Rick Brandt crashes ‘CEO Connect’: Mardi Gras edition

Rick Brandt is chief executive officer and president of family-owned, Brandt, a manufacturing company and supplier of agriculture products, born in Illinois and now headquartered in Tampa. 

The company had revenue of $30 million in 1995, when Brandt stepped in as CEO, at 29 years old, and, in 2022, had more than $800 million. Growth that his ambitious ideas are certainly to thank for. And, under his leadership, in addition to the extraordinary topline revenue growth, Brandt has had 24 acquisitions.

Bridgette Bello, publisher and CEO of Tampa Bay Business and Wealth Magazine, interviewed Brandt in front of a sold out, live audience at Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park. This transcript has been edited for length and brevity. 

See photos here. 

What has it been like being TBBW’s Mr. February?

It’s been awesome. Honestly, it’s almost overwhelming. I didn’t suspect that there’d be that many people that would be going, ‘I saw you in the magazine.’ It’s everywhere. 

People are emailing me and texting me. It really has shed a light on what y’all have done in such a short period of time. And to me, you’ve really knocked the socks off growing this magazine, from what I’ve seen, because there’s so many people after me. 

Thank you. That means a lot. You even said you might have a business deal because of it. Yes?

Yes.

And what did we say? I said, please don’t give me yes or no answers when we’re on stage. But OK, I got it.

I also told you I couldn’t really talk about it. But one of the first people that did reach out to me is somebody that we are looking at doing business together, so, you know, it’s pretty exciting from that standpoint. And for that person to come to me with that excitement and go, ‘Oh, I see you on the magazine. You really are somebody’ I’m like, ‘No, they were running out of candidates.’ [laughter] 

So how many of you saw the race car in the parking lot on your way up? How many of you know that that car raced in the Daytona 500 this weekend? Oh, much less hands. All right. I’m not going to steal your thunder on that and get ready because we might hear some curse words because he’s not very happy about the way that it played out. But tell us about your busy race weekend.

We had a busy weekend over in Daytona, and I’m going to just clarify, we were in the Daytona 300, which is the Xfinity race on Saturday, not the Daytona 500. We have done a couple of Daytona 500’s in the past, but we started off the weekend with a couple board meetings on Friday, so it was a busy weekend. And then we were the title sponsor on the ARCA race, the ARCA Brandt 20,0 on Saturday afternoon, and that was a lot of fun. I got to give the command for that race, which was interesting.

Does that mean dropping the flag? Is that what the command is?

Command is when you say, ‘Drivers, start your engines.’ Sierra [Brandt’s daughter] got to drop the green flag for the ARCA race, which was really cool. And then me and three of our executive team got to ride in the car in front of the pace cars, that was a whole experience, which is really, really cool. 

But the really exciting part about the whole weekend was my 99-year-old aunt, who was a co-founder of our company, her and my dad started the company, on her bucket list is to give the command at Daytona. So, she got to give the command for the Xfinity race. And she did the ‘Drivers, start your engines— go Justin!’ Justin Allgaier is our driver so, she wanted to get a word in for him and she had to squeeze it in there, but she got it in. If you go back and watch it on TV you’ll see, it was pretty cool. 

You said she still keeps office hours too?

She does. She’s still in Springfield. But if she’s in town, she’s at the office every day and good, bad or otherwise, she’s telling us what we’re doing wrong. Sometimes she’s telling us that we’re doing a good job. But, at 99, you can kind of do whatever you want, apparently. I’m striving for that. I’m going for that. Hope I inherit that.

Brandt is a third-generation company. And the third generation is a new thing, which I think is super cool. I also think it’s very cool that it’s a girl. Can you talk a little bit about that? 

I’ve been involved in it for 57 years. I grew up in it, just like Sierra did. I grew up in it every day but to get to be second generation of a company, like this, and have that opportunity was incredible. 

Since Sierra has been born, she’s been a part of it and been doing things with me, going to meetings, going to conventions, going to Nascar races. To a large degree, I’ve had her involved with doing the meet and greets. We do stuff like this every Saturday at the race so, a lot of times ,Sierra is up there with me. Everybody knows who she is. She knows a lot of people and it’s in her blood, I think. So. It’s exciting, and humbling, to be second generation, it’s really exciting for me to get to see the third generation getting to come into it. And, like you mentioned, a female. As you saw in the magazine, you know, from the Nascar photo shoot, Sierra got to lead the charge with the CEO and two drivers following her, basically, but you know, the future is female. 

Sierra invested [in the company] when she was 23? 

She invested in when she was about 20 or 21. It was a cool transaction. Evelyn [Brandt’s aunt] wanted to sell some shares in the company. And she came to me and was like, will you buy some of my shares? I said, ‘No, I don’t want to buy the shares. Would you mind if we do the transaction between you and Sierra?’ So, the transaction went from first generation to third generation, which was really cool. 

We printed that you were a $600 million company, and we didn’t get fact-checked, so we did not make a mistake, you made a mistake [laughter]. A $200 million mistake. You’re actually an $800 million dollar company and your goal is to hit $1 billion, correct? 

Yes.

Tell us how you plan to get there. What’s next? How far away is $1 billion?

Two hundred million. 

And I was afraid you weren’t going to be funny

Since I made that mistake, I’ve been home practicing my math. Six plus two is eight, plus two is ten.

Thank you. Math is not my thing. That’s why I write.

In my defense. I hadn’t seen the year-end numbers. Our CFO isn’t here tonight, he’s home sick, too, like it seems like everybody is.

I would be, too, if you misquoted me by $200 million. 

I forget where I was going with that.

How are you going to get there?

Last year was the high commodity prices that were affecting our business, just like every business affected with supply chain issues, and higher prices. But nonetheless, we got there, and I’ll take it. We’ve have a lot of things going. We have a lot of things on the table. 

To me, I’ve built a hell of an executive team, and some of them are here. I don’t tell them this to their face all the time, but I probably should. We’re doing deals all the time. And we’ve built and have grown the company like crazy. 

We’ve got a certain culture that is like family oriented. We have a heck of a lot of fun. And I think I’ve told you this before, it’s almost like the more fun we have, the more money we make. So that’s that’s a heck of an ecosystem.

We subscribe to that theory at TBBW. The more fun we have, the more money we make.

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