1- Hello Brent, can you please tell us a bit about you?
It is so easy for me to go through the process of compartmentalizing myself and putting my story into little boxes with labels that validate what I am doing at this point in time. We all do it whether we’re aware of it or not. But it is the more challenging process – culmination – that actually communicates what I am about. And it’s that which has brought insight into, and a sense of appreciation for, my life experiences and where they have taken me. I have been fortunate enough to have had incredible opportunities both academically and professionally; rich experiences as a human and also faced personal challenges throughout – and I am incredibly grateful for that. I embrace all aspects of life, continually growing as a person. And I’d like to still be growing in 40 years’ time.
2- What are your focus areas and why?
As a social enterprise that incorporates a multifaceted for-profit implementation strategy, my own focus at the moment is, of course, ensuring that we can actually fund the social change that is our vision. I’d then say innovation is the next key focus, as if I wasn’t constantly identifying and creating sustainable revenue streams then there would simply be no funding for me to even consider the idea of working towards social change, not having a socially bound mission statement. But on a social level, I have a few core focus areas – and I doubt those will ever change. Inspiration is one – and that takes so many forms – whether it’s looking for inspiration from others, or inspiring others through creativity, communication or my deep appreciation of an respect for being in a position of social influence. So I focus on using that platform thoughtfully, responsibly and boldly – which is very challenging actually, as it has huge potential to be perceived as self-promotion and ego-centrical. And it is anything but. It is me focusing on using my position in a way that can benefit others. inspiring them to do the same. Support and empowerment are focus areas that, in every aspect of the implementation strategy, relate to any and all relations between myself, the enterprise, and society.
3- How do you describe “The Brent Black Group” in few words?
Now that is asking the impossible. It really is such a new approach to business – because of its links to mental health care and society – that a few words would actually not communicate what needs to be, and that could be counter-productive to all aspects of the business. So I’ll say describe the Group around 3 different points, in as few words as possible. Firstly – economically – our strategy is very much around the creation of job opportunities for forward-thinking graduate health care professionals, assisting them with their transition into private practice. At this point, what would be a straightforward fee-for-service revenue model, then becomes intertwined with a commission-based one. Revenue at this level is purposed to facilitate the expansion of the enterprise, as well as to sustain pro bono support services for our communities – another focus.
Socially, our collaborative approach is optimised to drive social change particularly in out offering interdisciplinary services (psychologists, counsellors, life coaches, medical professionals) each service fulfilling a specific need (individual, family, community etc.) through a deep understanding of and respect for the unique social, emotional, biological and psychological challenges experienced by each individual?
Culturally, clients are “met” where they are, with the Group stepping into the client’s cultural context – connecting with them by being culturally informed; not just aware. but deeply informed. It is this that enables the Group to provide the level of support, engagement, and empowerment that are the foundations of what every individual need, and inevitably with these foundations, every individual makes progress. It’s non-prescriptive. It’s about empowerment and freedom of choice: the two together change lives.
4- Where do you think your work is making an impact?
Again, I think the impact that it is making in terms of what the Group already offers is quite readily available online, but what isn’t available online, nor have I actually really spoken about it, is the impact it is having on the young professionals we are supporting professionally. A requirement for most job opportunities entails work experience, especially in the healthcare profession. Young graduates usually do not have that work experience to propel them into their career; so the driving force behind young people empowerment is to ultimately provide that step for young graduates into private practice. As opposed to hiring them, this sort of opportunity breeds autonomy, independence and a means for them to sustain themselves. Along with the step into private practice, the collaborative approach across the board encourages networking among other young professionals.
5- Tell us about your approach?
The combination of the business model and the social services provided brings us to an approach that is interdisciplinary, contextual and multifaceted. This means that a selection of contracted professionals and external network referral partners is available to support each client according to their needs. For example, an addiction recovery case may require a GP for detox as well as a therapy which may be provided by a psychologist. The contextual nature of the approach involves the collaboration with individuals, couples, families, communities and corporate entities. The factors that are taken into careful consideration include the: social, cultural, emotional, psychological and biological factors that affect each client. Therefore, the consideration of these factors allows us to support the individual where they are – as opposed to providing inflexible prescriptive services.
6- Do you think your mindset has anything to do with success?
I think that a persons’ mindset has everything to do with their success or failure – most times we fail in our minds before that failure manifests in our lives. Our biggest challenge is our conditioning. If we can first develop self-awareness, we can then begin to manage our emotions. Our thought processes are what block us and those we can reverse and need to because they are conditioned. A free mind can be set to anything, with no distraction. That’s where success happens. Our inner noise is what sets us up for failure. So yes, mindset definitely leads to success. But failure if our mind gets lazy.
7- If you could turn the time, what would you love to change?
I honestly wouldn’t change a thing. That’s not to say I would necessarily want to experience some parts of my story over again, but now that they’ve happened, are in the past and I’m stronger for having experienced them – then ultimately I am a culmination of every experience I’ve ever had. No, really, I wouldn’t change anything. Except for maybe some bad haircuts, or really questionable clothes. That kind of stuff, yeah, maybe I’d change. I would. But just to save me here now, the embarrassment of having to think back on me back then. But that’s life. I just laugh and roll my eyes, over the trivial stuff. The more serious life experiences or challenges – sure I wouldn’t have asked for a lot of things which I kind of stumbled onto – but changing them would probably see me, who knows where right now. But maybe not here. And I’ve never known myself to be as focused and motivated as I am now: every day is something new, and every day comes with a new challenge, and every day comes with a surprise. I wouldn’t change a thing.
8- What are you most excited about at the moment?
Again I’m going to have to be very evasive or ambiguous with this one, but it’s not on purpose. I just don’t know what I’m most excited about. I know that – stress and exhaustion and a non-existent personal life aside – I’m always excited. I’ve got my days where the stress is there, but there’s still excitement underneath. For me, the stress comes from the excitement. If I was doing what I am and not getting excited seeing it come together and actually now represent something cohesive and with potential to make such huge change, then I wouldn’t last very long. The stress, the excitement: that’s what tells me that I’m onto something. And with people around me who believe in it and can see it for themselves, that’s what excites me the most. To see someone who may not have known what exactly it is we are doing, actually hear me tell them from start to finish, and then see their excitement – that’s what I’d now have to say I’m most excited about.
9- The last word or final thoughts?
I’ve learned so much this year. I cannot fathom how much my world has changed, and how far I’ve come with the support of the people around me; those who have supported me through the process – and it can’t have been easy at times, for them. I’m so invested in what I do that I sometimes wonder what I would do if I wasn’t working. Because I am always working. Sure, it’s not ideal, and it’s not sustainable long-term. But at this stage, it’s all or nothing. So I chose all, and that’s how it works. But within that, I’ve learned a huge amount about people – the people I’ve trusted, the people who I still trust, and the people who haven’t trusted or believed in me. And to me, it doesn’t change anything outwardly. But, my last words would have to be: we all do stupid things, we all hurt each other, we all break someone’s trust at some point. We’re all human. So forgive, and then forget. Except when in business. Then you absolutely cannot forget. Because otherwise, it’ll happen time and time again. That’s my final thought as I think that’s been the biggest lesson I’ve had to learn. And it’s been a hard one, but I’m happy I learned that pretty early.