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Brad Mitchell: Creating World-Class Companies in the Finger Lakes

Brad Mitchell could run his businesses anywhere. Instead, he chose Romulus on the shore of Seneca Lake. He grew up in Seneca Falls and returned after living in multiple cities, traveling around the world, founding four companies, and serving on the White House staff of President George H.W. Bush.

Brad Mitchell

Brad Mitchell

“At this stage, it’s about quality of life,” he says. “When our kids finished school and went off on their own, we decided to relocate from the Penn State area to the Finger Lakes because we really love it here and owned a great year-round vacation home,” he explains.

A pragmatic businessman, he says his decision was driven by three components that are important to him. First, he loved the area’s cultural history of progressive experimentation and innovation. He cites examples like building the Erie Canal, leaders like Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass, John D. Rockefeller growing up in Moravia, and companies like Xerox, Kodak, and Bausch & Lomb. As an executive leadership coach, he values an atmosphere of innovative thinking and big ideas.

Second, he is amazed by the natural beauty of the region. “It’s a beautiful, beautiful place, and I think a lot of people take that for granted. Certainly, when I was growing up, I didn’t realize the beauty around me because I was so focused on getting out. It took me 18 years to get out of the Finger Lakes and 30 years to get back.”

Finally, he is impressed with the interconnectedness. “My clients are all over the world. I can get to airports within an hour, and the Thruway makes it easy.” He says the way of doing work has changed dramatically over the last two years so while accessibility is important, technology allows him to run his business from anywhere, something that was not possible when he started out as an entrepreneur 20 years ago.

“I have a choice of where I want to live. It’s not like I was transferred, or our company moved here. Instead, I look at what’s the potential? How much headroom is there? I’ve always thought this area is a hidden gem. This is a place that’s affordable, beautiful, has terrific educational institutions, and great health care. And it has this culture of creativity and getting things done.”

A Choice More People Will Make

Brad believes the pandemic is a game changer for the Finger Lakes Region. “The world is really rethinking work — where we work, how we work, and whom we work with. That’s changing big time with my clients. I see it every day. I think that’s going to be huge for the Finger Lakes. There’s more upside than I originally thought three or four years ago.”

He says people are reevaluating their life and how they spend their time on the planet. They don’t want to be commuting three hours a day. “Here you can work on a lake and have access to wonderful talks, lectures and cultural activities. I mean, think about that. It’s incredible. I don’t think there’s been a better time to be here and do creative things.”

His own career has been focused on both creativity and high performance. He founded and grew, a web-based pharmaceutical supply chain start-up. He prepared the company for a management-led buyout with a private investor in early 2006 by working with his team to acquire, retain, and grow customer relationships with twenty-five Fortune 500 companies. “We had people making better decisions in terms of what products to stock in retail pharmacy. It was really great creating something that didn’t exist before and was helpful to people.”

He took those skills and applied them to coaching teams and individuals. For example, he founded the National Athletic and Professional Success Academy (NAPSA) to help former professional athletes transition from their athletic career. His focus has been on NFL players and college athletes.

“I work to reveal the hidden competencies these athletes have that are highly valuable in the business world. These are skills and knowledge that go beyond the character traits of resilience and competitiveness. It’s things like pattern recognition, situational awareness, and scenario planning. They have those skills but need to see how they apply to business. It’s really rewarding.”

His public service includes serving on the White House Staff of President George H.W. Bush and as a policy adviser in President Bush’s 1988 Presidential campaign. Additionally, he led the presidential transition teams for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the National Science Foundation.

Currently as President of Pinnacle Summit Services and The Mitchell Group, he provides cross-industry expertise and best practices honed by intensive leadership experiences at The White House, and in public and private companies. His work with C-Level and executive groups revolves around executive leadership coaching, strategic account management, high-performing teams, business to business relationships, entrepreneurship, and innovation.

“The common thread across my whole career is relationships. What does a leader need to do to be a high performing team leader? What does the executive team need to do to become a high performing team? How do you bring them all together? For instance, if they’re in the White House, there is a level of intelligence, motivation, and ego. The higher you go in any organization, the more difficult it is to bring individuals together as a team because of what got them there. You’ve got all the Type A’s, all the ego, all the individual performers in a room. How do we come together as a team? That’s what I focus on.”

Making a Difference in the Finger Lakes

Because Brad moved back to the Finger Lakes right before the pandemic, he did not have the opportunity to meet with people in the way he has been used to as he built a career based on relationships, partnerships, and collaboration. That is now changing.

Recently, he and his wife, Julia, who is a yoga instructor, attended the celebration of Hobart College’s Bicentennial. The event brought former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and political commentator and strategist James Carville together for a conversation about politics and the country’s future. Opening the evening was Mark Gearan, the president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges and a recent returnee to the area and a fellow Harvard alum like Brad.

“I was so impressed when Mark spoke. He really included Geneva in his talk and thanked the people of Geneva for being a growth partner with the college. That was really well done. I definitely have a good vibe about him already,” concludes Brad who is looking forward to connecting with the Gearans and other changemakers in the region. “You know, there’s just no place I’d rather be than right here right now.”

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