When Michael Brown was young, his father shared some savvy business advice: get good at golf. That’s where great business deals and relationships are made. The better you are at golf, the more people will want to play with you and eventually work with you, his father explained. 

Now a business owner himself, Brown has spent the past 30 years learning how to lead successful companies – and brush up on his golf skills. He is currently chairman and CEO of Skyline Robotics, a company that has revolutionized the window cleaning industry. 

Brown, a 1994 graduate of Syracuse University, shared his own hard-earned business advice with students during his commencement speech in May for the School of Information Studies. He was also featured on the iSchool’s “Infoversity” podcast and shared more tips to help students succeed in their careers. 

“​​If you want to lead your own company, you have to have an entrepreneurial spirit,” Brown said. “​​You have to have a positive attitude if you’re leading. Yelling at people and belittling people is just not right. I’m into respect.”

As a third-generation Syracuse University alum – his son is the fourth generation – Brown shared how he has used listening, LinkedIn and other skills to transform his company.  

Becoming a good listener is one of the most crucial skills to master and can help create a better culture. But don’t just listen to further your business, he says. Find out what people are passionate about and ask about their family life outside of work. If people know you’re invested in them as a person, not just an employee, they will be motivated to work harder and be more loyal.

“Sometimes people need different types of motivation and inspiration,” he said. “It’s tough to build that culture. You have to be a people person.”

Hear Michael talk about his journey to becoming the chairman and CEO of Skyline Robotics

Brown encourages young entrepreneurs to get a job after college and see what it’s like working for a company instead of jumping into leading a business. Learn how to navigate managers and workplace politics. Discover what you like and don’t like about your workplace environment and your boss’ management style so you can avoid the same pitfalls when you start a business. 

He also advises students to use LinkedIn to make connections with people they’d like to work with. If you can find people who graduated from Syracuse, that’s even better and can help make the connection easier. 

“LinkedIn is a phenomenal tool,” he said. “It’s probably the largest business repository of contacts.”

Brown has seen a lot of young entrepreneurs who have great business ideas but lack the skills and focus to get their ideas to market. But no matter how much experience you have, there’s always more to learn. Brown has learned that as he has tried to support 12 of his employees who work at the company’s headquarters in Israel and have been engulfed in war. 

“That has changed my whole outlook on life,” he said. “It’s a learning experience.”

Brown has run businesses during other challenging times as well, including Sept. 11 and a recession, and says that’s why it’s important to surround yourself with the right people at work and in your personal life who are supportive. 

“You can’t ever do it alone,” he said. “Technology is great, but you need human interaction and relationships to live and be happy. I’ve never met a happy loner in my life.”