From Battle to Business is a podcast about veteran-owned businesses. Dean Van Dyke interviews veterans to learn how they’ve gone from serving in the military to running their very own companies.
Last year, Dean invited me to talk on his podcast, and I was thrilled to do so. Not only because the title of his podcast piqued my interest but also because it gave me a chance to give fellow veterans a chance to get to know how DISC can help them thrive, too.
I apologize beforehand for any potential translation inaccuracies in both the French and English versions. Note that this translation has been generated using AI.
Podcast Intro: Welcome to From Battle to Business podcast. In this podcast, business coach and fellow veteran Dean Van Dyke will bridge the gap between service and civilian life, helping guide veteran business owners to supercharge their businesses and unlock hidden profits. You wouldn’t go into battle alone. Now you don’t have to be in business. Let’s get to it.
Dean Van Dyke: Well, welcome back. This is from Battle to Business with your host Dean Van Dyke, and today I’m fortunate to have the Retired Spy. JJ was known as Operative 431 and is a seasoned veteran of the intelligence branch of the Canadian Armed Forces. He served with distinction as a contact handler on the ground in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Years in the discrete role of human intelligence and counter-human intelligence have driven his desire to understand human behaviour intricacies and pass on that complex notion of interpersonal communication. Although retired from active duty, he’s realized that much of what he’s learned could be utilized in the civilian world, based on the Four Temperament (DISC) Model of Human Behaviour, to better understand and maximize human dynamics. His exclusive training programs provide a comprehensive analysis of communication techniques — empowering individuals to enhance authentic relationships that promote trust, innovation and productivity. Welcome, JJ.
JJ Brun: Dean, you have an interesting name, by the way, because you must have — you know you must have people always asking you – are you related to…
Dean: Oh, Mr. Dick Van Dyke. Yeah, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard the question, but if I had a dollar, I’d be wealthy beyond my dreams —- but don’t know if we’re related.
JJ: It is an easy name to remember. Right? As in, for me, because I’m French. Jean Jacques Joseph Brun – it’s not an easy name to remember or for people to remember. And when I was working overseas, they couldn’t pronounce my name, but they could say John Jack. “Hey, John Jack!” And you know, they thought they were bilingual until one day I was working in the office room, and a British colleague came in, and he needed a stapler, and he said, “Hi, JJ.”
And I’m like, oh okay, I connected the dots. And then I responded, and I got branded. So JJ became the working name, and it’s just easier. So congratulations. You have a name that is easy to remember. Mine was hard to pronounce. My name, Jean – Joseph, because of my godfather name and Joseph because I was baptized in a Roman Catholic church; the one church in our village and my last name is Brun – which is a rough translation, John Brown. So then JJ became the working name. And it worked well for me when I was overseas in Bosnia because if I got into trouble, JJ got into trouble. And again, the government had no clue who JJ was.
Dean: That’s great. Well, the funny thing, a funny story about my name Chat GPT, is all the rage right now. So when I threw my name into Chat GPT, I’d built a prompt for doing some producing on a podcast, and it wouldn’t run. And my mentor, who had developed a similar prompt, he tried running and wouldn’t run. And it kept popping up with an error. It said copyright issues, and you know, it could be a violation of our copyright. And I’m like, what? And he was like, what? Then it hit me. Dick Van Dyke. So yeah, I have to remove my last name if I’m going to run any prompts in there; I can leave my first name and then add it later. But yeah, it was just a technical issue, which neither one of us could figure out, and then it hit me. Oh, yeah, Dick Van Dyke, that’s why they’re doing this. So yeah, we’ve solved that.
But you’re retired from active duty; you’re a spy. Very intriguing. So, how did you get to that point where you were so inspired or that you became a spy and worked in the field?
JJ: Well, my military career was 20 years. I did five years with combat arms. So the French regiment in Quebec City is known as Royal 22e Régiment or Royal 22nd Regiment, it was the French regiment. I did five years, and I progressed quite rapidly — reached the rank of sergeant within less than four years. It’s a blessing, and it’s a curse, right? Because you’re the new breed. You’re bigger, you’re stronger, you’re bilingual, you’re computer literate, but the old guard doesn’t like you. So then it’s like, you know what? I’m not going to be fighting this throughout my whole career. And I decided to change and we’ll see — or to change the career path and the Intelligence Branch — piqued by curiosity. I don’t know why, I just did. I kind of like it because, “Oh, the Intelligence — “ you know, it’s this cool, it’s sexy, it’s exclusive, and they probably have some cool training. And so I got — I was curious, and applied and got accepted. In the Intelligence branch, I was INT OP (Intelligence Operator) number 431 — all the double zeros are taken, so 431, and that’s on my graduation certificate. You get that number, and that’s that’s yours for life. And I just progressed. But what happened is that in the Canadian military, you’re not a spy — you’re an intelligence operator. You’re an intelligence officer. It’s a trade…not like the movies.
We tend to label what we don’t understand. So the whole spy thing, though the branding of the Retired Spy, came about when I was retired. I’m an interpersonal skills expert. I’m a globally recognized authority in communication and relationship development. But that’s not how people remember you. At a networking event, they say, “Oh, that’s JJ. He used to be an operative.” “Well, that’s JJ, careful, he’s a former spy.”
So it kept on coming back over and over and over, and people liked it. They like saying The Retired Spy. After a while, I understood that your brand (identity) is what people say it is!
Dean: Oh, sure.
JJ: I don’t take myself too seriously. So, I just accepted the brand because people tend to label what they don’t understand. And there’s a stickiness to it. But the lane that I’m in, the name of the company is DHC Training Solution — the DHC stands for Decoding Human Capital. Our mission is to equip people for works of service. Our vision is to be the French global authority in the DISC Model of Human Behaviour. People will often find themselves at a disadvantage in business or in their personal lives if they do not use a model to better understand people and/or human dynamics.
In the military, I spent five years within the combat arms, and 15 within the intelligence branch. The last 10 years is where I specialized in the field of HUMINT (Human Intelligence). My claim to fame back then — my Mount Everest story, is that I was the first one selected or volunteered to be a Contact Handler since the Second World War. I was sent over to the UK to be trained as a Contact Handler and later deployed to Bosnia where my role was to cultivate sources within a hostile environment, determine people’s intentions and modify their behaviours, if and when required. Basically, building relationships across cultures by design and not by chance. I had, in the end, over 100 eyeballs working on our behalf to get a sense of what was happening on the terrain so that we could inform the commanding officers so they could make informed decisions as to where to put the resources with what was happening in downtown Mostar.
So it was a fascinating type of work, over your head when you first get into this because, like, oh my gosh. But it’s funny how everything that you’ve done in the past, how it plays in the future. There’s a saying in the speaking business that your mess is your message. Your mess is your message. And I’m like, “My mess? Well, what’s my mess?”
I always had a hard time understanding “What I was supposed to do in life.” In high school you got your parents, you got your friends, you’ve got your professors often asking, so “What are you going to do after high school? What are your goals, what do you want to do?” “What do you want to be?” And they always want you to be like that engineer or that doctor, but I’m not interested in that. I just did not know my strength — I didn’t know anything about me. Sure would have been nice in high school if we had taken a class or an audit to give us a vocational direction.
Dean: Oh, yeah.
JJ: It would have been nice to know that you could have a career in the military – that I had the temperment style for that type of word. So for me, I never wanted to be the Retired Spy. It’s just that I was an intelligence operator. So blue-collar workers. And then, at the end of the last five years, I became a staff officer. So the white collar worker within the field of intelligence and specifically in the field of human intelligence. So quite interesting. And when you look at your mess, it is your message, and your mission in your life, if you so choose to accept it, is to share with others what you’ve learned. So the DHC Training Solution is all about that — all about equipping people for works of service. So whether it’s a corporate government, a municipal, provincial or the federal in Canada, we have those three different distinctions. Whether it’s the education lane, whether it’s the entrepreneurial lane, whether it’s the speaker lane – there’s just so many areas, but they all have one thing in common — they’re all in the people business.
So, with everything that I learned when I was in uniform, I now do more work for the Canadian Government outside than when I was wearing the uniform because I train their trainers in mastering that tool. For me, it’s the Four Temperament Model Of Human Behaviour, also known as the DISC Model of Human Behaviour. But for me, it’s a force multiplier. It multiplies your capabilities, in business or in your personal life, because you’ll see that people don’t do things to you. They do things for themselves. And when you can discern their preferred communication style, you can learn to say the same thing in four different ways. So sometimes you have to be firm. Sometimes you have to be fun. Sometimes you have to be friendly. And sometimes you’d have to be really factual when communicating with others. And in that first case that I had was given to a gentleman in Bosnia. That was my first case as in – here’s the person, and he had been branded as a self-declared mayor of Mostar. He wasn’t the actual mayor.
Dean: He just referred to himself?
JJ: His persona, he was known as the godfather. He was really running plays. He was the godfather, and I’m supposed to build a relationship with that person. How the heck are you going to do that? I’m not a people person. I’m very task-oriented. I know how to do tasks. I’m very good at getting things done. Now I have to go completely on the other side, and I gotta be this friendly, chatty type of person? How the heck do you do that? So, for me, what saved me was there was a speaker who shared the 10 Most Effective Feel-Good Icebreaking Questions. And when he was sharing this as if you memorized this, you’ll always be able to carry a conversation with anyone, anywhere, anytime. I was ready — give me the questions. So I liked it so much that I created a document on it on the 10 Most Effective Feel-Good Ice Breaking Questions and you can actually use it as if you go to the website, you can download a copy of it. Because the first question in there is – “How did you ever get interested in the widget business?” So that’s just a generic — okay, so I reframed it, as in, “I’m just curious.” That’s a good three-word, by the way. “I’m just curious’ ‘ keeps a subconscious mind open. Because he comes up, he comes closer. “I’m just curious. How did you ever get interested in politics?”
Because I was told that if you ask that question at the right place at the right time in the right format, that the person who will talk for 10 minutes nonstop. Well, that self-declared mayor of Mostar did not get that same lesson plan because he talked for 45 minutes nonstop.
JJ: He kept on going and going and going, and I’m just listening. And I’m following the conversation because it goes through an interpreter, it comes back, it goes through interpreting, comes back, and I’m just engaging and listening. But he provides me with so many other avenues to go into. And the more that I was — the more he was talking, the more I was discerning. Okay, is he easy, is he more fast-paced, is he outgoing, is he more reserved. I’m just starting from the base perspective of the speaker. And in this case, he was a little bit more reserved than outgoing. Alright, and then I’m like, “Okay, is he going to lean more on the people side, on a task, well, he was a task — he was definitely a task. Very stoic, he came across as cold and also as defiant. And in the Four Temperament Model Of Human Behaviour, that’s — I’m sensing that’s a CD or a DC style blend. How are you going to want to communicate with that person?
So you know, in a factual and in a firm manner. So it just gives you all these clues and cues to learn to say the same thing in a different way. So the 10 questions, you’ll never have enough time to ask all 10 questions in a one-hour meeting.
Dean: It’s not a bad thing.
JJ: But it gets you a good start. And then, from there, provide you the “I’m just curious.” Three words, then use the four — I have a three, four, five approach — very systematic. “I’m just curious.” “Well, you know how.” Well you know how bla bla bla — so that’s for us to get a sort of like a connection or form a rapport. “Would it be okay?” Would it be okay if we break bread? Would it be okay if we actually have a meeting? Would it be okay if I send you some more information? Would it be okay if you introduce us to…
So the three, four, or five approaches and the better you are at asking questions, the better you are at reading people. I had to go into the theater to learn a system because my biggest thing was that I did not want to be the first Canadian voted off the island. I’m having a survivor moment. You’re the first Canadian This has never been done before. I’m not even with a Canadian unit. I’m living in Medjugorje, which is a religious site — a safe house that’s not really safe. We’re living in the villa everybody knows we’re there because we’re in uniform. And we have military vehicles parked right there, and it’s like, look, this is a target.
So, back then, it was accepted. Today, we would never do operations that way, so it was more of a discrete operation. They knew who we were, but that was just the job back then and how we operated. And it’s just you look back and it’s like okay, but now you’ve got some good stories where you can share with others. What you’ve learned and to help them better connect with people, better communicate, and help grow their business by understanding the human dynamics — the human factor in regards to this.
So I’d like to find that in your podcast it attracted me as an “Oh, ex-military battle just for business.” I’m like, yeah, 20 years in the military. I mean, anybody that’s been in the military, we had our struggles. We had some good days. We had our bad days. But then there’s life after the military. How do you transit out? Well, your mess is your message? I always had a hard time making friends. How many times did we hear right that the military wanted us to have friends? They would have issued us a friend, right? That’s said over and over. I kinda like – “Why are you talking to me? Don’t you have any friends?” I was so out of it. But now I’m going to be evaluated by my ability to make friends in a hostile environment. How the heck do you do that? So it was a struggle. But having a model or reference, the power of the question made everybody want to talk all the time. And you just had to find their hot button. How do you establish and maintain rapport with them? So, it was a part of the questions and levels of listening. But everything that I’ve learned in the military I now apply on the corporate side in helping other people — not to struggle the way that I had to struggle when I was serving in the military.
Dean: Well, you’ve got a — I mean, with the transformation, so you’re training the trainers, but you’re still transforming teams within the Canadian government within corporate. That work that you’re doing is so important because I had taken a DISC profile a few years ago, and I just actually — my mentor, he was “Hey, let’s take a look at that.” Like, let’s not — let’s leave that where that is. And so, within there, it talks about an adaptive style.
Help our listeners understand. So you have your DISC, which is your — is it called the primary profile? No, it’s not called that. What’s your main profile, and then you have your adaptive?
JJ: Yeah, so one graphic — I would call your basic style and then you have your environment style. So there’s two: Environmental style — as in this is how you perceive you need to be in order to be successful in that environment. As the environment changes, so do we. So if I’m, if I’m in traffic, I’m adapting to that type of environment. If it’s bumper to bumper, if it’s very aggressive, if it’s — everyone is going to add a certain, like you’re going to adapt. Once this session is over, I have to bring my daughter to her school — driver school. Okay, well, I’m gonna adapt, I’m going to transit from this state to that state. So, as the environment changes, so do we. Not a problem. But our basic style has less of a tendency of changing. It’s how we tend to operate on automatic pilot. So let me give you an example while I’m wearing glasses. So I have one lens, and I have a second lens. Well, this lens, right, that’s based on my nurture, I’m the sum of all my experiences; that’s my nurture — the way that I was brought up. We are the sum of all of our experiences.
Now, the next lens is based on my nature. That’s how I’m wired, as in I’m the sum of all my ancestors. So your nurture and your nature create these filters that you see life through, no right or wrong, and it’s just different, but we do have two things in common. You’re the sum of all your experiences, and you’re the sum of all your ancestors. So, we want to respect other people’s model of the world. It is just different. There’s well 50 different companies that will teach DISC — not everyone teaches it the same way. Now, I’ve gone down to Atlanta, Georgia, to be certified in training with Dr. Robert Rohm back in September of 1999. So I’ve seen many different formats of the product. And for me, it’s like, wow, and then in 2002, he said, “Why don’t you just train and certify people on our behalf?” So I became their training director. So and, then we hit the course — ex-military, we systemize everything. There’s level one, level two, level three, level four. So, how do you become a master trainer? Because you know, you do your training, and whether it’s a two-day or three-day certification, you’re certified as a Human Behaviour Consultant on a problem. Well, there’s the Advanced Behavioural Studies, and then after that, there’s a Speaker’s Bootcamp – as in how to connect to the D, I, S, C audience. And then, if you want to be an Executive Master Trainer, you have to become a master trainer so that you can certify people on behalf of personality and science. So I designed that whole “process” or “process” depending upon which part of the country
JJ: Yeah. And from there, I now train trainers. And so, like tomorrow, I’ll be running an event, and there’s always going to be 12 people. And in two days, there were some brokers and the realtors. So the brokerage firms. They want to — there’s gonna be a lot of them. There’s gonna be a member from the government, there’s going to be a web developer because they want to do a Behavioural-based Marketing Approach, which is fantastic. There’s one that writes policy. So he specializes in policy writing, and it’s like, well, he wants to be able to write it so that it connects to all four personas.
JJ: So I’m like, well, that’s cool. There’s one that – Mary Kay consultant, and she’s building a big team in the direct selling industry. How do you know when you have to present a product or service an opportunity, how do you present it according to how they’re wired? So it’s a force multiplier — multiplies your capabilities when you have that baseline — that model. So I like it. Not every company teaches it the same way. What I like about Personality Insights is it’s the same owner as in he hasn’t sold a company, and as some have sold like Strengthsfinder — no longer the same owner has been sold and has… And when you know this, sometimes it waters down a little bit at the product. But Personality Insights, Dr. Robert Rohm, still the founder, still the president of the company, is still going strong. So that’s the company that I’ve done work with — the TTI, love their product. It has — never minimize one to elevate yours. They’re all good companies. It just depends. What were you looking for in regard to the application? Are you just learning to grow? Not a problem. Are you looking to create a revenue stream? Because you can by being certified.
Dean: Oh, sure.
JJ: Are you looking to start your own training company? You just need level one. Level one will provide you with enough resources for you to do eight different types of workshops for your clients. So, like law enforcement, the booklet to use as a DISC advantage for effective workplace partnership. Perfect. It’s a full day of training, so you get trained and certified to facilitate that piece. Oh, you want to provide assessment tools like you’ve done yours. Perfect. You want a six-page? You want a 30 page? You want a 50 page, or you want the leadership 65 page?
JJ: It depends on how hungry you are. So there’s different companies out there with different products. There’s 41 style blends. Not every company believes that there are 41 style blends, but if you do the math and you do the research, yeah, there’s more than 16 – just different blend combinations. So there’s a — it’s a great tool, and it’s easy to understand, easy to apply. If you want to follow up afterwards and for us to go through your report. I’d be happy to go through it. If somebody has any questions, they can go to theretiredspy.com and just click on book a session with JJ — complimentary 30 minutes, you’ll see my calendar so that we can have some quality time and see if it’s a fit. Because not everybody needs to be accredited or certified.
JJ: I like it because I was able to use it in my family, as in raising my daughter and raising my son according to how they’re wired. And not according to the drill sergeant.
Dean: That didn’t work out for me.
JJ: Yeah, so because my daughter she was like completely on the “I” quadrant and on the inspiring, influencing, inducing — my son was completely opposite. Cautious, calculating, and conscientious.
Dean: Ohh, okay.
JJ: You wouldn’t raise them the same way.
JJ: You wouldn’t do that. Like when it was March Break, my daughter went to Cancun. When it was March break for my son. He went back to university in the library for the week. My daughter – “Are you crazy?” Right? It’s like, “It’s a reading week.” “No, that’s March Break, as in work, so it’s a week to decompress.” “No, it’s a reading week is supposed to –” So you know they’re completely up at the opposite. So, and there’s a saying that opposites attract. And then they attack when they go up close. So that’s like, and then from that D persona, my wife is from the S persona — we’re opposite, but we’re attracted by the opposite. And then we started attacking when we started saying, “Why can’t you be normal? Like they — ” So.
Dean: Yeah, what’s normal nowadays? That’s the —
JJ: Yeah, but now we do retreats for couples.
Dean: Oh wow.
JJ: For couples, yeah, every year, first week of February, Cancun. All inclusive. I guess —
Dean: I thought you were going to say Ottawa.
JJ: No, you don’t want to come to Ottawa in February – it’s the coldest month unless you like —
Dean: I know that well.
JJ: Yeah, no, you don’t want to do that. Cancun the first week. So it’s a Saturday because we have a membership at the Moon Palace. So we can invite people underneath our membership. So it saves them a few $1,000, and then it’s all-inclusive so they don’t have to worry about the meals, and they get $1,500 of credits for a massage, manicure, pedicure.
JJ: Yeah, my first experience because I was a speaker one time, and it’s funny because I’m not a massage — like a trained interrogator, no touchy touchy. And I was invited to go and speak there — 2 airline tickets, presidential suite all expenses paid at the Moon Palace. I’m like, that’s an eight to seven, eight – that’s about $8,000 plus the flights. That’s about 10k, and all that company wanted they just wanted three hours of me speaking, and I’m not able — I’m not allowed to use PowerPoint. They just wanted me to be there and to be able to say how I apply the Model Of Human Behaviour in my business and in my personal life in a three-hour window on a Wednesday. And it goes, “Can you make it?” Well, let me pray on that – God said yes!
Dean: Yes, imagine that.
JJ: And then I have that $1,500 of credits. And I like it because when you go to the Moon Palace all you do is you just have to pay the tax. So if it’s $100 to have a manicure, then it’s like, well, you have to pay 15% of whatever the tax is.
Dean: Oh, for sure.
JJ: So yeah, not a problem. So my wife wanted to do the manicure and pedicure and then the massage. And I’m like, I didn’t want the massage because I never had one. And it hurt, Dean. It really was painful…at first!
Dean: It does.
Jean: Because I had knots, I didn’t know I had knots, but it hurt. And then I did that manicure and the pedicure, but they have like these massage chairs.
Dean: They do.
JJ: And they serve you these champagnes in orange juice, what do you call that – champagne in orange juice?
Dean: Oh, the mimosa.
JJ: Yeah, as much as you want! And I’m like, I kind of like this! And when he did the pedicures for the feet right?
Dean: It is.
JJ: Yeah. When we did the toes. I’m like, okay. And you know, 20 years in the military – I don’t have, you know, they’re pretty damaged. And she was just going at it, but the chair. Oh my gosh, I would watch a football match on that chair. It was like – “Where did you get that chair?” other than the massage, like that whole experience, and it’s like, then we still have more credits. And then she wanted to do a couple massage and I’m like, “What’s that?” — and it’s 80 minutes. The first one was 25, this is 80 minutes. And again, I went like – she couldn’t read me. She goes you’ll see, It’ll go fast. So we’re there, I got my face in the donut. And then I’m smelling grass — lemongrass? Yeah, they breathe, and she’s just going at it. And I’m like, “Oh my gosh, is she gonna have enough time to do the other side?” because it just feels like she’s only working on one side.
Dean: Oh yeah.
JJ: And then I’m awake. But I’m not snoring, I’m purring and she just like, “Are you sleeping?” No, I’m awake. But I’m sleeping, but I’m awake. I’m conscious.
Dean: Pure bliss.
JJ: And I’m like, “Is this what it feels to be in Zen? Am I in Zen? Is this like peace and harmony?” What happened was I was completely relaxed. I wasn’t thinking about anything. I felt safe. I was just in the moment. And it really felt good. I’m like, “Wow, I can’t believe I waited 53 years back then — 53 years.” So I lost my virginity three times in Cancun, so that’s what I tell people.
Dean: Nice! Yeah, I do the mani-pedi every three weeks with Maria. I can’t add the massage chairs are just that’s an experience all in and of itself.
JJ: I like it.
Dean: Well, this has been great, JJ. So tell us, tell my audience where they can get a free gift. I think you’ve already alluded to that, but let us know where we can find you.
JJ: As simple as go to theretiredspy.com. Completely on it because you’re not going to get anything that’s going to pop up. I don’t think so. But if you go on the main landing page and go completely down. You’ll see the 10 Questions that you can actually download. You just basically go down, and you’ll see the 10 Most Effective Icebreaking Questions.
Hey, if they wanted to book a call, you’ll see this little icon, book a call with JJ is listed below. As you’ll see my calendar to see when I’m available. If I can be of service, then it would be my pleasure to serve, and there are funny stories in there. If you get a chance to go to the website and speak, you’ll see one of the latest presentations that I did called How To Successfully Navigate Hostile Environments Using the F Word. So make sure that if you’re going to watch that, watch it with your spouse, watch it with your wife because…
Dean: I don’t know that I feel obligated to do that though.
JJ: Oh, but that’s because you know about the obligated story. But I give guys hope. So have some fun, have a look at that. It’ll get you a good laugh. It’s just 20 minutes, like a TED talk. But it’s kind of funny. And if I can be of service, it’d be my pleasure. So that’s the easiest thing to do. Just go to theretiredspy.com, and then from there, completely on the bottom, you can get that PDF of the icebreaking questions.
Dean: Awesome. Well, it’s been great having you as a guest. I really appreciate you coming on, and I’ll give you the last word.
JJ: Last word, Wow. Keep Calm and DISC on. It’s a little — as in, sometimes you just gotta be direct, inspiring, supportive or cautious. Just keep calm and just DISC. People don’t do things to you, they do things for themselves. So if you know that, you’ll be able to celebrate people’s differences versus tolerate people’s differences.
Dean: Very true. Very true. Well, have a great rest of your evening.
JJ: Thanks, Dean. You too.