Growing up in South Florida, Brian Butler’s mother always encouraged him to believe that he could be anything he wanted to be, and as a young boy, he remembers always wanting to be a business owner.
What started as his own paper route to bagging groceries at the corner store, Butler naturally had an entrepreneurial spirit to him.
“When I was the paper boy, I realized if I could throw more papers, I could earn more revenue. So, I hired my little sister and the other little kid across the street, and I had them roll papers while I was out delivering,” he laughed.
Butler grew up to serve 22 years in the Army, leading him to a position in the White House and eventually to his very own business, Vistra Communications.
Starting in 2007, Vistra is now an award-winning integrated marketing communications and consulting agency providing communications and marketing services.
“Our approach is really focused in our name, vision, strategy and action. We believe that we can help our customers better understand their vision, then develop a strategy to execute that vision,” Butler said. “The action part is the implementation, rolling up our sleeves and getting it done.”
From commanding troops in combat to working on the Homeland Security Council, Butler says he was always preparing himself to lead and grow a small business.
“I use the skills I learned in the military like the problem-solving skills, and the leadership skills every day at work,” he said. “Practicing how to encourage people to get things done even when they don’t see a path for it.”
Having to constrict complicated and detailed issues into brief documents read by the president, taught Butler how to be mindful and succinct.
“I use those same skills today in the messaging with our clients and help them better understand how to articulate their messages about their company. All those things that I learned in the past, I still use every day.”
Vistra’s Company Culture
It was imperative for Butler to create a company culture at Vistra that was built on a foundation of respect and diversity of ideas, experience and backgrounds.
“When we respect each other first, that allows people to bring their ideas to the table. We have large whiteboard walls throughout the office and when there’s a challenge I encourage my team members to spend time there. This helps them to better understand the problem, lay it out and get different perspectives on how to overcome it,” he said.
Discouraged by the lack of diversity in some companies, Vistra makes it a priority to work with clients who share their same vision.
“We know that diversity does not happen without focused attention and we seek to do business with other diverse companies,” he said.
Overcoming Challenges, Keeping a Competitive Edge and Looking Toward the Future
Butler says he’s faced the typical challenges that other small business face, like the ability to scale and having the necessary financials to do so. Vistra has successfully overcome the challenges they’ve been confronted with, which Butler credits to believing there’s always more you can learn.
“I’m a graduate of a small business program sponsored by AT&T, it’s a one-year program that helped me understand some of the challenges of a small business from their perspective as a large corporate client,” he said. “I continue to put myself in a learning environment so I can be a better leader, coach and mentor for our team.”
Vistra is able to keep a competitive edge over other agencies in their market due to their integrated marketing approaching and diverse team.
Their team is comprised of marketing and public relations professionals, journalists, writers and engineers who are committed to developing comprehensive communications plans for their clients that include research, earned media strategies, advertising, social media and more.
“Since we’re a small business that works across so many different domains in the corporate, nonprofit and government environments, our diverse team members bring experiences to each of those areas,” Butler said. “We combine that together to work for any client, giving us an advantage because we can identify a problem a little differently than a traditional agency. With that process, we can get better results.”
Looking toward the future, Butler has some thoughts on expanding into new markets but until then, is always looking for other ways to propel forward.
“We’re never quite satisfied where we are, we think there’s lots of room to get better, lots of room to grow, and we’re excited about that,” he said.
What it Means to be an Honoree
Being selected as a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree this year provided Butler and his team the validation that they’re heading in the right direction.
“I was a little kid that grew up in South Florida watching the business environment. I left when I was 18 to go to college, so it’s been wonderful to come back here to the state of Florida,” he said. “To be acknowledged as an honoree with GrowFL is just a wonderful feeling to us.”
Advice to Aspiring Entrepreneurs
To future entrepreneurs following in his footsteps, Butler said don’t try to do it alone.
“Grab hold of a couple mentors, do your homework, read a lot and get involved with things outside your business that will help your business,” he said. “Get involved with opportunities that allow you to learn from others, the good things and the mistakes from others. Then buckle down and don’t take no for an answer.”
Notable Philanthropic Involvement
Acting on their value of Positive Community Engagement, Vistra frequently makes financial contributions, sponsors community activities and encourages their team members to volunteer during work hours and on their own time at various organizations in the area. These organizations include Trinity Cafe, Laundry Project and Mort Elementary School.
Vistra also sponsors nonprofit organization events supporting veterans, ex-offenders and their families, individuals with Sickle Cell Anemia, minority business development, and nonprofit organization capacity building, among other worthy causes.
One of Butler’s most recent philanthropic programs, ‘CEO’s in Schools,’ is underway as they are actively encouraging local CEO’s to spend a full day in a Hillsborough County elementary school. With 170 elementary schools to fill, Butler already has over 160 CEO’s committed to participating in the program.
“They’re not just reading to kids but they’re providing mentor and counseling advice for principals and being a partner with the teachers in the classroom to understand some of their challenges,” he said.
Starting with just an idea after volunteering in an inner-city school over the past few years, Butler says it’s unbelievable how quickly the program has taken off.
For more information on the CEO’s in Schools program, visit https://1dayofchange.com/ceosinschools/.