Over the last two decades, Brent Xavier has held a variety of positions in the hospitality, marketing, and legal sectors. The experience he gained during his tenure in each of these respective industries are what he credits for his success as an entrepreneur, advisor, and investor. From his diverse background, Brent has established a unique mindset he approaches every professional venture with, which is: business development is futile without a service-first mentality.
This mindset prompted Brent Xavier to pursue the next phase of his career in business development. He is Founder and CEO of an advisory business for early stage companies. Here, Brent leverages his experience to help the start-ups he works with reach their full potential.
In order to fully immerse himself in his advisory firm, Brent Xavier stepped down as President of Xavier + Associates after being with the firm for over ten years. His tenure with Xavier + Associates began after Brent graduated from New York Law School with a Juris Doctor in 2006. Brent initially consulted with the company for a few months, but after realizing their tremendous potential, he ended up buying a large stake in the practice in 2007.
Over the next ten years, Brent Xavier grew the business by nearly 500%, making Xavier + Associates one of the largest criminal defense firms in the United States. Brent credits the firm’s success to two things: the development of a consumer brand (DWI Guy) and providing top-rated service in a sector where the customer experience is regularly overlooked.
Prior to working at Xavier + Associates, Brent Xavier served in a management position at Grey Advertising, an agency that provides marketing, branding, public relations, and other services to national and international companies. Before his three-year tenure at Grey, Brent held various roles in the hospitality sector. One such role was as part of the management team at Tavern on the Green, a restaurant in Central Park that was the highest grossing restaurant in the US at the time.
Brent Xavier’s opportunity with Tavern on the Green materialized during an extensive year long Management Training Program at Chart House Enterprises where Brent was trained to manage their New York City area restaurant. He was recruited by Chart House after graduating from the Hotel School at Cornell University in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration. While at Cornell, Brent worked 20-30 hours per week in a variety of capacities at different local businesses to gain hospitality experience.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
I’ve built my advisory business using a model that’s similar to an accelerator. As a strategic advisor for start-ups, I work primarily with early stage companies where I can leverage my experience to help them reach their full potential. In return for my services, I typically receive a small percentage of equity in the company and cash compensation. This model allows me to build stronger relationships with founding entrepreneurs, as we all share in the long-term success (or failure) of our endeavors.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Structured. My typical day is pretty structured to maximize productivity. I start my day by reading some daily periodicals, setting goals for the day, and then heading to the gym. At the gym, I get a workout and then hit the sauna for some quiet time to think/reflect. I use the rest of the morning for necessary correspondence (responding to calls or emails) and meetings.
Most days, I take a working lunch. I use the majority of the afternoon to work on my current initiatives for clients before having dinner with my family. After dinner, I head to swim practice with my daughter. While she’s in the pool, I complete any remaining correspondence for the day. Prior to bed, I either read or watch some TV depending on my mood.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Just do it. I’m a big proponent of taking an idea and just making it happen. I believe that taking action on a good idea is the most important step. This isn’t to say that planning isn’t important, but as Mike Tyson said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” In business, getting punched in the mouth allows us to learn and improve upon our ideas.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Distributed teams. The trend towards utilizing distributed teams is exciting because it allows companies to draw upon a much larger pool of talent. Theoretically, this should allow companies to build a stronger roster.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Daily exercise. I’m a fan of getting a workout in every morning before jumping into the workday. I believe that exercise is routine maintenance for your body/mind and it allows you to consistently function at a higher level.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Jump! When I was younger, I spent years working for companies when I really knew that I wanted to run my own company. Sure, I learned (and earned) a bunch by working for these companies, but I wasn’t truly happy. If I had it to do over, I would make the jump into my own business much earlier.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Take the road less traveled. I have always been willing to take an unfavorable path if I truly believed that’s what would take me to the end goal. This high-risk, high-reward mentality is something that entrepreneurs are very reluctant about. Don’t be afraid to go against the grain and try something new. Leaders should be willing to take a beating for what they are passionate about.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Believe. As an entrepreneur, you must believe in yourself and your vision above all else. When things suck and look impossible, it’s that belief that will help get you through to the other side. I remind myself to believe on a regular and ongoing basis.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Embrace risk. As a strategic advisor, I love to work with entrepreneurs that are attempting to execute a big idea in a big market. Unfortunately, many of these start-ups just don’t have the budget to compensate me for my services. As such, I made the decision to embrace the risk of accepting non-traditional compensation (i.e. equity) in order to do more work that I love.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
People. I’ve had my share of failures as an entrepreneur, but the ones that I remember most surround people. Relationships are tough — whether they’re relationships with business partners, employees, or clients. I’ve failed in the relationship department multiple times over the years, but I’ve learned to be better at them as a result. Most of the improvement came as a result of countless hours of reflection (therapy) examining my personality and how it impacts my interactions with others.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Pay it forward. I recently spent $100+ to pay it forward with local businesses that were forced to close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. One example, I paid my barbershop as normal despite them being unable to provide service during the pandemic.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Zoom. It’s become super necessary these days given the COVID-19 pandemic, but I believe their technology (and others) will forever reshape traditional meetings. I work a lot with distributed teams, so Zoom increases my productivity by facilitating virtual meetings and eliminating the need for travel.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
None. Honestly, I don’t read a lot of books these days. I had to read a ton of books for law school and it wasn’t enjoyable. I think that experience may have scarred me for life (haha). That said, I do read many periodicals on a daily basis: The NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, Axios, Forbes, and Entrepreneur are some of my favorites. I find reading of this nature to usually be more helpful as an entrepreneur than books.
What is your favorite quote?
“Some people see things as they are, and ask why. I dream of things that never were, and ask why not.” – Robert F. Kennedy. I’ve always loved this quote because I think it embodies the entrepreneur’s mindset.