It was “an absolute chamber of commerce day” in Tennessee as Harry Bryan sat on his back porch and talked with PCT about the topics of blue skies, business and barbeque.
Bryan, a world class barbequer, allows his passion for cooking to soak into all aspects of his life, including his career as a territory manager for Nisus Corporation.
“Following the process of cooking barbeque has really helped me to become much better at my job at Nisus,” Bryan said. “It becomes part of your DNA.”
Growing up, Bryan always enjoyed cooking and drew inspiration from his mother’s home-cooked meals and recipes, which he still references on her website.
“One day, I would say about 30 years ago, I got this idea that I could be a barbeque guy,” Bryan said.
After buying a small smoker and accidentally burning a hole through his wooden deck, Bryan told himself, “Well, I can do better than that,” and the rest is history.
GOING PRO. Bryan cooked barbeque on his own for a few years, but after his boss at Nisus bought a smoker, he began grilling with his colleagues. It was with those colleagues, in 2003, he entered and won the amateur league of an Alabama backyard barbeque competition.
“That really became the launching pad to taking this thing up another notch,” Bryan said.
Following the competition, Bryan bought the 6,000-pound smoker that he uses today and, in 2004, decided to compete professionally. With the confidence of a win and a brand-new smoker, it took a couple hard losses to humble him, and a weekend barbeque class in Lebanon, Tenn., to propel him to major success, Bryan explained. “For a weekend, I learned all the secrets of competition barbeque,” he said.
In 2005, Bryan won grand champion at the Tennessee Barbeque Championship and he placed third in four other barbeque competitions. He also has taken top honors in several meat categories in events over the years — the largest being the American Royal in Kansas City, Mo., where he placed 20th in the brisket category out of 500 teams. “I’ll take that any day,” Bryan said.
Bryan has cooked barbeque in 22 states and has also cooked in Peru for church missions. One of his favorite memories was a competition sponsored by the New York Pest Management Association in 2010 at the Queen’s Country Farm Museum. Bryan chuckled at the memory of rolling the smoker through the streets of New York City.
COOKING FOR CUSTOMERS. After 15 years of competing, the champion retired from competitive barbequing. However, he continues to cook at various company and pest control industry events. Bryan said he enjoys cooking for customers because he believes that good cooking is the great equalizer and can break down a lot of different barriers.
“I learned early on, when you’re cooking for your customers and their employees, it creates a bond,” Bryan said. “It creates a memory that doesn’t evaporate. It becomes entrenched because good memories tend to stay with us.”
Bryan expressed that he only knows how to cook one way and, therefore, tends to cook everything competition style, packing flavor into each bite. He wants the customers at industry events to experience what the judges get to experience at competitions, he said.
“They want to see the love and passion that you put into it, so that’s what we’re going to deliver,” Bryan said.
When asked about the key to being a good barbequer, Bryan stressed the importance of patience and keeping it simple. He shared that many new cooks feel the need to constantly check on their food, but he encourages them to let the smoker do its thing. “If you’re looking, you ain’t cooking,” he said with a laugh.
Similar to barbeque, Bryan expressed that there are keys to being a good salesperson and, just as he aims to form relationships by cooking for customers, he stresses the importance of gaining trust through serving customers in sales. “I think what really makes you very successful is that you have to have a servant’s heart,” Bryan said.
He added that a good salesperson must want to truly help people without expecting anything in return. It is this attitude that fosters trust, one of the three main traits that Bryan believes all salespeople must have.
“Of course, I am going to show them what my product can do, but I want them to be able to feel comfortable coming to me for a lot of different things,” he said.
Bryan said he believes that every salesperson must have trust, integrity and confidence.
“Those three things are what people, subconsciously, are looking for when they’re talking to someone in the sales field,” Bryan said.
He also shared that good salespeople, especially in the pest control industry, are great storytellers because they must communicate an often-complex product in the form of a story that resonates with the customer.
A MILESTONE YEAR. In October, Bryan celebrated 25 years at Nisus, where he and his colleagues first stood behind the grill together.
“I can’t tell you what doing this for 25 years has meant for me, both personally and professionally,” he said.
Bryan came to work at Nisus in 1995 after hand-delivering copies of video promotions that the production company he was working for at the time had created. After learning about Nisus and meeting the owners, he was instantly attracted to their mission and the environment they created.
“When I first started, I didn’t know anything about pest control. Nothing whatsoever,” Bryan said. “I came in, pressed the master reset button and started from there.”
Since his start at Nisus 25 years ago, he has always had the mentality that he was green as grass, he said.
“The word nisus means that you are always striving, always trying to get to the next level,” Bryan said. “That is how I look at my time at Nisus. Always trying to be better the next day than I was the day before, because that is truly the benchmark of who we are at the company.”
Tennessee-based Nisus offers sustainable wood preservatives, such as Bora-Care — which is the product Nisus was founded on in 1987. Bora-Care acts as both a wood preservative and a pest management product due to its toxicity to wood-destroying insects.
In discussing his career, Bryan couldn’t help but recognize the obvious connection to his experience with barbequing, saying that sales at Nisus and barbeque are his two favorite things.
“There is a lot of symbolism between putting out a great barbeque product and putting out a great product. It’s all the same,” he said.
Referring to his two-car garage as his “barbeque lab,” Bryan said that all the talk about barbeque made him want to roll out his smoker and start cooking.
“It could be raining outside, it could be snowing outside, you can have thunder and lightning outside, let me tell you, when you’ve got well-seasoned meat in the smoker, and it is purring along, and you’ve got that wonderful aroma of cherry wood wafting through the smokestack, I don’t care what kind of weather you have, it is always a blue sky attitude,” Bryan said.