Prairie Portrait: Michael Bird of Spindustry Digital
Name: Michael Bird
Bio: In college I majored in both Computer Information Systems and Marketing. At the time, that combination was not a thing. Today, I am the president of Spindustry Digital and an owner of Spindustry Training and Staffing. I combine my loves of technology and marketing to solve business problems for clients every day. Outside of work I am married with 2 children.
Title: President, Spindustry Digital
Residence: Des Moines, Iowa
Intro music: "Sin," by Nine Inch Nails.
Silicon Prairie News: What compelled you to pursue both computer information systems and marketing at a time when, as you say, "that combination was not a thing"?
Michael Bird: It was just pursuing my passions. I had a wonderful computer programming teacher in high school, Jack McGrath in Denver, Colorado, but chose business school over engineering as I enjoyed business and creativity as well. The MIS/CIS major and Marketing major, both being in the business school, allowed me to do both. It was just good timing that the “web” emerged, with the need for people who understood the tech side but asked good business “why” questions.
SPN: What was the thinking behind Spindustry's decision to change the architecture of its brands, and what have the results of that re-architecture been?
MB: Call it Iowa modesty, but we did not start out saying “we know how you need to change your business.” Having now analyzed hundreds of businesses resulting in solutions, we have learned from patterns and have become much more strategic. We formally began offering consultative services a few years back. Since then, we added more creative and marketing talent and are now an idea shop, powered by digital execution. We fully deliver on business goals through digital solutions. So, Digital focused several divisions into one idea, and we lined up Training and Staffing with the same brand architecture to create three channels to help organizations run, grow and transform their business.
SPN: What are some of the biggest benefits you have gotten out of your membership in Vistage International?
MB: Vistage has been very helpful. Not only have I met some other wonderful business leaders throughout the state, but it has provided me with a group of people who have very similar and very different problems, that I can talk to when needed. Whether it is the economy, health care, employee issues, client challenges, business expansion ideas or anything else, it gives you a sounding board and gut check before reacting just on your own intuition. We have nationally recognized speakers and an online network of members to interact with along the same lines as those in your local group.
SPN: As someone who's been active with TAI since 1996, what stands out to you about the trajectory of Iowa's tech scene over the last decade and a half?
MB: It has changed quite a bit, of course. Spindustry used to start presentations with a corn stalk on a PowerPoint slide and work to dispel the notion that Iowans would struggle to be technology consultants. The saddest part was this was MOST true INSIDE of Iowa. It was Iowans that didn’t believe more so than others. As we stayed in Iowa and grew our business we watched others do the same, and there have been successes. As social media and mobile technology have come to pass, this latest generation of startups and technology workers is even more connected and able to solidify around the idea that we can do this in Iowa, and it has led to a critical mass I am happy to see.
SPN: As a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, what lessons, if any, can you take from the successful management approach of the franchise's founding family, the Rooneys?
MB: Well, I have always liked that the family remained involved (current challenges aside) for many years and many years after his passing that Art Rooney is still considered a beloved figure in Pittsburgh. I grew up in the '70s when the Steelers were my father’s favorite team, and they have done well recently so it’s been a great way to reconnect with my dad as well. I think the challenges of running any sports team are similar to that of running any business. Character counts. Challenges come unexpectedly. Some things are in your control and some are outside. I do consider it important to be well liked, care for and give back to your community, and not to let “it’s just business” be an excuse to not act responsibly and with caring for others.
Credits: Photo courtesy of Bird.
Prairie Portraits: To learn more about this series, see our introduction post, or visit our archives for past Prairie Portraits. To suggest an individual for a future Prairie Portrait, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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