As part of the Centennial Celebration at Ball State, author, trainer and business executive Mo Bunnell, ’90, recently returned to the Miller College of Business as an Executive-in-Residence. He met with faculty and students, sharing knowledge acquired during his career.
Bunnell is founder and CEO of Bunnell Idea Group and has taught business development skills to over 12,000 professionals around the world. His methods are found in his new book, “The Snowball System: How to Win More Business and Turn Clients into Raving Fans.”
During his visit, the Atlanta-area resident shared insights from his book as well as a few memories from his time on campus. Bunnell may be the only actuarial science major ever named Homecoming King. The Delta Tau Delta fraternity alumnus remains very active with the organization. As an undergraduate, he was involved in Cardinal Corps, Mortar Board and other campus organizations.
What is Mo Bunnell doing today?
I run an organization known as the Bunnell Idea Group. We do super high-end business development training for professionals all over the world. We help people who have really deep expertise learn how to find people to purchase that expertise. I’m also a very proud graduate of Ball State.
Explain the transition from being a young professional to becoming a trainer and author.
I started as an actuary at Hewitt Associates, and I loved doing that. Being an actuary taught me how to learn, and how to learn quickly. Then (at Hewitt), I finished all the exams to earn the profession’s highest designation and was quickly promoted to a broader account management role. With this new role of having to sell – which we called business development — I took the approach from being an actuary. I tried to learn the new skills I needed quickly and apply them right away. I decoded all the ways people authentically sell to others. I focused on being strategically being helpful. I figured it out on a step-by-step basis, which turned out to be very effective.
At this point, you decided to start a new career?
Correct. I fell in love with business development, and after being promoted to Hewitt’s leadership, I fell in love with teaching others business development. I left to start Bunnell Idea Group, did a lot more research and created our training system, GrowBIG. People came out of the woodwork to find us and be trained, and our clients have had so much success after their training that the word keeps spreading. Now, we’ve trained about 12,000 people all over the world. I’ve found the skills I needed for myself to advance my career is something that other people want too.
The next step is the new book?
A couple of years ago, I realized our corporate training was pretty expensive. A corporation can pay a couple thousand dollars to put someone through our training, but a new graduate or someone just starting a solo career doesn’t have that kind of money. We felt like the best way to help this broader group would be by packaging the concepts we teach in our training into a book that someone can buy for a $20 bill. At this point, people can learn at their own pace. Now, I’m out promoting the book, called “The Snowball System.” I think we can put our mark on the world with it. It’s really exciting for me.
How was college? Do you think the investment paid off?
I walked into college as a 125-pound skinny, geeky introvert. Heck, I was afraid to walk up to people and talk to them. But, I got involved in various organizations, including being president of Delta Tau Delta, and quickly learned to speak in front of 100 people every single week at chapter meetings. I did things like that on a regular basis for several years. I would have never received that kind of opportunity on any other campus. It was the technical rigor of learning actuarial science in the classroom, combined with the experience of being a student leader, that made me what I am today. Ball State was an amazing experience. And, I met my wife to boot!
What advice would you give to today’s college students?
Simply, pay attention to both technical and people skills. Let’s say you are an accountant and you want to pass the certified public accountant exam. You can get laser focused on that because it’s right there. But, the people who are successful later in life are the ones who have the ability to interact with people. We call that people skills. You need to learn how to listen, communicate and relate to others.
Why are people skills important?
By the time people really get into their careers — say 10 years after they graduate — everyone has the technical chops. They know how to do their jobs, and most do it well, but the range of people skills are more varied. You have some people who want to hide in the back of the room while others are at the front, leading the way. Individuals who are focused on developing and honing their people skills and have good technical skills are the ones leading companies, divisions and practices. They are taking on the big roles because they can do it all.
Is it difficult to become a leader?
Yes, but it is a learned skill. Introverts can learn it just as well as extroverts. But, you have to learn how to cast a vision and clearly communicate to people. You must be able to set a strategy and plan implementation to say, “This is where we’re going and how we are going to get there.”
Funniest memory of being an undergraduate?
I distinctly remember not having much money. Domino’s was running a promotion where you could tear the tab off a box and if you got 10, you got a free pizza. So, a good friend and I were diving in a dumpster late one night outside of our residence hall to get those tabs. Suddenly, the police car came around the corner with the lights flashing. We didn’t tell them what we were doing because we were afraid of losing our pizza tabs. So, I can’t remember what we said, but we convinced the policeman to let us go. And we got our free pizza. That was my freshman year. I guess we sold an idea to that policeman—maybe that was the beginning of me learning people skills.