DURHAM — Mary Jo Brown recalls a time in 2003 when things were not going well for her business, and employees were frustrated. Some suggested they “beat up a car.”

“One morning we got everyone into a limo van,” said Brown, founder and president of Brown & Company Design in Portsmouth. “We told them they needed to dress for outside and we told them they were with us for the day. We didn’t tell them what we were doing.”

Brown had purchased a car from a junkyard for $1, and when they arrived at their destination, crowbars and safety glasses were handed out. The employees spent the morning destroying the automobile.

That afternoon, Brown gathered her employees at a gun club and discussed strategy. They regrouped and never looked back.

Brown shared her secrets to success during a CEO Forum at the University of New Hampshire Thursday morning. She said one of the most important things a company leader can do is listen to their workers.

Brown, who graduated from the University of New Hampshire with a degree in art, said she has always relied on mentors to help her with her business.

“Finding mentors is how I really started my business,” Brown said. “They were willing to sit with me and answer questions.”

She encourages others to do the same, and says sometimes she finds a client who also becomes a mentor.

Brown spoke about the environment she has created at Brown & Company Design, where employees are encouraged to bring in items to decorate the office, and parties are held. Every year, there is an Easter Egg hunt with $100 bills and gift cards stuffed into plastic eggs for workers to find.

Brown said these things help create a fun environment as well as loyal employees.

Brown has been recognized numerous times for her contributions to the business community.

She was named to New Hampshire Magazine’s “Remarkable Women” list in 2009, Business New Hampshire’s “Influence Index” in 2014, New Hampshire Magazine’s 2018 “It List” and was recently named as an “Outstanding Woman in Business in 2018 by New Hampshire Business Review.

This was the final CEO Forum for the academic year at UNH.