In the complex world of international trade compliance, few people possess the expertise, dedication and problem-solving skills that Brad Menard, President of Braumiller Consulting Group, brings to his clients.
With a career spanning decades, Brad has overcome numerous personal challenges, transformed troubled importers into model companies, and saved clients millions in penalty avoidance. As a results-oriented and client-focused industry leader, Brad’s background and experience across multiple industries allow him to identify opportunities and risks that maximise client results.
Brad’s Early Years – from Duty Free to Customs Broker
Brad’s journey in the professional services sector began unexpectedly – he started his career at a duty-free company.
“That job showed me how US Customs worked; about the movement of goods,” Brad says. “This was very interesting to me. I then transitioned to a Customer Broker, where I helped companies get freight cleared at the northern border. I found the regulations and requirements behind importing challenging and, oddly, exciting.”
It was at this point that Brad realised he was interested in becoming licensed by US Customs as a Customs Broker – helping businesses navigate the complexities of customs checks. He had a passion for solving problems and assisting companies in achieving compliance. It was an ideal job. “I was really up for the challenge.I was successful in passing the exam and becoming licensed after less than 2 years in the trade.”
“Importing and exporting is a complex area. Being able to help companies be more compliant while mentoring and watching internal professionals grow excited me.”
Despite facing numerous challenges in the early years, Brad’s determination and problem-solving skills allowed him to overcome them.
“I was given a number of really challenging jobs in the first 2 years – and I was able to successfully resolve all of them. One of the most memorable was turning a once troubled importer into one that US Customs respected and referenced during speeches as a model company.” This achievement showcased Brad’s ability to transform companies and make a lasting impact in the industry.
Climbing the ranks
Brad’s career has not been without its fair share of obstacles. From office politics to dealing with unhappy clients, Brad learned quickly on the job.
He understood the significance of separating personal problems from the workplace and maintaining a positive mindset.
“It’s really important to focus on what is ahead,” he says. “Making sure you do more than what is expected and make a difference. You will always run into challenges, whether it’s coworkers who are jealous of your success or clients who can become very difficult to deal with. It is important not to get complacent and too comfortable in your day-to-day work.”
“Always be forward thinking and do not allow things that aren’t important to stand in your way. Sometimes it is a challenge to stop what you are doing and listen to people’s problems outside of work, but it’s important to take time to do that. Without a great team, I would not be successful and where I am today.”
Specialising in International Trade
Brad’s specialisation in international trade is not a career path he stumbled on by chance. Rather, it was a conscious decision made from his experiences in the job: “With over 40 agencies regulating importing, knowing what to look for and how to navigate this complex area is fulfilling. Helping companies successfully pass audits and saving companies millions in penalties is so gratifying.”
For younger or more junior professionals aspiring to reach the level of success Brad has achieved, he offers valuable advice – always do the job you want to achieve and not the job you are hired for: “Nothing is automatic, you must earn your way to the top. Don’t give up; try to separate yourself from negative people. Don’t allow personal problems to trickle into the workplace.” “If you fall, get up and try harder. Good deeds are awarded to those who strive for success.”
Meeting client expectations
Providing clients with the service they expect is hugely important for Brad. He believes in understanding the client’s needs and expectations from the start, and then putting the right professionals or teams in place to handle each engagement.
“Honesty, keeping the client updated on progress and challenges is key”, he says. “Being organised and communicating are two things clients expect while staying within the budgeted time allotment. Surprise invoices and subpar results lead to unhappy clients. We want our clients to be partners and not just one-time projects.”
In Brad’s practice area, he predicts a significant demand and opportunity involving the issue of forced labour. With US Customs intensifying its focus on this, Brad aims to educate and raise awareness among clients. Being proactive and implementing robust processes will help clients to navigate potential audits and avoid disruptions to their importing operations. Technology plays a vital role in tracing complex supply chains and Brad acknowledges the need to partner with technology companies to assist in these efforts.
“Clients are aware and educated before Customs starts asking questions,” he says. “Many of our clients import – this is part of their business model. Having products stopped at the border while Customs investigates their business, will hurt their success.”
“Being proactive and making sure processes are in place will help the importing success of our clients. It is nearly impossible to trace a supply chain without software and technology. Partnering with technology companies is key to gathering the tools to assist tracing efforts.”
Looking to the future
Brad has a clear plan in place to grow his business over the next 5-10 years. As a boutique consulting practice, he recognises the challenges of competing with larger firms. However, he believes clients are increasingly choosing smaller firms with a more personalised service and expertise. By adding a Vice President to the consulting practice in 2024, Brad aims to expand into new areas. The key to success lies in maintaining a team of seasoned professionals with decades of experience.
We are a boutique consulting practice, so it is sometimes challenging to play in the same arena as the large consulting companies. But I will say that clients are leaving the large consulting companies and going with smaller firms like ours. The services we can offer and our results are better. “Many large firms have junior staff, learning on accounts instead of seasoned professionals with decades of experience. We only use consultants with 10+ years’ experience, giving the client a more precious result while keeping the cost affordable. Clients appreciate that.”
Brad usually wakes up early, two hours before arriving at the office. Arriving at about around 7am, he prepares for the day ahead, which starts to become busy about 8am. The rest of the day is spent in meetings, on special projects and in one-to-one meetings. Then he heads home. When Brad is not spending his time in international trade compliance, he loves showing off his culinary skills to friends and family. Everyone agrees he’s a great chef and even his work colleagues get to sample his food. “After work is when I spend time with my family and friends. I always find it funny when I hear work / life balance. A better term is my home / work life balance. Both aspects are very important to me. Nothing is more important than my family, friends and work colleagues and I like to entertain them all when I can.”