BE 100s 2012 Company of the Year: Act-1 Group

Service Leadership

Bryant-Howroyd's brother Carlton who has helped her through every stage of building and developing strategies almost since the firm's inception

It’s not just her work ethic that keeps Bryant Howroyd at the table; it’s her ability to navigate challenges as if they are nonexistent. She accepts often being described as Pollyanna, acknowledging that she learned as a child from both her parents to focus on solutions and opportunity. “A few years ago, we were having a particularly tough conversation between our respective teams,” Dent recalls. “Just as Janice is arguing a point, she pulled out a big Ziploc bag of peanuts, put them on the table, and offered them to everyone in the room. I’m not sure to this day whether she was hungry, or if she was trying to simply diffuse the tension in the room.  But it was uniquely Jan–and it worked.  The simple gesture, or clever ploy–depending how you look at it–brought us back to collaborating and problem-solving for mutual benefit.”

Building Basics
Born in Tarboro, North Carolina, the fourth of 11 children, Bryant Howroyd headed to Los Angeles in the late ’70s to visit her sister. With an English degree from North Carolina A&T State University, she wasn’t sure of a career direction. When she volunteered to help her brother-in-law staff and manage his hectic entertainment office, however, she discovered her calling. And as she ventured into building a business, she relied on basic fundamentals: faith, discipline, focus, and clarity, principles she outlines in her 2009 book, The Art of Work: How to Make Your Work, Work for You (Ask International Inc; $14.95).

“When I started my company in 1978, faith was my biggest asset,” recalls Bryant Howroyd. “Today it remains my biggest asset. I knew very little about the formal aspects of building a business. I knew a lot about the aspects of discipline and work and I think bringing that into how I built my business helped me.”

For a woman who personally signs birthday cards for all employees no matter where she is in the world, discipline is a consistent measure of how she conducts every aspect of her business. It not only allows her the focus and clarity to manage the full range of projects, but it’s how she communicates her message to staff and strategies to clients. Bryant Howroyd realized how important specifics are in business when she first managed the merger business of a large client. “There was a lot of process we had to go through and a lot of process learning we had to achieve. There were a lot of commitments made in any contract–but whether it’s with a large client or with one-on-one delivery, the key to succeeding is to really speak with clarity, write with clarity, and negotiate with clarity.

Unless you have full-circle communication, where every line is dotted and every role is understood in a relationship, you leave a lot of opportunity for vagueness and vagueness is where business starts to fall apart.

“Discipline is not a dirty word,” she continues. “There is far more freedom and opportunity for creativity and success in enjoying discipline. Years ago someone I very much respect told me the reason they were successful is that they embraced doing what other people resent or are reluctant to do. And I think that is a pretty good description. Look for the simple solutions. Simple doesn’t always mean easy. That’s where discipline kicks in.”

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