A Life of Fate and Faith
Brown Flynn. Sometimes it sounds like one word. And Barb Brown and Margie Flynn are often seen working together, speaking at events together and being out in the community together. Couple that with their long history and similar values and one might think that they are duplicates of each other.
While they do share the same values and ideals, the two women are distinct personalities with their own distinct talents, styles and responsibilities. To fully understand Brown Flynn, you need to understand Barb Brown and Margie Flynn as individuals. And to get to know Barb and Margie you need to know about Brown Flynn.
It was in Lagrange, Illinois, just outside of Chicago, that Barb Brown was born on August 9, 1960. She is the baby of five children.
Barb came to Cleveland to attend John Carroll University because she wanted a Jesuit education. Her brothers all had what she considers outstanding educations at the hands of the Jesuits and she knew it was something she wanted too.
"Jesuits stress service too, and that interested me a lot." At the time, the Jesuit universities in and around Chicago were not co-ed, so she chose John Carroll. She received a degree in Communications when she graduated in 1982.
She met her husband Chuck in her senior year. "I lived on campus and he was a "Day Hop". After college she went back to Chicago and he went to law school in Columbus. Two years later they were married and Barb moved to Columbus where they lived until 1987.
While in Columbus Barb worked for a real estate development company that manufactured homes (Cardinal Homes), as their marketing director. "I even got to wear a hard hat sometimes while I was out working. It was an important job for me because I got to see things being assembled and see all of the pieces come together. I could look at things objectively and point out things that were slowing down the process as well as things that were working really well."
She still believes that her training there taught her many valuable lessons including managements need to see the effect of their decision making. "When management is operating in the dark the company will suffer eventually."
Chuck passed the bar and was working for a Supreme Court Justice in Columbus in 1986 when Barb was pregnant with their first child, Tom. The Justice was not re-elected and Chuck was out of work. They moved to Cleveland where Chuck's parents lived (Cleveland Heights) and lived with them for awhile.
"My mother-in-law is a saint. First, I brought way too much stuff, but just imagine there we were on the doorstep and she was just wonderful!"
Chuck opened his own practice and they bought a house right up the street from her in-laws. "It was a strange time for mothers and careers. There were not a lot of jobs available with flexibility then."
She knew she didn't want to be in a situation where Wednesday felt like Sunday. "And'" she says "I always knew I wasn't Martha Stewart". In fact, all of the girls in her family were given an elaborate sewing machine as a graduation gift. She put her foot down and made it clear she did not want a sewing machine. They gave her a desk instead.
Chuck went to work for Probate Court and Barb dabbled in a number of jobs to keep busy and to bring in some extra money. She remembers working doing customer surveys from home and then working evenings as an administrative secretary at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. By then she had her second child, Danny and "I would come home and diagnose my kids with every disease I had read about that day."
She tried doing freelance work, but as any freelancer will tell you it's "feast or famine" and she needed something more reliable. One day her husband came home and very nicely pointed out that she was still in her pj's.
"I wasn't - they were very cute sweats, but the effect was the same. And I actually heard myself tell him that Sesame Street was really great that day."
Her husband (again with the utmost kindness) sat her down and said "I did not marry Tom and Danny's mom or Chuck's wife. I married Barb and I don't want to loose Barb." What a wake up call that was for her and "I never loved him more - he is truly my hero!"
"Fate and Faith" took over again and she got a call from her friend Margie Flynn explaining that there was a part time position available, working with her, at National City Bank. Margie was sure to let Barb know that she was not the decision maker and didn't want anything to jeopardize their friendship if Barb was not hired.
"I was thrilled with the chance. I was so fortunate. I went from full time work to being at-home to a career!" It became a career instead of just a job for Barb very quickly. She had her background in corporate management that helped her with a keen knowledge of people and some of the basic dos and don'ts of the business world.
The position was basically to work with Margie to help National City develop value for employees and act on it. Among the wonderful things that happened while she was working at National City was the birth of her third child in 1992, Katie.
Barb Brown and Margie Flynn
After six and a half years of what became a very successful work share program, Barb and Margie knew it was time to venture out on their own. With National City Bank as their first client, Brown Flynn was created.
Barb truly puts family first. Her husband has much more regular hours than she does and often does the cooking. "He's not a trained chef but he sure cooks like one!" They sit together for family dinners, but not before holding hands and praying together. They spend the dinner hour talking about their day.
Her son Tom is a student at the University of Dayton, Danny is a Jr. at Ignatius High School and daughter Katie attends St. Gregory's Grade School. She's on the basketball and volleyball team and is currently acting in their school play.
Her boys are very service minded and interested in giving back. "When Monsignor Novickey was at St. Gregory's they would have a Christmas and Easter dinner for people who were lonely or had no place to go. Since we only had one set of parents here we did not have all of the running from place to place like so many people do." So, as a family, the Browns would help with the dinners every year and spend time with the lonely people.
The boys are active in the Labre Ministry program through St. Ignatius High School. Labre deals with the community and the specific needs of the homeless. Her son, Danny, is going to New Orleans over Easter - not for Spring Break, but to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Kristina.
The Brown and Flynn kids
"My husband and my kids are my heroes. I am just so proud of them. I just can't even express how special they are."
Barb belongs to a book club ("it's more about getting together every 6 weeks or so then it is about the books") and attends the theater. They have season tickets to Playhouse Square. She and Chuck like to have friends over and do things that involve the kids too, like Sausage Making Night or a Super Bowl Party.
Her family is still in Chicago, so she tries to get back three or four times a year.
Though she has spoken in front of many large groups, Barb is surprisingly shy in a "small talk environment." Although she knows that she is a confident person she is not in her element when the conversation is superficial.
"I am the type of person who is genuinely interested in who a person is and I want to relate and find commonality. So I find myself opening up to them much too quickly, assuming that they will do the same. Often, they don't." She feels that if she shows her vulnerability, other people will think it is safe to be vulnerable with her.
There is something contagious about Barb's smile. You come away from meeting her with a sense of tranquility - you somehow just know that everything is going to work out.
She is confident and yet open to input and you can tell she is genuinely concerned about you and those things that are important to you.
If you attempted to sum up Barb Brown in one word, it would most likely be "genuine". She is true to herself and her faith and it shows in her successful business undertakings.
Profiled by Debbie Hanson
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