Sander Flaum – CEO of Flaum Navigators

[quote style=”boxed”]The most important to keep front and center in your mind is that- it’s never about me or the company, it’s about making my client look good.[/quote]

Sander A. Flaum, author of The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You: How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life, is CEO of Flaum Navigators, a leading healthcare sales and marketing consultancy focused on transformational thinking for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Sander is also Adjunct Professor of Management at New York’s Fordham Graduate School of Business and serves on the boards of Fordham Graduate School of Business and Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University.

Previously, Sander was Chairman and CEO of Robert A. Becker, EuroRSCG where he led a global team that introduced six blockbuster $2 Billion healthcare brands.

Sander received his undergraduate degree from The Ohio State University and earned his MBA from Fairleigh Dickinson University magna cum laude.

Where did the idea for Flaum Navigators come from?

Flaum Navigators is a consulting company that works on marketing and sales effectiveness. We help our clients to navigate through the pitfalls in business, motivate their people in crisis and help them realize their company’s full potential to be a success. I named the company to symbolize that we help clients chart the appropriate course to reach their destination which is about building their business legacy.

What does your typical day look like?

I am a marketing consultant, graduate business school professor, corporate and university board member and involved with several non-profits. So my day is as varied as this list. A key aspect of my work is helping my clients regain their footing in the job market. The common theme through my day is communications and applying business learning in a variety of situations for the benefit of my clients or students.

How do you bring ideas to life?

My recipe is I surround myself with a team of top-notch, adjunct consultants hand-picked from the Pharma industry. To that mix, I add expert Consumer and Rx marketing professionals from in and out of the pharmaceutical field and on both the corporate and agency side. Together, we brainstorm and blend our ideas and expertise to help our clients jump the revenue curve.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

Reverse mentoring – When I ran a global advertising firm, I partnered everyone over age 50 with a person under 30 in a reverse mentoring arrangement. Both benefited. They co-mentored each other. The olders shed light on how traditional business operates, time management, big idea generation; the youngers helped their elders with social media strategy, understanding the new rules and disrupting traditional customs. Some of the juxtapositions of the two generations were featured in my first book, The 100-Mile Walk that I co-wrote with my son. I find that reverse mentoring, as a regular exercise, is even more valuable these days for my clients on both sides of the age divide.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

I’m always thinking about new and better ideas to get me unglued from traditional thinking. I stay hyper-focused on turning around whatever inhibits profitability –that’s the issue. You can assure profitability when you can answer these not- so- simple questions: What can you do for consumers that no one else can? How do you distinguish yourself from the pack? What problem is this fixing? Who will benefit? Why is this needed?

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I worked with a boss who made fun of my stuttering in front of others. I learned that when working with a bully, get the heck out of there. I didn’t leave quickly enough. It’s not your job to change them and if you’re focused on trying, you aren’t focused on doing a good job. Working with an unethical person really can demotivate you, so what I try to convey to my students and clients is follow your gut when you feel your value system is being challenged.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I’m not sure would do anything differently. I’m very grateful for my trajectory. I learned a lot and I’m still learning. At the beginning in the military, I got a really good break at being speechwriter for General Earl C Burquist. He encouraged me and because of him, I became a junior staff writer for Bobby Kennedy, stutter and all. As I’ve gone through my life and found my way to fluency later in my career – I‘ve come to understand that overcoming obstacles when I did provided important lessons and even wisdom, to my ultimate benefit. My new book, The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You, addresses how even the painful career setbacks of life reinvigorate you when you manage to climb out the other side.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

I have four mantras: 1) The most important perspective to keep front and center is that it’s never about me or my company, it’s about making my client look good. 2) Make the hard call first – the one you are most afraid of. It’s the secret to working most efficiently and avoiding procrastination. 3) There are a lot of great ideas out there – to see success requires hyper focus. You have to brush everything away that isn’t relevant. 4) And my mother’s advice which I heed every day, people with an impediment have to work harder and be smarter (and who doesn’t have one?).

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

My business as a consultant grew the most once I figured out how to listen, really listen, before I open my mouth. I try to talk 20% of the time and listen 80%. This helps me get into the heads of my clients and build a meaningful connection. Hearing them out on their issues – people issues, board issues, corporate issues- offers some breathing room for them and puts me closer and faster toward understanding the core of what is important and then we can get going on solutions. It is this trust that has been built combined with an entrepreneurial spirit to try new things and explore many roads that brings repeat business.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Not letting go quickly enough of people who were not well matched to the task. I overcame it by setting clearer goals and finding the right team to meet them. Also I restructured my company model to bring in expert adjunct consultants rather than in-house staff. This has allowed me and the business to be a lot more nimble and to quickly pivot direction as needed.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I can’t count how often I have to run into a meeting with only a cup of coffee when what I’d really love is a traditional, big, hearty, home style breakfast. I have a dream that one day out my office window I’ll see the Pancake Man & Waffle Woman food truck- and snap- inside of a half hour, there’ll be the breakfast I have been hankering after. I think this idea would make America a much happier place.

Tell us something about you that very few people know?

I serve on the board of a non-profit called Edge4Vets for which I mentor and counsel young returning veterans. We put CEOs and other professionals together with returning vets to assist them to rebrand themselves and help them focus on getting jobs, how to interview, how to dress, etc. It’s a way to say thanks for all they have done for us.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

In my newest book, The Best Thing That Could Ever Happen to You: How a Career Reversal Can Reinvigorate Your Life, I tell people who are looking for a new job or career “Do your homework checking the job boards, such as and the career/job pages of companies you’re interested in working for. I think is an amazing way to stay in touch with resources, keep them up to date on your accomplishments and ask for introductions. Also as an author and a voracious reader, I’m particularly fond of Amazon’s Author pages.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Learned the most from Jack Welch’s , Straight From the Gut,Spencer Johnson’s Who Moved My Cheese and Tom Kelley’s book, The Art of Innovation. The reason I love each of them is that in their own way, they encourage you not only to think out of the box but to envision an entirely new box. They open your mind and reading them more than once categorically opens your mind.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

The career of John Glenn gave me inspiration for my book because of all he went through. Running for and winning the Senate race in Ohio, running for and losing his bid for the presidency, going back into space at age 77, he is the epitome of “moving forward with your life,’ and I so admire him for that and for being the authentic American hero he is.


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Sander Flaum on Twitter: @Sander_Flaum