Dr. Brian D. Agnew is the Chief Operating Officer and Managing Partner of Sphinx Minerva Group. This boutique leadership and management consulting firm provides support to for-profit and non-profit organizations. As an experienced leader in campaign planning, the economics of higher education, crisis management, and diversity and inclusion efforts, Dr. Agnew has held a variety of leadership positions. Throughout his career, he has been fortunate to lead dynamic teams of fundraising, communications, and finance professionals to unprecedented success, raising more than $100 million to enrich the experience, access, and quality of higher education and patient care across the nation.
A graduate of the prestigious post-doctoral Harvard University Institute for Educational Management (IEM), Dr. Agnew holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, where his research explored presidential leadership effectiveness in higher education institutions. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Journalism from Utica College and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Organization and Management from Syracuse University, where he was the 2007 Commencement Speaker at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.
Dr. Agnew served on the Adjunct Faculty at Montclair State University and has taught a variety of courses at Yale University, Rutgers University and Utica College. He was an inaugural fellow of the Pre-doctoral Leadership Development Institute (PLDI) at Rutgers University and frequently lectures on topics including leadership effectiveness, the impact of equity, diversity and inclusion, fundraising, the future of higher education, organizational structures, crisis management, and successful change implementation.
In addition to his career endeavors, Dr. Agnew is a recipient of numerous awards, including being named among Diversity MBA Magazine’s “Top 100 Executives Under 50,” NAACP “W.E.B. DuBois Leadership Award, NJ Biz “Forty Under 40 Award”, the Network Journal “Forty Under 40 Award”, the Mohawk Valley “Forty Under 40 Award, the Utica College “Young Alumni Award”, and a Congressional Citation for outstanding service to his community. Dr. Agnew’s community commitments are also deep, having served on the STATE Theater Board of Trustees in New Brunswick, NJ, and as trustee of the Alpha Alpha Lambda Scholarship and Education Foundation. He has also been recognized three times by the Department of Defense as a Civilian Honorary Commander for Joint Base McGuire Dix- Lakehurst.
In his spare time, Brian is a Life Member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., plays competitive volleyball and is a volunteer firefighter Captain in Piscataway, NJ, where he has received Meritorious Service Awards for rescue operations carried out during both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. He is a proud husband and father residing in the state of New Jersey.
How did you get started in this business?
I have always been highly committed to making an impact in my community, so it does not surprise me that my career has always been in service to others. Whether it is advising organizations on how to navigate crises, facilitating important conversations related to diversity and inclusion, supporting fundraising efforts for worthy causes or assisting to provide health equity in underrepresented minority communities, I have been fortunate to always do what I love. When opportunities presented themselves, I made sure to take advantage of them because they were all a learning experience that provided invaluable experience in these fields. Now, I am grateful to have the opportunity to leverage all of these experiences working with a wide variety of clients in this role. Each day, I am involved in efforts that make a huge impact and have far-reaching effects on the lives of many.
How does your company make money?
Sphinx Minerva Group supports both for-profit and non-profit organizations in developing strategies that move them and their leaders from “Surviving to Thriving”! Our goal is to be our clients’ partner in driving organizational success across all aspects of their operation. . Our practice areas include: Equity Diversity & Inclusion, Organizational Effectiveness, Emergency Management and Preparedness, Fundraising Leadership, Integrated Marketing & Communication.
How does your company go about acquiring new customers?
We are very involved in community outreach and have gained new clients through those efforts. We have also gained clients through word-of-mouth referrals. I think it is very important to establish a good reputation in the community and to be an active member of the community as well. Outside of work, I do a lot of volunteering as well. I am a volunteer firefighter, involved in youth-mentoring programs, and am a motivational speaker. I enjoy the experience of giving back and helping others succeed in any way I can, so the more involved in my community I can be, the better. That commitment and attitude is widely reflected throughout the company which is why we have such great engagement with our clients.
What made you want to work in this industry
My career has provided the best platform to be the change I want to see in the world, to play a key role in the execution, and to help others find their place, as well. It seems also fitting that my passion for helping others and drive for justice and equity have been central to the accomplishment I’ve been humbled to achieve.
What is it that you feel makes you good at your job?
My job rarely feels like work because I spend most of my time solving complex puzzles for our clients. Most approach us because they are trying to overcome challenges or want to create a strategy for being the best they can be. I care deeply about the work we are doing and the amazing team of talented professionals that I have the privilege of working with every day. My commitment and devotion to excellence serves as my drive to be the best I can be every day.
Additionally, my academic background and research led me to pursue a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership and Communication, which dovetails perfectly with the work we do at Sphinx Minerva Group. I also possess a a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Journalism from Utica College and a Master’s in Business Administration from Syracuse University. It is my fervent belief that when you have put in the work developed confidence in your abilities, and learn from your successes (and failures), the result is an unstoppable force of amazing potential.
What are the perks of working in this type of business?
The greatest perk is the wide diversity of clients we get to partner with. One day we are working with a large, multi-national corporate client on COVID-19 protocols for employees returning to work and the next day we are supporting a community-based foundation kick-start a fundraising campaign to support homelessness in minority populations. For someone like myself who enjoys the challenge of multi-tasking this is an invigorating space to be in. Not everyone can say that they feel fulfilled by their job, so I feel very grateful and blessed to be able to consider it one of my “perks”.
What are the disadvantages of working in this field?
Generally speaking, this is an industry where you experience the best of people and unfortunately sometimes, the worst in people. Change is hard to experience and I have personally experienced negative behaviors in response to organizational shifts. The key is to not take it personally while focusing on the strategy, the desired results and the ultimate successes that you achieve.
What’s the most rewarding part of your work?
The most rewarding part of my work is having the ability to make a difference in the lives of others through the professional and philanthropic work we have done at Sphinx Minerva Group. We recently provided services for an oratorical competition empowering young African-American men to develop confidence through public speaking on social justice issues. We are also in negotiations to sponsor an upcoming fundraiser that will provide college scholarships for the same target population, providing greater access and equity to the dream of higher education for young men of color. Opportunities like these are what provided my foundation and without them so many talented young people might not have the chance to pursue their academic dreams, like I was able to.
Where is your industry headed? What excites you about the future in this line of work?
I am very excited to see where we are headed. While COVID-19 devastated our economy on many levels, it also forced many people to embrace technology and a number of innovative strategies to deliver necessary goods and services. Sphinx Minerva Group is uniquely positioned to provide management consulting support services ensuring the continued success of organizations across the country. We have already grown 20% and I expect to see this trend continue as we roll-out an expansion of services, so stay-tuned.
What advice do you give people who want to get into your field of work?
First, I say take your time to experience the ups and downs of life, career and family. So much of what we do is lean on our experience, instincts and knowledge to create strategies for the success of others. Without this background it is difficult to be the best in a consulting environment.
Second, don’t be afraid to work hard. Not only at your studies, but at doing as much community and philanthropic work as you can. Try your best to remove yourself from your individual comfort zone, get out there and see how to help others grow. Fortune is a strange thing because just as easily as it can lean in your favor, it can just as easily and far more quickly shift against you. NEVER forget that!
Third, have a plan B. Establish yourself in multiple ways so that you can leverage each of these experiences as the market shifts.
Finally, and most importantly, find your ‘True North’. A mentor once told me that and I had no idea what he was talking about. He explained that your True North is the grounding force that centers you when (not if) things don’t work out the way you planned. For some it’s family or religion or exercise or reading, so whatever it is for you lean in when necessary to remain your best self!
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Of course, I have benefited from mentoring and hope to give back to those looking to pursue a similar career path. You can contact me at www.sphinxminervagroup.com/brian-d-agnew