Meet Ian Brenner
Ian’s journey to B. Riley Farber began as a client when he engaged the firm to advise him through the complexities of a restructuring. He became so impressed with Farber’s collaborative culture, professionalism, and people, that he decided to join the firm in 2011. Ian’s first assignments involved various turnaround and interim management work for clients, but it was his desire for entrepreneurial challenges, to create career opportunities and build value that got him developing new lines of business within Farber.
Today, Ian oversees both the Interim Management & Executive Search and the Performance Improvement practices, which together have grown to about 20 professionals, and counting.
Cycling: The Power of The Peloton
When he’s not working, Ian loves to jump on his bike and go for long rides. “I was originally a runner but was looking for a fitness activity with more social interaction and less punishment on the body,” he says. “My wife introduced me to spinning classes, which I liked, but I seemed to be sweating a great deal without actually getting anywhere. Standing still is not an option for me, so I started riding with a couple of friends in the neighbourhood and soon this became a passion for me.” For Ian, cycling has many dimensions, “Sure, there’s the fitness aspect but it’s really about the personal connections you build since you really get to know people when you’re out there. Conversely, if I’m looking to detach, there’s an element of mindfulness when I ride by myself—it’s my way of recharging,” he confesses.
Ian also began riding for social causes, such as cancer charities, after family members were touched by the disease. “Plus, there’s a powerful metaphor with business,” he notes. “It’s the peloton theme which has become a term of endearment for our teams. By working together as a peloton, we expend less energy and we get to our goals quicker.” He even provides his team members with hand-crafted wire bikes, sourced from his native South Africa, as a reminder of this impactful lesson.
Building Models, Big and Small
“I used to build model cars and airplanes when I was younger, the kind you’d assemble from a kit and then paint,” Ian recalls. “Lately, I’ve had a real yearning to revisit it.” But there is a bigger model he’s looking to assemble. It so happens Ian has a passion for vintage cars and he’s recently commissioned the restoration of a sports car—a classic bright red 1962 MGA—that he drove in his twenties. “I’m looking forward to some fun with it when it’s ready for the road.”
Other interests? Watching Netflix with the family is definitely a highlight, especially if it’s a psychological thriller or a historical piece. In addition, if there’s one skill he’d like to learn, it probably would be archery. “Archery involves a certain mindfulness, similar to cycling,” he observes, “but it also demands concentration and absolute focus.”
The Urge to Explore
“I always look for opportunities to push myself into zones of discomfort because you never know where it will lead.” For Ian, this applies to things as simple as conversations with new acquaintances, and as adventurous as international travel. A favourite destination is Greece since he loves the food and the often stark, contrasting scenery of the Greek Isles. “I’m pretty sure I was Greek in a previous life,” he muses. He’s also a big fan of visiting the African continent – particularly South Africa, where he grew up. Despite his love for the country that accepted him and his family as immigrants, “you can’t forget or ignore your roots,” says Ian. “It’s what defines who you truly are, and it’s why I remain passionate about giving back to the continent through not-for-profit work.”
Coming back to Farber, Ian sees the essence of the firm’s culture as fostering the entrepreneurial spirit, both with clients and colleagues. “Entrepreneurs are sometimes known to be soloists who don’t play well with others, but that’s not us—we combine our passion to co-create value with a culture of cohesiveness and empowerment.”
As for the firm’s 40-year history? “I think it’s an amazing accomplishment, one needs to respect your heritage, but I get concerned about reflecting for too long and taking comfort in the status quo,” says Ian. “Things are moving at light speed, so to stay relevant we need to be thinking about the future and our next 40 years.”
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