Ep. 12 – Bret Johnson: Director Of Channel Management & Development at AICPA

My guest this week is Bret Johnson, Director of Channel Management and Development at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). For the past 20 years, he has worked to build partnerships and grow businesses, especially in the learning space.

Bret was hired by the AICPA to focus on partnerships and business development. His team looks for different routes to market, handles licensing, works with publishers and grows state society relationships. “Anything that we create in number learning and competency, my team helps to take up.”

The Director of Channel Management and Development did not exist at the AICPA until Bret was hired in February 2014. “Even though Channels is a practice that has been around a long time, in a lot of cases, it’s sort of a little incubator inside of a different organization. You could say I’m in constant startup mode.”

Bret’s biggest challenge at the AICPA is internal education. “There’s a certain amount of fear when it comes to working with partners. You have to trust; you have to take a bit of a leap of faith. And then there’s this understanding that doing business in a different way requires flexibility, it requires forgiveness.”

One of the difficulties of internal education is student perspective. Some view attending professional education as compliance, while others view it as an opportunity to learn. “They couldn’t be more different. Learning you’re exploring, compliance you’re following a set act.” If you’re having trouble getting through an internal education process, remember: the best place to network is in class, and one of the best forms of marketing is referral.

Bret has been using improvisational techniques to develop positive relationships for years, but Improv is no Joke helped him apply the “Yes, and” mindset to other aspects of his life. He has applied these techniques internally at his job, in addition to at home. Improv even helps Bret manage office politics. “There are agendas. It helps you to understand what others are trying to accomplish, because that’s a listening skill, and by using ‘Yes, and’ you’re not even really playing politics; you are digging in and collaborating. It kind of puts politics aside.”

Bret views building relationships and building partnerships as the creative process in practice. You can’t go in with a set expectation, or it’s not going to fit the dialog. Through collaboration and improvisation, we can develop stronger relationships and better business ideas.

I greatly appreciate Bret taking the time to come on the show. I had a lot of fun, and I love how Bret is applying the “Yes, and,” mindset to produce positive outcomes in his workplace and at home.




  • The power of improv in developing partnerships and businesses
  • Why Channels Management is like working in constant startup mode
  • Difficulties in internal education processes
  • How to develop positive relationships with partners