no” so that I could dedicate my energy to the priorities I laid out for myself.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? I was surprised at how applicable every class I took was to the real world. With every single class, I was able to go home and translate that day’s lecture or readings into our business plan. It has been the single most useful education I have ever received.

What was the hardest part of business school? One of the things I struggled with the most at business school, particularly during the first year, was remembering to block out time to take care of myself mentally and physically.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? I would recommend that you think ahead of time about what you will do to take care of yourself mentally and physically during the program when the time demands become heavy. Your mental and physical health will be critical to your success in the program. From an academic standpoint, start early. The Carlson School’s professors, Graduate Business Career Center, and alumni are ready and willing to meet with you the moment you get admitted. They are all incredible resources that can and should be utilized.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when… I sold my business in Oregon and was evaluating the purchase of a new business in Minnesota. I knew I was lacking some essential skills I needed to be an effective entrepreneur, and I could either learn them on the job, or I could use my time at the Carlson School as a way to accelerate that learning.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… running another small business in town, most likely a franchise of some kind.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? I have a lot of admiration for Elon Musk. While I don’t approve of the way he tends to treat his employees, I admire his unyielding devotion to the simple idea that we should simply do things and make things in the best way possible that serve people in the best way possible.

What are your long-term professional goals? I would like to see BBRE’s business model become a necessity to compete in the residential real estate industry. The demand for safe, affordable, and ethically managed housing around the country is simply too great for just one company to supply it. However, if BBRE can become successful enough to prove that our business model works and consumers begin to demand it, we may actually be able to develop a sustainable solution to housing inequity in our country.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would like to thank my parents. My mother has both knowingly and unknowingly taught me the true meaning of grit and perseverance. She has a quiet sense of strength and power that I have been very lucky to watch throughout my life. My father has taught me that everyone has the capability to transform their life at any time, in any way they choose. He has also taught me to design a life centered around personal health and happiness, for which I am incredibly grateful. Professionally, I would like to thank John Anderson at Fisher Investments. John challenged me in ways that I never thought I could be challenged, and helped me realize how boundless my opportunities are if I simply work hard enough.

Fun fact about yourself: I speed-read books by listening to the audio version in fast-forward mode while following along in the paper version.

Favorite book: The latest Elon Musk biography, Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future by Ashlee Vance, gives you great insight into Elon’s vision.

Favorite movie: The Big Short has recently become one of my favorite movies. Having begun my career in real estate in Florida in the aftermath of the foreclosure crisis, I was struck by how accurately they depicted the despicable underbelly of what caused the crisis.

Favorite musical performer: Recently I have been listening to Hozier and Tom Odell.

Favorite television show: With the introduction of “Billions,” it’s now a tie between “Billions” and “House of Cards.”

Favorite vacation spot: Now that I don’t live in Portland, it has become my favorite place to visit. I try to make it out there once a year.

Hobbies? When I have the time, I love going to the movies.  I have always dreamed that when I retire, I will run a small 2-screen movie theatre.

What made Joe such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Joe Braman is responsible for starting and sustaining conversations acknowledging and appreciating students’ differences in the MBA program. Joe exhibits courage and a deep commitment to authentic community as an outspoken and highly regarded LGBTQ community leader in the Twin Cities. He serves as president of Compass, an interdisciplinary LGBTQA club with allies that outnumber all other categories — a great testament to his bridge-building, community-focused work.

“Joe has also taken his MBA dreams and made them reality with the creation of his real estate company. Thousands of hours poured into a lifelong career incorporating social responsibility did not derail Joe from achieving remarkable self-directed goals while at the Carlson School.

“We have many high-achieving students in our MBA program but I can think of none who succeeded in helping classmates become more open-minded and in changing the Carlson MBA climate as dramatically as Joe. Through Joe’s efforts launching Compass; partnering with and managing a case competition for Pride Twin Cities; organizing monthly Compass events with corporate employee resource groups, community groups like Outfront, and University graduate programs; and writing an RFP to bring inclusion training to MBA students, he created opportunities for 1,100 MBA students to develop their own appreciation of difference.

“Joe’s commitment to ensuring that LGBTQ awareness is part of the MBA experience enabled more students to be their authentic selves as Active Allies and LGBTQ students. This change, one Joe is directly responsible for, will benefit the business community as our students resume their careers with an improved ability to appreciate difference and a commitment to reduce homophobia in their workplaces.

“At the Carlson School, Joe inspired MBA students to take the Compass leadership torch and continue charging ahead in future years.”

Patrick McCarthy

Director of Student Affairs

Carlson MBA Program



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