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Pushing Past Complacency - 2014 Expo Keynote Speaker

Expo Keynote Speaker Manley Feinberg Will Help Attendees Expand Their Comfort Zones, Realize Their Potential And Grow Their Companies

by Julia Paulus Ogilvie

With a business and technology background spanning 23 years, Manley Feinberg’s jobs have run the gamut from leading small businesses for investor/owners to working as an executive with Build-A-Bear. In the early days of his career, when Feinberg was working for UPS, he began to think about his own philosophies. “This organization’s philosophy influenced my thoughts on leadership in business,” he says.

No matter where Feinberg found himself in his career, he gathered lessons from the people around him and the things he experienced.“Prior to joining Build-A-Bear I was running a two-retail-store chain and a restaurant in Kentucky,” says Feinberg. “I say this is how I earned my informal MBA. I wore all the small-business hats and learned to overcome of the challenge of running a business that I was simultaneously working in.”

In 2001 Feinberg’s background led him to Build-A-Bear, where he was brought in to help with the company’s growth. “The first half of my time there, I was working on systems development,” he says. “Then I was making sure we had the right team members to run the systems. I was involved with professional development and customer and guest service. I made sure we were giving our employees the tools they need to succeed in this.”

By 2010 Feinberg was ready to become a professional speaker and author to share his experiences in the hope of supporting business owners in their own paths to success. “My life is spent juggling running a business and keeping a happy family life,” he says. “I understand the challenges of entrepreneurs. I am dealing with the same things.”

Today Feinberg helps business owners, employees and individuals everywhere push past complacency by giving them the tools they need to do so. On Oct. 22, Feinberg will speak at St. Louis Small Business Monthly’s Best in Business Awards Luncheon on how you can do just this in his program. His talk is called “Reaching Your Next Summit: Powerful Strategies to Help You Expand Your Comfort Zone, Realize Your Potential and Grow Your Business.

Small Business Monthly spoke with Feinberg on his passion for helping others through speaking, coaching and consulting and about where the foundation of his processes for helping businesses grow comes from.

When you were with Build-A-Bear, the company grew from 40 to more than 400 stores worldwide. What was your role in this growth?
From Maxine’s [Maxine Clark, Build-A-Bear’s CEO] perspective, I was shaping teams to keep up with the business growth and support the growth with out-of-the-box thinking and high-speed implementation of ideas. It was about constantly shifting perspective. I brought people in who were engaged and also identified areas where we were holding ourselves back. Then we worked on consistently stretching our employees out of their comfort zones by giving them the tools and support to do so.

What key lessons regarding business growth did you learn in your time with Build-A-Bear that you can share with other business owners?
The ultimate message is that it’s human nature that we’ll settle into zones of comfort. We need to proactively look for where we are doing this and where we are uncomfortable and the opportunities that might come from stretching into that discomfort.

At what point did you begin to think about leaving the company?
In 2010 I saw a keynote speaker and had an aha moment. I had been speaking, coaching and doing leadership development for 15 years within organization. I then discovered that I could make a living doing this full time. I hadn’t looked into it as a career before. The goal with building a full-time business was to help people and businesses reach their potential while supporting my family.

What drew you to speaking?
I started speaking in 1995. It was an accident. I was doing climbing expeditions around the world to many areas I had dreamed about while reading National Geographic.  Businesses wanted me to share my adventure stories with the photographs and the lessons I learned, so I began doing so. People would leave saying: “This is powerful. I am different than when I came here.”
In the fall of 2010 I had an aha moment. I saw a friend of mine, former Southwest Airlines trainer Jason Young, doing a keynote and it hit me that it was what I had to do. He said to me: “You have a fire in your eyes. You should look into this as a career.” To realize I could do it full time was a life-changing realization.

If there is an underlying thread or message you share in your keynotes, what is that?
I use my business and life experience. I customize each speech for the audience, spending 40 to 80 hours thinking about the audience needs. But yes, there is also a thread. One phrase sums it up: shifting perspective, stretching comfort zones and redefining what is possible. Then consistently stretching so that each team member is realizing his or her human potential while engaged and impacting the business. It’s also contagious in culture.

What will you speak on at the Best in Business Awards Luncheon?
I will share the significant lessons I have on how to succeed in the business world while touching on the common thread I mentioned above and make sure to include the “how-to.”

What are some of the key points you want folks to get from the presentation?

To realize more of their potential, get engaged on reach the next level. What are your employees’ mind-sets? Where are they connected? Where aren’t they? How are you showing your employees and customers you have their back? Where are people holding back? And who do you need to let go of in life to move forward? On the flip side, who do you need to have on your team – holistically, not just in business? Who could help you move forward? And then take action consistently.

This is what you need to do. See what’s holding you back. Then I will give a tactical tool to do it. In my life I made the shift from regular paycheck as the sole earner in my family to going into business for myself. And I did this during the worst economy in years. I will share the tool that gave me the courage to move forward. 
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