Synergy is spotlighting some of our new Synergy members to help you get to know them a little bit better. We asked each new member some questions so we could learn more about them and their business. Check out below to read all about John and Matt Brennan with J.M. Brennan!
1. What originally got you interested in your current field of work?
Our company, J.M. Brennan, was started by our grandfather who ran it for 30 years, and then our father for 35 years. Our dad, having come off the recession of the early 80’s, encouraged us to something else with our careers. My brother John received an Economics degree from Stanford University, worked in employee benefit consulting in Chicago, went to Marquette University, and then was a bankruptcy attorney in Milwaukee. I was 4 years younger and received and Economics degree from Vanderbilt University and worked for the trust department of a Chicago Bank. In 1991, I determined that I was going to apply to Marquette Law School and work part time at J.M. Brennan and asked my dad for a job. When my brother heard, he said it was the stupidest thing he ever heard me do. I ended up staying at JM Brennan and getting an MBA at night at Marquette University. Three years later our father approached my brother, without telling me, and told him if he ever wanted to be a part of the family business, now was the time. John took the summer to think it over and in 1994, John quit the law firm and joined the company. We purchased the firm in 1997. We had revenues of ~$8 million and 35 employees. Today we have revenues of ~$100 million and 420 employees.
2. What do you love most about what you do?
John and I were the two boys in a family of six kids—four sisters. We grew up sharing a room and being extremely close—we lived two doors away from each other for 13 years while owning the business and have shared an office for 27 years. While owning and growing a business can be very stressful, we’ve gotten to work together for the past 27 years building and growing our company together. You get to see the results of your work. We get to build a team, lead, and succeed together.
3. Who inspires you?
We are inspired by each other and the team we have in place. Also our parents – they were great mentors in how to run a business, prioritizing family and instilling values that have guided us through our careers. It is really a pleasure to work with them and see where we are today and what this company has become. We are very proud of J.M. Brennan.
4. What is your favorite thing about the area you live in?
Milwaukee is a great town – The Bucks, the Brewers, the Green Bay Packers. It has gone through a renaissance with a thriving and redeveloped downtown. It is very livable and commutable with little traffic and beautiful surrounding areas and lakes. John lives on a lake 40 minutes from town and Matt has a cottage on a lake and lives in a condo downtown. Our parents still live here along with three of our four sisters. John’s three daughters live here and the other is moving back from Denver. Matt’s daughter is at Butler University and his other daughter live here as well.
5. What is your most prized possession and why?
J.M. Brennan is our most prized possession. We will be celebrating our 90th year in business next year. We are extremely proud.
6. What charity or cause are you most passionate about?
We donate to many Milwaukee area hospitals, Marquette University, Ronald McDonald House, and the Heart Association each and every year.
7. What is the best thing you got from your parents?
Our business savvy, our work ethic and our sense of humor.
8. What have you learned as a business leader since the COVID pandemic?
That you can adapt. When COVID occurred, we had projects shutting down and we immediately laid off 100 people with no projects for them. With the PPP program, we had to navigate how this worked and what this would mean to J.M. Brennan. We put people to work. We bid projects we normally would not have bid. We adapted. We are a stronger company today because of it and we are still adapting. We are not the same company we were a year ago and we will not be the same a year from now. We will be better.