I met Jeff Learned early this year during an intense Krav Maga class (an Israeli self-defense martial art). After the class, I hoped that Jeff would be on my side if I were ever in a fight, not against me! I quickly realized that Jeff is a special kind of person. He's disciplined, focused, intelligent, and driven—everything you'd expect a special forces guy to be.
I could have never guessed that Jeff would join The A Group several months later as our Chief Operating Officer.
Our entire team is thrilled to have Jeff help lead TAG into the future.
I recently sat down with him, and here's an excerpt of our conversation:
How has your military experience prepared you for the business world?
Jeff: My military background, specifically in special operations, has taught me to be resourceful and creative in solving problems. We were often put in stressful situations with limited resources and had to find a way to succeed. This resourcefulness directly translates into the business environment, where you must be innovative and effectively manage people, priorities, and timelines.
Can you elaborate on how the high-stress environments in the military have shaped your approach to business challenges?
Jeff: Absolutely. In the military, failure is not an option, especially when lives are on the line. This has given me a unique perspective on what "high stakes" really mean. So, when faced with stress in business, my threshold is relatively high. It allows me to handle business pressures more calmly and make effective decisions quickly.
You mentioned that you've pursued not one but three MBAs. What's the reasoning behind this?
Jeff: I initially started with an MBA in entrepreneurship while still serving. Later, I shifted my focus toward strategic leadership and business architecture as my goals evolved. I also picked up complex negotiations, which I find interesting. I believe in building a toolbox of skills; you never know when you'll need them.
How are you applying what you've learned in your MBA courses to your current role?
Jeff: Each MBA has given me different tools for various scenarios. Entrepreneurship helps me think creatively, strategic leadership aids in long-term planning, and complex negotiations assist in dealing with multiple stakeholders. All of these are crucial in making informed, balanced decisions in the fast-paced environment I am in now.
You've transitioned from a large organizations to a small business setting. What attracted you to a smaller environment?
Jeff: In smaller settings like the one I'm in now, I find that I can make a more immediate impact. The pace of change is faster, and you're much closer to the mission. It reminds me of my time with the Green Berets, where a small team can accomplish great things if everyone is aligned and driving toward a common goal.
You have been able to implement changes more quickly at the The A Group. How has that been?
Jeff: The agility of a small business is exhilarating. In larger corporations, decisions often take a long time due to the layers of bureaucracy. Here, I can implement changes that would have taken months in just a few weeks.
Could you share an example of a change you've implemented successfully?
Jeff: Certainly. Within the first few weeks, I was able to streamline some of our internal communication processes. Typically, a change like this would have required rounds of approval in a larger organization. Here, I presented the idea, received quick feedback, and we implemented it almost immediately.
It's been fascinating to hear about your journey, Jeff. As you look ahead, what do you envision for the future of The A Group? How do you see yourself contributing to that vision?
Jeff: That's a great question. I see a lot of potential for The A Group, especially in this fast-changing landscape of technology and marketing. My immediate focus is on building a robust strategy that aligns with our long-term vision, which can adapt to the changes but is rooted in foundational business principles. Having come from a background that values agility, resourcefulness, and effective teamwork, I plan to infuse those same principles here.
In the Special Forces, we were trained to look for opportunities even in the most adverse conditions. I want to bring that same mindset to The A Group to find opportunities where others might only see challenges. And since I've had the unique experience of working in large corporations and small, agile teams, I hope to blend the best practices from both worlds to make us more efficient, innovative, and customer-focused.
So, in a nutshell, I see The A Group evolving as a leader in marketing technology. I hope to contribute by fortifying our strategy, fostering a culture of innovation, and guiding the team to execute our mission with precision.
Apart from your professional life, how does faith play a role in who you are?
Jeff: I grew up as a Christian, specifically Lutheran, and my faith has been a steady foundation throughout my life's journey. It's interesting how paths cross; for instance, we go to the same church, which I find fascinating.
How do you see your faith intersecting with your professional responsibilities?
Jeff: My faith instills in me a sense of purpose and ethics that I carry into my professional life. It reminds me of the larger impact our work can have on people and communities, giving an extra layer of meaning to what we do.
You can find out more about Jeff and The A Group HERE