Brand Makeovers: Antonia Hock Of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center On The 5 Things You Should Do…

Brand Makeovers: Antonia Hock Of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center On The 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be Specific and Disciplined about your Identity: Consumers want to connect with brands that have a specific identity that speaks directly to them. As a brand you cannot be generic, appeal to all, and be successful. Take a stand and have a focused, disciplined identity that appeals to the specific demographics you target. Peloton has done an exceptional job of focusing on consumers that are passionate about fitness, but crave a connected, yet private, community experience. They have built a platform that supports and engages this specific demographic, and their reward has been huge year over year growth and an enviable social media following of passionate consumers.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Antonia Hock.

Antonia Hock is the Global Head of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center where she leads a dynamic advisory business focused on innovating the Customer Experience (CX) and Talent Experience (TX) for clients worldwide.

Antonia is a sought-after, author, thought leader and frequent global keynote featured speaker. She is considered a global expert on organizational transformation and building experience-based brands, creating a culture of customer-centricity, empowering employees and issues around diversity in the workforce, and innovating experiences for the future.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I came to terms early in my career that I was driven towards chaos, turn-arounds, new ideas, start-ups — anything that was a “build” vs. a stable, run-rate business that needed only incremental improvement to thrive. I also love working with big brands that have resources and an appetite for being market-makers through innovation and calculated risk. This led me to work for fast-moving progressive companies like Microsoft, HP, and Siemens where I earned a reputation as a maverick: the one you call when you have a big challenge with high stakes attached.

When I was presented with the opportunity to work for a heritage brand like The-Ritz-Carlton — but with the new twist of taking that legendary service to market by building a methodology that can be implemented in the Fortune 500 to drive business performance, I knew I had to jump. Over the past five years, I’ve grown this business from training to a global consulting firm known for excellence.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This is not a funny mistake per se, but it is poignant and indelible one that I observed early in my career. Our entire regional leadership team was meeting for a full day workshop, and there were eight of us seated around a table. Our Regional Vice President was running the meeting. Two of us were women, and at the end of the day, my fellow female colleague had said very little. She diligently took notes and listened intently all day. At the end of the meeting, our Vice President asked her to stand up and said in front of all us that she should go clean out her desk because she failed to contribute to our meeting and our future. And that very day, she was walked out of the building. She was smart, but never found the confidence to use her voice. The lesson is to always find your contribution, cultivate your brand, and make a mark. Every time, no exceptions. Everyone has great ideas and insight. Never let circumstances intimidate you, quiet your creativity, or silence your best ideas.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

My tipping point was not an event, but rather a realization. When I discovered that my ability to be authentic was tied to my work performance, I sought out career opportunities that allowed me to bring more of my true self to my work. When I started to do that, I saw a direct correlation to my success. Authenticity is tied to discovering what you do well, expressing your work style, and connecting to your purpose in your professional world. When you bring these into alignment for yourself, great things happen!

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center is focused on making seismic shifts in the brand identity of some of the biggest brands in the world. We start this journey by focusing on human capital. The way each of us experiences a brand is through the humans that represent that brand — either in person, online, or through channels created and administered by those humans. Recently, we worked with a large sports franchise aspiring to be a world-class sports experience brand through their 2,000 game day employees. After we implemented a new strategy with this franchise, one of their leaders pulled me aside and said that several game day employees expressed shock that they would be able to attend sessions from The Ritz-Carlton. One lady said that this was a watershed moment in her life, “As an hourly employee, I’ve never work for a company that empowers you, believes in you, and invests in you like this.” This sports franchise is now winning awards for outstanding game-day fan experiences delivered by these employees!

Everyone in our business believes that great service, exceptional experiences, and a culture of trust and empowerment will change lives and businesses. We know the multiplying effect of our work impacts millions of employees, their families, the customers that they touch, the communities where they live, and the businesses that they serve. When you operate with the mandate to change lives, create competitive advantages through service, and help build cutting-edge experience-based businesses, purpose is central to everything that you do every day.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be disciplined about what you undertake and trust your own experiences to guide you. Surround yourself with diverse ideas and people that inspire you! It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the sensory overload in marketing today, so take the time to be inspired by brands that inspire YOU. We are surrounded every day by people who are pushing the envelope and trying fascinating new strategies. Let that inspire your next move, and be fearless.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is all about building your identity, what you stand for, and who you are across your enterprise. Your identity connects your brand to your consumer, and the deeper the connection, the more binding the relationship will be. Product marketing, in contrast, is focused on driving transactions for specific products or driving sales for a category of items. I fundamentally believe that consumers today buy brands, not just products. If you are not invested in having a clear brand identity that is expressed across every touch, you will not ultimately be successful. Too few companies are investing in building their brand identity, and they struggle to understand why their products aren’t “sticky”. In the luxury segment, consumers are loyal to brands, not to products.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Consumers today want to have a meaningful connection to the brands that they endorse. This means that they are proud to be affiliated with your brand, they stand for the same things you stand for, and that there is a deep connectedness to the way that they experience your brand. General marketing and advertising are a part of this work, but to create this magic, you need to be disciplined about your brand pillars, know your consumer’s deepest desires, aspirations and goals, and then innovate carefully around how you express your identity in the market.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

Companies can and should consider rebranding for a few reasons: if you have grown by acquisition, and, as a result, you have a variety of cultures, operating models, and public images, that is a good time to consider rebranding. If you your business has dramatically evolved over time, and your brand is out of sync with your primary business levers, that is a good time to consider rebranding. If your brand is struggling with relevancy to modern consumers, you have already launched efforts to address this unsuccessfully, and you have low general brand equity in the market, that is a good time to consider rebranding.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

I think that any companies with a long historic legacy as well as the category of luxury heritage brands should consider a “strong evolution story” vs. an outright rebranding. That history, the urban lore associated with it in many cases, and the rich storytelling affiliated with these brands can be lost during the process of rebranding.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  • Invest in Passionate Advocates: No matter what channel you choose, a brand without passionate advocates will fail to connect. Invest in building a great culture first where passion and commitment are cultivated and supported. That will translate directly to customer engagement. Chick-fil-a is a great example of a brand that has passionate advocates driving brand success every day. I recently had a customer tell me that she pulled up to a store in the pouring rain, and she was waiting for the storm to subside to come inside to eat. A Chick-fil-a employee noticed and came out with an umbrella to escort her into the restaurant. She could not stop smiling, raving, and posting all over social media about her experiences. In her own words, she is now a “Chick-fil-a customer for life!”! This underscores that the way a consumer experiences a brand will drive loyalty and, in turn, results.
  • Be Specific and Disciplined about your Identity: Consumers want to connect with brands that have a specific identity that speaks directly to them. As a brand you cannot be generic, appeal to all, and be successful. Take a stand and have a focused, disciplined identity that appeals to the specific demographics you target. Peloton has done an exceptional job of focusing on consumers that are passionate about fitness, but crave a connected, yet private, community experience. They have built a platform that supports and engages this specific demographic, and their reward has been huge year over year growth and an enviable social media following of passionate consumers.
  • Create Indelible Human Experiences: In a world of constant stimulation and options, the strongest brands are creating authentic connections that support meaningful memorable moments. As a consumer, if I share some important information with you, and you fail to turn it into a “moment”, you devalue your brand and you devalue consumer trust. A brand that gets this right is The Ritz-Carlton. If you share your birthday or anniversary, special moment, tiny detail of your stay, or simply give us an opportunity, we will find away to turn that into a “brand defining moment”. When I joined the brand 3 years ago, I checked into The Ritz-Carlton in Dallas from a long day of difficult meetings, a rain-soaked flight delay, and a quick turn around in morning. I was on my last few squeezes of tooth paste — just enough to get through the night and the morning. When I returned to my room late that next day, I had a full new tube of toothpaste on my sink. I did not ask for that toothpaste. It was given openly by another human who saw my need. I was “wowed” by the housekeeper’s thoughtfulness. Years later, I still love to tell that story.
  • Personalize your content & anticipate desires: The brands with a devoted following know that creating personal connections with consumers drives loyal behavior. The next step beyond this personalization is the anticipation of needs that demonstrates genuine care and connection. Brands that can show this degree of “commitment” and “relationship” create a 1-to-1 rapport that drives viral followings. Nike has invested heavily in technology that creates this type of connection to the individual consumer. As a NikeID member, when you approach many of their stores, geo-fencing picks up your presence and alerts the sales associates to pull items that match your preferences in your size to present to you in store. This behavior not only personalizes your experience, but it also anticipates your tastes, and acknowledges that, as a loyal consumer, you matter to the brand.
  • Be Honest and Authentic in your connections: Research shows that the coveted Millennial and GenZ consumers want to engage with brands that have a definitive point of view on social, business, and environmental topics. As a brand, you cannot be non-committal or neutral on important generational issues. Part of being authentic is to find a way to consistently express your brand values, so you connect with your desired consumer. Athletica is a great example of a brand that is leading with a core social statement. When you log into Athletica’s app, the first screen you see is that they are a “Proud Certified B Corp”. You do not see products, offers, or other advertising. Instead, you see this strong statement about their commitment to a social movement that balances their supply chain, employees, and environmental impact with their profit. This is another way to connect with the heart of your consumers and drive that authentic brand connection.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

While this is not an official brand makeover, I think that Gucci has done a brilliant job of strongly evolving their heritage brand into a modern, cutting-edge arbiter of culture, pushing the envelope with collaborations and experimenting over the past few years with truly innovative style. Gucci has created a set of experiences across all their channels that taps into the aspirations, desires, and feelings of consumers. By pushing the envelope with their store experience, their visual merchandising, and the way they integrate technology to drive personalization, Gucci has proven that they can outperform their peers. In a luxury segment that is crowed with choices, consumers are proud to be affiliated with Gucci, and they covet the opportunity have that next experience and buy that next item. Brands that want to recreate this should seek immersive experiences that allow consumers to express their individuality in boundary breaking way.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Investing in young adults has the potential to create such change and momentum for all of us and the world we live in. I see so many teenagers and young adults struggling with tough circumstances, difficult home challenges, and social and economic adversity. The infrastructure to help make change is so limited for this group of young people. I would like to see more programs like YearUp that are exclusively focused on opportunities and support for young adults. Giving this group real life skills, career support, mentors, and hope that the future can and will be different makes a real difference to an entire generation. I would love to see more major corporations come out in support of this program, and I would love to see more people give their time, skills, and leadership in the service of our young adults.

https://www.yearup.org/

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”- Aristotle

This quote reverberates with so many things that ground my point-of-view. First, achievement will always come with a price. Often that is criticism. Speaking out or having an opinion will come at a price. Often that is criticism. Following your own path will often come at a price. Often that is criticism. The world is full of critics, judgement, and naysayers, and we must all consider whether that will limit our choices. If we follow Aristotle’s meaning to the end point; fear of criticism will ultimately lead to a passive choice to be nothing. The faster we can all make peace with criticism as a component of our actions and choices, the faster we can move forward unfettered.

How can our readers follow you online?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/antonia-hock/

https://www.instagram.com/antoniahock/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Brand Makeovers: Antonia Hock Of The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center On The 5 Things You Should Do… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: David Williams Of Quali On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face Of…

Agile Businesses: David Williams Of Quali On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face Of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Disruption is not just technology. Business models (SaaS/Consumption) and, now pandemics, have proven to be far more disruptive. While most technology disruptions take time to make a real impact — pandemics do not. Prepare for disruption on multiple levels, people, process, business, and technology.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant in The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Williams.

David Williams is the Vice President of Product Strategy and Product Marketing at Quali, a leading provider of Environments-as-a-Service infrastructure automation solutions.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Thanks to a summer job at a market research company working in their datacenter doing all the menial tasks IT operations people didn’t want to do, I was offered the chance of full-time employment starting at the bottom-rung of IT operations. This started a long career involved in all things network and IT operations. For many years I worked for Digital Equipment Co. and was a member of the team that delivered the first European ‘lights out’ datacenter. This planted the need to get involved in things that changed how IT was created and used. The need to innovate led me to an exciting product role in a disruptive startup called Tivoli.

It was with Tivoli that I left the UK and came to Austin, Texas. Something you would not have seen predicted in my school yearbook. After Tivoli was acquired by IBM, I eventually became the VP Product Management and Product Marketing. After leaving IBM, and with several startups under my belt, I joined Gartner as a Research VP. I was with Gartner several times, responsible for network and IT operations tools, IT monitoring, and automation tools. My last contribution at Gartner was to define and deliver research on DevOps tooling and practices.

After Gartner, I joined BMC Software as the CTO and VP of Strategy, where I was responsible for defining the vision and strategy for BMC’s cloud and automation product portfolio, then as the SVP Product Strategy at Computer Associates in Santa Clara, I was happy driving the product direction until being acquired, which gave me the opportunity to join RF Code, as EVP Products and Marketing focused on delivering Edge management solutions.

I joined Quali just over a year ago, where I have the pleasure building out Quali’s product portfolio, which has been a rewarding experience. As the VP of Product Strategy at Quali, I am constantly looking for ways to address new infrastructure challenges that software developers, DevOps practitioners and IT operations face delivering applications to the business.

Throughout my 35-year career, I have helped several startup companies through IPOs and acquisitions by establishing a vision and then developing, differentiating, and growing a product or portfolio of products.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When I joined IT operations, it was at a time when mistakes were common, and rarely funny. As a computer operator my job was to keep the systems and networks running and performing. Days were about remediation and apologizing to users. Evenings were about offline administration and backups. The mistake I made early in my career sticks with me to this day. The bank went from one server and OS type to a new one. Changes were many, but subtle. One of the subtle changes was the command syntax order of ‘to’ and ‘from’ when backing up files. Doing it the wrong way over-wrote the live data with an old version. No prizes for guessing what I did. My first day of working with the new computer systems was nearly my last day with the bank.

What it taught me was. Saying sorry doesn’t cut it. Taking responsibility does. Mistakes happen but the same one should never happen again. Lastly, if the last syntax you see when doing a backup is “Confirm or Abort” you should always check that confirm is the right answer.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Thanking all the people who have been instrumental in helping me be successful would be an Oscars speech. If there was one person, it would be my mother, an early datacenter pioneer, who found me the summer job and supported my decision to drop further education and take a full-time high-risk job in information technology.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Since its inception, Quali has been focused on providing infrastructure automation at scale for developers.

The ability to deliver software with speed and safety at scale is more important to business success than ever before, and more difficult to achieve. By seamlessly removing obstacles and accelerating the complete development lifecycle at every level, Quali’s platforms deliver unbound environments fostering creativity, innovation, and transformation to enable organizations with the freedom to build the future, anywhere and everywhere.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

Quali’s platforms create self-service, on-demand automation solutions that increase engineering productivity, cut cloud costs, and optimize infrastructure utilization. With Quali, engineering and DevOps teams can create environments within minutes to solve the pain points of provisioning, deploying, and orchestrating individual environments.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

In recent years, the DevOps methodology has vastly improved the speed at which businesses can deliver new software and update existing applications. The shift to DevOps has given rise to a proliferation of new tools and platforms designed to improve the way we approach and manage the DevOps pipeline.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

Quali’s Environments as a Service solutions — for public cloud environments and for on-premises and hybrid environments — enable business units to create environments within minutes. Both solutions automate the decommissioning of infrastructure components, ensuring costs are kept under control.

Additionally, when using Torque and CloudShell, organizations can apply role-based-access controls and governance policies to control resource usage, cost, and security, while accessing real-time data that details environment utilization.

Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

I had the good fortune to meet with Lior Koriat, Quali’s CEO. We shared our thoughts on the role IT infrastructure plays going forward. We didn’t talk immediately about cloud, virtual systems, or containers but instead we talked about what was happening and how it was changing how infrastructure needed to be delivered and managed. We agreed that innovation is happening on all fronts, which is creating increasing demand of infrastructure. Application architectures have become increasingly modular, allowing continuous updates and changes to be made in smaller increments, delivering more value while reducing business disruption. 5G networking opened the consumer floodgates enabling businesses to deliver more and faster capabilities to the Edge. Data growth is immense delivering shared content at faster rates to more applications and consumers.

In most organizations infrastructure is treated as something separate, provisioned when needed, in ways that meet the need. Understanding the role and value of the infrastructure is hard. It’s fragmented, complex and increasingly ungoverned making the ability to scale expensive, labor intensive and fraught with risk.

This situation is due to more innovation, this time at the infrastructure level. Infrastructure can be quickly delivered from the cloud. It can be temporary, or it can linger without notice. However, infrastructure is a stack, it’s not just compute. We talked about the Quali platform and how it provides an infrastructure management control plane, connecting disparate IT infrastructure elements to a broad range of organizational use-cases. It was more than provisioning. The a-ha moment was once I understood how it could do this.

At the heart of the Quali platform is a blueprint model allowing infrastructure to be delivered in the form of environments. Each environment contains the infrastructure stack, any code or configurations files used to provision the infrastructure and most importantly, context. Context being the reason the infrastructure is being used, who uses it, why and when. This would allow organizations to protect existing infrastructure investment, embrace new investment faster, scale safely, provide a self-service portal and allow software developers to use whatever they wanted to provision without interference!

So, how are things going with this new direction?

The direction, Environments as a Service, continues to gain more attention. The term is now used and understood driving an increasingly number of people to Quali’s website to both learn and trial the platform. As agile and continuous practices, once considered high risk, have become the established norm more enterprises are reaching the decision to gain a greater understanding of how the infrastructure contributes to business value. It’s a maturity path helped by technology that can augment and enhance existing tools and does not dictate new processes or practices.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?

Early last year I spoke to a company considered a leader in the adoption of DevOps and continuous software delivery. I expected to hear how the organization had established agile practices for infrastructure delivery that were both pioneering and disruptive. For years teams were allowed to use whatever they needed to develop competitive and differentiated software. I was surprised to hear that fragmentation was the main challenge. There was limited understanding of overall company infrastructure use, spend or value. Teams were not working well regarding infrastructure choices or how they are used. No re-use or cross infrastructure optimization. The need now was to re-assess the culture and create a level of control, accountability, and visibility without impeding software development. This showed me that even the most advanced organizations see infrastructure as a challenge.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

‘The Great Resignation’ has created a raised awareness of what it takes to be a good leader. Having a great product is excellent. Having great people is critical. Being a leader is about creating a healthy team environment, listening and empowerment. With remote work locations time must be allocated to ensure employees have the opportunity to talk. Communication cannot not just be about work and asks.

The more traditional leadership attributes, smarts, focus, energy, and passion remain key, but this now needs to include the balance between what employees can do for the company and what the company needs to do to make the employee successful and appreciated

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

Transparency is critical. Explain clearly how the company is going to succeed and overcome potential threats. Involve, as much as possible and within reason, people in decision making. Provide a path for growth and improvement through a broadening of skills by education and mentorship. Act quickly when situation occur that create a toxic or hostile workspace. This is especially important with people working from remote locations. Uncertainty, and insecurity and a lack of communication will lead to personnel finding somewhere they feel more appreciated and respected.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Awareness and agility, change is normal, not an exception.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Panic. This is typically caused when a competitor announces something more than a feature or function. Most ‘devastating’ news is not devastating but deserves a quick answer on what it means and then a follow-up with the actions being done to address the news.

Creative positioning. Responding to something by changing the position or message fools no-one. Best to position with accurate information. Disruptive or not it’s going to have both strengths and challenges.

Ignoring it. It’s going to go away. The longer it’s left the worse it will get. Better to hit it head-on and if needed adjust strategic priorities accordingly.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Disruption is not just technology. Business models (SaaS/Consumption) and, now pandemics, have proven to be far more disruptive. While most technology disruptions take time to make a real impact — pandemics do not. Prepare for disruption on multiple levels, people, process, business, and technology.
  2. Disruptive change is going to happen. The best way to deal with change is to hire and train people who understand how to adapt quickly and positively.
  3. Continuous awareness, customers, market trends, community chat rooms, and tier 1 analyst firms. Disruptive change is rarely delivered without minor tremors.
  4. If disruption happens reach out to the installed base. Understand their expectations, concerns and thinking. This will establish the nature of the threat, the severity, and the speed it will have to make an impact.
  5. Adopt an agile methodology. This will ensure the company is able to pivot effectively and will do so with less disruption. Agile is all about effective change.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I have two, one from Earth. One not.

“One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings”. Diogenes

“Do or do not. There is no try”. Yoda.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can follow our work at Quali on Twitter (@QualiSystems) and LinkedIn.

and follow me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-paul-williams/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: David Williams Of Quali On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face Of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Samantha Harding On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn from the best, In my time in London I stepped down and started from zero going to work for brands that I looked up to, from luxury Hermes to mainstream Urban outfitters, I was always hungry to learn more and how they where doing it ans what made them stand out.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Samantha Harding.

Samantha Harding is a Brazilian, english fashion designer born in Dubai and raised in Abu Dhabi and Brazil, now living in London. 10 years ago she started her brand Sahar swimwear, now known as Sahar by Samantha Harding. It’s an exclusive slow fashion brand with beautiful high quality luxury resort wear designs. Everything is produced locally in the communities of Rio de janeiro.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I was born in Dubai and raised in the UAE until I was 10, I then moved to Rio de Janeiro where I started surfing at a young age. That’s when it all happened, I’ve always loved the sea and the beach and when I was introduced to this sport I just feel in love. I always had a passion for fashion, designing little croquis everywhere, saying I was going to become a famous fashion designer one day. I started Sahar in university, of course I did fashion in Brazil because I was busy traveling the world discovering new surf spots to surf at, from panama to Hawaii yearly, you name it I was there surfing. My brand started to pick up in Brazil and I was doing well! In 2017 I suffered a life threating car accident because my ex boyfriend was reckless driving. This seemed like the end of the world because I was told that I was not allowed to surf for two years not go in the sun. That’s when moving to London was the way to go, if my passion surfing was taken away, my other passion Sahar was to succeed.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never give up, there is always a way. Today you can say my life has gotten back to normal, but it took a lot of sacrifices to be where I am today. I’ve had a lot of help, and I’m grateful for all those who have helped in way but in the end Sahar would never be where it is today if I hadn`t gave it my all, as I`m still doing until this day.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Principles by Ray Dalios, yes I carried that brick of a book all around Bali, even balancing it on my head while getting a boat to Nusa Lembongan, didn’t want it to get wet with water all the way to my waist, if you have been, you know what I’m talking about, wear shorts, swimwear and flip fops guys, valid piece of advice. Its just learning from the best & taking in all that knowledge.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Coming up with ideas is the easy part; putting it down on paper, executing and making it happen is the real deal. The thing is to start and not stop until you have finished, be persistent, it will happen.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Like in Fashion everything has been created before, that’s why we have Google!

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

My designs come to me out of the blue, I draw it on paper and get them made, nowadays I can send it straight to my employees and get it made, back in the day it was a different and longer process. After what I created has been approved by me, we do all the creative photos & product strategy leading to placement in the boutiques we sell in around the world. Thankfully I have employees who do all theses processes for me, but back in the day it was all me, thanks team you know I love you all!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1 — Save your money, everything that is made by your business stays in your business, I made the mistake of spending all of it on lavish trips and designer goods, I mean it was beautiful but I would have been a lot further down the line.

2- Get a mentor — I’ve always had a good mentor that was my dad, he always gave me good advice on what to do and what not to do, guess I was just lucky to have really supportive parents.

3- Negotiate, Always and I repeat ALWAYS try to bring the price down. Be like people in Bali, Berapa? Mahal, Translating to, how much? Very expensive!

4- Learn from the best, In my time in London I stepped down and started from zero going to work for brands that I looked up to, from luxury Hermes to mainstream Urban outfitters, I was always hungry to learn more and how they where doing it ans what made them stand out.

5 — Invest in yourself, Take finance courses, marketing courses, anything that will help you gain more knowledge! I myself have an MBA in marketing and regularly do a course here and there to excel my knowledge, it’s a very competitive market so you have to be the best of the best!

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Firstly, check our best friend Google to see if it exists, then chat to your friends and family to see their thoughts ( only take in what you think is valid on this one, friends and family not always know what is the best for you, follow your intuition always). Then go from there!

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Depending on the idea Id say firstly try it on your own, you have nothing to lose and if you start to succeed then hire someone with that vast knowledge you need!

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Id start of with bootstrapping, the advice I once received was, If you let an investor in, you loose control and after working for all these massive companies, I totally agree on this one.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Yes, since I started my brand, I’ve always wanted to have a strong social side and now I can say this is happening and our social project MAR is only growing! We give 10% of all profit to our project Mar, which goes to helping the kid of the communities have more opportunity in life. This is a big project with a lot of elements but it starts small, like anything in life.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Buy more from Sahar and support a good cause. At least you will be supporting this beautiful project MAR as seen on our social medias. https://saharswimwear.com/collections/project-mar

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Ray Dalios, if you see this, thank you for your book, It has been carried all around Indonesia, gosh it was heavy!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Samantha Harding On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Richard Battle: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Have a vision and create a plan.

As part of our series about the “Five Things, You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Richard V. Battle.

Richard V. Battle is a multi-award-winning author of eight books, media commentator, and motivational speaker on leadership, sales, and faith for over 30 years. He has served on several leading non-profit organizations in an executive advisory role. Richard is a regular guest on KLZ, Denver CO, and KTOE, Minnesota, in addition to his appearances on or in dozens of leading media outlets, including Fox TV, The New Rationalist, The Washington Times, WMT, Wake Up Tucson, Real America’s Voice, and KMOX St. Louis. You can visit him online at www.richardbattle.com

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

My first leadership opportunity was as president of my college business fraternity, and I executed responsibility by instinct and experience as a follower rather than study or experience. It was a life-changing event as it revealed to me the opportunity to positively impact others’ lives and an organization by our leadership.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I was surprised early that everyone I led in the fraternity didn’t respond to one single motivational tool. Each member required individual communication to inspire their performance. Early on, I thought the problem was theirs. Fortunately, I discovered the problem was mine early and adapted to succeed.

Interpersonal skills are crucial for leaders to achieve organizational success and individual performance and development.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Some so many people helped me knowingly and unknowingly. The best contributors knowingly helped me by being interested in my development and coaching me to improve myself consistently.

Others unknowingly benefitted me by their personal example. I’m a firm believer in active learning every day, formally and informally. Some of the models were positive, and others were negative illustrating negative leadership. Both are beneficial if we’re studious.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Successful organizations must be led first by individuals with a vision of where they want them to go. Leaders with a grand vision may not attain 100% success, but they will consistently achieve more results than those who meander through time uninspired.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Leading volunteers requires additional skills because you can’t use money or job security as motivators.

As Austin Junior Chamber of Commerce president, three board members resigned during one meeting to protest a project they rejected.

It was a test that could have split the organization and doomed my presidency. Fortunately, my response and my executive team reaffirmed our vision for the year and the opportunity to significantly better our community.

Overcoming that and other challenges resulted in our chapter receiving the Outstanding Chapter in the United States award and further recognition.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Thankfully, the few things I quit in life and the regret they fostered were individual activities and not as a leader.

Our responsibility as a leader to executive responsibility and then prepare future generations of leaders to ensure long-term organization success demand perseverance through turbulent times regardless of the individual cost.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Leaders must earn trust from their teams from the moment they join an organization at any level. Team members must be sure you’re capable, confident, honest, transparent, and your interests are organizational and team member success. If team members perceive a leader only cares about him or herself, the leader will be ineffective during good times and catastrophic in challenging times.

Sam Houston was a great example during “The Runaway Scrape” during the Texas revolution. For six weeks, he restrained his overanxious troops until the singular moment when Texas could win their independence. If he had not built a reservoir of trust with his army, they would have rebelled, and their premature action would have lost the war.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Proven leaders with established trust can ask teams to follow them into the unknown because they realize it is their best opportunity for survival and success.

Trust based on experience, vision, open communication, experiencing the danger with the team, and sharing the victory bonds team members with leaders.

Effective leaders command respect and loyalty because they earn it day in and day out with their teams. Ineffective leaders fail to prepare for the difficult times during good times, and organizational failure and destruction often result.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I prefer to communicate trouble before the team or customer knows there is an issue. With the news, I inform them I am already working on a solution that will occur shortly, causing minimal damage.

Getting in front of trouble is another tool to increase people’s trust in your leadership.

There is nothing weaker than a leader appearing surprised and unprepared by a threat.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

There is no substitute for experience. The experienced leader will prepare a plan and multiple contingencies.

Multiple plans enhance the leader’s knowledge, and quickly implementing them demonstrates confidence and capability to team members. There is no wasted effort in contingency development because preparation may be utilized at any time in the future.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

If you don’t have the very best leader for your organization, find and hire that person.

Wandering through the valley of death with an average leader will cost more and negatively impact the organization’s future longer than investing in the best steward for the institution.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Responding too slowly to the threat.

Retaining ineffective leadership because of loyalty.

Failure to honestly inform the team of the challenge and plan to overcome it.

Failing to examine offensive responses to the difficulty while playing defense.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

There are two sides to every equation. Too often, cost-cutting is the first and only response considered during turbulence.

Sometimes great opportunities appear and can be capitalized on because others are only playing defense.

Thoroughly examine what an organization is doing and ask why about everything. Too often, “it’s always been done that way” dulls our creativity and inventiveness.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Have a vision and create a plan.
  2. John F. Kennedy inspired the nation to set a goal of landing a man on the moon before the end of the 1960s. It was a bold vision that united the country. A monumental effort was undertaken to achieve the goal, resulting in many non-space benefits.
  3. Communicate the plan and opportunity for success.
  4. There was no better leader in the 20th century than Winston Churchill. He became prime minister during England’s darkest days. Even leaders in his political party wanted him to negotiate a peace treaty with Germany.

He realized that if they surrendered, their lives would be much worse than if they fought and lost.

Delivering one of the most powerful speeches in recorded history, he inspired the country, stating, “We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

  1. Inspire their team to achieve the plan.
  2. Former Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry defined leadership as “getting people to do what they didn’t want to do to achieve what they want to achieve. Few want to pay the price to achieve excellence, but everyone wants victory. Successful leaders inspire total team efforts beyond what individuals believe they can contribute to achieving results surpassing anyone’s imagination.
  3. Lead the team from the front in executing the plan.
  4. Joshua Chamberlain’s inexplicable attack under maximum duress from Little Round Top on July 2, 1863, set the stage for Union victory at Gettysburg, Lincoln’s re-election, and ultimate victory. A theologian and teacher by trade, his leadership from the front was instrumental to success.
  5. Adjust the plan based on resistance and obstacles.
  6. Every plan becomes obsolete upon first contact with the enemy. D-Day, June 6, 1944, and the Normandy campaign only succeeded because of the individual initiatives of soldiers on the ground adapting to what they experienced in real-time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“What you do in the present will create a past that will greatly influence your opportunities and dreams in the future.” — Richard V. Battle

In other words, seemingly insignificant decisions today may have a lifetime impact. We should make every decision in that light with the example and precedent it may establish.

How can our readers further follow your work?

My website is http://www.richardbattle.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Author Richard Battle: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Robert Wessman Of Alvogen: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Robert Wessman Of Alvogen: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Listen and ask questions. A solution to a problem can often be one question away. It can be easy to think that one needs to deal with a demanding situation alone, but listening to and discussing problems with colleagues and advisers can help provide perspective on the situation.

As a part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Róbert Wessman.

Róbert Wessman is Chairman & CEO at global pharmaceutical giant Alvogen, and founder and Chairman at biopharma specialist Alvotech.

Róbert grew up in Mosfellsbær, a small town on the outskirts of Reykjavík. From an early age he grew up with a love for both medicine and business; it was the latter path he chose to follow when picking his studies and he attended business school. However, he has since set up and developed a series of highly successful healthcare businesses to realise his vision of improving people’s lives through greater access to affordable medication. Róbert’s achievements have made him the subject of three Harvard Business School case studies on business excellence.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in Iceland, in a small town on the outskirts of Reykjavik. I went to University in Iceland and the choice was between business or medical education. Eventually I chose business but have spent 23 years as a CEO in the Pharmaceutical industry.

I’ve always enjoyed international travel and loved the experience of living in Germany, when I worked for the shipping firm Samskip, eventually becoming CEO of their German operations.

However, Iceland would always be my home and just before my 30th birthday, I decided to come back and take on a new challenge — turning around a failing Icelandic pharma company called Delta. Although I chose business school, medicine always remained a great interest of mine. So, this was a chance to bring my business knowledge and skills and my passion for medicine together.

The rest is history, really… We turned Delta into the world’s third largest generic pharma company, and I realised just how excited I was about generics with their potential for making healthcare more accessible and more affordable.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The ‘comedy moment’ I remember particularly vividly is actually from the days when we were building Alvogen. I was recovering after a serious cycling accident (more on that later) and was waiting to get a new set of teeth as my jaw was badly injured in the crash. In the interim, I had temporary teeth, but work was calling and off I went to pitch to some potential investors in the US.

Halfway through the meeting, I realised that my temporary dental implant had come off. I excused myself to go to the bathroom and tried to stick it back in with glue — but managed to glue my thumb to the implant! It dried instantly so I had to pull out half of the false teeth to get my thumb out of my mouth. I had run out of glue by that point so I just had to go back and finish the presentation with only half my teeth in place. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t invest… Lesson learnt — sometimes you just have to let go of a big meeting and prioritise your health!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful for who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been fortunate to work with so many brilliant people over the years. Success always comes from a great team and a vision, so I cannot single out one person as such, but the thanks goes always to the team.

One story I can share, though, is from when I went to Norwich Pharmaceuticals in 2009 with a vision to create a top global pharma business. I wanted to bring medicines to the people that need them, everywhere from New York to Moscow to Bangkok.

I had no shortage of ambition, but every start-up comes with risks and the financial crisis had taken over the world, meaning funding for new ventures was in short supply. So quite a lot of people simply told me it was a terrible time to start something new. Yet, the team at Norwich was inspired and wanted to co-invest with me. Just a few short months later we joined forces to develop what is now Alvogen, a global business with over a billion dollars in sales.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

In every project and every new venture my take on my vision is the same — to improve people’s lives by providing easier access to affordable medication. Everyone should have access to the medicines they need, regardless of their financial status. I know every one of my teams and our many investors and partners are united behind that vision, and it really does help us persevere through the challenges. With every success, we make a difference to patients living around the world. A purpose driven business is for sure in many ways more rewarding.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

The early days of setting up Alvogen were certainly not easy! In the beginning, all I really had was the napkin on which I had sketched out my vision to create a new world-leading pharma business and a handful of colleagues. We had the ideas, but our pockets were empty and the financial markets around us had collapsed (it was 2009).

In this sort of scenario, you just have to believe and stay positive as a leader. I was motivating my team by motivating myself — put simply, if you are being a grumpy cynic, you are not going to bring many people on the journey with you!

Believing in the mission, having clear vision and goals, and making sure we achieved those, brought us eventually over the finish line. On that journey it is very important to celebrate all the small victories and stay focused and motivated.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Perhaps the hardest thing I’ve had to deal with was a combination of personal and professional challenges as we were building Alvogen. In 2013, just as Alvogen was preparing to expand into 35 countries, I was training for a competitive cycling race. One day, I was going at 48km per hour and crashed into a car that stopped in the middle of the road. My spine was severed in two places, I was badly cut requiring dozens of stitches and I had sustained severe injuries to my jaw and teeth. The doctors said there was only a slim chance I would survive or even that I would ever walk again.

I had to spend three months immobilised, but I was not giving up on myself or on the Alvogen project. My hands were stitched up and I could still use those to type emails to the team and make sure things were progressing! Today, I can not only walk, but also play sports!

It really comes down to believing in yourself. I am very competitive, and I don’t have it in me to give up. That’s the spirit many of the startups and evolving businesses need. All businesses go through difficult times. The key is to understand where you need to go and how to get back on track. If you let failure or a difficult time impact you personally and demotivate you, the battle is already lost. So, it is crucial is to stay focused and positive!

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

A leader must be able to act and do when most others don’t. You have to communicate your vision, make sure the goals are clear, and that there is ample motivation as well as a sense of urgency. A leader also needs to make sure that the company and the team are both executing key tasks on time to get the company out of the hard times. A leader needs to be willing and able to be hands on and step in when critical things are not getting done.

Clarity of thought is critical. Like many industries, the generic pharma industry is complex. It is very easy for leaders to lose sight of the all-important roles simplicity, clarity, and consistency play in the success of any venture.

People get busy being busy and stop focusing on the key drivers in their industry. Being able to simply and clearly identify the 3–4 things that drive industry success (and therefore you and the team need to master those!) is key. We do not have to be perfect. We just need to be better than the others.

Understanding which those must-win-battles are and then building the organization around those priorities by ensuring clear accountability (organizational design and reward systems), consistency (organizational culture and targeted communication) and transparent execution of those priorities (hands-on-management and strategic investments) is something that sounds simple but harder to truly accomplish. Consequently, it is very often overlooked.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

For me, the most important thing is to lead from the front and make sure everyone can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Do not hide behind middle managers and computer screens. If my team is struggling, I will always be the one to go on the floor and talk to people so that we may find a solution collectively. If the team can see the end goal, despite tough times, they are always willing to put extra effort in.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Dialogue and transparency are key — they will see you through any challenge. If there is difficult news to share, be honest about it, communicate it respectfully and don’t hide things.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

The pharma industry is all about focusing on the long term — developing and bringing a new drug to market requires commitment and time. This means we are used to making plans, knowing that there is a great deal of uncertainty and things can shift along the way, be it new regulation, political instability or just about anything else.

A leader needs to use all resources to evaluate where the industry might be heading long term. I rely on people around me, I analyse trends and sometimes use market surveys. At end of the day after evaluating all of elements, I need to make a decision about where we want to be in 5 or 10 years. Our industry is always oriented for the long term — it takes up to 7 years to develop medicine, so we do not have any option other than to always think ahead. I don’t always get things right, but I get more things right than wrong. Being worried about making the wrong decision and therefore not making a decision at all, is the worst thing one can do and in my mind, is always a recipe for a failure.

The key is to have a consistent vision but be flexible on how to achieve your objectives. For example, in 2012 my expectation was that around 2020 the key pharmaceuticals in the world would be biologics. I decided to invest into the industry, knowing it would take 10 years and cost around $1 billion before we would launch the first product into the market. At that time the regulatory environment was not even clear, i.e. how to bring some of those products to market. I knew the regulations in Europe and US would become clear along the way and did not want to lose time. Today around 30 to 40% of global pharmaceutical sales is Biologics. We are in pole position with our biotech company Alvotech, about to launch our first product into the world’s markets.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

I consider it to be important to focus on the larger goal and mission of the company when going through turbulent times. At the same time, it does not matter what happened in the past. You always need to focus on how to deal with any situation, prevent it from happening again and then focus on the future. I never dwell on mistakes and let them bring me or the company down. Our goal at Alvogen is to provide access to vital medication to those who need it around the world at a lower cost. By focusing on the bigger picture, it is easier to deal with the ups and downs and avoid distraction with ideas that do not serve the overall goal of the company.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The first mistake I see is that companies become complacent — they become successful and therefore they do not change with the market. We have seen companies like Nokia, like Kodak, Blackberry and other leading firms in their fields. They did not stay focused on developing their business and at the end of the day, their technologies did not stand up to the competition. You always need to think ahead — think, how will the market evolve and where am I going to be years from now? The second mistake is that many companies focus too much on the past and on mistakes. Dwelling too long on past wrongdoings does not help. The key focus should always be how to move forward. I also often see failing companies lacking in winning team spirit. That can come from a lack of vision within the company, a lack of motivation or simply because of bad morale and culture.

The hard work and loyalty of staff is what makes a company successful. In difficult times, it’s particularly important that the team has a sense of urgency and understands what needs to be done. That’s the role of a leader — to turn on that fire.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

All businesses are subject to change. Changes can come from new competition, new technologies, new designs, new services or from other directions. To continue to be successful, a leader needs to create the urgency and mindset within the firm that we always need to think ahead and how today’s market will change. So being successful in business is like being a soccer team which won a game yesterday. Tomorrow is a new game against a different team which might require a different strategy. To keep up this sense of urgency, long-term thinking about where the industry is heading and motivation to change is the key for future success.

Honesty, effective communication, and forward planning are vital whilst trying to move forward during difficult times. These each keep morale high within the team and help to maintain focus on the challenges you are facing together.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • It is important to keep a clear head. Without a clear head, the tough decisions that will need to be made cannot be done so effectively. Uncomfortable situations are part and parcel of leading a business, so this is an important skill to master. In my early days in business, I found this more challenging, but with experience comes the ability to see past the problem.
  • Communicate with staff and customers as early as possible. Without communication, trust, morale, and loyalty will be lost along with the ability to cope with the uncertainty ahead.
  • Listen and ask questions. A solution to a problem can often be one question away. It can be easy to think that one needs to deal with a demanding situation alone, but listening to and discussing problems with colleagues and advisers can help provide perspective on the situation.
  • Plan for the long-term. Focusing only on the problem at hand will not help the long-term health of your organisation. By setting time aside to also push forward towards your future goals, it will help increase stability and safety once the short-term difficulty has been resolved.
  • Don’t lose sight of your values. Your values are what an organisation rests on, if you step away from these during times of uncertainty, the foundations of the organisation can be lost along with its purpose.
  • Make sure that the team is focused and feels the sense of urgency. Key through tough times is to have a plan in place, make sure that the team believes in the plan and executes it on time.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

When I lost a big portion of my wealth in the financial crises and when I had life-threatening accident. In both cases I said to myself: “F..it. This happened and I cannot do anything about it. It has already happened and the only question is how am I going to deal with it and move forward.” After 90 days being in bed with double spinal fracture, I got back into sports. After losing so much of my wealth, I knew I would get back on my feet by staying focused and engaging the team. In both cases this was not easy, I could have stayed in the past with questions like why and if… but I didn’t. I simply moved on.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow the Alvogen website or my Twitter feed and Medium blog.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Robert Wessman Of Alvogen: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Olyasha Novozhylova Of NotBasicBlonde On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Olyasha Novozhylova Of NotBasicBlonde On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be patient. Set a short-term goal, when you think of just a big picture, you will not get far, so you should set weekly and daily goals not just long-term goals.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olyasha Novozhylova.

Olyasha Novozhylova is the founder and creator of Not Basic Blonde, a fashion, and lifestyle blog dedicated to inspiring young women to create an extraordinary style.

Graduated from Georgia State University with a BBA in Managerial Sciences, Olyasha successfully built a career in IT/Project Management, before she became a full time blogger.

A model, blogger, entrepreneur, author, and celebrity podcast host of NotBasicBlonde Podcast.

As the founder and host of NotBasicBlonde Podcast, where no topic is off limits, Olyasha provides millennials an ultimate guide on entrepreneurship, dating, marketing, self-development, astrology, spirituality, fashion, coaching, beauty, health & wellness.

Author of the children’s book Cutie the Unicorn — It’s ok to be different, Olyasha teaches our younger generation how to express their individuality.

The Russian model led an impressive 15-year career in fashion and runway in Atlanta and overseas, as well as enjoying several acting roles.

Now a leading influencer, Olyasha shares her beauty, wellness, and fashion tips with an audience of over half a million. As seen in YahooFinance, Jezebel magazine, Thrive, Medium, and Fashion Week Online magazines.

Olyasha has also partnered with brands such as Cartier, Revolve, PrettyLittleThing, PGA, Steve Madden, Too Faced, Vital Proteins, Tarte, DryBar, Drunk Elephant, etc.

When she’s not documenting her travels through the world, Olyasha is busy masterfully educating women how to create iconic looks with a mix of affordable and designer pieces, as well as offering makeup, skincare, and fitness tips to encourage her followers to live their best and most beautiful lives!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

As far as my childhood backstory, I was always a huge fashionista, and I was bullied in school because I would dress too fashionably, and I would always stand out. I was sent home to change and made fun of all the time. Who would ever predict that I will make a career out of it! Also, because I was bullied in school as a child, I’ve decided to write a children’s book, who will inspire other children to be themselves. My book is called “Cutie the Unicorn — It’s Ok To Be Different”, and it’s available on Amazon.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

It’s The quote I’ve made up and I always lived by: “Always Unique — Never Basic”, it basically meaning that always be yourself, always be YOU, don’t try to change because someone doesn’t like something about you, it’s their internal issues, not yours. It’s ok to be different, it’s ok to be yourself, it’s ok to be unique, don’t let anyone to dull your sparkle.

Another is and one of my favorite one Your Net Worth = Self Worth, so if want to increase your net worth, you have to work on your self-worth, because they are very closely connected. I’ve had times in my life when my self-esteem was low, and at the same time I was struggling financially.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Book “The Secret” was very lifechanging for me. The first, I found out about this book when I was a teenager, I was living in Ukraine at that time. I’ve moved to US when I was 17 years old. Later on, last year, I’ve had a pleasure having an author of this book as a guest speaker on my celebrity podcast, NotBasicBlonde Podcast. It was a lifechanging because it taught me about the Law of Attraction, which really works, and I was able to apply it later in life. Everything is the energy, and we attract everything we project. Any of our dreams can come true, we just have to picture it in our mind, with all the little details, and imagine like we already have it, and a dream can come to reality.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

So True! We get tons of ideas all the times, and some of them stay just as ideas, some of them are an idea because they might not be profitable, and some ideas become a huge business. In order to turn an idea into business, you have to do a lot of research! Usually, ideas that solve a particular problem, always turn out to be the most profitable ones. But you need to identify how will it change people’s life, what problem you are trying to solve, who are the competitors. The best business ideas will fire you up and motivate you, if you are able to get a reliable info through research, you could possibly move into planning stage and execution stage.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Sometimes we don’t have to reinvent the wheel, a simple ideas or products can be profitable. There are so many kinds of different products on the market, but we buy certain brands because we prefer them, and like them for certain reason. The same is with any other ideas, there are could be the same products on a market, but yours will be different, and might have different qualities that others don’t offer. So, if you have an idea, you should be very open minded and if it really excites you, you should proceed with it.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

The first if you have an idea you have to do a lot of research and identify if this idea will be profitable. Identify the problem your product or service will solve, the bigger problem the more profitable it will be for you.

The second step is planning. Plan what it will look like, who will be your ideal customer, how will you get your customers, sources of revenue, how will you retain customers long term, the initial investment required, the infrastructure, how to grow your business, identify a financial model, will it be self-funded or you will require investors.

The third, execute! You have to identify your resources, your time&money, with how it will give you the highest outcome.
The fourth is to adapt, the first when you are starting you might have one plan, but consumers might see it differently and adapt it differently, so you have to learn from customers, and improve if you need to.

The fifth, make sure you have all your legal paperwork and patens in order before you proceed, so no one can copy your product.

Growing your business can be can be challenging at first, since when you start growing, you’re expanding your team, so you have to be very selective with new hires, find and build a team that represents your brand and increases a value.
Lastly, distributing a product, it can be done online or even as a drop shipping, so you don’t have to have the actual product or the warehouse.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Everything you learn in school or college will not really matter, because that’s not how it is in life. When you starting your own business, you learn a lot along the way, no matter how much you know in a certain area, you still will be finding out things that will be definitely eye-opening.
  2. No one said that being a Boss is challenging, you have to wear so many hats sometimes, learn on a spot, and figure things out.
  3. Be patient. Set a short-term goal, when you think of just a big picture, you will not get far, so you should set weekly and daily goals not just long-term goals.
  4. Be ready to invest your time and not get paid at first! It takes time to grow your business, so at first all the business owner put into the business so many hours.
  5. Don’t give up too early, make sure to try all the options before even thinking of giving up.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

If they have a budget for it, they can definitely try, and work closely with someone, the best thing is to hire a great marketing company.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

It depends if you can self-fund it or you need an external help and find angel investors. In bootstrapping you are in control and you have a freedom to make any decisions, with raising a capital and having angel investors on board, you might have less freedom to make business decisions, but you might have more connections and you might not need to have any capital to start your business, you get an expert help, less personal risk.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

I use my fame to help people, and I will use it even more when I will become more famous. I’m a Founder and Host of the Celebrity podcast, NotBasicBlonde Podcast, where my guest share expertise on so many different topics. I’ve written a book “Cutie the Unicorn — It’s Ok To Be Different” and I donate a part of the proceeds form book sales to St. Jude’s hospital, I donate my clothes to domestic violence women’s shelter, and I inspire my followers every day on social media.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Mine would be Be Unique Never Basic, its ok to be different, it’s ok to be yourself, you shouldn’t be like everyone else, embrace your individuality.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

I would love to have a breakfast or lunch with Mark Cuban or Sara Blakely, I admire their career and so many successful companies that they have built!


Making Something From Nothing: Olyasha Novozhylova Of NotBasicBlonde On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David Schwartz Of the Financial and International Business Association (FIBA): Five Things You Need

David Schwartz Of The Financial and International Business Association (FIBA): Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be positive — It is important to be an optimist even in the most difficult of circumstances. This creates a positive atmosphere and motivates employees. We have continued to be optimistic even during the darkest days of the pandemic and this helped motivate the employees to focus their efforts and create some of the most successful events that we have ever had.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing David Schwartz, President and CEO of the Financial and International Business Association (FIBA), a nonprofit trade association that is the leading voice for international banking in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean.

David Schwartz is the President and CEO of the Financial and International Business Association (FIBA), a nonprofit trade association that is the leading voice for international banking in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. Its membership includes some 70 financial institutions from 18 countries spanning 4 continents, including the largest banks in Europe, the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, that are active in international trade and finance. David received his Juris Doctorate from New York Law School and also has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I received my Juris Doctorate from New York Law School in 1982 and my Bachelor of Arts degree from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida in 1978. During college and after graduation I did several foreign studies and training in Hong Kong and Paris, France. I enjoy the study of languages and I am fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French and Italian — which is a major asset in my line of work.

Prior to joining FIBA, I was Senior Vice President and Manager of International Compliance Risk Management at Regions Financial Corporation a $140 Billion dollar institution where I was responsible for providing effective oversight, communication and direction to all lines of business for issues involving foreign customers and related products, services and transactions, including the development and implementation of all BSA/AML policies and procedures.

In 1982 I began working for Banque Sudameris where I spent just over 20 years building my career. There I held several International Banking positions, including Head of the International Department in Argentina, Deputy Manager of Banque Sudameris in Monte Carlo, Head of Correspondent Banking, Credit and Treasury in Miami, and Deputy Manager and Director of Wealth Management in Miami.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I am not sure if this qualifies as a mistake but it was funny. My first job interview was conducted in Portuguese and I was hired due to my knowledge of computers as I had an Apple IIC computer at home. I was promptly sent to Chicago to learn how to “manage” the computerized messaging system known as SWIFT. After surviving a blizzard in Chicago, I returned to the office ready to “manage” the system. As I entered the computer room, I noticed there were several large boxes stacked up and when I asked what they were I was told it was the SWIFT system for me to “manage”!

Undaunted, I looked for the manual and spent the next couple of hours putting it together and fortunately it worked. So even if you are proficient in a foreign language, be careful when it comes to the nuances as I had learned my Portuguese in Portugal and my boss in Brazil.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My career received a tremendous boost from my mentor and the General Manager of Banque Sudameris Miami, Robert Marcuse. He had been in banking for over 30 years and was a real taskmaster but if you could see through his bluster you stood to receive an incredible education on international banking. He had a lot of faith in my abilities and took a chance on a young lawyer by giving me significant responsibilities at a very young age although I had very little banking experience and the traditional reluctance to promote young officers.

I was assigned the supervision of the Credit, Correspondent Banking and Treasury Departments of the branch after only four years in the bank. He sent me to Argentina under an exchange that Banque Sudameris undertook to develop officers even though I did not speak Spanish at the time! But my career really took off when he called me to his office one day and asked me if I would like to go to work in the Monte Carlo branch, where I developed and managed client investment portfolios. I am forever in his debt.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

While I was not around at the inception of FIBA, which has a 42 year history, we certainly are purpose driven. In the beginning, FIBA was all about networking and helping its members understand and navigate the new business of international banking that had landed in South Florida at the end of the 1970’s. As the industry grew and became more complex, the mission shifted to one of education.

We apply practical ideas and real-world solutions to train and certify thousands in anti-money laundering compliance, trade finance, correspondent banking, and wealth management. FIBA is recognized by the financial services industry, regulators, and law enforcement as a “Center for Excellence” for our knowledge and expertise in anti-money laundering compliance and our high-level education and training programs.

Our comprehensive educational programs feature the AMLCA and CPAML Compliance Certifications in partnership with Florida International University’s (FIU) College of Business Administration, where industry practitioners are kept up-to-date on relevant trends and changes and we have conferences such as the upcoming Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance Conference from February 28 — March 2, 2022 and the CELAS Bank Security Conference taking place June 20–21, 2022 in Miami to keep members up to date.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

We do not have to look any further than COVID which has brought many challenges in both our personal and professional lives. We were on the brink of launching our 19th Annual AML Compliance conference, our signature event, in March of 2020 when the lockdown was imposed. The event, our educational programs, everything, came to a screeching halt and the future was uncertain.

My first goal was to ensure the safety of the staff and reassure them that we would be able to move forward. This was done through frequent conversations and staff meetings by phone and via Zoom and being completely transparent about the situation. It was important that everyone stay involved and connected.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I have been a student of the martial arts for over thirty years and one of the most important teachings is to never give up. Obstacles will always be put in your way and you have to be prepared to face them. You do not always win but more lessons are learned from failure than from success. And you must always remember that giving up does not only impact you but your family and your employees.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most critical role is to be a visible leader and maintain constant communication with the staff and being fully transparent. In this way, you gain the trust of his/her employees.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

You have to let them know how important they are and that everyone has a key role to play. Involve them as much as possible and listen to their ideas and concerns.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

There is no “best way” to deliver difficult news. One can only be honest and transparent.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

It is important to “keep up with the times” and learn to embrace change as a good thing. Several years prior to COVID, we made a significant investment in new technologies to allow us to provide our training and events virtually.

In addition, after 40 years, we have recently rebranded to be more inclusive, launched a new website and created an Open Banking platform. Change should not be a reaction to future events but rather an ongoing part of your strategy.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

The number one principle would be to stay calm and not panic.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

  1. Trying to continue with business as usual — Difficult times call for “out of the box” solutions and continuing with business as usual can put the company at risk for survival.
  2. Not accepting the reality of the situation — the current pandemic is a perfect example of how people face a difficult situation when the challenges of gathering clear and actionable information are so great. Sometimes it is just better to accept the situation and move forward than trying to second guess.
  3. Failure to adequately communicate with employees — it is in a company’s best interest to maintain open and clear communication with its employees at all times and even more so during periods of uncertainty. As I mentioned before, transparency is critical.
  4. Failure to have an updated business continuity plan — While you cannot be prepared for every situation that may arise, always maintain an updated business continuity plan to refer to with basic principles for confronting uncertainty.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Do not be constrained by your budget. Treat the situation as a new beginning and reassess priorities and delivery channels. You may find that you can continue forward as forecast or, as we did as a result of the pandemic, that you need to rethink your strategy and shift to a more flexible model.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Communicate — Nobody likes uncertainty and during turbulent times employees need to know and understand the impact on the company and, of course, on them. This is the strategy that I have employed since the beginning of the pandemic and the employees have expressed their appreciation of the open and frank discussions. It may not have always been what they wanted to hear but it let them know exactly where they stand.
  2. Listen — As much as we like to think that we know everything that is going on within the company we must be honest and admit that is not the case. Listening to those that are, can provide additional insight into strategy adjustments that may need to be made. The input from FIBA’s employees was critical in product sales.
  3. Be flexible — We cannot be rigid in our thinking during a period of uncertainty or tied to any one philosophy for managing it. FIBA organizes conferences and delivers first in class training traditionally as in-person endeavors. COVID made that impossible so we shifted to a completely virtual model and were very successful.
  4. Be positive — It is important to be an optimist even in the most difficult of circumstances. This creates a positive atmosphere and motivates employees. We have continued to be optimistic even during the darkest days of the pandemic and this helped motivate the employees to focus their efforts and create some of the most successful events that we have ever had.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite would have to be “In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity” from The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

How can our readers further follow your work?

The most notable way readers can follow my work is through our hybrid conferences, including the Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Compliance Conference from February 28 — March 2, 2022 and the CELAS Bank Security Conference taking place June 20–21, 2022 in Miami. We are also on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


David Schwartz Of the Financial and International Business Association (FIBA): Five Things You Need was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Tom Osman Of Raymont-Osman Product Design On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Tom Osman Of Raymont-Osman Product Design On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Learn the importance and difference between cash flow, profit and turnover. This is important. It’s important to remember that turnover is vanity, profit is sanity!

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Tom Osman.

Tom is founder and Company Director of Raymont-Osman Product Design, based in the UK. He has 17 years of experience designing and developing physical products — from initial brief to commercially-viable product manufacture and release. Tom has a First-Class Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering from The University of Birmingham, and studied at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design. Having engineered a range of construction equipment for market leaders, JCB and cut his teeth as a design and development engineer at another leading design consultancy, Tom set up Raymont-Osman Product Design in 2014 from his dining room table — a company he now runs along with his wife and Operations Director, Kelly Raymont-Osman and Technical Director, Mike Price. Since then, the company has growth in strength and numbers, now occupying a design studio in rural Warwickshire and boasting clients in a range of industries — from luxury automotive, consumer electronics, sports technology and medical to safety critical systems and avionics. In 2021, Raymont-Osman designed and produced the Queen’s Baton for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, meeting Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace!

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’ve always been a geek! From a very early age, I was into building model air-fix kits, constructing with Lego, or making robots with my dad. Science and Technology were definitely my best subjects at school, and I’ve always been interested in how things work. All in all, unwittingly, I think this was training for an ultimate career in mechanical engineering without even realising it!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Joseph Cyril Bamford, Founder of JCB, where I worked after graduating, was once asked what it takes to succeed and said, “The same thing it took to get started — a sense of URGENCY about getting things done. The people who make things move in this world share this same sense of URGENCY. No matter how intelligent or able you may be, if you don’t have this sense of URGENCY, now is the time to start developing it. The world is full of very competent people who honestly intend to do things tomorrow or as soon as they can get around to it. Their accomplishments, however, seldom match those of the less talented who are blessed with a sense of the importance of GETTING STARTED NOW”.

I try to live my life by this sentiment. Get stuff done now!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Absolutely, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. Actually, it has a very similar message to Mr JCB; the importance of doing and not waiting. The central characters in the book spend their whole lives wondering what might have happened, essentially wasting their lives living in the shadow of what could have been. Reading this novel really affected me emotionally, so much so, that it gave me the impetus to approach my now wife and business partner…the rest is history! Coincidentally, I discovered that this was also her favorite book on our first date! The idea of not letting opportunities pass us by has definitely been a feature of our relationship and now our business.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Running your own business is not for everyone — that’s for sure! In fact, it’s not for the vast majority of people. It’s not quick or easy. It takes years of hard work and sleepless nights: it’s a roller-coaster of emotions. That said, I wouldn’t swap it for the world! Once you have a good idea, save like crazy! When we set up the business, my father-in-law (who has run businesses all his life), gave us some sound advice: put away enough money for you to live on for 6 months. If your idea hasn’t made you any money by then, then it’s time for a rethink. In the run-up to quitting the day job, work out how your idea will actually make money. Do you need investor support? How will you secure this? The thing to bear in mind, if that you don’t need to have an ‘all singing, all dancing’ product at this point. You need a product that can get you to the next stage. We frequently work with clients to secure investment without a physical product. High-quality renders and models are surprisingly effective in lieu of a physical product at the beginning.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Your first port of call here is a Google search. All patent data is easily available over the internet, so be sure to check out Espacenet and Google Patents to see what has been done before. This is also where a good product design consultancy can be worth its weight in gold. When clients come to us unsure of whether an idea has been done before, we conduct a broad, high-level review of the market, identifying similar products and brands that may have some similarities with a potential idea. We then undertake a careful review of intellectual property, often employing patent attorneys. Even if we find something, good product design consultancies can usually navigate around it, developing an idea to a higher level, off-patent, so that it is free from restrictions and able to progress to the product development stage.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

You begin with concept development — fleshing out ideas — before starting other activities based on that initial proof of principle. As we’ve already discussed, patent searches are also key so that you can check your freedom to operate. Before anything else, it’s important that you conduct some market research — do people actually want it? How much are they willing to pay? This will give you a better understanding of market trends and of budgets and your cost/profit margins. The next stage is design refinement and prototyping, which you repeat until you have the product you’re happy with. Renders can be generated to help in the production of market material — either to attract investors for the next stage of production or to secure advance orders or prepare for product launch. A good product design consultancy will know a whole range of manufacturers around the world. They can use their existing networks to source reputable manufacturers or approach new specialist ones on your behalf. Your product design agency will then produce an ‘Invention Disclosure’ document to explain your idea, generating images to support your application. This will be sent off to a patent attorney for formally drafting into a legal patent.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Concentrate on what you know and what you’re good at — employ others to do the rest. If you are struggling with IT, hire an IT support company, if you know nothing about marketing, hire a marketing consultant. This will let you focus on what makes you unique, giving the best possible service to your customers and allow you to spend time on the activities that generate profit.
  2. Employ the services of a PROACTIVE accountant and meet with them every 1–2 months. They should be able to challenge you and your decisions, setting you targets and keeping you and your ego in check.
  3. Learn the importance and difference between cash flow, profit and turnover. This is important. It’s important to remember that turnover is vanity, profit is sanity!
  4. Don’t put policy and procedure in place which stops staff doing a brilliant job, put it in place to help them be brilliant.
  5. No matter how snowed-under you are, always find time to send out quotes and invoices. Once what you’re currently working on dries up, you’ll be glad you pitched for more work. Make sure you invoice promptly to keep the cash coming in and the books balanced. Even if it means getting up at 5am to find the time, your business will thank you for it!

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Conduct your own market research, and by this, I mean not amongst friends and family. Elicit the opinions of the brutally honest — the last thing you need here is for people to blow smoke up your ass! Conduct some Google and patent searches to check out the market and then approach a reputable product design consultancy. When selecting a design agency, look closely at the portfolios on their websites. Have they produced similar products? Won any awards? Are the images on their website of products that have actually launched or are they just renders? This will allow you to find a good match and ensure that you have the expertise you need to be able to take your idea further in the most cost and time-effective way.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Product design / invention development is a specialized and multifaceted job. You may have experience in the field your idea fits into, but unless you have designed products before and successfully developed and brought them to market, then my advice would be to elicit the help of those who do. Yes, consultants will charge for the privilege, but the benefits are immense: you will have direct access to people who have done this many times before, their networks of suppliers and manufacturers, specialist and often highly expensive software, teams of experts, testing and simulation equipment, 3D printers and many other resources, including marketing. Given the huge costs in tooling to make your product, along with materials, time etc. the costs of getting it wrong can be immense and unsustainable. A good product design consultancy will mitigate these risks.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

It depends. We have clients who do both. Ultimately, even venture capital tends to start with some bootstrapping in some way. The decision rests on the quantity of cash required to get your product into production. The larger companies that approach us tend to have cash; you need to think about what access to immediate funding you have. Will you need external investment?

What you do next depends on your idea. If your product is consumer-facing, then a Kickstarter campaign or group-buy scenario can be a great fit, but this wouldn’t be right for all products, for example a surgical or medical device. For this type of product, venture capital, banks or loans would be better options. In either case, my advice would be to do your homework when shopping for product design consultancies. Aim for an agency which will work alongside you and your team to enhance your capabilities, rather than just design something and disappear. Support at all stages, including funding advice, is invaluable, and a GOOD consultancy can provide this.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Having been educated, running a business in, and now bringing up a family in the West Midlands, I feel a strong social responsibility towards the region. A few years ago, we set up the Raymont-Osman Product Design Award with the aim to promote design and development as a career amongst BEng and MEng students at the University of Birmingham through the provision of funding, recognition and support for those embarking on careers in the industry. Students have had a rough time over the last couple of years and so anything we can do to support the engineers and designers of the future feels like something worth doing! So far, candidates have included work on a range of final-year projects from blood clot removal devices to osteoarthritis knee braces.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

I would encourage everyone to read about the Grameen Bank, which is a microfinance organisation and community development bank founded in Bangladesh. In a nutshell, it makes small loans (known as microcredit or “grameencredit”) to the impoverished without requiring collateral. The idea that, if financial resources can be made available to the poorest (97% of which are women) on terms and conditions that are appropriate and reasonable, millions of people with their millions of small pursuits can add up to enable substantial humane, grassroots development. This is not really me inspiring, rather championing an existing movement!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

That’s an easy one — Neil Armstrong — although tagging him may prove problematic! As a test pilot and engineer, he was my childhood hero. He would have to be considered the ultimate person for keeping their cool under pressure. Listening recently to the BBC podcast, ’13 minutes to the moon’, has had me in awe of the genius of this man.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Tom Osman Of Raymont-Osman Product Design On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chris Jones Of Markacy On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email…

Chris Jones Of Markacy On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Orlando Zayas

Create a highly successful career as a digital marketer include having a client-first mindset, being a team player, deploying data-driven strategies, hard work, and having an entrepreneurial spirit and being solution-oriented.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Jones.

Chris Jones is the Managing Partner and Co-Founder of Markacy, a digital marketing strategy firm. He co-founded Markacy in 2018 after working in financial services, both in corporate banking and strategy consulting for a Big 4 firm for over a decade. During that time, he advised Fortune 500 companies through mergers and acquisitions and led teams as far as client strategy and workstream project management. Chris holds a Bachelor of Science from University of Maryland in Financial Economics and a Master of Business Administration from Georgetown University.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you got started?

My partner Tucker Matheson and I co-founded Markacy in 2018 after both working for a Big 4 firm. We were noticing that strategy consulting was beginning to increasingly converge with marketing and identified a white space at the intersection of the two sectors. In this new digital world, we knew we could bridge this gap with a financial-results-meets-marketing strategy approach and founded Markacy. Now we enable DTC brands to launch, scale and grow their e-commerce operations across different sectors.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or takeaways you learned from that?

When I first launched Markacy, I was hyper-focused on managing each component of a client engagement project on my own because we didn’t have the dozens of experts on our team to lean on each day, like we have now. I had prior experience managing teams, but it was an opportunity to learn how to better delegate tasks, and how to identify talented individuals who could specialize in specific areas of our business when building our team. Today with a growing team and numerous senior experts, we’re able to balance out the workload much better and lean on what everyone excels at to best help our clients. We still revel in the start-up mindset of working hard to get things done for our clients, but our business and how we balance our workloads looks much different than it did just a few years ago.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

We think the world of our team and we would not be as successful as we are today without them. I like to think that we all help each other grow. For example, a pet brand worked closely with a number of our team members including one of our media directors, Chris Rigas. Chris’ strategic advice and expertise helped them grow through his driving efficiencies on the brand’s core media channels. He was also able to leverage his analytical skills and guide them through various periods of supply chain difficulties and seasonality, which was critical to the business’ success. The client was so impressed with his work and leadership, and complimentary of how his work in particular helped lead the company to achieving a significant fund raise, which just punctuates his commitment to excellence and inspires not only our team, but also inspires me every day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We pride ourselves on our ability to deliver financial results. Our results are both quantitative and qualitative. From a quantitative perspective, we are delivering superior results in a competitive digital marketing landscape. Digital marketing performance is a lot like the stock market — one week it’s up and another it’s down — so having a trusted advisor to guide brands through it. We have the ability to show our clients the value of our work both from a revenue perspective, as well as through performance data. From a qualitative view, we tune into our clients’ individual needs and we have honest, transparent conversations with them about expectations, which we believe is our core differentiation and puts Markacy at the intersection of marketing and consulting.

For example, we worked with a high-growth personal care brand. We devised a financially-driven approach and took time to understand their product line. Our team worked to grow customer acquisition and retention by using a fully integrated media and growth strategies. We launched a holistic email marketing strategy that resulted in a 400% email list growth, improved CRO and SEO for their website, and devised a paid media acquisition strategy that resulted in a 475% revenue increase in a single year.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

The three traits I believe are most important in my personal success as a business leader include being an active listener, having attention to detail and desire to excel, and to always put our team members first and client service first.

Being an active listener is a trait that is dynamic and must be learned over time. It is critical to listen to what people are saying — or not saying. This means listening for cues, or the solution a person is looking for, and often asking questions to clarify and ensure I understand what is needed, so I can deliver on those expectations.

Early in my career, I learned the importance of attention to detail, everything from little things like sending emails or putting together internal presentations, making sure they are thoughtful and will have longevity. Having the desire to excel even in attention to detail for seemingly simple tasks can be major drivers for quality.

Finally, a major factor in not only my role as a business leader, but our success as a company, is that we place an emphasis on putting our team and our clients first. I believe that if our team members are set up for growth and success, then that directly impacts our client service. Making sure our team is supported helps them tune into the needs of our clients to ensure we’re aligned and that we’re meeting their priorities and expectations. It’s key for us to fully understand our clients’ business, their needs, financial objectives, and any other core key performance indicators. From there, our team can create and tailor media and marketing campaigns that will help our clients meet their goals.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We have several really exciting new projects in the pipeline, and a major focus of our work in 2022 is going to be helping brands with digital transformation. The pandemic has accelerated the need for companies to have a digital presence and a seamless experience online. Having personalized online interactions that are personalized to the same extent if not more as if a consumer were in a brick-and-mortar location, along with a robust e-commerce strategy, will maximize opportunities to grow revenue and brand reputation.

Sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

The number one mistake we’ve seen companies make when starting digital marketing is underinvesting in, and under prioritizing ad creative. So many companies are willing to spend money on the campaigns themselves and will commit a significant portion of their budget to it, but not enough budget to high quality creative that will resonate with customers.

Another common mistake is not having realistic expectations when starting to use paid media. Paid media can drive profitable ROI, but it takes time. Brands and their marketing teams should regularly evaluate what is working and what is not and make adjustments as well as give the algorithmic platforms time to learn and optimize.

To that end, companies can be pressed to see immediate results and may see some marginal returns initially and then get discouraged when the cost of acquisition rises. This is to be expected, so brands and marketing teams should build paid media plans 6, 9 and 12 months in advance, setting realistic expectations and KPIs. When starting a paid campaign, businesses often target broader demographics, which tends to be less costly. Over time, the marginal cost of acquisition rises in effort to continue to reach new audiences. This is not unusual, but many businesses are deterred by it. Diminishing efficiencies can be leveled off over time, but having an understanding of the marketing principles and managing expectations in terms of how they work.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

At Markacy, we take a unique approach to building a digital and e-commerce strategy, starting with a comprehensive audit of a company’s performance. That includes historical marketing performance, as well as an audit of its financials. We want to learn if there is a tactical playbook for approving core channels, strengths and weaknesses, what happened in prior periods and what we can expect moving forward in terms of gains from any targeted optimizations. This helps us create a detailed media plan that reflects what we’ve learned in the audit. We determine how to allocate to core channels, how to potentially perform better in those core channels and decide which expansion channels might be a fit and how to allocate to those. Then we set goals and KPIs for each channel, create a roadmap for next steps and regularly review how things are going every few months.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

When it comes to PPC, Google AdWords is still the most effective platform. Google AdWords still has the biggest brand search demand, the best performing campaigns and ability to scale, because it still has the highest volume of users.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

1. Understand Your Goals & Budget: Before beginning to launch a paid search campaign, it’s important to have a full understanding of both KPIs and budget needed to achieve those goals. Paid search can be used for a variety of purposes including generating leads, driving revenue or increasing brand awareness. Based on your objectives, this will help define your budget, ad copy messaging, audience structure and other aspects of the campaign such as bid strategies to help achieve those goals.

2. Define Your Keyword List: Keywords are the very foundation of your paid search campaign and the performance of each keyword and overarching keyword category will largely help determine the bids you assign to each of them to achieve your KPIs. A few considerations to keep in mind when building the keyword list is to leverage keyword tools to help identify keywords in your category that have enough search volume and understand what it will cost to bid on them, tailoring keywords around what your customers might be searching to find your business or service, and reviewing what searches your competitors are appearing for to ensure you have coverage across a variety of keyword variations.

3. Map Out A Testing Agenda: Testing is a core piece of running a successful PPC campaign to continue improving performance and understanding key learnings for future campaigns. By aligning on specific items to test you’ll be able to refine what’s working and continue to improve performance and scale spend. Testing can include keywords, ad copy, landing pages and bid strategies among other aspects within a campaign.

In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

The three things that are critical to run a highly successful email marketing campaign are understanding the client’s business, products, and creative strategy; designing strategic automation flows, and having a monthly newsletter cadence.

Understanding a business’ products and creative strategy is key to recognizing what types of creative and messaging resonate with consumers at various parts of the lifecycle — new customers, existing customers, and the most loyal customers. Then, having automation that is designed with strategic triggers can maximize recurring revenue at various touchpoints. Automation should be designed for things like a welcome series, cart abandonment, browse abandonment and post-purchase to enhance email touchpoints with the customer. Finally, having a newsletter cadence that focuses on the top marketing events each month is another way to drive revenue. Share product releases, holidays or milestones, sales and other relevant content such as recipes, then tailor the quantity and segmentation to each audience to maximize performance.

What other digital marketing tools are you passionate about? What are they and how do you best leverage them?

Even as a foundational aspect of most brand’s mar-tech stack, Google Analytics is incredibly valuable. There is a lot of power in the ability to access real time analytics that can help assess performance by channel at a deep level, at a campaign level, and can show where consumers are dropping out of the funnel. In addition to Google Analytics, we also look at the attribution and available reporting within our media engine UI to make strategic decisions. Our gather reporting includes a spreadsheet and business interface dashboard that combines both media engine and google analytics to standardize campaign performance in one central view.

Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Five things that are necessary to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer include having a client-first mindset, being a team player, deploying data-driven strategies, hard work, and having an entrepreneurial spirit and being solution-oriented.

All of our media directors are experts in their respective fields and platforms, but what sets each of them apart are their individual analytical abilities. That quality, along with having foundational industry knowledge, helps our team stand out because we critically analyze what is working well for a client, identify trends, and optimize media spend across existing and expansion channels. Marketing and media are something that we can be taught with time teach, so when we’re hiring, we prioritize candidates with backgrounds in diverse fields along with critical thinking ability along with .

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I’m an avid reader of The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Forbes, and The Economist, along with several marketing publications such as eMarketer, AdWeek, and Ad Age.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

Marketing is essential for elevating awareness and for sharing resources and opportunities for different causes and can and should be used to lead the charge on essential world issues such as climate change, the importance of high-quality education for people of all backgrounds, and income inequality.

Over the years, a lot of marketing efforts have elevated awareness and resources for people who are on the Autism Spectrum (ASD) range — but so much of it is dedicated to those who are high-functioning.

My brother-in-law has Angelman Syndrome, a genetic disorder which is syndromic of ASD. It is not a well-known condition but causes delayed development, problems with speech and balance, intellectual disability, and sometimes seizures. He cannot walk or talk, but people with Angelman’s often smile and laugh frequently, and have happy, excitable personalities. While a lot of ASD range disorders are more recognized now, and there is education around them, growing up he was very misunderstood and still is today.

We are both very passionate about elevating awareness for people with rare diseases like Angelman Syndrome, and if we were to start a social impact organization, it would likely be in this space. I believe I could use my experience to help families navigate the dynamics of dealing with challenges associated with families providing proper care and financial support for their loved ones, among other things. It’s critical to raise awareness amongst the broader community about specific rare diseases so that those dealing with these conditions are never misunderstood. That way, both those experiencing them, and their families would have easier access to a wider range of support and resources available.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


Chris Jones Of Markacy On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rod Robinson Of Insight Sourcing Group On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Generate cost savings. I learned that casting a wider net enabled us to build a supplier portfolio that included a broader range of supplier segments. This ultimately created a more competitive sourcing environment that enabled us to increase spend with diverse suppliers, generate higher savings and optimize overall supplier value.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rod Robinson.

Rod Robinson is a Senior Vice President at Insight Sourcing Group — the largest procurement consulting firm in the U.S. — where he leads the firm’s Supplier Diversity practice and Center of Excellence. Prior to ISG, Rod was Vice President of Supplier Inclusion & Sustainability at Coupa Software and was the founder and CEO of ConnXus, Inc. (acquired by Coupa), a cloud procurement platform that enables companies to achieve supply chain objectives related to transparency, diversity, sustainability and economic impact. Featured in Forbes, Black Enterprise, Conscious Company Magazine and Be The Change, Inc. for his success as an entrepreneur and business leader, Rod is considered somewhat of a unicorn in procurement and has witnessed the evolution of the industry first hand.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

After four years as a CPA and auditor with Deloitte & Touché, I left to pursue an MBA from Wharton. Upon graduation, I started my career in management consulting which began at Kearney and continued with stints at other large firms including Accenture and Diamond Technology Partners (acquired by PWC) where I eventually became recognized as a sourcing and procurement subject matter expert.

Ultimately, my consulting career path led to me being recruited by a client, Cincinnati Bell, to become their Chief Procurement Officer. It was during my tenure at Cincinnati Bell that my passion and interest in supplier diversity piqued. Industry regulations, customer contractual requirements and board commitments made diverse supplier spending goals a strategic imperative at the company. I am proud to note that our team was recognized for achieving our corporate supplier diversity goals and driving year-over-year cost savings simultaneously.

However, this success did not come without challenges associated with utilizing manual and outdated processes for measuring diversity within our supplier base, identifying new qualified diverse suppliers and second tier spend tracking and reporting. These challenges were the catalyst for me creating ConnXus, a software platform that enabled corporations to identify certified diverse suppliers within their supplier base, discover new validated diverse suppliers, collect second-tier diversity spend from designated prime suppliers and generate custom reports.

So, I went from management consulting in procurement to corporate procurement executive to a procurement software entrepreneur solving a big problem. Now, at ISG, I have pivoted back to consulting, bringing my past cumulative experience to the table to help our clients create world class supplier diversity programs.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

One of my most interesting stories happened early in my career. Upon graduation from college in 1989 with a degree in accounting, I was fortunate to have offers from several of the “Big Eight” accounting firms (now “Big Four”). Deloitte & Touche was one of the top contenders, all because of one woman — the late Ellen Gabriel.

At the time, Ellen was a partner in the firm’s Boston office overseeing recruiting efforts that year. During the recruiting process, Ellen showed a keen interest in my career and expressed how she believed the Deloitte culture would enable me to thrive. She made a lasting impression on me, but I decided to accept another offer. After expressing her disappointment in my decision, she told me she was going to leave the Deloitte & Touche offer open. She then suggested that we meet for lunch every month or so to see how things were going. She was genuinely concerned about me graduating from college, moving to Boston and starting a new job with a firm that she believed to be a cultural misfit for me. As it turns out, she was absolutely correct. I quit the other firm after six months and joined Deloitte & Touche the next week. As Ellen had predicted, I thrived at Deloitte until 1993 when I decided to pursue my MBA at Wharton.

Today, Ellen P. Gabriel (RIP) is remembered as the pioneering leader of Deloitte’s national initiative for the Retention and Advancement of Women. She was an amazing woman who played an integral part in my early career, whom I now think of often. I was extremely saddened to learn of her passing in 1999 from breast cancer. I’m unsure if Ellen realized the impact she had on my life and career, but I believe the best way to honor her is to pay it forward by mentoring young professionals who might become Ellen Gabriel’s of the next generation. She taught me that there are no limits to what you can achieve (in the right environment) and that your best mentor may not look like you.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you tell us a story about how that was relevant in your own life?

“You are a product of the company you keep.” In other words, if you spend your time with successful people, you too will be successful. This is something that was instilled in me early in life. Fortunately, I have always gravitated toward achievement-oriented people who have inspired me to continuously aim higher. This life lesson is very similar to the best business advice that I received from an old boss which is “hire people smarter than you and create an environment where they can do their best work.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Wow! Too many to count. I owe debt of gratitude to many family members, mentors and friends who’ve provided tremendous support and encouragement to me through the years. However, I would have to say my wife, of nearly 30 years, has been my single most important source of support on my career journey. We were married three years after graduating from college. A year into our marriage, I decided to leave my job at Deloitte and pursue my MBA at Wharton full-time. Without hesitation, she threw her full support behind me. We packed up our apartment in Florida and moved to Philadelphia in 1993 and the rest is history. Since then, she has provided unwavering support of my professional and entrepreneurial pursuits. Along the way, we managed to raise four wonderful kids with several loving pets in the mix. It has been a great ride for sure.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

When Tom Beaty, CEO and founder of Insight Sourcing Group (ISG), reached out to discuss the prospect of me joining the leadership team, I already knew the firm had a sterling reputation as one of the preeminent procurement-focused consulting firms in the country. However, I was unaware of the sister businesses — GPO, SpendHQ and Insight Analytics — that were founded as a result of the innovative and entrepreneurial culture that forms the foundation of ISG. There is no resting on laurels here. At ISG, it is always about identifying the next generation opportunity for transforming the business while simultaneously creating growth opportunities for our people. This mindset is a testament to Tom’s vision, leadership and the team he has assembled to be stewards of that vision. I am thrilled to be a part of that team.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We have several exciting supplier diversity client projects currently in process. These projects range from helping a Fortune 500 company start a program from scratch to helping a Fortune 50 company accelerate or revamp the strategy of an existing program. What’s truly rewarding about this work is that not only are we helping large organizations achieve their supplier diversity spending goals, but also helping minority-and women-owned businesses grow and prosper. This ultimately generates economic impact in the form of jobs creation and growth within local communities.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I realized long ago that “paying it forward” is core to who I am. I believe it’s because I had such great experiences with mentors who had a tremendous impact on my career trajectory. As such, I love mentoring young people along their growth journey. Whether it’s providing career coaching or advising on a new entrepreneurial venture, I get a thrill helping others avoid the mistakes I made along my growth journey.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line in many ways. Implementing a supplier diversity strategy enables companies to

  1. Drive supply chain competitiveness.
  2. Generate cost savings.
  3. Unlock innovation.
  4. Strengthen brand loyalty and,
  5. Gain access to new market opportunities.
  6. Drive supply chain competitiveness. As a former Chief Procurement Officer, I was always actively seeking out competitive, high-quality differentiated suppliers to bring into the supply chain. I realized that including a wider range of supplier types in our supply chain would yield higher savings, more innovation and enhanced value-added. I also knew that this would ultimately lead to a more resilient supplier mix.
  7. Generate cost savings. I learned that casting a wider net enabled us to build a supplier portfolio that included a broader range of supplier segments. This ultimately created a more competitive sourcing environment that enabled us to increase spend with diverse suppliers, generate higher savings and optimize overall supplier value.
  8. Unlock innovation. I have several examples of how increased diversity can drive innovation, but a favorite comes from one of my previous clients. As a part of its commitment to better serve the needs of African American women, this consumer products giant co-created a beauty care brand extension with a team of African American scientists, stylists and dermatologists. Today, it is one of the leading haircare brands globally.
  9. Strengthen brand loyalty. There have been many studies citing higher levels of loyalty among minority customers when compared to the general market. I saw this play out on a past client engagement for a billion dollar plus membership-based service company. We were working with the client to determine an appropriate supplier diversity spending goal. Interestingly, they had just completed a study revealing that minority customers were nearly 2X more loyal than non-minority members. It was also noted that revenue growth within this segment was significantly faster. Ultimately, our current state analysis showed that a mere 3% of total purchasing dollars were being spent with diverse suppliers while 13% of total revenue was generated from diverse customers. We all agreed that the spend goal should equal at least 13% with meaningful year-over-year increases. This formed the foundation of a value-based Supplier Diversity program where diverse supplier success stories were integrated with broader marketing efforts. This drove even higher levels of loyalty and revenue growth.
  10. Gain access to new markets. One of my favorite examples of supplier diversity providing access to new markets is from a client engagement with a large business services firm where our team was developing a supplier diversity strategy, vision and roadmap. As a result, the team delivered multimillion-dollar annual cost savings, coupled with a double-digit increase in diversity spend across numerous spend categories. Additionally, the team uncovered a significant new revenue opportunity for the client via a partnership with a diverse supplier that provided access to state and federal contracts that required more capacity than the diverse supplier could provide alone.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Business leaders should strive to create an environment where employees can do their best work. A big part of creating this environment is building a culture where people feel valued, appreciated and purpose driven.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

In my experience, I have found that the best way to manage large teams is to create smaller teams based on defined goals and objectives. Of course, each team consists of leaders with accountability for achieving established targets.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

I have been fortunate in that my career and life path has afforded me the opportunity to meet and spend time with some amazing titans in business, sports and entertainment. However, the one individual that I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with is Denzel Washington. Aside from being one of my favorite actors, he is one of my favorite human beings. Based on my observations through the last 40 years, I see a humble individual who has enjoyed amazing success as an actor, husband, father, friend, mentor and philanthropist. These are traits that I strive to emulate.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Rod Robinson Of Insight Sourcing Group On How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sky Cassidy Of MountainTop Data On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC…

Sky Cassidy Of MountainTop Data On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Orlando Zayas

Grit, Mindfulness, Fairness, and Intelligence. You need a good combination of these and to enjoy working in an ever-changing landscape. Marketing doesn’t stand still; soso, you can never rest. A lot of marketing is competing against other companies and dealing with human nature; thewhile the techniques that work change from day to day. To really be successful you must enjoy solving the same problem over and over in different ways under different circumstances.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sky Cassidy.

Sky Cassidy is the CEO and co-founder of MountainTop Data, a provider of list and data services for B2B marketing. In 2017 he launched one of the longest running B2B Marketing podcasts, If You Market. He is a problem solver and tinkerer, ; and loves to talk about business, science, and philosophy and ─ believes that 2+2 is somewhere between 3 and 5.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started as a photographer but realized early on I wasn’t going to do what I wanted there so around 2003 I started a photo sharing company; the problem was the iPhone hadn’t been invented yet. I loved the start-up world though and poked around for years with various unsuccessful startupsstart-ups while working in Sales and Marketing to pay the bills. Eventually I focused full time on a data company I was part of and after working through nearly every job in the company I took over as CEO in 2016.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

When other people make marketing mistakes, I find them funny, but my mistakes are not funny, they are sad. I have a hard time laughing at myself when it comes to business, I’m not a serious guy but I do take business personally. I’m not a trained marketer so I have made every mistake there is to make. I’m the Berenstain Bear of marketing. I’ve botched form fills countless times, but the biggest mistake I can recall is probably sorting one column of an excel spreadsheet for a physical mail campaign. , aAnyone whose who has worked with old school excel Excel remembers this issue, causing every mailer we sent out to have the wrong name.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I apologize to anyone I’m leaving out, but I had a middle school math teacher, Mr. Hogan, that was good. I was a very poor student, and everyone knew it. At the beginning of the school year, he let everyone pick whether they would take the regular math for the grade or algebra. For some reason I picked algebra and the class literally laughed. W, we even discussed it in class because another student said to the teacher that I shouldn’t be allowed to pick algebra. He said anyone could pick whatever they wanted. Mr. Hogan didn’t specifically help me. H, he didn’t single me out and mentor me or anything. H, he did something much better which was just to be a great teacher that loved what he taught and gave everyone the same opportunity. Up to that point I had been a bad student and, everyone knew it. , iIn math I found the results weren’t subjective;, it didn’t matter what anyone thought about me, if I got the right answer or , I got the right wrong answer. Turns out I was the classic bored student and went on to be one of the best in my class throughout high school, where Mr Hogan was my teacher again for calculus. This carried over to my other classes as well and I went from one of the worst students in middle school to top of my class in high school.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think there are two things. First the list business is overrun with scam companies selling lists of decades old contacts and tech startupsstart-ups with an algorithm that live scrapes the internet and throws the results at you. There are very few true data companies that maintain a database of business contact information like we do. I think we started at just the right time when emails were becoming a thing for business marketing but the drive by data scraping algorithms wasn’t a thing yet. Because of this lucky timing we’re a true data company with modern technical capabilities.
Second, we are a small business, so we still care about our customers. It’s nNot to say that we will stop caring as we get bigger, but smaller businesses provide better service because every customer means so much more to them. Anyone who uses one of the major brands in business lists knows what I’m talking about;, they treat you like your you’re lucky they’re willing to talk with you, that is if you can get someone on the phone.

You are a successful business leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I evaluate people on 4-character traits:. Grit, Mindfulness, Fairness, and Intelligence. I think I’m pretty good in the first 3 and good enough in the intelligence area. Eventually I hope to be successful enough that I’m not good enough in these areas and need to be replaced. That will mean I did my job and took the company as far as I could.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I have a couple irons in the fire ranging from near implementation to loose ideas. One project we’re near close to implementing is around empowering B2B marketers. I’m a strong believer in capitalism and in using it to the benefit of the customer. Sometimes this is a product evolution like the smart phone and sometimes it’s a business process like cell companies letting minutes roll over, but it always results in better companies winning and the customers winning. Our data access platform is designed to work the way the customer wants, even when our sales team complains because we’re making it more difficult for them to get easy commissions. One example here that we’ve already done is not having to haverequiring an annual contract. There are many industries that are so controlled by a couple companies that capitalism doesn’t really work to provide the best product to the consumer at the best price. In these cases, there’s an agreement between the big players not to rock the boat and it just becomes a marketing arms race. I hate that. I believe companies have a duty to always be competingcompetitive;, it’s what brings progress and improves everyone’s lives. It’s the purpose of the capitalism these companies benefit so much from. For example, in the early 2000s when we decided to include emails and sell our data instead of renting it, the list industry had to follow. Even though we were a verry small company they were suddenly forced to follow because there was a company competing for business. We got calls back then from companies telling us to stop because we were going to ruin the way the list industry worked. What they meant was we were ruining the easy life they had created at the expense of their customers. When the choices are all the same there’s no real choice and that’s not capitalism. I can’t say exactly whatHOW, but we’re getting ready to make the industry angry again.

Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

When trying something new many people try to do it themselves. When you do that, you’re a country mouse going to the city with no guide and it’s not going to end well if you don’t learn fast. I’ve made this mistake multiple times. Whatever you’re doing you need a guide if you don’t have experience. This can range from a consultant or trainer to outsourcing the service to someone that knows how to do it well. Trying to manage a new digital marketing technique by just reading the instructions is going to cost more in waste than just paying somebody that’s competent at it already. If you’ve never used Google Ads sign up for a free account and see how far you get. It’s like jumping into the cockpit of a 747, you may be smart but you’re going to get countless little things wrong, and those mistakes are going to be costly. You need an experienced guide.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

I’d like to focus on small businesses. If you’re a small business with limited budget and resources I don’t think an all-encompassing digital marketing blueprint isn’t what you need. I would advise companies to look at all options: , Google Ads, FB, SEO, email, YouTube, affiliate marketing, and any others that may fit your business. Identify the 1one or two that are likely your biggest ROI with the lowest short-term risk and focus on those. Manny small businesses feel like they need to do everything, but all that does is spread you too thin. As your revenues grow you can outsource more or add to your marketing team, but initially keep it simple. The one channel I’d recommend for every business is direct email. Email is great because it’s an owned channel and building your in-house list always pays off.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

My experience is all in B2B marketing, so I’d have to say Google Ads. You want to be where you have a good ratio of where your customers are, and your competition isn’t. Google has the most audience, but if Google Ads are saturated with competition, it drives the cost up and a platform like LinkedIn may be worth trying.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

First you need experience in the platform you use, or to haveengage an experienced guide. Next you need to know your audience and what they search for when looking for products/services like yours. Finally, you need an effective landing page. Getting the right people to your site is good, but to be effective you need an effective landing page that will convert them.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

To run effective email campaigns, you need accurate data. If you’re using an in-house list from newsletter signups and other opt-in contacts, you’re good, but if you’re enhancing your campaigns with purchased lists, the accuracy of the email and getting the right targeted contacts is critical. NotNot just emails that don’t bounce ─ but you must have identified the correct target audience and your list source must be able to accurately provide those companies and contacts. Next you need a delivery system that lets you send campaigns to cold email lists. Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and HubSpot , these are all great email systems, but you can’t use them for a purchased list. For this you need something like Inbox25, ClickbackClickBack, or SalesNexus. Finally, you need a good email creative. This includes both the subject line that gets your audience to open the email and a good call to action in the email body. Once you’ve got that in place it’s just a matter of testing, being consistent with sends and incremental improvements.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

For small businesses the phone is great; , that’s digital, right? right 😊. But seriously marketing doesn’t have to be complex, there are lots of great ABM platforms, and I think once companies get larger influencer marketing is great. In B2B influencer means people the public wouldn’t recognize, but that have a lot of recognition in your space. Influencer means generally ‘popular’ in B2C but in B2B it’s just known by your audience. Influencer marketing lets you leverage the connection or trust the influencer has with your audience. It’s a way to quickly have a more direct connection with a large audience in your space. A, any tool that helps you connect personally in larger volumes is great. Make sure it’s a personal connection and not a fake personal connection like some LinkedIn spam programs;, people generally just find pretending like that you’re connecting personally to be really annoying. For example, tools like BombBomb and Bonjoro can help your team quickly send personalized video messages to your highest value targets.

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I go back to the 4-character traits I mentioned earlier. Grit, Mindfulness, Fairness, and Intelligence. You need a good combination of these and to enjoy working in an ever-changing landscape. Marketing doesn’t stand still; soso, you can never rest. A lot of marketing is competing against other companies and dealing with human nature; thewhile the techniques that work change from day to day. To really be successful you must enjoy solving the same problem over and over in different ways under different circumstances.

What books, podcasts, videos, or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

I’m a big podcast listener and listen to audio books. My favourite podcasts for marketing are Duct Tape Marketing, Marketing Over Coffee, Marketing Smarts by Marketingprofs, Marketing School, and The Marketing Book Podcast. I’m regularly adding and removing shows, but those are the ones I listen to the most right now. I also host a podcast on B2B marketing, The the If You Market Podcast. A little secret, if there’s an area, I really want to know more about I will find an expert in that area and invite them on the show.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I love this question because I’ve already answered it. Use capitalism for good. I’m convinced that most things people think are broken could be fixed by private industry, but most of those things are broken because of private industry that isn’t forced to compete. If you want to fix health insurance, start a company that does it right. The best companies are companies that solve a problem, so find a problem and fix it. What I’d really like to see is wealthy philanthropists stop giving money to causes and start giving it to startupsstart-ups that want to solve the problem. Don’t give someone a fish, and don’t teach them to fish, start a fishing company and hire everyone that needs fish. The problem with teaching someone to fish is it ends there, and it still relies on charity. It’s not self-sustaining, there’s no mechanism for ongoing change and improvement in general. I’m convinced that when companies solve a problem, they can force all others to follow in their footsteps. If, if you don’t like how something is done start a company that does it the way you think it should be done. Not only will your solution now be an option, if you are right the whole industry will have to follow you and you will have changed everything for the better. This is the power of capitalism done properly.

How can our readers further follow your work?

The best place to find me is on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!


Sky Cassidy Of MountainTop Data On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Mark Alhermizi Of Everdays On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Mark Alhermizi Of Everdays On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Employees make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they should be written off.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark Alhermizi.

Mark Alhermizi, founder and CEO of Everdays, is a serial entrepreneur. He has founded several successful ventures through his holding company IZI Ventures including Gas Station TV, a business he sold in 2014. Prior to forming IZI Ventures, Mark headed up the worldwide M&A and Corporate Development practice for J. Walter Thompson, part of the WPP Group. Mark cares about community, business, and technology, and makes these a priority within all of his ventures. He started Everdays after his father passed away.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share the story that brought you to this specific career path?

My father passed away unexpectedly. I knew nothing about planning funerals, but in my culture, as the only son, everyone looked to me to make the decisions. That’s when I understood firsthand what it’s like to navigate the sad, confusing days after losing a parent. For most people like me, it’s their first time having to buy a burial plot, make funeral arrangements, and plan the services, and it’s overwhelming. Not to mention how quickly the bills add up.

My dad, like the vast majority of Americans, had made no plans ahead of time. I asked myself why, and I realized that the process of making end of life plans at the time was not easy or accessible — it was, and for many still is, gloomy and morbid. I founded Everdays to make end of life planning more approachable, inviting, and convenient for everyone, so they enjoy more peace of mind and fuller lives.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

In the last company I built before starting Everdays, Gas Station TV, I had to prove to my distribution partners, Walmart and Murphy Oil, that having TVs on top of a gas pump was a viable concept. I took on all the risk and started a pilot with 5 of their gas stations on my dime.

We were 45 days into the pilot when Katrina devastated New Orleans, which is where Murphy Oil had their biggest refinery in the country. As I watched the tragedy unfold, I realized this probably was going to be the end of the road for my program. I was recently married, my wife was pregnant with our first child, and I was facing the reality that I may have just lost all of my savings, everything I had invested in this pilot.

But then, much to my total disbelief, I received a fax that my pilot had just been approved. That day, I learned just how resilient, tough and persevering American businesses can be in the light of major disaster, and I’ve held onto that valuable lesson as I’ve navigated obstacles in my own business ventures and work since then.

Can you tell us about the technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

There are significant barriers to retirement and end of life planning, largely fueled by the fact that technology is never built with seniors in mind. In addition, services are segmented and there is no one place where 60+ consumers can go to plan for their future. Everdays eliminates these barriers by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to guide seniors through planning for their future, and Machine Learning (ML) to calculate costs and provide plan options, all on a digital platform that is convenient and purpose-built for seniors, their preferences, and their stage in life.

Ultimately, the breakthrough is about giving seniors unencumbered access to modern planning on their own terms.

How do you think this might change the world?

Over 75% of Americans know it’s important to plan ahead for their final wishes, yet less than 1% of those who are 60+ make and fund these plans. We’re going to change how the world thinks about end of life planning by making it mainstream — giving the vast majority of seniors who have a latent knowledge that they should plan, a way to actually do it — completely online, whenever and wherever they want. ​​In 2020, that 1% represented $6 billion in policy value in the United States. We plan to take that number to 20% — that’s 120 billion dollars.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks of this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Everyday uses ML to process consumer data and provide recommendations based on our automated calculations. Algorithms collect and analyze data like age, assets, income, spending habits and general wellness & health to generate the best plan and pricing for their estimated life expectancy. Our proprietary software can get pretty close to projecting how long each of our individual users will live, and we use the data to deliver products that are more attuned to people’s needs. We take our consumers’ privacy very seriously, and utilize the highest standards in security when transferring and storing data, and we only store information necessary to preserve plans and generate policies fit for their needs. While it can be “intimidating” to have an app tell you how long you may live, it is far more worrisome to live a long life and not be prepared.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The COVID pandemic has been a tipping point, bringing mortality and end of life more into focus than ever before. According to a 2021 survey, a 30% increase in consumers are expressing the importance of planning ahead for their own final wishes. Beyond that, technology usage among older adults has skyrocketed. I believe this trend will only continue to grow, as the pandemic has pushed young seniors with more urgency towards ecommerce.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to increase awareness that there’s a better way to live an even fuller life into your golden years and beyond, and that’s by planning ahead for important life events to take care of yourself and your family. Our technology is an enabler and is making a real impact, especially for the 65+ population, which, according to a 2015 report by Population Reference Bureau, is expected to more than double and reach over 98 million by 2060 — making up for 24 percent of the population.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

In addition to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), keyword research, and content marketing, we distribute the Everdays app B2B2C by partnering with end of life planning industries — such as estate planning professionals, funeral homes, and cemeteries — to distribute our app to their clients.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person whom you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

My dad, Ike Alhermizi.

Can you share a story about that?

My father was a brilliant man who exuded a hard work ethic, grit, and who rarely complained. He left his entire family, including my mom and young sister, in Iraq to immigrate to the United States and worked 15-hour days to establish himself to prepare for the arrival of his family. He faced adversity in different ways, and even when he lost his brother in an armed robbery at his first store, he never stopped pushing forward. Even though my dad was just a convenience store owner, he had high ambitions for himself, and taught me that anything is possible, there’s always a way forward, and you should never give up.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

From my experience, I’ve often felt like we live in a society that’s programmed us to “put a smile on and move on” in the face of hardship and adversity. It seems like we’re constantly asked to pull away from our emotions, and from listening to our heads and our hearts. Everdays is about being a part of the positive cultural change and shift that’s happening around us — to help people connect with what is most important to them — so that seniors can make meaningful plans that truly enable them to care for their loved ones in a way they wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Maya Angelou said that people show you who they are, you just have to listen — believe them the first time.
  2. Be easier on your kids; they are already hard enough on themselves.
  3. Employees make mistakes, but that doesn’t mean they should be written off.
  4. On the other hand, when you learn someone’s intentions or motivations are bad — extricate them from your life ASAP.
  5. Learn to type.

You are a person of influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

This may be a little idealistic, and a little taboo to talk about, but I’ve always wished people could argue less about religion and come together over shared experiences more. Throughout my life, I’ve experienced the benefits of religion giving us structure and guidance to navigate through life, but I have also seen the mistake that the institutions make in asserting that their prescribed teachings are solely correct. If we could all focus less on the differences between our faiths, and more on being accepting of and open to the many different paths that people take to get their own perspective on life’s unanswerable questions, I think we’d enjoy a vastly kinder, more empathetic, tolerant and hospitable world.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I live by a saying one of my mentors shared with me many years ago about what to do when you find yourself faced with too many responsibilities, commitments, or undertakings. He’d say, “If your plate is getting too full… go out and get a bigger plate”. I’ve always been fortunate to have strong people in my life to encourage me, from my dad leading by example throughout my childhood to my mentor who really inspired me to go after what I wanted for my life with passion and enthusiasm. As a result, this lesson permeates my life, often not even consciously, as I regularly stretch myself to the limits to allow myself and my family new opportunities — and my wife is the same way. Hopefully, it will help us live longer! It doesn’t come without its downsides, though. I probably live beyond my physical limits at times, and in so many ways I regret this as I overwhelm myself with what I’ve taken on!

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

TAM of end of life insurance is $100 billion. Current penetration through analog, traditional models is only 5%. No company other than Everdays offers an online, digital, direct-to-consumer solution for seniors 60+ to make and insure their plans in a modern way that drives widespread access and adoption.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Mark Alhermizi Of Everdays On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Tiffany Harris Of Kustom Kreationz: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Tiffany Harris Of Kustom Kreationz: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Faith. My faith is really important to me, and having faith in God and having faith that everything would work out with my business has been really important to me. To be a good leader, though, you have to have faith, even if it’s not religious or spiritual. As a leader, if you don’t have faith in your business and its purpose, no one else will have that faith, either.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tiffany Harris.

Tiffany Harris is a 38-year-old mother of three and a wife. Tiffany is the sole owner of Kustom Kreationz Wholesale. Kustom Kreationz is a custom apparel business that customizes personalized items for everyone. Kustom Kreationz also provides dye sublimation products to other small businesses to help them reach their full potential in producing customized items by using its branded sublimation line of products, including sublimation paper, sublimation ink, sublimation shirts, and heat tape. Kustom Kreationz is a one-stop-shop for any small business that does sublimation. Tiffany Harris hopes to help many small business owners grow their businesses by using Kustom Kreationz products.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Kustom Kreationz was birthed through great friends and family. I started out trying to make my own wedding invitations. It took me a few months, but I did it. Then, I found out that there were machines (Cricut machines) that could help you make invitations, and they could also make shirts; you would input a design and the Cricut machine plots things out. Then, you can print your design. A really good friend of mine already knew how to use the Cricut and had one, so we used FaceTime and she taught me how to use the Cricut.

I started making shirts for my wedding, and I posted on social media to be like, “Y’all, look, I made this!” I didn’t realize that so many people were watching me, and suddenly, people started asking me if I could make things for them, too. I decided to turn it into a business.

Later, I started learning that there were a lot of people who wanted to learn about sublimation, which is a specific type of printing where you print onto a special type of paper first, then transfer the image onto the material you’re printing on.

My friend and I made a Facebook page to teach people about sublimation. I thought, Okay, if I teach them to do sublimation for free, they will buy my products. People bought and bought and bought!

Recently, I started my own line of sublimation paper and ink, so people can buy blanks (blank products they need for sublimation, like paper, etc.) and can use those blanks to create their own items.

Now, Kustom Kreationz is a one-stop shop for crafting blanks.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’m not sure I would say this is or was funny, but it was definitely a huge mistake I made. When I first decided to make a sublimation paper line, I opted to go the cheaper route and package my paper in just plastic. Needless to say, the paper bent up, the packaging tore often causing my customers to return their items for new ones but returning them wasn’t the problem — the packaging was. So, I lost a lot of products aka money trying to be cheap. Now, my paper is packaged in plastic first then inside of a cardboard box to prevent damage to the actual product.

All in all, I learned that trying to cut corners in business can come back and bite you in the end, causing you more money than you thought you were saving in the beginning.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

After I made my wedding invitations, which was my first major project using my Cricut machine, I decided that I wanted to learn more about how to use the Cricut.

I reached out to a close friend, Nikisha, because I knew that she was had a Cricut and knew more about it than me.

She ended up teaching me how to use my own machine over FaceTime, and from that, I was able to grow my skillset.

She was and is still my go-to person in life, and I’m really grateful for her! Learning how to use my own Cricut and learning what niches needed to be filled in this crafting community would’ve been a lot harder without her!

She also helped me create my Facebook group, and that helped my business expand and grow, too. This group has been a helpful tool for both people interested in crafting and for me as a business owner.

Now, my business helps crafters at all skill levels and provides them with materials they need to use their Cricut machines and create beautiful items, and I’m thankful that Nikisha was the one who taught me so much at the beginning!

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Initially, the purpose of my business was to help other people who were interested in a specific type of crafting using the Cricut machine and to teach them how to sublimate. As my business expanded, that purpose expanded, too.

My vision was to create a business that was a valuable resource for crafters and a one-stop-shop for those who wanted to get into sublimation printing using their Cricut machines.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Shortly after launching my business, I needed an emergency hysterectomy. This was really upsetting to me since my business had literally just had its grand opening.

I made sure to communicate with my team as soon as I knew that I was going to be out. I wanted to maintain control, but at that time, I knew I had to rely on my team. I delegated tasks for everyone to make sure the business could run while I was in the hospital.

Even after my surgery, I was still keeping track of what was going on in my business and communicating with my team about what needed to get done and who needed to do what.

Communication was really important at that time, and I think it’s important when leading through difficult times in general. If you communicate well, the people on your team and in your community will understand and trust you. Transparency is essential, I think.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

There were definitely times when I felt like it would’ve been easier to give up. I’m a very business-minded person, though, and I really believed in my ideas and my business. I knew that if I stuck it out that my business could succeed. My vision for my company really sustains my motivation and drive, even when times are hard.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

I think the most critical role of a leader in business is to guide their company and know what they want that business to look like in the future. A good leader must be adaptable and know what they will do when challenges arise — because they definitely will — so they can keep their business moving and guide their team even during turbulent times.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Again, being honest and transparent as possible with your team is so important. It helps build trust, which is so important in businesses, especially small businesses.

Talking about the ways you’re planning to get through hard times, and also sharing ways you’ve gotten through challenges before as a business, can really help to engage your team as a leader.

If everyone feels like there’s a plan, then they don’t have to worry so much about what’s going to happen next or what their roles are in the business. As a leader, defining everyone’s roles and giving your team a framework is important.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I think it’s important to be honest when you’re giving difficult news to a team or your customers.

With a team, it’s important to clearly define expectations upfront. You want to make a plan to present to your team when something goes wrong; having that plan in place before something happens helps. You want to have steps that your team can follow easily, even if you’re not there.

With customers, you also want to be transparent. If you’re running low on stock or need to close temporarily, letting your customers know what’s going on behind-the-scenes and when you expect things to go back to normal.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

A good leader must always be a couple steps ahead of the game.

For example, in 2021 I prepared my business for the changes of 2022. I believe you must think ahead because you never know what life will throw at you. Have a plan A, B, C, and D if necessary.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

My number one principle is: no matter what, see it completely through. If you don’t see it through, how will you know if it would’ve worked or not?

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I think a lot of business owners think they’re going to immediately make all this money when they first start out, but that’s not really the case. You have to build up an audience and make sure people know who you are and what you’re doing. People have to trust you. For me, educating people for free meant that people trusted that I knew what I was doing, so they would buy from me.

I also see people overspending when they don’t have the funds. You want to invest into your business, but that takes time. You need to take things one step at a time and make sure you can pay for whatever you’re buying. When you are initially making money, you have to put a lot of that money back into the business to make it grow. Over time, though, you’ll be able to pay yourself more.

It’s also really important to build business credit. I see a lot of people who are new to business not taking advantage of credit cards that are available to businesses. Before you can use these types of cards, you need to incorporate your business first (which means your business is a separate entity from you). From there, you can start to build your credit and can use that to cover your expenses. Just be careful about how you use your business credit cards; just because they say you can spend a million dollars doesn’t mean you should.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Building a community that’s interested in you and your business is really important; having a solid community can help you to maintain financial stability during hard times.

It’s particularly helpful if you start to build that community before you start your business. This gives you the chance to build trust with people who are interested in what you do, and when people are familiar with you and trust you, they’re more likely to be committed to you and your products or business.

I also think staying on top of your finances is essential in good times and bad. You really have to know how much you can afford to spend on your business, how much you need to make to at least break even, and what expenses can be cut out if needed. If there are things you can do yourself during turbulent times, that can save you money in the long run and help your business stay afloat.

Finally, it’s helpful to take advantage of any resources available to you as a business owner and leader. If there are grants, loans, business credit cards, etc., that can help you when you’re struggling, that can make a major difference in your business and can keep the doors open.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

Throughout my time founding my own business and working as a business owner, being a leader during turbulent times has become second nature to me. Whether I was leading my business when I was dealing with a life-altering medical issue, after experiencing a loss, or through a global pandemic, there are five things that allowed me to be a strong leader when life was chaotic.

1. Resilience

When you’re in business, things aren’t always bright and happy and perfect, so you have to be resilient and keep going.

For example, after I’d been in business for a little while, I decided to trademark my brand. I’d been applying, and someone from the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) kept denying the trademark because she said the name for my business was too popular.

After I kept reapplying and getting denied, I finally decided to get an attorney. It took eight months, but the trademark was finally approved.

On a larger scale, I’ve dealt with some health issues throughout my life, and that didn’t stop when I created a business. There have been times when it would’ve been really easy to just stop working in and on my business.

When my business wasn’t very profitable, stopping would’ve been easy, too. But I really believed in what I was doing, and I really enjoyed it. I’m glad now that I kept going because I’ve gotten to see my business grow a lot.

2. Confidence

Confidence is so important when you’re leading, whether that’s in a business or in your personal life.

After I’d done some research and learned more about the market in my niche, I realized that my idea for a business was a really good one. I think it’s easy to second-guess yourself, but it’s important to be totally confident in the decisions you make — especially when your decisions impact other people.

When I started my business, I was confident that it was something that could really help people interested in certain types of crafting. Even though it took time for my business to make money, and it took a lot of work, I was confident that my business would get to where I wanted it to go.

It took me a few years, but now, I’ve gotten to see my business really expand and grow in some awesome ways. That’s only added to my confidence about my business, as well as my ability to do things on my own.

3. An amazing support system

I’m someone who’s really independent, but I’ve learned that having a good support system makes running a successful business possible.

Ten days after the grand opening of my business, I had to go to the hospital to get a hysterectomy. I was so sad because my business was just starting to take off, and I knew that I would have to rest for several weeks after the surgery.

My friends stopped what they were doing. They came during their breaks from work to help pack the orders. They came whenever they could to make sure I wasn’t lifting a finger. One of my friends literally came from her house, picked me up from my house, drove me to my store, opened the door or the chair and said, “Sit right here and tell me what to do.”

In the two months it took me to recover, I was so grateful to have my friends helping me out when I needed it.

4. Courage

Sometimes, you have to be a courageous leader, and that means putting yourself out there and taking risks.

I’ve had to take some risks in my life, especially with my business, but having the courage to take risks instead of staying on the sidelines and wishing or wondering what would happen if I did something has paid off.

Before my business began, I had to have the courage to learn how to use the Cricut machine — and that meant that I had to have the courage to fail at first. I started out because I wanted to make wedding invitations for myself, and I did. It took so much time, but I was so proud of those invitations!

As time went on and I learned more, I saw that there was a need for my skills and knowledge in the crafting community. After starting my own community, I finally decided to start my own business, and that took courage to do.

Financially, I was also responsible for my business, and that took a lot of courage, too, I think. Investing in a business is a risk, but as a leader, it was obviously my place to take that risk — and I’m so glad that I did.

5. Faith

My faith is really important to me, and having faith in God and having faith that everything would work out with my business has been really important to me.

To be a good leader, though, you have to have faith, even if it’s not religious or spiritual. As a leader, if you don’t have faith in your business and its purpose, no one else will have that faith, either.

When I was trying to find a building for my business, I was trying to decide between two buildings. I really didn’t know which one to pick.

After seeing the two places and debating, I saw a third place. It felt like God was telling me to take that third space, even though I had only been considering the two initially.

I chose the building that I felt like God was pulling me to, and that building had more space than I knew what to do with at first. But I trusted my faith, and I also had faith in myself and my business because I knew that I would make things work and that I could use the space I had, even if I wasn’t sure how to use it at the time.

Later down the line, I ended up needing the extra space as my business expanded, and I really felt as if that space was meant for me. I was so grateful that I’d made that decision, because I really needed the space, and that allowed my business to grow in ways I hadn’t expected or anticipated.

I’ve learned to give God some grace and to give things time. I like to be in control, but I try not to immediately stress over things that I can’t control. Again, you have to have faith that you can get through hard times.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always followed the motto “if at first you don’t succeed, dust yourself off and try again.” I even wrote this in my yearbook for middle school and high school. This quote is relevant in my life always because I know that if it doesn’t work out the first time try again. If you fail or think you’ve failed, try again. If you fall, get back up and try again. If you don’t understand why life is seemingly taking you on a roller coaster ride, just hold on tight eventually God will reveal it to you. But if you give up, you’ll never know what you’re missing out on.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can follow me at:
https://www.facebook.com/kustomkreationz727/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Tiffany Harris Of Kustom Kreationz: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jerome Clark Of Vantage Branding & Communications: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And…

Jerome Clark Of Vantage Branding & Communications: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Leverage third parties in building brand trust — No matter how well a brand advertises its products, brand advertising alone will not cut it in today’s multi-channel media landscape. Let’s face it, who wants hear about how great a product or service is, only from the brands perspective. Consumers want to hear from influencers, independent experts and customer reviews in order to get a holistic perspective on the brand. The more diverse and engaging a brand’s content is, the greater the success a brand will have in attracting consumers.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Jerome Clark.

Jerome Clark is a marketing executive and consultant who has spent nearly two decades building brands for some of the most notable companies in the US and abroad including L’Oreal, Elizabeth Arder/Revlon and Groupe SEB. Currently, Clark serves as the principal consultant for Vantage Branding & Communications in New York City, which advises emerging and startup brands in the strategic areas of branding, integrated marketing communications, e-Commerce, and new product development. Jerome obtained his undergraduate degree from Clark Atlanta University and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Indiana University. In his down time, he enjoys volunteering to serve his local community, working out and exploring his personal passions for art, music and travel.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My path to marketing consulting began with my last corporate role, where I was the continental lead for strategic brand marketing and integrated marketing communications. A big component of my role was also leading digital acceleration initiatives and the development of regional best practices for digital marketing across the US, Canada, Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil. At the beginning of the pandemic, I made the shift from corporate to an independent marketing consultant, as it has allowed much more flexibility and the opportunity to work with various businesses across multiple industries in the US.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

One of the biggest lessons I learned when starting my career at L’Oreal, was how important it is for your product offer to be authentically aligned with your brand. I had just launched a new brand that was all about embracing your natural beauty, both inside and out, through its line of natural haircare and styling remedies. However, my first line of products was geared towards treating chemically treated hair, which was the biggest styling category at the time. This initial line of products performed okay, but it wasn’t until I launched the second line extension of products designed for natural hair that the brand found its true niche. The lesson for me was that a brand must always stay authentic in reflecting it’s positioning and values through its products, especially when launching a new brand.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes Vantage Branding & Communications stand out, is that our marketing strategies are informed by the brand first, to ensure that what we implement in the short-term can also contribute to long-term brand equity. Our approach combines branding with integrated, digital-first marketing strategy that prioritizes data driven decision making at the core.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, I am working on a very exciting project, that is confidential at the moment. It’s a new personal care line of products with a unique, social responsibility mission of giving back to underserved communities of color. Through the daily use of their self-care products, consumers are able to indirectly benefit the brands black and minority-owned partnerships along the product value chain and give back a portion of proceeds to non-profit organizations that are driving social-economic change within these communities. What’s most exciting and challenging about the project, is balancing the positioning of the brand so that it has broad, universal appeal despite the fact that its social impact mission is geared towards a specific target group. I expect a brand like this to do very well, given how our cultural views as a country have shifted in the last two years.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding is the personification of a product or service offering that distinguishes it from other alternatives whereas, product marketing is based on tangible features and benefits, relative to price.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Building a brand is important for creating long-term value that transcends price and product features. It also fosters consumer loyalty, especially when consumers feel like they align with a brands values, beyond the functional aspects of the product itself. While general marketing or advertising efforts may lead to short-term, transactional sales, brand loyal consumers become repeat buyers and ambassadors that can be more influential than any general marketing and advertising efforts that come from the brand.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

  1. Confirm trademark, domains and social handles at the ideation phase of the branding process — This is an essential step in establishing a new brand in today’s competitive landscape. While it seems like a no-brainer, this step can be quite challenging, as you may have come up with the perfect brand name, only to find that someone has already applied or registered the name or that the domain or social handle is already owned by someone else. Having a registered or pending trademark is core requirement for protecting your brand and it’s even become a requirement for selling your products on popular platforms like Amazon.com.
  2. Stay consistent with the brand expression across all of your consumer touch points — Developing brand guidelines helps to ensure a consistent look and feel whether experiencing the products in a store, on-line or through social media. They also help when aligning different teams and agencies that are executing various marketing campaigns on behalf of the brand. When brands are consistent in their execution over time, they build value through the form of brand equity. That’s where brands like Nike, McDonalds or Starbucks have accumulated so much equity that they are even recognizable through their iconography and color codes, which have become subconsciously synonymous with the brand and the product. experience.
  3. Leverage third parties in building brand trust — No matter how well a brand advertises its products, brand advertising alone will not cut it in today’s multi-channel media landscape. Let’s face it, who wants hear about how great a product or service is, only from the brands perspective. Consumers want to hear from influencers, independent experts and customer reviews in order to get a holistic perspective on the brand. The more diverse and engaging a brand’s content is, the greater the success a brand will have in attracting consumers.
  4. Remain human, even in a today’s digital landscape — It’s easy to become enamored with the many digital platforms that automate, customize and track our consumers every move as they experience a brand along the consumer journey. However, as brand custodians, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we all appreciate the human touch element, which can make all the difference between a one-time purchase and a loyal, repeat consumer. Brands like American Express have mastered customer service as a core element of the branding experience with 24/7 customer service, simplified processes for transaction disputes and abundance of customer perks for members to choose from. Even the big technology companies like Google are starting to catch on, and are offering one-on-one coaching sessions by phone, to help start-up brands build their first ad campaigns. This is a practice that is not so common for the tech companies which are quick to invite you to search for an article or a video to help you resolve your own concerns.
  5. Stand for something bigger — What used to be a point of difference for start-up and challenger brands is now a requirement, even for legacy brands. Brands like Warby Parker, Bombas and Lemonade were designed and launched with social impact as a core tenet of their brand proposition, which is very appealing to millennials. However, given a heighted awareness to issues related to the environment and social and racial inequity, consumers are assessing a brands stance in these areas as a key factor in their purchase decision. Gone are the days of marketing to consumers based on product benefits alone, you have to appeal to their hearts, minds and values to gain their trust and brand loyalty.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Brand building campaigns should typically be measured on a longer-time horizon and against key performance indicators like growth in branded search terms or direct (non-paid) traffic to your site. Engagement is another key metric for assessing brand campaigns to determine product market fit with a brands target consumer, which can be assessed through engagement rates for social media post likes, shares, saves video views and comments, which can shed invaluable insights on your messaging and visual appeal.

The goal of a brand building campaign should be more focused on getting in front of as many relevant eye-balls as possible, for the lowest possible costs, to ultimately acquire a first-party data point on the consumer, that can then be used to re-target that consumer with additional messages that lead to sales. Each brand’s product offering will dictate the average time it takes to go from general brand awareness to conversion, so brand building campaigns have to be strategically orchestrated in such a way that leads, like acquired e-mails, can be measured for sales conversion as a secondary step in the consumer journey.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media has become one of the dominate platforms for brand communications and engagement, and every brand should have an organic and paid strategy for achieving their business goals. On the organic side, this could involve having a strategy for influencers, communities and community management. From a paid perspective, a strategy might include driving various marketing objectives along the consumer journey from brand awareness to customer leads, video views or site traffic along with an understanding of what you are willing to pay for achieving these objectives based on a customers average lifetime value. From my experience, Facebook has traditionally been the most sophisticated platform for paid social, but other platforms like TikTok have proven to reach consumers at up to half the cost of Facebook, albeit with less bells and whistles for planning and measuring campaign performance.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Plan for personal time, the same way you would plan for an important meeting or business project. This involves blocking out time on your calendar to do something as a simple as taking full lunch hour away from your desk, getting in a workout or even taking time to learn a new skill or hobby. What I’ve learned is that if your personal goals are not scheduled, they likely won’t get accomplished and someone else will end up taking the time for you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Greet someone new every day with a kind word and a smile. Even a small gesture like this can make someone’s day and inspire them to do the same for someone else.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Embrace the journey and not just the final destination.” This is what helps me to appreciate even the tough experiences as opportunities for growth. The more challenging the journey, the more rewarding the end destination or goal.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

If I had to pick, I would say Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z or Nas would come to mind first.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

It’s best to reach me on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jerome-m-clark

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Jerome Clark Of Vantage Branding & Communications: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rich Baron Of Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly…

Rich Baron Of Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Make decisions in a timely manner. It is easier to correct decisions going forward, which is always the direction you need to head in. Over analyzing data or failing to make decisions in a timely manner will cost time and effort.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Rich Baron.

Rich is a Master Certified Executive Leadership Coach (ICF Accredited). Rich was handpicked by John Mattone, the world’s top executive coach and motivational speaker, to represent Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching (ILEC). Rich was trained and certified by John Mattone and Dr. Mike Smith, CEO of John Mattone Global. Rich has been in operational and executive leadership positions for over 25 years, primarily in FDA regulated medical device organizations. He was able to lead his organization to obtain a customer retention rate of 100% from 2006 through 2019 while operating at a 5.67 sigma. In addition, Rich serves as a job coach and has helped hundreds of job seekers find new employment through resume writing, networking skills, and interviewing skills. Rich and his coaching partner, Maikel Bailey, host a podcast called Mainline Executive Coaching ACT, which has now grown to have a global audience. The show focuses on issues facing leaders in today’s business world.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

“I actually started my career as a musician and ended up in Nashville for a couple of years. After my stint in Nashville, I ended up on the road with a couple of bands and was fortunate enough to play with some well-known acts. However, being on the road for several years, I decided that it was just not the life that I wanted to continue to pursue and went back to school and ended up with degrees in business and marketing. I also found that I loved manufacturing, watching raw materials transformed, working in teams, seeing the bigger picture, and learning how to engage employees to improve not only themselves, but the organization. That started my path in operational management and then to executive leadership roles. However, some of the biggest lessons in leadership and teamwork I learned from my years as a musician. I have played in front of just a few in a club to thousands of people in large concert settings. You must work as a team and when everyone is doing their part, the results are incredible. I also learned the value of listening to those with far more experience and knowledge who were willing to pass on the skills and talents they possessed. The importance of humility, courage, teamwork, and due diligence are attributes I learned early on and was able to apply all those lessons as a business leader. After 25 years in medical device, the company that I worked for was sold to another organization who brought in their own management, and I found myself at a crossroads. I naturally gravitated towards coaching and started working with management level people that were trying to reenter the workforce. I found that when I used the skills and talents that I possessed to help others, I discovered a joy in my life that is only found when you help others succeed. That led me to finding John Mattone and ILEC. There was no doubt that Executive Leadership Coaching was the path that I wanted to pursue. After being accepted as a business owner within ILEC, I was the sixth coach that John and Dr. Mike Smith trained and certified. The rest is history as they say.”

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

“Years ago, I was addressing a group of employees. I had several employees that spoke Spanish, and I wanted to say some things to them in Spanish and asked for some help from a friend to give me some phrases I could say that would tell them how well they had been doing in their job functions. What I did not consider was that my friend had given me a few phrases that was more along the lines of a marriage proposal verses what I had hoped I was going to say. I was first met with blank stares that then turned into laughter. I was mortified. Since that time, I have always used a translator to convey my messages to the team if needed in another language.”

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

“I have been fortunate to have been mentored and taught by so many great leaders, both in business and life. The person who stands out the most for me is my father. He was a truly humble person that achieved some great successes in his life but was always present to help others.”

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

“My goal was not only to start and grow my own business, but to do something that would allow me to help others grow in their careers as leaders. I had several options as far as businesses I wanted to start, but coaching was in my heart. It is a way I can give back through my skills and abilities that I have gained over the past 25 years in various leadership capacities. We are in need of great leaders at every level.”

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

“I have been through several corporate acquisitions which is always a time for concern for the employees in the organization being acquired. The best way to keep employees focused and stop the rumor mill is to keep them engaged. Employees that have a strong culture already in place where communication is strong, and employees are engaged in the future of the organization do much better in an acquisition. I made it a daily practice to step up communication both in town halls and one on one, listening and being empathetic to their concerns, including them in transition and branding activities, and being present and vigilant. Being a focal point and showing resolve to continue the success that the team has already achieved is a vital aspect to helping employees through tough times. However, if there is one take away from this it would be to over-communicate. Even you think you have communicated enough; employees always want more during tough times.”

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

“There are times in life that each of us want to throw in the towel. It is those moments that it is even more important to face your challenges and push through. Fear is a reaction, while courage is a choice. When you decide to push through, you find that those challenges are not as daunting as you may seem to think they are. I also learned early in my career that the comfort zone is a very bad place to be. Challenges are going to arise in our career, it is inevitable. If you’re in a comfort zone, you will not be ready to address the issue in a timely matter, if at all. I was taught a great lesson by someone I consider to be a great leader that if something is running smoothly, break it and figure out how to fix it. Not in the literal sense of actually breaking whatever it may be, but simply to have a backup plan in the event things go wrong. That way, the challenges you will face as a leader are not so daunting when you are prepared ahead of time to resolve them.”

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

“The most important thing for a leader to do in critical times is to model the way. Be resilient, prepared, vulnerable, humble, ask questions and take advice from those around you. The best leaders surround themselves with those who they can trust to give the best advice during these times. It is a proven statistic that 75% of all businesses fail during challenging times because they do not have the ability to pivot and address the changes that need to be made simply because they fail to include the skills, talents, and energy of everyone in the organization. Simply put, there is strength in numbers.”

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

“Be vigilant and always present. Right now, the future is uncertain simply due to all of the changes on the horizon and events from the past couple of years. The businesses that are going to thrive going forward have leaders who are focused on improving organizational health, can both lead and follow, have a clear vision and communicate it often, include employees both as individuals and team members. Companies that can pivot and change will be the ones to survive any tough times on the horizon.”

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

“By being honest, timely, and coming to the table with solutions to resolve the issue. Listen to the concerns that will most certainly arise and be prepared to follow through with a resolution that may be needed.”

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

“Companies and leaders that will weather the storm will have tools that can help them through tough times. Executive coaching can be a wonderful guide.”

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

“The biggest waste in any organization is people’s time, energy, and talents. The number one principle would be employee empowerment and engagement! The strongest corporate cultures are built on trust, responsibility, empowerment and engagement.”

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

“Ignoring the problem, no contingency plan, failing to take inventory of the skills and talents in the organization, failing to communicate to the organization.”

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

“Keep reinventing yourself and business. What may have worked last year may not be the best path currently. Stay current on trends and technology that are being used to further other businesses. Simply put, continuously improve every aspect of your business.”

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Have a clear understanding of your own personal values and stick with them. This will help you make decisions that will keep you from second guessing yourself or the outcome.

2. Make decisions in a timely manner. It is easier to correct decisions going forward, which is always the direction you need to head in. Over analyzing data or failing to make decisions in a timely manner will cost time and effort.

3. Do not live in a comfort zone. Comfort zones are business and career killers. Be present and vigilant in every aspect of the business and have a solid contingency plan for multiple potential scenarios. Be prepared to pivot and change whenever necessary.

4. Build your culture now based on trust, reliability, empowerment, and employee engagement. Leaders who have built solid organization cultures built on these foundations will be survive and be successful, period.

5. Get executive coaching! An executive coach can help you identify and your strengths, as well as your gaps and develop an individual personal development plan. The tools and skills you will develop from coaching will last you a lifetime!

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“’People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.’ — F. Matthias Alexander

Our habits are in a lot of ways based on our own personal beliefs, feelings, and values. Staying true to who you are as an individual will truly help you determine your habits, which in turn dictates how our future will unfold.”

How can our readers further follow your work?

The best way to reach me is through my website:

https://executiveleadersactilec.com

They can also follow my podcast, “Mainline Executive Coaching ACT.”

https://mainlineexecutivecoachingact.buzzsprout.com/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Rich Baron Of Intelligent Leadership Executive Coaching: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jennifer Urezzio’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Receive More Than You Give. When you want to transform the world it takes a lot of individuals to support that cause. I’m a big giver, but so often we can give until it hurts. If you know that you can give freely and receive freely, it’s easier to create a movement. I remember once I was talking to someone and recommending a bunch of people that she could work with…she finally got frustrated with me and said, “I want to work with you” — I missed all the cues on that.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Urezzio.

Jennifer Urezzio is the founder of Soul Language — a paradigm that puts tangibility to Soul so a conscious connection can be established to enable crystal clear decisions for success. Jennifer is also a master intuitive and the author of two best-selling books. Currently, she has trained more than 30 practitioners worldwide in Soul Language, and there are over 5,000 individuals all over the world connecting to their Soul Languages.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please share some background about what led you to this specific career path?

Well…I was in marketing and public relations and wasn’t allowed to talk to clients because I would tell them the truth. I had an inner knowing there was something bigger inside me and I was exhausted by trying to fit into the mold corporate America thought I should, so I began asking questions of the Universe. Before long, I started receiving answers and realized that I could do what I did in corporate America — which was to create the job I truly wanted. After I found that clarity, I spoke at a convention about life purpose and walked off the stage to a line of people waiting to talk to me and ready to hire me for sharing truth.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that’s happened to you since you began your career?

I’m guided by my Soul. One day, I was on Facebook and was looking at this woman’s profile and I heard “call her”. Of course I argued for awhile, but eventually I listened and made the call. When I introduced myself and asked if she had a few minutes to chat…she said, “you’re kidding, right? I was just talking to a friend of mine who recommended I call you”.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Every morning, I start off with the intention to speak and hear with the frequencies of love — first for myself and then others. That statement has been the guiding force for many of my choices, and has stopped me from pulling out my warrior card and (figuratively) chopping off some heads.

If I believe I’m whole and complete (which I do), then I must treat everyone else as if they are whole and complete as well, even if they aren’t acting like it.

Okay, thank you for that. Let’s move on now to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

I would be honored to. My Big Idea That Might Change The World is that businesses have a Soul.

How do you think this will change the world?

Well…since the energy of Soul wants what’s in the greatest good of all and operates from a place of wholeness and completeness, there would be a lot less pain and struggle in the world.

Companies would be making decisions, creating products and providing services based on the knowing that there is enough and will always be enough. No more secret memos. No more doing things out of integrity. There would be no need to come from a place of lack because each person in the company would have an innate understanding that a company is designed to succeed. So if we put consciousness into that energy it will expand, grow, and profit.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Well…I think that what I want people to keep in mind is that we are human. When we operate from humanity’s weaknesses (fear, lack, greed) then any idea will create misalignments and unintended consequences. So often people use “their truth” to justify choices. I’m asking them to utilize THE Truth. The Truth that no one is the Source for you, only a resource, and that the Universe is good and wants the best for you.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I don’t think there was a tipping point…I think that all of this was/is an evolutionary process. I wanted to be closer to the Divine (and you can call it whatever resonates most with you). I was interested in feeling, knowing and expressing that I have unlimited possibilities inside me, so I was looking at all those places where I and others struggled.

It just seemed a natural jump to want to start to understand the energy of my business.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

To get this information out more, I require individuals who want to understand their Soul and the Soul of a business, and who also want to teach others.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t Try To Convert The Unconvertable. I remember that I was reaching out to “gurus” to support them going deeper in their connection. Each one felt that they had everything they need, yet I was able to tell on an energetic level that they were fooling themselves. It was only when I started talking to people who understood there was so much more to discover that Soul Language took off.
  2. Receive More Than You Give. When you want to transform the world it takes a lot of individuals to support that cause. I’m a big giver, but so often we can give until it hurts. If you know that you can give freely and receive freely, it’s easier to create a movement. I remember once I was talking to someone and recommending a bunch of people that she could work with…she finally got frustrated with me and said, “I want to work with you” — I missed all the cues on that.
  3. Boundaries Bring Joy. I can’t take credit for that saying. It’s from Dr. Heather Clark, but it is so true. I remember when I first started the business, I would say yes to everything and anything. I found myself crying at my desk at night because I was “doing” all these things that weren’t in the best interest of me or the business.
  4. There’s a Big Difference Between Not Resonating and Resistance. I’m in the coaching industry and so often coaches will tell individuals they are in resistance because they are saying no to something, but it often really is that person or thing doesn’t resonate with them. I worked with a podcasting network representative and remember getting off the phone in tears because she was berating me, telling me I wasn’t living up to my potential because I didn’t want to do what she was suggesting. What she was asking me to do didn’t resonate with me and she was trying to manipulate me into doing what she wanted by telling me I was in resistance.
  5. Just Because Someone Is Highly Intuitive Doesn’t Mean They Are Conscious. My first intuitive mentor once yelled at me because during class she asked me what we all had in common, and I said we all share lack. She got angry and told me I was flat out wrong. If she was evolving her consciousness rather than just expressing her intuitiveness, I believe she would have handled that situation differently. That wasn’t the first or last unconsciousness action on her part and it took me a while to understand and let go of her as a mentor.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

One of the principles I live by is: If I knew I was whole and complete what would I do, express, and speak. That one core value has generated a lot of success.

Also, one of the success habits I suggest to clients is to ask this question: What am I going to do in my business every day, every week, every month and every year to grow it?

Some very well known VC’s read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Louise Hay just wanted to create something that would help herself and others. I believe this is the next evolution of “helping” oneself and others. If more people understood how to connect to their Soul and the Soul of a business, it would make life easier for them and their communities. People would have more energy and time to create and transform the world instead of worrying about their survival needs.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/jenniferurezzio

https://www.facebook.com/SoulLanguage/

https://www.instagram.com/soullanguagefounder/

https://twitter.com/SoulLanguage

http://www.youtube.com/c/JenniferUrezzio

https://www.linkedin.com/in/jenniferurezzio/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Jennifer Urezzio’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Hayley Lisa On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce

Give yourself some empathy rather than blame. Oftentimes, we beat ourselves up and look at the divorce as a reflection of us failing. I’d say to a friend, be kind to yourself and look at this as a learning experience for your next chapter in life.

As part of our series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce Or Breakup” I had the pleasure of interviewing Hayley Lisa, The Divorce Coach For Men.

There are many divorce coaches, however, Hayley Lisa is the only one who specializes in working with only men. She provides men with unbiased, unconditional support, guidance & accountability they need to gain the clarity needed to make better decisions throughout their divorce process and after.

Being a female for men, Hayley sets herself apart by being a strategic partner with the unbiased opinions of a woman, which gives her clients an advantage.

Hayley believes that men have a significant disadvantage in divorce, especially in the family court system. It is her mission to “even the playing field” and gives men a fighting chance with the uneven scoreboard. Her hope is for her clients to have a peaceful, kinder divorce process, however, when that is not an option, she will tackle the issues they are facing such as co-parenting, high-conflict divorce, and parental alienation head-on.

Being divorced herself, she knows firsthand, the emotional and financial toll divorce takes on an individual. It is through her ten years of experience, education, and tools, that she helps men navigate the choppy waters of divorce by being an unconditional support system to her clients. “Divorce is never a weekday 9–5 issue, which is why I will always show up for my clients regardless of the day of the week it is, including holidays,” Hayley says.

Sessions with Hayley are interactive, thought-provoking, and action-oriented, so clients gain insight, perspective, and action steps for moving forward to a successful solution/goal/remedy/outcome. Integrity, confidentiality, and honesty are 3 things she lives by and will stop at nothing to give her clients a fair chance in the unfair process of divorce. She believes it’s her mission to help men navigate and strategically tip the scale in their favor.

Hayley has received many accolades for success and dedication as a divorce coach for men, however, it is her client’s testimonies and her reputation that she is most proud of and motivates her to be the best and only divorce coach for men.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to ‘get to know you’. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

Yes, thank you for asking. My parents divorced when I was seven yrs. old. My mother had primary custody of my younger brother and I, with bi-monthly weekends with our father. My mother did her best to give us a stable homelife, however, without her probably being aware, she emotionally alienated me from my father. I think as a single mother, she desperately wanted our love and affection, therefore, saying negative remarks about my father my entire life. It got to the point, where I honestly feared him and did not look forward to spending time with him. My father never missed his weekends visits, never late for child-support and alimony payments and never said unkind words about our mother.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

There are a few stories, but the one I believe had the most impact was never realizing until 10 years ago, I was alienated from my parent. My father never deserved to be spoken so badly about to his children, which created fear, anxiety and resentment in my feelings towards him. After my own divorce when my son was 4 years old, I decided no matter the outcome I will take the high-road and never be the cause of alienation from his father. It’s ironic since my former spouse refused to pay his court ordered child support, did not co-parent in a healthy way and yet here I am devoting my work to supporting men. As a mother to an adult son and a daughter to a father who honestly didn’t have a fighting chance to create a bond with his daughter, I want to make sure men know they have unbiased support and guidance with me.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this career? Oh boy, only one story?

I have SO many…A few years ago, I was attending a wedding of a former client in Texas (I’m located in Florida). I worked with this gentleman for nearly a year, and we had a silly bet that he would eventually move through and past his divorce and find peace and perhaps love again. He doubted this for the longest time, however, I knew he had it in him even when he didn’t. Long story short, I won the bet which was an invitation to his wedding should he ever re-marry. Not only was I invited, but he also made it a point to introduce me to as many people as he could (there were over 200 guests). During one of the toasts, he made me stand so he could properly thank me for my unconditional support, faith and accountability I demonstrated with him. Tears and applause filled the room and on a side note; his bride was so thankful of the hard work he put in with me! She was convinced it made him a better man for it.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

I shall take the heart. For brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.” By L. Frank Baum, The wonderful Wizard of Oz This comes into play not only in my own divorce story but my client’s as well. It’s not about being the “smart one” or outsmarting someone. It’s about having a heart, compassion, empathy when people need it the most. This in turn, will give people the happiness they are so desperately searching for.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One of my new projects is a virtual support group for men going through a divorce. Each month, I will have a guest interact with the members. I’m sourcing excellent therapists, attorney’s and other professionals throughout the U.S. Men have very few resources of support, which is why I know this is going to be so helpful to men.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you tell us a bit about your experience going through a divorce, or helping someone who was going through a divorce? What did you learn about yourself during and after the experience? Do you feel comfortable sharing a story?

A few years ago, I had a client come to me just a few weeks after learning his spouse was having an affair and wanted a divorce. He was beyond blindsided, and so filled with anger. Before we began working together, he had put a recording device in her car, and had gathered an enormous amount of evidence showing her adultery and with a subordinate employee. This was grounds of his wife being fired from her employer of nearly 15 years. All her hard work and dedication would be thrown away if he was going to act on his desire to get her fired. Immediately, I informed him that I will not work with anyone who is seeking to sabotage their spouse. If he wanted my help, we needed to work on his anger and find a solution to having him go through his divorce in the most amicable way possible. Long story short, we worked together for 7 months, and he has a wonderful relationship with his 10-year-old son and the best part: once a month they all get together for a meal to be a united front for the sake of their son. When I’m criticized for supporting men, I remind people I also support women with my work. In this case, I save a woman’s career, helped her husband make peace with their situation and move forward with a healthy co-parenting relationship with her. Women do not get the chance to see how much I help improve their relationships with their former spouse, right down to how he will communicate via text, email, or phone with her. This is just one example of why I love what I do.

In your opinion, what are the most common mistakes people make after they go through a divorce? What can be done to avoid that?

For men, I think the biggest mistake they may make is a rebound relationship. Dating and finding your new norm is healthy, however, jumping into the first relationship that presents itself is usually a big mistake. I recommend to my clients, take your time. Get to know your new normal. You discover so many things about yourself both during and after your divorce. These discoveries may lead to changes in what you’re looking for in a new partner.

People generally label “divorce” as being “negative”. And yes, while there are downsides, there can also be a lot of positive that comes out of it as well. What would you say that they are? Can you share an example or share a story?

Absolutely, there can be many positive outcomes of a divorce. For example, your new home will not be as toxic, stressful, and disruptive to your children as the previous one when you were married. Another is discovering many things about yourself you had no idea existed such as a “voice,” independence, resilience, and strength. Most people come out much stronger on the other side of divorce.

Some people are scared to ‘get back out there’ and date again after being with their former spouse for many years and hearing dating horror stories. What would you say to motivate someone to get back out there and start a new beginning?

I would say, look at it as a means of making new friendships, networks, and new hobbies.

What is the one thing people going through a divorce should be open to changing?

This is a great question. I would say be open to changing your thought process on who was right or wrong in the marriage. Take accountability for your part and work on improving this going forward.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. If you had a close friend come to you for advice after a divorce, what are 5 things you would advise in order to survive and thrive after the divorce? Can you please give a story or example for each?

Five things I would advise, would be:

  1. Move forward, take accountability for your part in the divorce. Often, people will say they were blindsided and had no part in the undoing of the marriage. There is always something, even if it’s small, that we have played. Find it and own it, this in turn will help you move forward and not stay stuck in your divorce story.
  2. Keep your emotional support team strong. Whether it is your family, friends, coach, or therapist make sure you lean on them when you need to. Your divorce may be finalized, but you will still need to have people there for you for support. I’ve worked with clients sometimes for a year after their divorce, it’s what keeps them focused and strong as they navigate through their new life.
  3. Make a new “bucket list” for you next chapter. Whether it’s a new hobby, make new friendships, start a new business whatever it is you think will keep you focused on the positive and work towards your new new normal.
  4. Take your time going into a long-term relationship. So many people make the mistake of marrying on the rebound which has a divorce rate of over 65%. I know people don’t like the idea of “dating” and prefer steady relationships, which yes, are wonderful to have. However, you have just been through one of the most stressful factors in life, your emotions and wounds are raw and need time to heal. Don’t skip this part of healing and go full steam ahead with a relationship right out of the gate. Besides, you may learn so many things of what you don’t want in a new partner.
  5. Give yourself some empathy rather than blame. Oftentimes, we beat ourselves up and look at the divorce as a reflection of us failing. I’d say to a friend, be kind to yourself and look at this as a learning experience for your next chapter in life.

The stress of a divorce takes a toll on both one’s mental and emotional health. In your opinion or experience, what are a few things people going through a divorce can do to alleviate this pain and anguish?

Get help! See a therapist or a coach. The pain becomes worse when you don’t have a professional working with you. I’ve had many clients seek therapy along with my coaching, and the results are amazing. You many also need medication, even if temporary. A few weeks ago, one of my clients sought help from a psychiatrist and was put on a antidepressant. For him, this has made a tremendous difference as he is working to recover from his divorce.

Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources related to this topic that you would recommend to our readers?

One of my favorite books is Conscious Uncoupling; 5 steps to living happily even after, by Katherine Woodward Thomas. This book aligns with my moral compass which is stressing the needs and well being of your children during and after your divorce. A healthy co-parenting relationship is vital for your children to thrive and must not be overlooked. This is one of the most difficult challenges people face but I am here to tell you, it can be done even in the worst of circumstances.

Because of the position that you are in, you are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Keeping families out of the family courts and working together as a team for their children’s sake as they go through a divorce. Having more empathy and kindness towards your former spouse.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Former President Barack Obama- I’m not one to share my political beliefs, however, I love how President Obama was always willing to work with both sides. He was incredibly insightful and was open minded to how others’ perceived things. We need more of this in society, a willingness to be open-minded to the opinion of others without harsh judgements. He always demonstrated this.

Thank you for these great insights and for the time you spent with this interview. We wish you only continued success! Thank you for allowing me to be a part of this series.


Hayley Lisa On 5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive After A Divorce was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Rohan Doodnauth Of Opalink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Rohan Doodnauth Of Opalink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Hire to Your Weaknesses. No matter what stage your business is in; it’s best to hire people in areas you may not have the appropriate skills at. Initially we were hiring employees on our team that had similar backgrounds to our team instead of hiring employees that may have a technical skillset that would’ve added more value to our company.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rohan Doodnauth.

Rohan Doodnauth is the Co-Founder and Chief Financial Officer of OpaLink. Rohan earned his B.S. in Finance at the University of Central Florida before working in Cloud SaaS and Corporate Finance.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My brothers and I are second-generation Americans born to Indian descent parents from Guyana. Our parents instilled their values of always being kind, humble, generous always helping those in need. Growing up our parents always showed concern for others’ welfare and putting their comfort first. Our parents owned and operated Adult Daycare Centers where we spent time volunteering and giving back to the senior community in Merritt Island Florida. OpaLink was founded on the concept of gifting and the hospitable brothers believed in the concept of giving more than you receive.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

During the pandemic our founding team was placed in a situation where we were all working from home for our corporate jobs and had to assist our parents with their facilities due to the labor shortage caused by COVID-19. By coming together, we realized that through any difficult situation we can accomplish everything by being a family first and multitasking to achieve our task at hand.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

OpaLink combines multiple technologies such as peer to peer, geofencing, and data analytics to allow users to communicate directly with our partner restaurants, identify when customers are at a current restaurants/bar and allows friends to gift/send items instantly to each other.

This will allow users to never experience F.O.M.O, create dining experiences with friends that are physically displaced, and meet new people.

How do you think this might change the world?

OpaLink will change the world because it will create a new standard of virtual dining that will foster connections and experiences.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

With our technology customers will receive more drinks and food items that they were not initially planning for (lol).

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

It was the summer of 2020 and all three of us were quarantined because we had COVID-19. My brother Teddy was on the phone with his best friend living in NY while he was out celebrating his birthday at a restaurant. Teddy called the restaurant to send a bottle of wine to his friend and was denied payment of reading his credit card over the phone because of security reasons

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

In order to lead this technology to widespread we need to partner up with operators and show the positive outcomes that our product will have on their top line, consumer foot traffic, and prioritize the emotional connection of keeping our operators consumers engaged.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We are targeting hyper local markets with growing restaurant groups. We will be targeting regional cities that have high population density of restaurants and cluster of Millennials & Gen Z’s within a certain square mile radius and where a single restaurant group owns multiple different venues / locations.

To convert users tactically, we have introduced our “gifting product” to educated users who visit the site. Users are directed to enter in name, age range, and zip for an early access to download our app when it is released on the store. This also tracks how many times the user refers the application and at the end of the campaign we will select the top 100 users to be invited to the launch event on Jan 15th. This strategy allows us to build anticipation and to increase our referrals organically.

Loyalty and Referral: Users, will also only be awarded loyalty points when they gift and refer friends, with this strategy we can increase the brand awareness and footprint of Opa

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My brothers and I are beyond grateful for our loving and supportive parents who always pushed us to achieve our goals and dreams. When we initially began working on our business, we moved back under our parent’s roof to bootstrap funds and they welcomed us with open hands. Without their support and sacrifices, my brothers and I would not be able to pursue our dreams of becoming successful business entrepreneurs.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My brothers and I always believe in helping others out without the intent of getting the same reciprocation. Whether it’s giving career advice to our peers, mentoring students that are striving to work in business, or simply helping a stranger — we believe if you give back to society, it makes us happier and healthier.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. A simple solution is always better than a complex one. Before launching your startup, you should always keep in mind that it’s best to keep your solution clear and concise to allow your customers to fully understand what problems you are solving for them. In addition, the more complex your systems are; the longer it takes to develop and test. When we initially developed our minimum viable product, we realized towards the end that it was way complex to operate with the current team capacity and funds.
  2. Focus on what’s going to move the needle. Spending the first 60% of your day focused on what is going to get your business to the next step will propel you towards your goals faster. This will allow you to cut out distractions and prioritize your goal- driven actions first. When we initially launched our business, we were so distracted on the micro-detailed business plan early on realized it was a waste of time because we pretty much had to re-work it. Instead, we became more focused on what was going to push the needle, which was defining our target market, finding the right team, defining our problem and solution.
  3. Getting through it nearly kills you. No matter how high the cards maybe stacked up against you, you can make it through with determination and hard work. With every roadblock that my brothers and I encountered it challenged us to think outside the box and work together to overcome those hurdles.
  4. Hire to Your Weaknesses. No matter what stage your business is in; it’s best to hire people in areas you may not have the appropriate skills at. Initially we were hiring employees on our team that had similar backgrounds to our team instead of hiring employees that may have a technical skillset that would’ve added more value to our company.
  5. Build Great Relationships. No business can survive without trustful people in your circle. By focusing on expanding your relationships with your employees, customers, and investors; it allows you to grow together with likeminded people. We found that attending business events and utilizing social media allowed us to get inspiration, make connections, gain mentors, and learn about new opportunities.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We want to inspire a massive movement around connecting people by teaching them how to celebrate life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated” -Confucius

I believe it’s great to constantly challenge yourself and strive for new heights but sometimes we should take sometime to unwind and enjoy the simple things such as Reduction of extraneous input (phone, kids, parents, loud sounds, bright lights, phones, computers or whatever) and focusing on the one simple thing

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Have you ever experienced F.O.M.O or (Fear of Missing Out) while your friends are out celebrating together? Or do you want to create dining experiences with family and friends while physically apart? Our mobile app allows users to gift drinks and food to friends without physically being at a restaurant or bar. At its core, OpaLink provides a social timeline where friends can share their gifting transactions and let their friends know what restaurant/bar they are at by using the checking-in feature.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can follow us at

Instagram: @opalinkapp

Twitter: @opalinkapp

Facebook: @opalinkapp

TikTok: @opalinkapp

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Rohan Doodnauth Of Opalink On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Philip Freeman Of Murphy’s Naturals On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Philip Freeman Of Murphy’s Naturals On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with a team that is as passionate about the business and mission of the company as you are as the founder. Our incredible team is bright, hardworking, passionate, caring, and motivated. You can do a lot of good with a team like that, and you can build one hell of a company with a team like that, and we’re doing exactly that.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Philip Freeman.

Philip Freeman is the founder and CEO of Murphy’s Naturals, an outdoor lifestyle company specializing in plant-based mosquito repellents. Prior to launching Murphy’s Naturals, Philip served as a Deep-Sea Diving Officer in the US Navy for eight years. Following his military service, Philip spent 23 years in packaging sales at International Paper. In 2013, he launched the outdoor natural products company Murphy’s Naturals. Murphy’s Naturals started in a Raleigh, NC garage, quickly grew to a 40,000 square foot facility in 2016. That space expanded to 90,000 square feet in 2021.

Under Philip’s leadership, Murphy’s Naturals became a Certified-B Corporation in 2017. Murphy’s Naturals commits 2% of revenues to organizations that share its vision of a healthy environment. The company is also a member of 1% for the Planet, a global organization that helps companies give back to mission-aligning organizations and holds several sustainability and sourcing certifications.

Philip is also the founder of The Loading Dock, a collaborative coworking and co-warehousing company for small businesses. Murphy’s Naturals is named for the Freemans’ outdoors-loving dog, Murphy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory?” What led you to this particular career path? What led you to create Murphy’s Naturals?

I’ve always been curious about business — writing out different business concepts and plans and filing them away. After serving in the U.S. Navy, I worked for 23 years in the corporate world, and all that time I kept coming up with ideas and tucking them away. Finally, I reached a point where I said, “You know what? Maybe it’s time for me to execute on one of these ideas.”

And one of those ideas was solving a problem at home: My wife, Pam, is a mosquito magnet, and every time we tried to hang out together outside, she’d have to run inside to escape the mosquitoes. I really love spending time with Pam outdoors, so I wanted to find a solution to that problem, and what better than to solve a problem at home, right?

We wanted to create something that we felt comfortable putting on our skin — nothing chemical-based — that was actually effective. I had a real hard time finding an effective natural product on the market. There were plenty of chemical-based mosquito repellents that work well, but not a whole lot of high-quality, natural products. So that led us to come up with our own formulations and products and to eventually create Murphy’s Naturals, which was at first a side hustle for me until I transitioned out of my full-time job.

Can you tell our readers about Murphy’s Naturals and what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Murphy’s Naturals is an outdoor lifestyle company, and we make top-quality natural products for outdoor living. One of the biggest challenges when you think about being outdoors — as my wife can attest — is mosquitos. So that’s our focus area.

We launched in July 2013 with mosquito-repelling incense sticks called Murphy’s Mosquito Sticks that we sold on Amazon. Now we have many other products that focus on outdoor living. The company’s name, by the way, is an homage to our dog Murphy. He also was no fan of mosquitos! We continue to honor him in some of our charitable efforts as well.

Our mission is to celebrate nature and inspire good through quality, natural products. That’s intentionally simple, but there’s meaning behind every part of it. To celebrate nature is to enjoy it and preserve it. One of the ways to enjoy nature is to live life outdoors and experience everything that nature has to offer. And one of the ways to preserve nature is to be responsible citizens: Murphy’s Naturals is a Certified B Corporation, meaning we meet the highest standards of social and environmental responsibility, transparency, and accountability. And to inspire good you need to do good, and by that we mean leading by example, which we try to do in myriad ways with our employees and customers. Through it all, we maintain our commitment to quality in creating natural products.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Which one? (Laughs.) Creating a product is always a challenge. I remember one of the first formulations that I was working on included a fantastic ingredient from the Brazilian Amazon. And that ingredient, unbeknownst to me, wasn’t on the U.S. EPA’s list of approved products. You can have a formulation with five, six, seven ingredients, and if one of them isn’t on that list, then the entire thing is disqualified. So, I had put a lot of work and a lot of pride into a natural product that was highly effective — but wasn’t recognized by the EPA, and I had to go back to the drawing board. I learned that it’s critically important to do your research before you get too far along down any particular path.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

A lot of people have been an inspiration to me. My Mom has always been my biggest cheerleader and a great supporter of entrepreneurism.

In the business industry, I’ll cite one person who has influenced Murphy’s Naturals and how we built this brand. During my 23-year career before starting this company, I had the opportunity and privilege to work with a brand called The Body Shop. Prior to working with them, I had read a book called Body and Soul by Anita Roddick, the founder of The Body Shop. I was inspired by her passion for natural products. She started in her kitchen — like I did. And she ended up forming this global brand, over time, yet she kept the same principles in place throughout.

Anita was very focused on environmental stewardship; she was focused on her people, her employees, and her communities; and she was also very much focused on quality products that they created and derived from ingredients that came from all over the world. And very often, they came from communities that really needed a source of income. She made sure that she paid indigenous people a fair value for their products, and she really created this concept of community fair trade.

Reading that book led me to The Body Shop to make them my customer. I worked with them for nearly two decades, and what I saw throughout that organization is that it was filled with people who were passionate about the mission and who were following the lead and inspiration of Anita Roddick. She passed away several years ago, but her legacy lives on through that brand, through her products, and through people like me who were inspired by her to create companies focused on doing good and doing well.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is difficult. I think there has to be a balance between being disruptive and having longevity.

In our industry, there are a lot of big players. If my intent as a “disruptor” is to go after them directly and beat them at their own game, that can be exceptionally challenging. But if my goal instead is to differentiate my brand by being better than the big players, then I can succeed.

Our disruption was figuring out what in nature worked well at repelling mosquitos, and then figuring out what concentrations of those ingredients were most effective. That’s not a crazy, outside-the-box idea, but it’s one where we could carve out a niche. The big companies were trying to cut costs in their natural products by putting lower concentrations of ingredients like essential oils into their formulas, which lowered their effectiveness. We don’t do that, and it’s made our products stand out.

We have other disruptive products on the horizon, but being disruptive requires capital, and we’ve finally reached the point where we can truly fund the kind of R&D we need to get to the next level.

Lastly, I would say that something we do differently than most of our larger competitors is how we focus on giving back. As a Certified B Corporation, we’re very mission-focused. We give back 2% of our revenue — not our profits, our revenue — and split it between 1% for the Planet and to other causes, including veteran organizations, animal welfare groups, and to the five honeybee hives that we keep for honey that we bottle and sell and then donate the proceeds.

Can you share some of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?

Surround yourself with a team that is as passionate about the business and mission of the company as you are as the founder. Our incredible team is bright, hardworking, passionate, caring, and motivated. You can do a lot of good with a team like that, and you can build one hell of a company with a team like that, and we’re doing exactly that.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have some innovative products coming. Timing is always a big question when dealing with government regulation, but we have several exciting things in the works. We are also working on some products that don’t have to do with mosquito repellency but about another one of the challenges of outdoor living: the sun. We’re developing a reef-safe, natural sunscreen line that ultimately will lead to a combo line of products that will have our repellent plus SPF protection. We’ve also fielded a lot of requests from our consumers to come out with a more premium, upscale line of our repellent products, which is something we’re coming out with now. Our candles, for example, we’re going to be presenting them in a stoneware vessel in a few colors that are very clean and upscale — and true to our brand and mission they are also refillable, reusable, and recyclable.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I’ll mention three:

  • How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz on NPR is just an incredible source of inspiration for me from all the entrepreneurs who are featured.
  • Body & Soul, which I previously described, by Anita Roddick.
  • Conscious Capitalism, co-authored by John Mackey, is a terrific example of how for-profit companies can do good and do well.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Here’s a story as it relates to an individual’s potential influence versus that of a company, which I like to use as an example of how doing good inspires good:

When you go to a grocery store and you get out of your car, you’ll see shopping carts that are in the corral, and you’ll also see some that are just left in the middle of the parking lot. We assume someone has been lazy and just didn’t care enough to push it over. But we never really know what the situation might have been. Maybe it was a new mom who just put her infant in the car and didn’t want to leave her to push the cart all the way to the corral. We don’t know. So let’s say you see that errant shopping cart and you move it out of the parking lot and into the corral, or you take it into the store yourself, you may not think that’s a big deal, but it actually is. People will notice, and they will see you making that extra effort, and they will be inspired by it.

You can inspire good in the simplest ways. Sometimes that’s as small as putting your own shopping cart back — that sets a good example — or taking it one little step further and putting someone else’s shopping cart back. I think those little measures in life make a big difference, and whether you’re an individual person or a whole company, we should never lose sight of the fact that the little things we do can inspire others to do good, too.

How can our readers follow you and Murphy’s Naturals online?

murphysnaturals.com
linkedin.com/in/philip-freeman-2824274a/

instagram.com/murphysnaturals/
facebook.com/MurphysNaturals/
twitter.com/MurphysNaturals

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Meet The Disruptors: Philip Freeman Of Murphy’s Naturals On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Lawrence MDrake II: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be emotionally intelligent. Consider the impact of your actions on others because you never are able to see yourself as others see. Being emotionally intelligent really means knowing how your emotions impact your decision making and how they are affecting others, especially in times of crisis and difficulty. It’s about being sensitive to how others respond to situations so that your vantage point is as balance as possible. Emotionally intelligent leaders are those who will be the most successful, particularly in this season where we’re going to have more uncertainty, not not less. Emotionally intelligent leaders will be those who will weather the storms much better.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lawrence M. Drake II.

Dr. Lawrence M. Drake, II is a dynamic and focused global leader whose domestic and international experience has led him to be a champion of targeted recruitment and people development. After more than four decades as a corporate executive, entrepreneur, and researcher, Dr. Drake is now President & CEO of LEADership, Education and Development, a 21st century learning access advocacy organization, and the Chairman of executive development consultancy Hope 360, Inc. He was recently appointed Dean of the College of Business & Entrepreneurship at Bethune-Cookman University. He is a member of several boards, alumni associations, and professional organizations such as the International Coaching Federation, Forbes Coaches Council, and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. His most recent collaboration Business Success Secrets: Entrepreneurial Thinking that Works (2021) is now both a Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller. His book Color Him Father (2019) has received critical acclaim within the US and around the world. When he is not leading organizations, writing, or serving his community, Dr. Drake enjoys spending quality time with his wife, three daughters, two sons and six grandchildren.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I spent over forty years as a corporate executive, moving twenty times and living and working around the world. Through these experiences, I learned to think entrepreneurially about everything. When I left the corporate world, I began to apply my knowledge to a variety of industries. I realized that applied leadership and helping people become the best version of themselves while believing in possibilities of “what can be not just what is” were my zones of genius.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I remember when I partnered with another entrepreneur on a venture. I was doing the payroll for our team. We weren’t using ADP or anything — we were actually calculating the payroll ourselves. When I added all the numbers up and compared the payroll to what we had in the bank, I realized there wasn’t enough money to pay me. I had to let my family know not only would I not get paid that week, but I wasn’t sure when there would be enough to pay me because of all the people we had on the payroll to keep the business going. It wasn’t very funny then, but as I look back, I wondered how I could not have known the balance between how much money was in the bank and how much needed to be paid out. I think I just had wishful thinking — I was hoping that money would magically appear so I could be paid too — but that didn’t happen. That went on for six months — for six months, I didn’t get paid at all. It was quite a time; I found out the real meaning of being a broke entrepreneur!

What I learned from that is that I was a bit ambitious in terms of hiring people. What I should have done is hired only what I needed rather than hiring what I thought I was going to need. I ended up hiring beyond our capacity in terms of customers and revenue coming in. I haven’t made that mistake since — it’s a pay as you go methodology when you’re starting a firm. You don’t hire more than you actually need, and everyone has to understand that if we don’t have work, we don’t have employees.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are so many people, it’s hard to single out one — but I will share three stories that are especially meaningful.

In my corporate career, I will never forget my first boss Denny Larson. He was a young vice president at the company and I thought a lot of him because he was smart and savvy. One day, he called me into his office and asked me about my goals and career trajectory. I told him I wanted to be a vice president at 35, be a CEO before I’m 40 and retire when I’m 45 — I was in my mid-twenties at the time.

So he looked at me and he said, “Well first of all, Larry, you have to look the part. Meet me after work.” I was a little nervous, but I liked Danny and I trusted him. We got in his car and he took me over to his men’s shop and I’ll never forget the guy who waited on us — his name was Marv Soldner- real tall, lanky, skinny guy, looked like Mr. Magoo, but he was an incredibly nice man. And Danny told him to measure me for a suit. Now the back story here is I never had a suit — ever — because I couldn’t afford one. And so, he fitted me and asked what kind of suit I wanted, what color and all of that. He bought the suit and told me to come back and get it in a week. And then he leaned over to me and he said, “Look, if you’re going to get those things, if you’re going to do those things, you’ve got to look like you’re ready and prepared to do those things. Put some money aside every paycheck to buy some clothes. Make sure you look the part; make sure people take you seriously when you come into the room. And that has stuck with me my whole life. And, you know, when I look at my closet, I look at how I dress today, it has a lot to do with that lesson Danny taught me.

The second story is about Price Cobbs, my executive coach for 20 years, who passed away about two and a half years ago. He wrote the book Black Rage. He was an M.D. by training — he was a psychiatrist, and he was very interested in diversity long before we were having conversations about it like we are today. Price was over 80 years old when he died. When I lost my oldest daughter, Price was the first person I thought about when I started to look for therapy to help me get through that time. He was one of those people who would set you straight. He started coaching me when I was at PepsiCo, when I was a senior executive there. There were only 13 Black men and women in the senior ranks. He took a liking to me and I took a liking to him, and he was my coach for the rest of his life. He was always there and I made very few big decisions without talking to him about it.

He was a father figure, a friend. A confidant, a jokester. He was all of those, and I miss him terribly. He was instrumental in helping me really look at myself which, as I tell my executive coaching clients, is the reason you need a coach. I tell executives, particularly Black executives, that we’re never good at being able to see ourselves like other people see us. Part of coaching is being able to help you really see yourself like other people see you or at least have some vantage points so that you can be much more emotionally intelligent about what you do and how you do it. Price was very good at that; I learned not only how to be a better executive, but I learned my craft through paying attention to the way in which he coached me and others. Price was a coach for a lot of successful Black executives that I know — everybody from Ann Fudge, to Carla Harris to — you name it. He was a coach to all of us.

Finally, I can’t forget my kindergarten teacher, Ms. Solomon. She would get down on the floor with me and teach me how to count. She was very patient and very kind; I think about her all the time.

Those are three people who come to mind who have helped me — there are many, many more.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I have three companies, so it’s hard for me to single them out, but let’s stay with the coaching business — I didn’t found it, my wife did. She and I reimagined the company — it used to be called Visions plus Solutions, but when we remarried, we changed the name to Hope 360, Inc. Hope stands for “helping other people excel.” She would always say that our company is here to give people hope. We’ve coached executives for 22 years and that is always the aim — how do we help them see a better version of themselves?

We’re all about purpose. We talk about coaching from a 360° perspective, which is mind, body and spirit. Individuals are not one dimensional, and neither should their coaching or our coaching practice be, so we focus on the total person. When we do that, we find purpose not only in the work we do, but we help them find purpose and we talk a lot about them finding their why. One of our key tenets is helping people realize why they do what they do. I’m a psychologist by training, so I have a natural need to be in that space anyway. But as a coach, it’s not about pathology — it’s all about helping individuals figure out how to be the best version of themselves in every space and area of their lives — whether at work or at home, raising children, single, married, building a company, or navigating their career. All of those are situations in which the passion and the purpose we have are married.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

In 2008, when I was CEO of one of my investment partner’s portfolio firms, our mission was to build the brand of legacy recording artists of all genres. Our end goal was to make this company the choice destination and primary connection source for music, entertainment, and information. Due to a significant slowdown in ad spending, we couldn’t afford to cover our costs — it got to the point where we had only 90 days cash. The economic recession prevented a lot of our investors from continuing to provide funds. While we found two angel investors who got us through another three months, the company folded in 2009. The lessons learned from this experience was that even if you have a terrific concept, you must be aware of the ebbs and flows in the market. We didn’t realize how big of a downturn the market was in at the time.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I don’t know any entrepreneur who doesn’t say, “You know what, I need to go back and get a job, you know, because this is outrageous. This is hard.” And that’s particularly true when you’re not getting paid, business is not moving fast as you want to, or you don’t think you’re going to get the clients that you need. My drive comes from my faith. I’m very resilient in the sense that I’ve had a lot of doors closed in my face over the years, and that’s still happening.

There’s no one who runs an organization who doesn’t experience doors being closed in your face. When I was in high school, I was the kid who always wanted to ask that girl that was really cute to dance but I never did because I was so afraid they would say no. And and I can remember the times that I asked and they did say no and I was just crushed. And it made me even more gun shy. Some people wouldn’t believe that I’m an extrovert because I’m shy about a number of things — I think it’s because I’ve experienced some rejection over the years. However, I’m a resilient person. I work very hard — I’m not one to just throw in the towel; I’m going to stay with it as long as I can.

Probably the best example I can give is my marriage — this is my third marriage. I first got married when I was 20 and stayed married for 18 years. I foolishly got married a second time, stayed married 12 years, and now I’m in year 14 of my third marriage. I’ve been married practically my whole life — can’t figure out why I do that — but this time, thank God, I hit the jackpot. I don’t think there were very many women in the world who would have been as resilient as she was for me when I lost my oldest child. I’m glad I stuck with the idea that marriage could work, regardless of having two that didn’t.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most critical role of a leader in challenging times is for your people to feel like you are with them and you are present. They need to see that you have unshakable faith — that it’s going to work, that you’re going to get it. That they see you as someone who is committed wholeheartedly. And even if it’s not going exactly to plan that you’re faithful about it, you’re realistic enough to know, and you’re committed to an outcome. Even if you don’t make it, they will know you were there with them until the end. Your people need to know that you’re present, they need to know that you’re there.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Uncertainty is a fact of life. We never know what’s around the corner completely. But I think in terms of inspiration, having purpose is really important to people. If you’re fighting for something and you really believe in each other, nothing is impossible. Everybody wants to believe that they’re going somewhere. The moment in which we believe that there’s nothing else to do and no place else to go is the moment that we can’t continue to strive and it’s when we lose that we’ve lost everything.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Be straight, no chaser. Don’t try to beat around the bush. People can handle the truth if you give it to them. Be respectful, but don’t hide the truth because it’s hard. When I was at PepsiCo, we had to eliminate 250 management jobs. My HR director and I flew to about four or five cities on the same day to have these meetings and let these people go in person — it was hard. But what people appreciated was we told the truth and respected them enough to be honest and tell them in person. Some people cried because they had been with the company for 20 years — but we had to tell them straight, not send a note or letter in the mail. They appreciated that.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

There is a Biblical proverb that says without a vision, the people will perish. I believe this and have practiced it in my life. You sent a vision for where you want to go, not a goal. Now, you may not reach it — really, visions are designed that way. But once you set it, all of your plans will come underneath that vision, and you can work on it regularly and adjust as needed. Yes, the future is unpredictable — but there will always be uncertainty. Life is about ambiguity; our ability to be agile and nimble in environments like that really determine our ability to stick it out, our ability to deal with uncertainty.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

The number one principle that will guide a company through difficult times is to be true to its mission and purpose.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

First, some companies are too ambitious, meaning they may overstate what their ability is or what they can actually do.

Second, many companies don’t have a clear strategy and purpose. In other words, they haven’t clearly identified the problem that they’re trying to solve or their product is trying to solve, and they don’t develop a good strategy and implementation plan. They haven’t chosen a proper strategy because the problem they’re trying to solve is not clear.

Thirdly, some companies hire bad people. When you hire bad people, you don’t have the best individuals to help you implement your strategy, and you will pay the price for that. There’s no substitute for having good people and good leadership, and there’s no substitute for having a clarity of purpose.

Finally, some entrepreneurs are arrogant. They think they know the answers to all the questions, and they refuse to hire the people that can provide answers because they’re intimidated by people who are smarter than them. Solid leaders and astute entrepreneurs don’t make this mistake.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

The number one strategy is to constantly examine whether or not the product I’m trying to sell is something the market really wants or needs. It’s important that you make what you can sell rather than selling what they can make. If you do something really well and you’re really good at it but the market’s not buying it, you have a problem. Be agile enough to maintain your direction. Have multiple ways that you can improve your margins and improve your top line growth and your net income on your profitability. There’s only a few ways you can make money — you can sell more, you can raise your prices, or you can get new products in your portfolio.

During the pandemic, a lot of businesses changed what they offered, the way it was offered, and the price. They found new niches and, in some cases, built entirely different companies. That’s how the best entrepreneurs think — they’re always looking to the market to help them adjust.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Listen to the market, your people, and your customers so you can understand how everything is playing out and how you may need to respond in a crisis or uncertain situation. When I worked at PepsiCo running the KFC business, I was very concerned about our product offering. Our customers were telling us that our service was mediocre and they were visiting us once every 52 days, which was less than most quick-service restaurants (QSR). At the time, we only offered dinner — we didn’t have lunch or breakfast. The market was telling us that if we wanted to be competitive, we needed to have some semblance of one of those or both of those, and we also needed products that were unique to us. One of my markets was Chicago. I knew I couldn’t change everything, but I could adapt our product offering to complement what we already had on our menu. I got the company to change our uniforms and added a few soul food items to appeal to our customers in that market. We added macaroni and cheese, green beans, and cornbread and did a media campaign called “KFC is cooking.” The campaign was a huge success and our customer count improved significantly. People would come just for the sides even if they weren’t buying chicken, which improved our visitation rate and purchase rate. Since we had good margin on those products, we generated additional revenue. We also made the environment within the stores relevant to those customers. I replicated our Chicago success in Detroit and our other urban markets.
  2. Be agile and willing to take measured risk. When I lived in Africa and was managing the Coca-Cola business in several countries there, one of our biggest challenges was that our water packaging wasn’t meeting the needs of our customers. There were local vendors who were selling water in plastic bags, while the Coca-Cola water was in a plastic bottle and very expensive. We realized there was an opportunity to change our packaging and create something smaller and more moderately priced that would be competitive against non-branded products. We also changed our juice ingredients and provided jobs for farmers who weren’t getting their products to market as efficiently as they needed to; this was important because their crops were supplying our juice business. We partnered with a manufacturer co-op in Ghana, shipped those products, and got them moved across the border to Nigeria. This was a win-win situation because we were able to support the local farmers and expand our business into new markets.
  3. Lead by example — you shouldn’t ask your people to do things you’re unwilling to do. If you look at it, you have to walk the talk — your audio and video need to match! When I was in corporate, I couldn’t ask my people to work late or make sacrifices if I wasn’t willing to do the same. I don’t sit back and watch, that’s not how I lead and it’s certainly not what I believe in. In my early days at Coca-Cola, I asked my team to go out into the market and look at what was happening in real time. Since I asked them to do that, they had to know that I would be out there as well. I went out Thursday to Monday every single week so that I could lead by example.
  4. Act with integrity and honesty. This is especially important when you have to deliver news about layoffs, but there are other times when you have to deliver unpleasant news, and you have to do it with integrity. People want to know the truth — resist the temptation to use the company or anything else as a crutch. When you are respectful and deliver the truth the way you would want to hear it, people will have more respect for you.
  5. Be emotionally intelligent. Consider the impact of your actions on others because you never are able to see yourself as others see. Being emotionally intelligent really means knowing how your emotions impact your decision making and how they are affecting others, especially in times of crisis and difficulty. It’s about being sensitive to how others respond to situations so that your vantage point is as balance as possible. Emotionally intelligent leaders are those who will be the most successful, particularly in this season where we’re going to have more uncertainty, not not less. Emotionally intelligent leaders will be those who will weather the storms much better.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Yes, my favorite quote is that if you can change the way people think, you can change the way they behave — that is my life quote.

It’s important to recognize how to help people be the best version of themselves. Oftentimes, the difficulty is getting them to think differently about themselves, think differently about others, and therefore act differently. There is a Biblical proverb that says “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Our thoughts have everything to do with how we behave. We have to examine our thinking constantly and make sure that we’re open to rethinking.

Alvin Toffler, who was a futurist and businessman, said that literacy in the 21st century will not be defined by whether or not you can read or write, but whether or not you can learn, unlearn and relearn. It’s vital that we have a quest for lifelong learning, that we continue to reexamine the how and why behind our thinking. Make sure that you’re allowing yourself to see the world through a multidimensional lens.

People are multidimensional and complex, so you have to allow yourself to think differently about them. For instance, how do you allow yourself to think differently about racism, systemic racism, and the socioeconomic challenges that we face today? The opportunity to behave differently really requires you to examine your thinking and then examine why you think the way you do. Since we’re products of our environment, we have to constantly step back and reexamine our thinking. Our environment may have taught us one thing, but the world today is in a different state. If we don’t adjust, we’re still operating with the original thought patterns we had when we first learned instead of unlearning and replacing it with new information. If you change the way people think, you can change the way they behave.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Dr Lawrence MDrake II: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Brian Hartzer: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Care about people — genuinely care about each individual. Strive to find, hire, and nurture people will world class skills, who share similar values. Take an interest in them as people, show them through your actions that you want them to succeed, and they will support you through thick and thin.

As a part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Hartzer.

Brian Hartzer, author of THE LEADERSHIP STAR: A Practical Guide to Building Engagement, is an experienced executive and leadership mentor who served as CEO of the Westpac Banking Group from 2015 to 2019. Earlier, he spent 15 years in senior executive roles at the Royal Bank of Scotland Group and ANZ Banking Group. Hartzer has also worked as a financial services strategy consultant at First Manhattan Consulting Group in New York, San Francisco, and Melbourne. He is currently an advisor and investor to Quantium, a leading data-science company, and several Sydney-based start-ups. Hartzer, who graduated from Princeton University and is a Chartered Financial Analyst, holds dual U.S. and Australian citizenship. He currently resides in Sydney, Australia.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I grew up in Connecticut and got interested in banking while in 10th grade — we had to write our first term paper on something in the news, and at the time the front page of the New York Times was all about the LDC (Lesser-Developed Country) debt crisis. A neighbour was a senior executive at Citibank and he took the time to explain to what was happening, which formed the basis of my paper. He was passionate about the fact that the loans had been to help poor countries rise out of poverty, and I was hooked by the idea that banks could be a force for good in the world.

After studying European History at University, I joined First Manhattan Consulting Group in New York, which specialised in banking strategy. In 1994 I was sent to Melbourne, Australia on a project, and after a two-year stint back in San Francisco I was recruited by my Australian client (ANZ Bank) to join as head of their credit card business. I found I enjoyed leading a business rather than being an advisor, and got deeper satisfaction out of helping other people be successful — rather than being the “smart guy” consultant in the corner.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

My first experience as a manager did not go well. I was managing a gelati shop during a summer break, and distinctly remember a young woman I’d hired screaming “you’re a terrible manager!” in my face, throwing her apron on the ground, and storming out.

So my takeaway was that I wasn’t really cut out for management — hence my career in consulting.

The positive of this experience though was that I developed a real appreciation for the craft of management, and recognised that you need to work at if you want to engage people.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My first boss at ANZ had been my consulting client, and he went out on a limb to offer me a job managing a business with over 1000 staff — when I’d never really managed more than a large consulting team before. He obviously saw some potential that I didn’t see — and it changed my life.

I’m eternally grateful for his confidence in me, and have tried to repay it over the years by taking risks on people as well. Some of these have gone on to run significant businesses, and that’s given me immense satisfaction and pride over the years.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

At Westpac we were fortunate to have a clear purpose that dated all the way back to its founding in 1817. Westpac was founded as The Bank of New South Wales — Australia’s first bank, and oldest company. It was specifically charged by the Governor of New South Wales with helping to develop a private economy in what was then a military-run colony.

As CEO I was able to point to that original purpose in explaining that we were a service business — that we existed to help our customers to thrive — and that if we did a good job at that then we would be successful, and our shareholders would be successful.

This resonated well with our people, and I’m convinced that this clarity of purpose was an important contributor to our ability to attract, retain, and motivate people.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

In 2009 I was hired as part of the ‘clean-up crew’ at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) after it was bailed out by the UK government in the Global Financial Crisis. My role covered the UK Retail bank, Coutts (the private banking division), and Ulster Bank (Ireland). That meant that I inherited over 50,000 people, many of whom had lost their life savings — since the previous CEO had encouraged them to invest in RBS shares, which were nearly worthless. On top of that, many thousands of them were now facing the prospect of losing their jobs, and negative stories about the bank or the industry were a daily occurrence.

Rebuilding a motivated workforce in that environment was a huge challenge. To do that, we went back to basics and focused on the important role our people played in helping their customers get through difficult times and reinforced the important long-term role that the bank needed to play in the economic recovery of the nation. And while we were transparent about the need to cut costs and transform the business, we continuously acknowledged the uncertainty and did everything we could to be supportive and caring towards people who were affected.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

To add intensity to this management challenge, my marriage broke up shortly after I started the role at RBS, and my four young children returned to Australia with their mother. Plus, I broke my leg quite badly in a bike accident.

While it was a terribly stressful time both personally and professionally, I discovered — thankfully — that I was resilient.

As Winston Churchill reportedly said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going!”

I got up every morning, put my suit on, and went to work, motivated by the idea of helping to give my people a brighter future, and stimulated by the intellectual and competitive challenges that such a big turnaround brought with it.

Longer term, as difficult as that period was, it was a great confidence builder in that I knew that, having gotten through that period, I could get through anything.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

To stay calm and maintain perspective. Sometimes crisis requires fast decisions or personnel changes, and the willingness to use gut instinct rather than waiting for all the data. But more often it’s about the ability to see a problem from multiple angles, to identify what’s truly important and what’s “noise”, to source a diversity of views to develop and assess options, and to coordinate a thoughtful and comprehensive response to the underlying issues.

When you’ve worked in an organisation for a long time, it’s easy to get emotionally attached or defensive about the current position. But an effective leader needs to be able to separate their own biases, face the brutal reality, and think objectively about what needs to be done

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

To build a truly engaged team, leaders need to do five things, consistently. They need to demonstrate Care for their employees as individual human beings. They need to provide Context — the why, or sense of purpose, and how each individual contributes to that purpose. People also need Clarity on what’s expected of them, what good looks like, and what great looks like. Then leaders need to Clear the way for their employees — knocking over the barriers that get in the way of their people’s success and often lead to demotivation. Finally, they need to Celebrate — to recognise people’s achievement in ways that reinforce a genuine emotional connection and create a culture of appreciation — not just top down from the leader, but generally among peers, teammates, and across organisational boundaries.

But if I had to pick one thing to boost morale, I’d focus on Care — if people feel that their boss genuinely cares about them as an individual and is willing to take action to help them thrive, then that goes a long way.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

With a combination of transparency and empathy.

Transparency is about sharing the facts, and providing context. For example, “as you know we’ve all been working hard to launch product X, but the reality is that the testing now shows it isn’t going to work and we’re going to cancel the project.”

Empathy is about acknowledging the impact of that news on the individual, and highlighting what will be done to support people who are affected. For example, “With the project cancelled I recognise this creates uncertainty for those of you on this project, whose roles may be affected, and I know that’s going to be upsetting for some of you. My commitment is that we will work with each of you over the next month to explore your options from here and will keep you updated on the timing of any decisions that affect you.”

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

I like to think in terms of long-term and short term.

Long term, it’s important to have a view on the forces affecting your industry and how that is likely to shake out over 3–5 years, what your strategy is to deal with that, and then to update that view periodically.

In the shorter term, it’s about deciding what are the big levers that will move you towards that longer term future, while preserving some budget and resource flexibility to respond to immediate opportunities or issues as they pop up.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Understand how value is created in your business over time, and don’t sacrifice on investing in the things that drive that value.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Typically it’s too much short-term thinking or focus on current-period financial results that damages you in the long term. That often manifests in excessive cost cuts that undermine the ability to serve customers (thereby damaging morale), failing to invest in technology systems, hitting customers with uncompetitive price increases that lead to attrition, or flip-flopping on strategy.

In difficult times the key issue for leaders is often about setting priorities and balancing short- and long-term objectives. To get this right, it’s important to be clear on the fundamentals of your business — what drives customer satisfaction, what creates value, etc. — and make sure you don’t neglect this, while accelerating decisions that can improve long-term productivity. It also helps to distinguish between the things that are urgent — i.e., those things that will help you meet your targets, or allow you to create competitive advantage — vs. those things which are nice to have — i.e., they will create value but it doesn’t really matter if they happen now or next year.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Often the best way to grow is to double-down on your core business — simplifying products, reducing costs, and getting closer to existing customers. In a difficult economy everyone is looking for ways to get through it, so rather than trying to create some new magic solution, you can find ways to create win-win with existing clients — for example, by helping them reduce their costs you may be able to gain a greater share of their business and thereby increase your own revenue.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Care about people — genuinely care about each individual. Strive to find, hire, and nurture people will world class skills, who share similar values. Take an interest in them as people, show them through your actions that you want them to succeed, and they will support you through thick and thin.
  2. Increase self-awareness: Take the time to understand what you’re about, what your values are, what motivates you, what your goals are, and how your own experiences and emotional scars affect the way you interact with other people. In my first 360 degree feedback session my colleagues said I wasn’t very collaborative, which surprised me. I subsequently realised — and, with help from my coach, addressed — that my insecurity about whether I was up to the job meant that I was so focused on my own role that I didn’t have time to be generous with others.
  3. Get into the detail: As we get more senior, there’s a lot of pressure to delegate and to empower people. All well and good, but if you’re not careful you miss out on what’s really going on, and you miss the opportunity to knock over barriers and to teach the people who work for you how they need to be approaching projects and problems in ways that benefit from your experience. At RBS I once discovered that we had over 1000 people devoted to an operational process that wasn’t needed at all — simply because no other senior manager had “opened the folder” to look closely at what people were actually doing as a consequence of an outdated policy.
  4. Stay calm, and stay centred: Separate how you see yourself from how your career is going. Many ambitious people (myself included) fall into the trap of thinking that they’re great when things are going well, and they’re terrible when things are going badly. The truth is that there’s a lot of randomness in life and in business, and you shouldn’t link your sense of self to things that are outside your control. My personal mantra is “all I can do is all I can do, and it will be what it will be.” Have I worked hard, to the best of my ability? Have I put the organisation’s interests ahead of my own? Have I lived up to my personal values, and treated people well? If so, then the outcome will be what it is, and I’ll be ok regardless.
  5. Communicate constantly, in many ways: Don’t rely on a monthly email or a quarterly town hall to get your message out. Find ways to connect with people at all levels, find and leverage influencers in the culture, and use “symbolic acts” to create stories that employees tell each other throughout the company — for example, handing out chocolates in the lobby on a big day, sending hand-written notes to teams who achieve something important, or ringing up front line employees to congratulate them on a major career milestone.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Tell them how much you care, before you tell them how much you know”.

Having been through a bunch of ups and downs both personally and professionally, it’s the relationships with people that you build that make it worthwhile and help you through the tough times.

This quote reminds me that genuine human connection is emotional, not intellectual.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I’ve recently published a book, The Leadership Star: A practical guide to building engagement, which is the book I wish I’d had when I was starting out. It’s available as paperback, audiobook, and Kindle in all the usual places. There’s also a website www.theleadershipstar.com where you can sign up and receive a free downloadable chapter.

I also post on Linkedin, https://www.linkedin.com/in/brianhartzer

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Author Brian Hartzer: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Adrian Moza Of Flipsnack On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &…

Adrian Moza Of Flipsnack On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales

An Interview With Orlando Zayas

Never stop learning. Digital marketing and the online world is ever evolving. There’s always something to improve on and there’s always something new happening. In order to keep up you need to continuously read and stay informed about new trends and new developments.

Marketing a product or service today is easier than ever before in history. Using platforms like Facebook ads or Google ads, a company can market their product directly to people who perfectly fit the ideal client demographic, at a very low cost. Digital Marketing tools, Pay per Click ads, and email marketing can help a company dramatically increase sales. At the same time, many companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools often see disappointing results.

In this interview series called “How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, & Email to Dramatically Increase Sales”, we are talking to marketers, advertisers, brand consultants, & digital marketing gurus who can share practical ideas from their experience about how to effectively leverage the power of digital marketing, PPC, & email.

As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Adrian Moza, COO of Flipsnack.

Adrian Moza is COO at Flipsnack. He is passionate about technology, marketing and streamlining business operations. When he is not working, he enjoys playing video games, watching fantasy or SciFi movies and all things sports, especially soccer. Adrian has been working in the industry for more than 15 years.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I got hired right after high school, in 2006. I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to start working for a company as a Flash developer, despite my lack of experience and very basic programming skills. But what I lacked in knowledge I compensated with a desire to learn about the internet, programming and the startup world. That’s when I discovered that even though I like technical challenges I might not want to be a developer. I then transferred to the technical support team, and that was a significant moment in my career. It helped me understand and value the customer’s point of view. That background has helped me immensely when later I became product owner for one of the company’s projects. Later I became head of the team, and then PO .

After a few years I joined the Flipsnack project and then I became COO.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

Looking back sometimes what jumps out at you is the things you didn’t do. I was recently looking back at how Flipsnack evolved over the years and I noticed that in early 2015 the website had only four main pages: ​​homepage, pricing, examples, business. Now we have hundreds of pages that we use for acquisition and I can’t help but smile when I look at these numbers.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I would mention two people that have helped me greatly at the beginning of my career, and especially as I took on a more prominent role in Flipsnack. But there are many other teammates who helped me and who I learned from.

Ann Bob was at the time the Product manager. She saw something in me so she invited me to join this project as a product owner. I’m grateful for that and for this wonderful opportunity. She taught me a lot and gave me all the resources I needed at that point. I remember how impressed I was when I went with her to a conference in New York and how much I learnt during that trip.

Another person that I’d like to mention is Gabriel Ciordas, the founder of the company who trusted me and who helped build the confidence I needed at the beginning of this journey.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Besides the software that stands out with its interactive features, the company culture is another thing that makes us unique. We truly like to be in each other’s company. We celebrate our achievements together, big and small. It’s not just business milestones, targets reached or promotions, people are bringing in cake and drinks, sweets and snacks to celebrate things like getting a good grade on an exam. We recently even had a colleague who wanted to celebrate his Covid vaccine. These are small things that might seem unimportant, but I think it’s super important for us to laugh together, share stories and make the workplace a space where you can enjoy yourself.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  • Self motivation — This is what drives me and makes me a better leader, year over year. I have this passion for growth and I truly enjoy learning and trying new things.
  • Motivating the team — We recently encountered a challenge. One of our competitors started to outperform us for a money-making category of keywords that we have been totally owning the #1 rank for, for a very long time. We were frustrated and upset about it and it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I wasn’t the only person feeling this way; the team was too. So we got together to talk about it, and I encouraged them to believe in themselves because we’re better and to not dwell in those negative feelings. Instead we made an actionable plan.
  • Honesty and integrity — I expect my team to be honest and direct, whether they have an issue or if they have a different opinion than me. One way in which I encourage it is by being assertive myself. As a leader you have to be. At times it means dealing with uncomfortable situations and talking about issues in a direct manner, in order to fix them.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes! There’s always something new and exciting going on at Flipsnack.

We’re working on an exciting new project for real estate companies that will make it possible for them to automate the production of interactive listing presentations, while keeping them on brand. We already have integrations with MLS databases, and the next step will be to make it as easy as possible for real estate agents to speed up the process and to keep it really simple.

We’re also currently running a two-week in-house contest, during which multiple teams of two-seven teammates are working on bringing their ideas for Flipsnack to life. The product team has previously listened to pitches and validated the ideas that are worked on and being developed, so we know that these features will bring value to the customer. This is giving employees a chance to advocate for their ideas, to have a direct impact on how Flipsnack is developed and try on a new role during the project. That’s empowering and it has been encouraging to see the enthusiasm of the teams.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main questions of our interview. As we mentioned in the beginning, sometimes companies that just start exploring with digital marketing tools like PPC campaigns often see disappointing results. In your opinion, what are a few of the biggest mistakes companies make when they first start out with digital marketing? If you can, please share an example for each.

One of the biggest common mistakes I see about digital marketing is not measuring results. Or looking only at the positive results and trying to interpret everything in a positive way. It’s a rookie mistake, but it happens too often when a team is just starting out.

Another thing, often correlated with the lack of experience, is not having a clear strategy, with clear objects and key results. It happened to us, trying to juggle 20 different things that had nothing in common with each other and that were not part of a strategy. It’s not that those things were bad, it’s just that they were not part of a strategy, so our work was not focused; it was fragmented and not likely to lead to any big win.

I’ve also seen marketing campaigns that are not specific enough to be successful. The message and targeting are super important. If not paying enough attention, it may lead to campaigns that are too general or too broad to be effective.

Another important aspect when running a campaign is not paying attention to the funnel. Is the ad relevant for that particular stage of the funnel? What about the landing page? Is there a smooth transition between them?

Not knowing who you are as a brand and who your audience is, what they think about your product/ solution is another big issue. It sounds very basic and you wouldn’t think this is a common mistake, but I’ve seen it many times. It takes an experienced team to avoid these mistakes.

If you could break down a very successful digital marketing campaign into a “blueprint”, what would that blueprint look like? Please share some stories or examples of your ideas.

Every successful marketing campaign should start with a plan. Our marketing team has developed a sort of a blueprint for a marketing campaign plan and we use it at the earliest stages to determine the validity and the potential results of a marketing campaign.

This is what it contains:

  1. A summary of the campaign.
  2. Main objective; Secondary objectives (if any).
  3. 2–3 KPIs based on which we will evaluate the success of the campaign. The KPIs should be relevant, specific, measurable.
  4. Time and duration.
  5. Campaign plan — a detailed timeline plan, that should include all of the relevant stages pre-launch, during the campaign and post-campaign as well as resources needed, people involved, responsibilities, marketing channels etc.
  6. Budget.
  7. Estimated ROI or estimated results if the purpose of the campaign is not generating revenue.

Oftentimes while working with this blueprint it becomes apparent right from the start or before implementation that a campaign might not work or that an idea needs tweaking.

Let’s talk about Pay Per Click Marketing (PPC) for a bit. In your opinion which PPC platform produces the best results to increase sales?

For us Google Ads produces the best results, but I’m sure it’s not the same for every business. I think generally ads perform better if the platform lists the ad in a native way, making it look similar to an organic result, post or article.

Can you please share 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful PPC campaign?

1. Defining your goal — whether it’s conversions, driving traffic, lead generation or brand awareness. This will help you decide targeting, messaging and measuring the impact of the campaign. It also decisive for the bidding type.

2. Finding the best keywords / keyword research, all based on knowing your audience. Mention the keywords in the ad text as well, and taylor the message to the audience, so that they resonate with it.

3. Making sure that the tracking is set up and working properly.

4. Continuously keep an eye on campaigns and optimize, optimize, optimize.

Let’s now talk about email marketing for a bit. In your opinion, what are the 3 things that you need to know to run a highly successful email marketing campaign that increases sales?

  1. Writing an attractive subject line — without it the open rate stays low and it will not drive the expected results.
  2. Segmentation and targeting is key. Make sure the message you’re sending is relevant for the audience.
  3. Make your CTA clear and powerful, highlighting the value of the offer.

What are the other digital marketing tools that you are passionate about? If you can, can you share with our readers what they are and how to best leverage them?

Google Marketing platform is so powerful that it has to be listed at the top. It doesn’t matter how small or big a business is, they are bound to use at least some of the marketing tools provided by Google: Search Console, Analytics, Ads, Tag Manager or the G Suite.

Apart from these we love Semrush and we found it to be particularly helpful for us in our growth journey. We use it for keyword research, keyword tracking, content optimization, competitor research and more. We also use Intercom a lot for marketing automation, so I’d recommend using it or a similar tool, like Hubspot. It allows you to send targeted messages directly in-app based on certain user characteristics or user actions. Very powerful!

Here is the main question of our series. Can you please tell us the 5 things you need to create a highly successful career as a digital marketer or as a manager? Can you please share a story or example for each?

I compiled a list of 5 things you need to create a successful career either in digital marketing or management.

  1. Never stop learning. Digital marketing and the online world is ever evolving. There’s always something to improve on and there’s always something new happening. In order to keep up you need to continuously read and stay informed about new trends and new developments.
  2. Keep an open mind, and try new things. I’m excited whenever someone from the team is telling me they want to run an experiment to test an idea. Sometimes I intuitively know that an idea is not going to work but unless I have very good arguments not to do it, I’ll keep an open mind about it. If it works out, I’ll be happy to be proven wrong.
  3. Try to get to know as much as possible. In order to be a very good marketer or manager you can’t just learn one thing. You can’t be a great content writer if you don’t know anything about email marketing, SEO or advertising. Becoming a specialist or an expert in one marketing area will often mean having a great understanding of what marketing in general is and how it applies to multiple channels. For me, I had to learn a little bit about marketing, a little bit about sales, UX-UI and so on. Before you become a specialist, you need a good, solid foundation of the general things.
  4. You can’t know everything. No matter how hard you try, you can’t be an expert on everything. So work with people who know more than you do. Acknowledge your own strengths and weaknesses, and work with those people who are experts in their field, instead of trying to do everything on your own.
  5. Always track and measure results. Keeping an eye on numbers and analyzing the performance is key. You can’t progress and get better results if you don’t check to see what’s working and what isn’t

What books, podcasts, videos or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?

Most of my reading consists of online articles (moz, semrush, search engine round table, sem journal, hubspot and many others). I particularly enjoy books written by CEOs and founders of other SaaS companies. I find their stories inspiring and I love the fact that their writing comes from their own experience, and it’s full of examples that I can relate to. These books aren’t just marketing theory (which is also great, don’t get me wrong), they talk about real life experiences, business challenges and solutions.

Thank you for all of that. We are nearly done. Here is our final ‘meaty’ question. You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Use less paper and plastic, and be mindful of the planet! Taking care of the planet by recycling and not wasting resources could lead to the most good for the generations to come. My heart breaks when I see illegal, aggressive deforestation and I wish this will stop soon. If we could influence more people to go paperless and use Flipsnack that would be awesome!

Even though we’ve evolved so much over the years, sometimes us humans still act like we’re in the dark ages. We focus on our petty differences and we fight wars over natural resources and ignore the fact that there are still nations in which there’s malnutrition and hunger. In an ideal world we’d be focusing on common, selfless goals for the human race, such as resolving these issues as well as technological advancement, colonizing other planets, traveling at warp speed and finding cures for terrible diseases.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow me on Linkedin and Twitter! And check out Flipsnack at www.flipsnack.com

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!

Thank you for this opportunity to share my story!


Adrian Moza Of Flipsnack On How to Effectively Leverage The Power of Digital Marketing, PPC, &… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andrew Glantz’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Get quantitative proof as quickly as possible — whether it’s through surveys or case studies, quantifying your value proposition with your first customers is incredibly helpful for growth.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Glantz.

Andrew Glantz is the Founder & CEO of GiftAMeal, the nation’s most-awarded charitable marketing platform for restaurants.

An outspoken champion of social entrepreneurship with considerable nonprofit experience, Glantz began his hunger-fighting venture while still a student on the campus of Washington University in St. Louis in 2015.

Now with hundreds of clients across QSR, fast-casual, and casual dining brands, millennial behavior expert Glantz and his creation GiftAMeal have become recognized as major forces for good by hospitality industry and hunger-relief organizations alike. Last year, GiftAMeal received 1st Place at the Global Impact Awards along with the City of St. Louis’ Innovation Award. To date, over 800,000 meals have been provided through the novel “food for photos” customer engagement program.

Glantz lives in St. Louis, MO, where he was named to the Business Journal’s “30 under 30” List and regularly lectures to graduate and undergraduate audiences on topics ranging from restaurant marketing to negotiations. He serves on the Alumni Board of Governors for Washington University and mentors young entrepreneurs through the Future Founders organization.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had been involved in the non-profit world in the past — I was Vice President of a children’s charity and co-owner of a non-profit storefront that promoted re-use and sustainability. After working at a venture capital firm, the managing partner exposed me to the idea of a profits with a purpose company. I loved the idea of both doing well while doing good and aligning those incentives. Using tech for good and creating win-win situations led me to become a social entrepreneur.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When meeting with restaurant owners, they often offer me a glass of water when we meet. A few months into starting GiftAMeal, in one day I had three restaurant meetings and knocked over my water glass in 2 and had a near miss on the third. Since then, I have toned down my sometimes erratic hand gestures.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I live life and run my business with the philosophy to always act with integrity, be transparent internally and externally, and say yes to helping others. Operating with genuine kindness makes life better for you and those around you.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

My big idea that might change the world is GiftAMeal! GiftAMeal is a mix of marketing and giving back for restaurants. Each time a guest takes a photo of their food or drink at a partner restaurant on the free GiftAMeal app, we make a donation to a food bank to give a meal to someone in need locally. Restaurants earn promotion and boost guest satisfaction and loyalty, while also making an impact in their communities. Over 290 restaurants currently participate and over 800,000 meals have been provided to those in need so far.

How do you think this will change the world?

We aim to provide millions of meals to those in need! And we’re nearing our first million.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

People should make sure to understand that more action is needed to solve hunger. We support local food banks not only in providing food to the hungry, but addressing root causes that cause people to be put in difficult situations. 1 in 3 people that are helped by GiftAMeal are children — we aim to put a dent in childhood hunger through our program and encourage others to help as well.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I founded GiftAMeal while dining out at an Italian restaurant. The conversation turned to how people discover restaurants and how millennials especially look to make purchases based on their values. In the restaurant industry, there are a lot of financial incentives like coupons and discounts, but nothing that truly engages a guest in an easy, free, socially conscious experience. With so many people sharing food photos on social media, I pulled inspiration from the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, TOMS Shoes, and others and combined them to create GiftAMeal: an app where guests can take a photo of their food or drink from a partner restaurant to give a meal to a neighbor in need.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need more restaurants to join our effort to heal hunger! Restaurants interested in learning more can do so at giftameal.com/join.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Ask for help — people are willing to help and you can learn a lot from others.

2. Build fast, iterate often — don’t spend months preparing an initial model, test it out and continually improve.

3. Get quantitative proof as quickly as possible — whether it’s through surveys or case studies, quantifying your value proposition with your first customers is incredibly helpful for growth.

4. Act with integrity — people return kindness with kindness.

5. Put in the work — you have to hold yourself accountable in a startup and you set the pace, so do the work.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Don’t let the highs get you too excited or the lows get you too down, keep the mindset that with anything that happens you are constantly evaluating where to go from here to attain your goals.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

We’ve built a startup that’s provided almost a million meals to the hungry while growing revenue 65% over the last year. We’ve built our company in a sustainable way that’s primed for scaling nationally.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook.com/giftameal

Instagram.com/giftameal

Twitter.com/giftameal

www.giftameal.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Andrew Glantz’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Women In Wellness: Sarah Southwell Of GroWise Be Well On the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help…

Women In Wellness: Sarah Southwell Of GroWise Be Well On the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help Support People’s Journey Towards Better Wellbeing

I can’t force someone to stand in their power. We have been brainwashed to think we don’t have individual power and that someone else knows best, such as big business or the government or western medicine. I now know that people awaken to this truth when they are ready to embrace it and I have learned to love everyone’s individual journey to it. I, myself, am still on this journey to stand fully in my power.

As a part of my series about the women in wellness, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Southwell.

Sarah Southwell is Luminary, CEO, and Founder of GroWise Be Well. Sarah is an energy healer, Reiki master, multidimensional warrior, and teacher of experiential transformation and healing. Alchemist of intuition, energy, and ancient forces, she is excited to share her life’s journey and expertise to support you as you connect to your power.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to “get to know you” better. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My backstory is full of years of challenges and learning opportunities. The shortened up version of my story starts with healing myself from panic disorder after kicking an addiction to speed, and then helping my son heal from sensory processing disorder. I searched for a way to heal without drugs and discovered the holistic and metaphysical tools that I represent through GroWise Be Well today.

The expanded version: It feels as if it started long ago, now. Once upon a time I was living a life disconnected from my body with a dislike for other humans. I was addicted to speed, in any form, from triple lattes to diet pills. I was successful at keeping this addiction from my husband because we spent a lot of time apart during the day. But, we were getting ready to move to the woods of Montana, and live quite close in a cabin on the river. I decided it was time to quit all speed, because, of course, I had lied to myself about being an addict. So, I threw them all away as soon as we moved. Very soon after that, I began horrible withdrawal symptoms, which I didn’t associate with the absence of the speed, because I wasn’t an addict. I felt my mind and body had betrayed me. My body was severely depleted from years of deprivation from nutrition so it shut down for a period which threw my mind out of its normal state of overconfidence and I began to doubt everything. So, I descend into a state of panic. I had every test offered by western medical physicians run on me to find out what was causing this affliction and all they came up with was to offer me anti-anxiety drugs and send me home. I had just come off of one pill, and didn’t want to become addicted to another, so I began my unending quest for ways to heal myself. I tried every holistic treatment I could get my hands on and soon began to emerge from the panic to anxiety. I discovered Oriental Medicine, which I believe truly helped me heal and thrive. Slowly, over two years, I returned to me, but not just me, a much improved version of me. Through the search for modalities that would help me heal physically and mentally, I found a healing I hadn’t been looking for, a spiritual healing. I emerged from my quest with a love for others.

Several years later, my son was diagnosed on the autism spectrum, with sensory processing disorder. I began another quest to help him heal and feel great in this world. I discovered how food could help or hurt and eventually the possibility of a malfunctioning methylation gene which drove me to buy a farm and milk goats, but that is a much longer story. I tried a lot of things I had previously learned with my healing process but he was too young for many of them. I asked my doctor of oriental medicine if he could help my son but he said autism is a western medical diagnoses and he needed the oriental healing translation and then he could help him. So, I searched the land for a translation of autism into an oriental perspective, which I found in North Carolina. We went to visit the doctor who had successfully translated and treated autism and came home with a treatment plan that my doctor used to heal my son. I’m cutting out some details, because this would be a book, not an article. It was not as simple and short as it sounds here. There is no magic pill and healing doesn’t come without extreme discipline, desire, and ultimately, the belief, the knowing, that health, joy and abundance is here now.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? What were the main lessons or takeaways from that story?

I was suffering from postpartum depression after my first son was born and my very good friend decided to take me away for a weekend and show me a movie she thought would help. She showed me the movie The Secret by Rhonda Byrne and it changed my life. I had been an atheist most of my life, all the suffering in the world made me believe that any God that allowed such atrocities had to be the devil. I didn’t want to watch the movie but my friend insisted and I trust her so I watched. It blew my mind. I came home from that weekend a changed woman. I had hope in my heart and a knowing that we create our own reality. To this day, I will catch myself moaning about something that isn’t going right in my life and I stop myself and ask, “What do I want my life to be like? How do I want this to go?”, to get me back on track with creating what I want. The twist on this story is that I came to discover that my friend that showed me the movie didn’t believe in it. Over the years, if I heard her complaining about something in her life, I would remind her of The Secret and she would say she didn’t believe. I now know that we can all have an abundance of joy and health and wealth in our lives if we believe we can.

Can you share a story about the biggest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The biggest mistake I made when I was first started was to think everyone who seemed out of balance and unhealthy, to me, wanted help. And, that I had the answers because I had been through something challenging as well. The old saying “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.”, has been something I have to remind myself of to this day. I want everyone to live a life full of joy and health and I know they can but they have to believe too. I don’t heal others, they heal themselves. I only assist them with more universal energy. I used to believe I had all the answers and that if only that person would take my advice then they would feel great. But the truth in the statement about leading the horse, is that the horse has to want the water, it has to seek it out.

Let’s jump to our main focus. When it comes to health and wellness, how is the work you are doing helping to make a bigger impact in the world?

GroWise Be Well empowers people to believe in their power to heal themselves. We don’t profess to know everything or tell you how you should heal. We believe you already know what is best for you, you just need to be encouraged to believe in yourself. We offer the opportunity to learn about 13 different holistic and metaphysical modalities that run the spectrum from essential oils to magic. I have learned that one tool in my toolbox is not enough, I pick up tools all the time through trying a new modality or reading a new book. My toolbox is like Mary Poppins’ magical carpet bag and I can add as many tools as I want. I hope to never stop adding tools, I don’t know when one tool I thought I wouldn’t use may help me or someone else. GroWise Be Well ferociously supports you to gather as many tools as you want, as long as you use the most important tool of all, your belief in your own power. The world seems like it is finally waking up to the idea that everything we want already exists, we just have to use the power of our mind to bring it into our lives.

Can you share your top five “lifestyle tweaks” that you believe will help support people’s journey towards better wellbeing? Please give an example or story for each.

  1. Believe — in yourself, your intuition, your connection with source, your power. Watch The Secret, read The Secret book and dig into the people interviewed and you will find it is all true. You have the power to change your life, you always have. When you need something to come into your life to help you or your situation, it will show up. When you believe, you are on the wavelength of manifesting and the universe only hears that frequency. Tape mantras and positive statements all over your house and in your car to help yourself remember you’ve got this.
  2. Unplug. Remove electronics from your bedroom for a restorative night’s sleep. Have only 1 tv in your house and use it only for entertainment, not news. Read paper books, not books on a device. I understand this may upset those that want to reduce our consumption of paper to save trees but I believe that we can plant more trees and the evil presented by electronic devices is far more detrimental to the human race. Don’t get sucked into social media, use it to learn things and improve your mood. Limit video game time and computer time. The more organic we can be, which means connecting with the earth and all of its glory, the better we will be.
  3. Eat organic. The chemicals in conventionally grown food cause disease. The nutrition content of conventionally grown food is so slight that they have to “fortify” foods, which means they add vitamins and minerals back into the foods because they weren’t present when the ingredients were growing. Eating organic also makes a statement to the food providers and our government that we don’t want franken-food or food drenched with chemicals because these practices are killing all wildlife, as well as humans. Organic food has the highest nutritional content to help your body and mind be vibrantly healthy.
  4. Love. Love yourself by listening to your body and mind and giving it what it needs to provide an awesome day for you, such as food, rest, laughter or simply a walk in the park. Love others by listening to them. Accept their similarities and differences, their human story, their journey they are on. Don’t make it about you, don’t try and fix them, don’t ask them to stop talking because you didn’t really want to know. Don’t judge, just listen and radiate love for them. We are all connected through universal energy, so loving others will bring that love back to you. I love the idea of passing it on, you show love for someone and they show love to another person and so on. That’s the best wave there is.
  5. Visutate. I created this word, visutate, as a combination of meditate and visualize. I do a visualization every morning and it makes my day amazing. Visualizing how you want your day to go is extremely powerful because you are literally showing the universe how you want things to be and you are radiating at a very high frequency when you are experiencing what you want, which is the frequency of manifestation. Meditating is calming your mind so that things become clear. I like to think of meditation as a snow globe; normally my mind is a shaken snow globe, lots of thoughts flying around. Meditation allows me to let the shaken globe of my brain settle so that I can see things clearly. I combine visualization and meditation into one sitting session where I am having a conversation with my body, running my energy and settling my mind all in a 15 minute session.

If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of wellness to the most amount of people, what would that be?

The empowerment movement. I would love to see every human flying their proverbial freak flag. We would all be so creatively powerful if we started living outside of the paradigms that have been created for us. There is so much more than what we have been presented as reality. Just imagine where humanity could go if we all believed in our unique creative power.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why?

1.I can’t force someone to stand in their power. We have been brainwashed to think we don’t have individual power and that someone else knows best, such as big business or the government or western medicine. I now know that people awaken to this truth when they are ready to embrace it and I have learned to love everyone’s individual journey to it. I, myself, am still on this journey to stand fully in my power.

2. Love is the answer. I used to think that if I showed love to all, especially those that want to take my power from me, that I would be weak and a doormat for them to walk on. Now, I know that the Beatles really did get it right when they sang “All You Need is Love”. Love is by far the most powerful frequency you can stand in. Love will conquer all. I love myself when I defend my boundaries with love, I love others when they are not comfortable with me standing in my power, I love differences of opinion because I get a chance to learn and so on and so on.

3. Ignorance is bliss. Ok, someone did tell me this before I started, but I didn’t understand. As Nero found out in the Matrix, wanting to know the truth of the world is not blissful until you can stand in your power. I’ve been known to say “If only I didn’t know….” I wouldn’t unlearn anything and it was my path to follow, but I can definitely understand others not being excited about stepping into a place of knowing. Being different then the pack and choosing a life of intention can be lonely, as well. I get judged as anti-social or no-fun because I won’t partake in things I know will lower my frequency. It can also be painful to see those you love continue to suffer because they don’t believe in their power.

4. You create your reality. I would have jumped right in with gusto, ok, maybe a little bit of doubt, but with excitement. Deepak Chopra just released a new book “MetaHuman” where he states clearly that our imagination, our creativity creates our reality, really. When we daydream we are creating. I wish I would have known this before I started because I would have allowed myself to get lost in daydreams a lot more often.

5. The shadow is my friend and ally. I always fought my anxiety and other “demons”, wanting them only to go away. Now I know that they are actually my friends and they help me live my best life. When they rise up and become a strong voice I know I need to listen.

Sustainability, veganism, mental health and environmental changes are big topics at the moment. Which one of these causes is dearest to you, and why?

Definitely mental health. The sooner we allow ourselves and those we love to be human and express their true worries and hopes then the sooner we will be a vibrantly creative energetic human presence on this planet.

What is the best way our readers can follow you online?

The best way to follow me is to subscribe to the newsletter at www.gwbw.com and subscribe to my podcast, GroWise Be Well, on any podcast streaming service.

Thank you for these fantastic insights!


Women In Wellness: Sarah Southwell Of GroWise Be Well On the Five Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Help… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Joe Stefani Of Desert Cactus: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Joe Stefani Of Desert Cactus: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

My number one tip is to be flexible, things might change week-to-week or even day-to-day. You need to be flexible and be open to a new way of doing things.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times,” we had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Stefani.

Joe Stefani is the President of Desert Cactus, an e-commerce company focused on licensed products. The company has licensing deals with a handful of lifestyle and entertainment companies, the NBA, NHL, Armed Forces, and 675 colleges and universities.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Years ago, I owned and operated two summer collegiate baseball teams in the Chicago market. Along with three other individuals, I actually was instrumental in founding that league. Prior to starting Desert Cactus, I always held the belief that businesses I worked for were run the wrong way, or they took the traditional way of getting from A to Z. I liked the idea of doing it my own way, but also doing something in an area that was up-and-coming, like e-commerce. When we started, many people thought, “that’s nice,” and I still have friends that think we’re not big time or see this as a hobby of mine, even though we have 27 people who work for us full-time.

We started our business with a small subgroup of products (five) and we grew very slow at first (from $250k in revenue the first year to $750k the second year). With our first product line, we set a goal for revenue and profit. When we hit those numbers, we added a handful more products, and continued to repeat the process. As of 2021, we’ve raised no outside money at all; in the past, we’ve had businesses with investors, and we’ve had to try what they’ve proposed because of their investment. I think people sometimes raise money for the wrong reasons, but also they get tied up with things that don’t make a difference- such as raising money for flashy things like new offices, personal assistants, etc.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

When we first started selling on Amazon, we were preparing the initial shipment of our product for their warehouses. Unfortunately, we labeled all of our products wrong and didn’t realize it- until the very end before the order was about to ship out.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband Josh keeps me on my toes and makes me second guess my reasoning.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

For us, the idea to start our Amazon store was a lightbulb moment, but we wanted to prove our concept over multiple lines before we really dove head first with investing a significant amount of money in the company and in hiring outside employees. I had a handful of years of experience in the e-commerce world, but the concept we were putting into place (using Amazon as a marketplace for licensed goods) wasn’t yet being done in that way. We aim to fill this void with a great selection of licensed products. Over the past two years, it has turned into a much larger venture than I expected.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

My leadership style is to lead by example, and that’s important to me. If you’re not willing to do a job that you’re asking others to do, how can you ask them to do it? I’m always helping other doing their jobs and tasks, from packing orders to taking out the trash.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I’ve been challenged, but I always treat that as an opportunity to show what our team can do. They haven’t let me down yet. I’ve never thought of giving up.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

It all circles back to leading by example. In the valleys, your team needs to see that you are there with them; that you’ve not left them behind to advance to the next peak alone.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

We never could have anticipated what our business would look like when we began selling with Amazon. When your team is looking to you to provide them with a picture of the future, it can be intimidating. Luckily, we’ve always kept our team focused on the short game while my partner and I managed the bigger picture. It is difficult to find the right combination of motivation and inspiration, especially during a busy holiday season. We do our best to communicate expectations clearly and ahead of time, while also giving the team something to look forward to (for example, we announced the date of our holiday celebration back in the beginning of August).

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I have had experience in this, and what I’ve learned is it’s best to be honest and get straight to the point.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

This can be challenging. If you change the horizon, the “future” becomes a shorter period of time, and is easier to navigate.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

My number one tip is to be flexible, things might change week-to-week or even day-to-day. You need to be flexible and be open to a new way of doing things.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

We’ve built our business on trying not to repeat mistakes we’ve seen other companies make. This includes thinking too far into the future; thinking things are much worse than they really are; and not giving employees the benefits they deserve. When COVID hit, we made drastic changes to our business to conserve cash and prepare for the worst. What we discovered was that the pandemic made consumers rethink how they shopped, which benefited e-commerce companies like ours. When it comes to employees, we do the right thing by offering competitive pay, company-paid health insurance, substantial 401K accounts, other retirement options, etc.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We are always stashing away money for a rainy day. One strategy we use is to keep challenging ourselves: even when business seems “great,” see if you can outdo yourself and take your business to the next level, even if it’s small things like new images for your products, or new content. Each step brings you closer to legitimacy and stability.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Work hard, Travel harder.”

How can our readers further follow your work?

The best way to do this is to follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/joe-stefani-191a484/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Joe Stefani Of Desert Cactus: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Humza Khan of HealthIV On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Teaching individuals how to care for themselves and their loved ones. I’ve learned medicine is rooted in patience, empathy, and a desire to see a system that keeps up.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Humza Khan.

Humza Khan is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of HealthIV. Khan is a multi-sector entrepreneur with a strategic focus in healthcare, digital technology, and international trade. With the launch of HealthIV, Khan aims to create unprecedented interoperability in healthcare for patients, physicians, pharmacists, and home care workers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this career path?

I started off by being the sole translator/organizer of my parents’ health from early on. I am a first-generation child; therefore, a lot of responsibility was placed on me at a young age regarding choices for my family’s health. Being a medical proxy exposed me to the wirings of healthcare that are still commonplace today. My background was always in the digitization of modern practices, I’m a bit tech savvy so I believe we are entering a new era of virtualizing everything around us and I always gravitated towards things I can easily access. My mission is to enable custom-tailored, proactive, informed, fully guided healthcare that allows patients to guide their own health.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

My focus is on creating experiences with the user at the center, enabling high satisfaction, measurable health outcomes, and more cost-effective care from A to Z for the healthcare journey. Patients no longer need to wait around to get the care they want when sudden illness arises. Instead, medical attention and diagnostics can be provided in the comfort of your own home with a few simple clicks online.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

In our first year launching, our first event was at a very popular music festival held annually. We had a long list of volunteers and workers who wanted to make it, and so we allowed most eager volunteers to join. When we arrived for our first day of services we found out the legality of it wouldn’t allow volunteers or workers from outside of the state to practice using their licensure. We were out of commission for the weekend. It taught me to ensure all laws and regulations are met before any statewide projects as well as narrowing down the list of candidates to those who are qualified. We had a better outcome the following year and were a lot more prepared, and I am glad we learned early on exactly how to approach such circumstances.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

The cofounder of my company is actually my sister, Aysha, and she is the one I always looked up to — be it grades in school, extra-curricular competitions, or even in general etiquettes. She would set the bar so high in everything she devoted herself to that I always ended up beating myself up over it. But even after all those polarities, there were some hard-to-miss likenesses. One of which was genuinely cultured care for the disease dreaded. From childhood my sister and I both had known the pain of losing our loved ones and we never felt that the treatment given to them was just, or quite enough. Having someone who shares the same vision as you gives some familiarity in a new and unfamiliar road. She manages day-to-day operations and oversees/consults on all medical development.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disrupting an industry is positive if the industry refuses to keep up with the changing world. In the example of modern healthcare, the patient experience of diagnosis can be slow, costly, and inefficient, providing results that can be difficult to understand and interpret. The process begins with first scheduling an in-person appointment with a healthcare professional, after which includes travel to a separate testing facility. The sample is then couriered to a lab, during which time the patient may be subject to long wait times and left unaware of the quality or status of the sample. Several days later a result is provided through old technology that is difficult to interpret and understand. While this process is unfolding, the patient’s underlying condition is not being addressed or contained, with the healthcare provider unable to identify the optimal treatment path required. We believe this system results in underutilization of testing, healthcare professionals having to prescribe treatments without diagnostic context and a disconnected user experience that leads to suboptimal outcomes and hefty medical bills. When systems are put in place and are afraid of adapting it’s time to begin to ask why.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

‘There can always come about change.’ In November, I worked with the Together We Can Foundation to provide medical attention and care to schools being built in Arusha, Tanzania. Mornings would start with setting up the doors to open by 10am as the line began to form from 7am. I have no background in medicine, but I was able to direct patients, listen to chief complaints and provide with the limited resources we had. My group taught mothers how to care for wounds on a child, how to aid with a fever. We educated children on the signs of edema, colitis, liver failure, bacterial infections, and parasitic worms; diseases most rampant in the community. As a single person you feel almost helpless, but it is a slow progress. I cannot tear the foundation of the healthcare disparity that takes place around the world, but what we did as a group was slowly begin to bring about the change of sustainability. Teaching individuals how to care for themselves and their loved ones. I’ve learned medicine is rooted in patience, empathy, and a desire to see a system that keeps up.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We are developing solutions to broaden diagnostic use cases for our platform. Our planned care offerings include tests in the categories of respiratory health, sexual health, cardiac and metabolic health, women’s health, men’s health, mental health, and chronic disease management.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I recently finished the book ‘How to Lead in a World of Distraction’ and I enjoyed how they broke it down, tuning out unnecessary distractions into four habits I can incorporate daily. I tend to get bogged down by minute tasks and overwhelmed easily and the greatest feeling comes from embracing challenges and exceeding my own expectations. I remember the first time I got my own apartment and had to work alone in a new and empty home and how hollow I felt. I should have been proud of the blood, sweat and tears that went into achieving this very moment, but I somehow felt alone taking on more than I could handle. But I constantly look to develop myself to become the best I can be; I just have to remember to sit with myself and actually allow myself to feel every milestone. There are a myriad of possibilities and resources available to young entrepreneurs today and I want to be a resource as well to positively impact those around me — my peers, organizations, and the greater community.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

In the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children…to leave the world a better place…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” So, to say the least, I want to leave a legacy of not only success but a helping hand. I come from a family that left everything and traveled overseas for a better life and I live to make that journey worth it. I don’t want to be remembered as a young eager kid grasping at straws. I want to be the forefront picture of coming from meager beginnings to finding a purpose for change.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Access to medical care no matter the socioeconomic background or insurance status. A new era where the fear of crippling medical debt is archaic.

How can our readers follow you online?

Our website, Healthiv.com

And on Instagram @GohealthIV

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success.


Meet The Disruptors: Humza Khan of HealthIV On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Dain Heer Of Access Consciousness: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Never Give Up, Never Give In, Never Quit. Please, Never Give Up, Never Give In, and Never Quit. You are too valuable to the world. If there’s one thing I know: it is often darkest before the dawn of great change.

As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’, I had the pleasure to interview with Dr. Dain Heer.

Dr. Dain Heer is an internationally renowned entrepreneur, speaker, and best-selling author. Raised in the ghettos of Los Angeles, Heer is the co-founder of a diverse range of businesses worldwide, including El Lugar, a resort in Costa Rica that utilizes biodynamic land management, and Castello di Casalborgone, a luxurious castle in Italy.

He is also the founder of the world’s first International Being You Day (May 22nd), a day dedicated to empowering people to be their most authentic selves.

A conscious and creative business leader with a profound understanding of the power of entrepreneurship, Dr. Heer draws upon his personal experience and unique perspective to invite people from every culture, country, age, and social strata to create the money, business, and life they truly desire.

In addition to his diverse business portfolio, Dr. Heer is co-creator of Access Consciousness, a popular personal development organization operating in more than 176 countries, which has contributed to changing the lives of tens of thousands of people around the world for the past 30 years.

He is also the author and co-author of several books, including Being You, Changing the World, The Return of the Gentleman, Body Whispering, Right Riches for You, and How to Become Money. www.drdainheer.com.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?

Twenty-one years ago, I was working as a chiropractor, engaged to be married and living in beautiful California. Yet in my practice, I was frustrated by all the existing modalities and techniques I had been taught. They all seemed to provide only temporary relief and change for my clients and myself.

One morning I woke up, and for the first time in my 30 years on the planet, realized I had given up hope. I had gotten to a point where I had everything that was supposed to make a person happy — and it had absolutely no value to me. I had tried every single modality for inner peace I could find, but I was still dying inside. I was so deeply unhappy I was considering suicide.

I was so unhappy, I actually set a date to end my life and said to the universe, “Either my life truly changes this time, or I’m out of here.”

Well, the Universe heard the demand, and not long after that, I found an article in the local newspaper that read, “All of life comes to me with Ease, Joy & Glory. Call Shannon.”

When I first read that, all I wanted to do was kill this person. I didn’t even know her, but the very thought that someone would take the time to put something so audacious in the paper made my skin crawl. I crumpled up the paper and threw it away.

But the next week, the paper came out again, and there it was again! “All of life comes to me with Ease, Joy & Glory. Call Shannon.”

I knew I had to call her this time since it triggered me so much. I know that if something evoked me to that degree, there was something in there for me to explore. I had always known that. And I had nothing to lose…

So I called Shannon. We ended up chatting over the phone, and she invited me to have my Bars run. I walked in depressed and suicidal, and after one session of what’s called the Access Consciousness Bars, I walked out of it with a sense of joy and gratitude for being alive, and I knew that I would never go back to that dark place again. Stress, gone! Anxiety, gone! Depression, gone! Suicide, ba-bye!

And that was just the very beginning of the most fantastic journey. The tools from Access Consciousness changed my life to such a degree that I knew I had to have more, be more, and create more.

For the first time in a long time, I had an enthusiasm for living that I had been looking for my whole life but never knew how to find. I ended up meeting the founder of Access Consciousness, Gary Douglas, and we started working together.

Today, I am the co-creator of the company. It has grown to be in 176 countries with thousands of facilitators worldwide inviting people every day to know that something different is possible for themselves — and the world.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

There are so many; I am incredibly fortunate. One of my favorite stories of change is when I was invited to work with a lady who had fourth-stage liver cancer.

When I met her, she looked to be about 70 years old, with most of her long hair being gray. During the session, we talked about the joy of life and living that she knew was possible that she had not been able to create in her life. We spoke of the fact that she knew this should be possible and about the possibility of her choosing it NOW.

I put my hands over her liver where the cancer was. In contrast to the suffering and judgment, I thought I would find there, I perceived the beauty within and beneath her condition. As I perceived this, we held hands and wept together, both for what had not been and for what could now be.

At the end of the session, she said she was at total peace and was okay with whatever would occur. She said she would LIVE for as many–or as few–days as she had left on this planet.

A year later, I was in the city where the session had taken place, facilitating an event for a few hundred people. In the end, there was a long line of people taking pictures and asking for hugs… Up comes a beautiful lady I thought I had never met before. She looked about 30 years old, with the most beautiful long brown hair. She seemed to be in a hurry and skipped to the front of the line. She gave me flowers, a card, a beautiful hug, and looked me in the eyes, and just said: “thank you!

As I was leaving, my assistant said to me: “Do you know who that was?” And I said, “No, I’ve never met her before.” She then told me it was the same young lady who told me she had three months to live when I worked on her 18 months ago.

My jaw dropped, and I started crying tears of joy and gratitude. I was fist-punching the air with enthusiasm, thinking to myself, “Yes! Yes! Yes! THAT is why I am here!”

To know that I was able to contribute to this beautiful being making the choice to live is one of the greatest gifts of my life. And please know, that is what this is all about: contributing to people choosing more and choosing something different. It is not about me healing them — it is about them healing themselves.

I am truly blessed and fortunate to have worked with many people that are now truly living. From my point of view, there is no greater gift.

Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

When I first started facilitating Access Consciousness classes, I was invited to Texas to facilitate a class on any topic I wanted. So I asked my best friend and mentor, the founder of Access Consciousness, Gary Douglas, what topic should I do for the workshop?

And he said, “Why don’t you do it about fun and clearing the issues that don’t allow people to have fun?

From the moment he suggested this, it felt a bit heavy in my world, but it was my mentor and best friend who suggested it, so I did it. And this four-hour workshop was one of the worst facilitation experiences I’ve ever had in my life!

Not one person laughed, and almost no one smiled. The whole room was HEAVY. Two hours into the class, a little girl lying on the floor pulled on her mother’s skirt and said, “Mommy, when do we start having fun?

(Even the four-year-old knew that I screwed this one up!)

Usually, the classes that I facilitate are a lot of fun and full of laughter. This one did not have any of that. I apologized to everybody in the class, and I called my friend Gary and said, “Why did you tell me to do a workshop on clearing the issues of fun?

He said two things to me that have stayed with me forever.

Number one,” he said, “Don’t trust me. Always trust you. Number two, when you get into a situation that is heavy, change whatever you need to change at the moment so that you can create more lightness out of it.”

He then asked me, “What would have happened if you got up on stage and said, okay, I know this is supposed to be a fun workshop. But let’s go where you want to go?

From that moment on, I have always gotten up on stage and dealt with what was in front of me regardless of the class topic. I’ve also learned to apply that to my life.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am blessed to have so many exciting projects — too many to mention here! One of my current favorites is an eco-friendly luxury resort in Costa Rica called EL-Lugar that we are building in communion with the land.

Our desire is to show people how to be stewards of the earth in all aspects of development while also embracing the beauty and elegance that was once part of our culture. One of our requirements is that no tree will be cut down on the property. It is unlike anything I have ever seen before. It has elegance, beauty, and spaciousness to it — and it is eco-friendly.

Another exciting project is a video podcast I have just launched — The Possibility Explorer. It’s a video podcast for the ADHD adventurers out there looking to explore something different in all aspects of life. It features many unique tools and life hacks and hopefully adds a bit of humor and lightness to people’s lives. https://drdainheer.com/podcast/

Oh, I almost forgot! I’ve got a TV show coming out on Ickonic Media, called Is Now The Time? I’m very excited for it to be aired — it premieres on January 15.

Why are you an authority about the topic of the loneliness epidemic?

Good question! How does one become an authority on the epidemic of loneliness? Well, I lived it dynamically for much of my life…

I grew up in the ghetto, where I was the only white face for eight square miles. Even more than that, I had a sense of loneliness because I always felt different than others. I never fit in, no matter how hard I tried. Even though I had friends, I was never “popular.”

Also, I couldn’t figure out what made other people tick. I would look around me and see what other people were choosing, and I just didn’t understand it. I would see them lying and cheating to try to get ahead. They would outdo each other and try to prove that they were better than other people — rather than lifting each other up. And I never understood that.

So, in a sense, I’ve been a bit of a loner my whole life, though for the last 20 years or so, a pretty happy one.

Part of the reason I wanted to end my life 21 years ago was that I felt all alone. Nobody saw what I saw. Nobody got what I got. When you are that different from the people around you — including friends, co-workers, family, clients — it can seem like your very being has no value because there is no one else to acknowledge it. I could not see a way forward.

Luckily, the circumstances after that moment became the beginning of me truly living.

When I began to demand that I explore what was true for me and live my life according to that, the loneliness started to subside, as did the accompanying depression.

I started caring for myself and surrounding myself with people that didn’t judge me. I started having people in my life that cared for me as much as (or more than) I cared for myself. And now, I am surrounded by precisely that.

When you start to acknowledge you and care for yourself, you begin to realize that true loneliness is not a function of not having other people in your life. It’s a function of not having YOU in your life.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Time, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US, but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?

  1. We are herd creatures.
    It sounds so basic — and we are herd creatures who thrive on connection and interaction with others. When that is taken away, our quality of life diminishes; when we don’t get to interact with people, contributing to them and being contributed to, the fuel that moves our lives forward runs out.

2) Not able to change.

While being a herd creature is one of our strengths when we have others around us who can inspire and support us, it becomes a detriment when we rely on the support of others and feel as though we’re not getting it.

When we feel like we are not in control of changing what keeps us isolated, we lose the sense of being in control of our lives. That makes us feel helpless, disempowered, and utterly alone indefinitely.

More than anything — that there is no end in sight — can create an acute sense of loneliness and progress to anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts if not addressed.

In addition, many of us have been taught that it indicates weakness to ask for help or support from others. It goes like this: A person feels lonely. From their point of view, they are not getting the love, support, admiration, and acknowledgment they desire. This often creates a sense of insecurity — making them less likely to reach out to anyone. Instead, they contract to try to keep others away, so others do not see their insecurities. This contraction exacerbates the loneliness and feelings of insecurity, making them even less likely to initiate — or even desire — interaction with others. This, in turn, creates more of a sense of loneliness and the vicious circle is in full spin.

Before the pandemic, there were more ways to break this circle within the motion of daily life. This has become way more challenging and close to impossible for some people, like the elderly, during the pandemic. Currently, isolation is what supposedly will keep you alive — if it doesn’t kill you first.

3) Our bodies are missing each other.

Our sense of well-being not only comes from what goes on in our heads and hearts. A big part of that sense of loneliness can actually come from our bodies. Bodies thrive on touch. When they don’t receive that regularly, many of the so-called happy hormones, like endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, and oxytocin, never get produced.

Even before the pandemic, the lack of touch was an issue for many people. However, with the social distancing and quarantine, it has reached whole new levels.

There are scientific studies that have found that if a baby doesn’t get touched, it literally dies. Our adult bodies may be bigger, but here is the thing: they still require and desire touch to thrive. In addition, our bodies talk to each other every time they hang out — so much of the input we get from people is via our bodies, not what we say out loud in words.

Basically, our bodies get nourished by other bodies way more than we’ve ever acknowledged — and I’m not talking about making out or having sex! A hug from a friend, sitting close to someone in a bar, a handshake, or even a pat on the back to let us know we have done a good job from one of our peers can go a long way.

Touch is the nurturing, the kindness, and the caring that our bodies so long for and require. My latest book The Body Whisperer is all about bodies and what they truly require to thrive.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Since we thrive on interaction and connection, the loneliness epidemic has far-reaching effects, most likely in many ways that we can’t even imagine yet. With this ongoing pandemic, the perceived loneliness has deepened and exponentiated. My guess is now reaching every stratum of society and almost every culture globally.

Societies and cultures are conglomerations of individuals. When one withdraws due to loneliness, they cease to contribute to others energetically the way they used to.

Those around that person now have less of an energetic support system to draw upon to weather difficult times. This causes fewer energetic resources to be available to everyone because of the reclusive nature of someone experiencing loneliness.

Because of this, the loneliness epidemic, if left unchecked, has a cumulative effect that can affect large groups of people. It perhaps starts with an individual, but can extend from there to families, friend constellations, and from there to companies, communities, and so on. This leads to a sense of less ease, often a loss of productivity, and a sense of fewer possibilities that can be detrimental.

In working with tens of thousands of people during this time, I have found that loneliness becomes harmful when people do not realize that something different is possible.

In Australia, they have a day in September called “R U Okay Day.” It’s a day where people reach out and ask someone showing signs of loneliness and depression if they are okay. What if we started living this every day?

Asking someone if they are okay–and listening with no point of view or judgment–lets people know that someone in the world sees them, hears them, and acknowledges what is going on for them. It’s a simple gesture that can go such a long way.

What if everyone in the world knew that there was always another possibility available? My advice: Never give in, never give up, and never quit. Please, just take two more steps. There are ways to change the overwhelming feelings of loneliness or sadness, even if you are alone right now.

The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.

  • Social media is a big part of this problem. Please know, I am not blaming social media. The issue is not that we have social media. The issue is how we are using — and relying upon — social media to fulfill a void that only we can accomplish for ourselves. Although you are “connected” online, it is rarely the same type of connection that occurs when you are with people in person, face to face. Online, people can curate an image of themselves that often only loosely correlates with reality. And though you may have thousands of online “friends,” how many of those would you call when you really needed support? Probably very few. This is very similar to what we have in so much of the world: many HIGH QUANTITY, LOW-QUALITY items to consume. In this case, the consumption is that of genuine connection. Most people spend a lot of time and energy getting the perfect image or video to show that their life is indeed perfect. Even when — maybe especially when — it’s not. They are more interested in presenting a perfect image than presenting their reality as it actually is. There is very little vulnerability, therefore very little true connection. They’ll show a perfectly-curated photo of their perfect family on a perfect tropical beach — but what you are not seeing is that the baby threw up on mom right after the photo, the parents were arguing right before, and that during the 8-hour flight the entire family was at each other’s throats!
  • The need for a perfectly curated image. This ideal of the perfectly-curated image follows people offline also. Not fitting into — or up to — the perfect image is actually a reason why many people feel alone already. In society, there is this idea that you must be perfect or you have no value. When someone starts to experience loneliness, they often feel like something is wrong with them. Partially because of the idea that “perfect is the new black,” those who are feeling lonely withdraw from society, believing they will have no value in others’ eyes. In addition, the sense of real connection is fleeting, even when people get together in person, because they’re focused on their phones and social media feeds or focused on how they are not living up to some standard of perfection that is often not theirs. Also, people have been conditioned to believe that their image is more important than their very being. This leads to a sense of loneliness for people who genuinely desire an authentic, intimate connection with others because even when they have people near them, they have a sense of being alone because they are the rare creature not functioning from the image while many people around them are. Those that are most vulnerable to experiencing loneliness are the sensitive individuals who truly thrive on connection with others. These sweet individuals are often those who are the ones interested in taking care of others. If they withdraw due to loneliness, there is often a void in their social circle, difficult to fill because of their unique contribution. The irony is that the sensitive individual who withdraws due to loneliness often does it because they feel undervalued for their contribution to others.
  • The lack of sense of self. A third element that creates loneliness is that people have not been taught to value themselves and to rely upon themselves. In our current world, for both adults and children, many people are more interested in what others think about them than they are in what they think about themselves. This “other” focus creates a disturbing result when one is not able to be with those who validate them and whom they rely upon for support.

Ok. It is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic? Please give a story or an example for each.

1. Contribute to someone else.

Engage in a conversation with someone that is feeling isolated. Let them know they are not alone. Talk to them, ask them questions such as, “What is going on? How are you? Are you okay? What can I contribute to you?” Let them know you’re there and will listen with a non-judgmental ear.

This one apparently-small act can change your life and theirs. This loneliness epidemic is not just occurring because we are not connecting with others. It is occurring because we are not receiving the joy of CONTRIBUTING TO OTHERS.

I suggest finding one small way to contribute to someone EVERY DAY. You’ll be surprised at how much it lightens your world when you see how much it brightens theirs.

2. Get Engaged (No, I did NOT say to put a ring on someone’s finger!;).

One of the great gifts of our current world is the ability to interact online with others of like interests.

My suggestion is to think of something you like doing and go online and find a group of people that do that. Just do a search on that topic, and many resources will usually show up. Visit a forum and read the posts or peruse the comments on a YouTube video and just be a looky-loo for a while. You don’t even have to post anything. But you can.

If you have a more extroverted moment, you could join an online forum and interact with people there. The important thing is to recognize that you’re not alone, even in your love for hairless cats that meow show tunes!

This way of engaging also applies to events you could attend in your local area. There are so many meetups happening, even now. Just search your topic area and then add your city…voila!

3. Stop the Judgment.

We spend so much time judging ourselves and our bodies, and we are so used to believing that we are wrong. Would you be willing to let that go? Would you be willing to consider that you’re not nearly as messed up as you’ve decided you are?

Try asking this question every day. “What is right about me that I’m not getting?

And just see what shows up.

4. Ask Questions.

One of the things that will introduce more possibilities into your life is something as simple as asking questions. Asking questions can help us undo the conclusions and judgments we carry with us.

The idea of asking a question in this way is not to look for an answer but to ask a question that opens up a different possibility — the question gets you out of the conclusion you are stuck in.

Most of us suffer from answers and conclusions since they don’t allow anything else to show up except for that exact conclusion or the “right” answer we’ve decided upon. Questions can be the antidote; they can open a new door — a new world!

Example of questions you can ask every day.

  • What else is possible I’ve never considered?
  • What is right about me I’m not getting?
  • What can I be or do differently to change this?

Maybe watch this TV segment on beating the holiday’s blues and some questions to ask?

5. Never Give Up, Never Give In, Never Quit.

Please, Never Give Up, Never Give In, and Never Quit. You are too valuable to the world. If there’s one thing I know: it is often darkest before the dawn of great change.

Twenty-one years ago, I made the choice to live instead of die, and it was one of the greatest choices I have ever made! Every time something in my life gets hard, I remind myself to take two more steps and what always shows up is an opening for another possibility that always makes things greater.

What if what is going on in the world right now is the same? What if it is the change many of us have been asking for, showing up in a way far different than we imagined? Would you be willing to take two more steps and find out?

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would like for every individual on the planet to recognize the gift they are. To truly get the gift it is when they choose to be them with their unique quirkiness, kindness, difference, hopes, dreams, aspirations, and sense of caring for themselves and others in the world. It’s what our world requires.

I would like for everyone in the world to know that they do not have to hide who they are or try to fit into what others want them to be. If we had a world of people genuinely being themselves and valuing themselves, the loneliness epidemic would change dynamically.

What our world requires now is the difference of each of us being able to shine unabashedly. If we choose to be what we truly are, we can come together to create unique solutions to the world’s problems. Even more than that, we, together, can create amazing possibilities that allow us to supersede our problems and create a world where kindness, ease, joy, connection, and possibilities reign.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Two actually! Hugh Jackman and Richard Branson.

In a world where so many people are concerned about their image, these two are true gentlemen. They have the fame and the money so many have sold their souls for, but they haven’t given up themselves for anyone’s point of view. I admire them both immensely.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Visit my website! www.drdainheer.com and follow me on Facebook and Instagram. If anything in this article inspired you or sparked a question, please come online and let me know.

Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!


Dr Dain Heer Of Access Consciousness: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Daniel DeLeon Of Grumpy’s Restaurant: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Creatively show and share your brands Core Values, Mission & Vison across all Social Media Platforms, Company Websites and Business Listings.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to Interview Daniel DeLeon.

Daniel DeLeon, Grumpy’s Restaurant President and CEO, is an accomplished entrepreneur who has earned recognition as a mover and shaker in the industry, voted by Nation’s Restaurant News as one of the Most Influential Restaurant CEOs In The Country, recognized by FSR.com as one of its Rising Restaurant Stars 2021, and recognized by Nation’s Restaurant News’ Power List Reader Picks 2021. In addition, Grumpy’s has been awarded FSR Magazine’s Next-Gen Restaurant Brand 2021, TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award, and Jacksonville Business Journal’s Fast 50 Company 2021.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Thank you so much for having me. I grew up just a short drive from our original Grumpy’s Restaurant. When I saw that it was up for sale, I knew that it was the perfect opportunity to use my experience to further develop and perfect this home-style restaurant, build a brand and bring more families and friends together over great diner food. After having a successful career as a multi-unit franchisee for various restaurant concepts and large franchisor representative, I felt I had the knowledge and ability to develop Grumpy’s, establish a brand and launch Grumpy’s as a franchise opportunity.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Looking back now, I’d say my funniest marketing mistake was when I had a Grumpy’s Restaurant Pop-up Tent made and the word “Restaurant” was misspelled on all four sides. To this day myself and the printer have no idea how we did not catch the misspelling. A great lesson in detailed artwork review was learned.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Grumpy’s Restaurant was born out of passion and our continuous commitment and mission are to deliver the highest quality dining experience at an affordable price for families everywhere. All while closing at 2:00PM, providing our employees the ultimate family, work and life balance. Over the past 21 years, Grumpy’s has experienced changes in staff and locations, but the commitment to excellent home-style cooking, attention to detail, sweet southern hospitality and serving a hungry-person’s portion at a working-class price, have not waivered. I believe our commitment to these key principles make our company stand out and keeps the customers coming back for more.

During the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic we created an Employee Relief Fund and I was recognized in the community for forgoing my salary so that my staff could continue to bring home a paycheck, despite dining rooms being closed in the state of Florida. We also organized a produce giveaway for residents who couldn’t afford groceries. Lastly, we launched a community campaign that allowed anyone to contribute and gift a meal to people on the frontlines of COVID-19, as well as people in need in the community. The dedication my team and I have for the local communities surrounding Grumpy’s is what makes us a consistent staple in the Jacksonville area and beyond. I believe our commitment to our neighbors, customers and team members are what also helps our company stand out.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Grumpy’s Restaurant growth! We have two locations opening in 2022 and possible two more. Each location will employee about 45 people.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand Marketing (branding) is what you utilize to build and maintain your company’s image, or in other words, your company’s reputation. Band Marketing and Branding should describe a long-term, specific plan to continuously boost your brands public recognition and reputation. Whereas, Product Marketing (advertising), is used to develop one-off campaigns and specific strategies to promote a particular product or service.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

In my opinion, it is important to invest in building your brand so that you can properly develop and build your business. Successful brand creation will help build brand awareness with consumers and guide your brands marketing and advertising campaigns, all the while keeping your brand consistent and relevant.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. I believe the most important part of being a trusted and believable brand is to live your brands Core Values, Mission & Vison daily. For example, at Grumpy’s we will never waver on our commitment to excellent home-style cooking, attention-to-detail, sweet southern hospitality and serving a hungry-person’s portion at a working-class price.
  2. A consistently positive and honest Company Culture is another key to building a trusted and believable brand.
  3. Creatively show and share your brands Core Values, Mission & Vison across all Social Media Platforms, Company Websites and Business Listings.
  4. Let your existing customers be your brand ambassadors! Highlighting your existing customer feedback as validation will quickly help build your brands reputation.
  5. Be a participating and valued member of your brands community.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

The first company that comes to my mind for building a beloved brand is Chick-fil-A. They have great Core Values and always stay true to them. “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chickfil-A.” It may sound simple, but to consistently live and demonstrate their Core Values takes great commitment. With that said, any brand that truly believes in their Core Values can execute them and ultimately build a believable and trustworthy brand.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Building a trusted and believable brand is very different than simply counting your sales. Although sales are a great measurable statistic, sales alone may not accurately correlate to your brand building overall success. To measure the success of your brand building campaign more accurately, I believe you should look at more factors such as: Consumer Feedback & Ratings, Consumer Traffic, Consumer Frequency, Sales Growth and Social Media Engagement.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social Media should be one of your brands tools to creatively market and advertise your brand, and also show your brands Core Values, Mission & Vison.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

To thrive and avoid burnout, I find it is best to break down your brands goals into shorter stages. You may not be able to accomplish your goals in one day, one week or one month, but you will be surprised how much you can accomplish over a quarter and even year! Always celebrate your successes and keep in the back of your mind that small accomplishments add up to big wins!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

During the initial round of Covid, I created and launched: Grumpy’s Restaurant Give A Breakfast | Give A Lunch community campaign. The program was simple: Help Grumpy’s Help Others!

Customers could help others by contributing $10.00 to our Give A Breakfast | Give A Lunch community campaign. Each customer donation would purchase a breakfast or lunch meal. Grumpy’s would then deliver their contributions to people working on the front lines like doctors, nurses, and first responders as well as the less fortunate in our community. Grumpy’s would also match any customer donation! Additionally, customers had the option to personalize a Thank You Card that we would deliver with their meal.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Give Everything, To Everything.” — Inky Johnson.

In my life, both professionally and personally, I try give everything to everything.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Inky Johnson!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

IG: GrumpysRestaurant

Facebook: Facebook.com/GrumpysRestaurantCo

Website: www.GrumpysRestaurantCo.com

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Daniel DeLeon Of Grumpy’s Restaurant: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Arvind Baliga Of QMocha On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Arvind Baliga Of QMocha On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do something you truly enjoy doing. I started my career in Engineering simply as a way of avoiding a career in Medicine which seemed to be the only two choices when I graduated from high school in India. I may today be a doctor if not for a random coincidence. I was admitted to a medical school in India and while heading to the interview it was cancelled because someone filed a suit and the courts stayed admissions for a week. I never went back and then joined an Engineering program at a leading school in Mumbai. Ironically it took me years to understand that I did not want a career in Engineering either.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Arvind Baliga.

ARVIND BALIGA is CEO and founder of QMocha. With a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering he started his career designing semiconductor lasers launching a career as a technology executive. In 2013 he co-founded a smart home startup where he developed a Shopify store acquiring customers via Facebook Ads and discovered that subtle changes in imagery can drive dramatic improvements in ad and store performance. These insights now power QMocha’s AI which helps eCommerce stores transform their social media and store imagery to better engage their customers and drive sales.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I actually changed careers from technology to marketing through an unintended sequence of events. For most of my career I was developing lasers and LEDs for telecom and lighting applications. I was successful in my career eventually becoming VP of Engineering for a company that designed super bright LEDs that were used by Samsung, LG and Philips among others. I always had the urge to start a company so I quit this career to cofound my first startup BeON Home. We invented LED security bulbs that made your home look lived in when you were away. I ended up with the responsibility of running the Shopify store as well as the Facebook ads. I found that I really enjoyed the combination of creativity and technology in eCommerce and digital marketing. This is what led to my current career in eCommerce marketing and visual design.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Yes, I had a literal lightbulb moment at BeON Home. When we were running Facebook Ads we found that some ads performed way better than others. Surprisingly, what was different about them was just the backdrop. The best performing image was one where the light bulbs were placed on a granite countertop. It was amazing that the same product would get such different audience engagement when placed on different surfaces and backdrops.

We realized that backdrops tell a story and that our customers were not just buying the product but their experience when the product solves a problem for them. This insight led to the founding of QMocha and is now available as a Shopify App.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

QMocha is working at the intersection of technology and creativity. Our vision is to develop breakthroughs that help creators, artists and photographers integrate their creative output seamlessly into retail imagery. Many stores use dull, plain backdrops for their products that are just not right for today’s world where we see such wonderful creativity on Instagram and Tiktok.

QMocha’s technologies will help liven up eCommerce imagery by enabling creatives to integrate with eCommerce imagery in ways that were never before possible.

How do you think this might change the world?

We want to create a win-win-win situation for retailers, creatives and shoppers. Retailers will be able to run new inspiring campaigns using imagery that is dynamically integrated with output from creatives. Creatives will see an expanded marketplace for their creative output and new opportunities to earn a living while following their passions. Shoppers will enjoy engaging with entertaining and inspiring content that resonates with them rather than the dull shopping experience that many often encounter today.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

Millenia before the Black Mirror, in the Bronze age, metallurgy was used to improve daily life with tools, pottery, creativity with carvings and castings but also to make swords and weapons. There is nothing inherently right or wrong about technology, but we always have to be thoughtful about misuse and unintended consequences. For AI imagery and the metaverse, there is always the concern that images can be used to mislead. In our case, we have narrowly deployed our technology in an eCommerce context and it is not really available to use outside that. So it is designed to work really well for all eCommerce products but not for just any image.

We use machine learning and AI in two ways — to help creatives collaborate better with eCommerce and to help those without specialized training produce high quality creative output. We want to make sure that the technology safeguards the rights of the creators and that our users are always careful to only use imagery that they have the rights to use.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, once we realized the power of backdrops to tell a story, we were still not sure that we could produce images that would meet the very high standards of retail and fashion. We were introduced to the owner of a boutique store in the area who was generous enough to work with us while we were at such an early stage. She provided us backdrops that would work well with her brand and we started understanding all of the subtleties that go into making those choices. The quality of the images from our collaboration were just spectacular and that really was the tipping point that convinced us that our approach was feasible.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

With our technology users can accomplish in a few clicks what might otherwise take hours or days. This enables new possibilities for marketing campaigns. However, since this has simply not been done before, we need to demonstrate the product to new customers so they can see the possibilities. We are also learning about the business processes at our retail partners so we can design the technology to fit into how they currently do business. We also know that we have to solve pain points that matter to them today while communicating the new opportunities created by our technology. As they get familiar with the technology, they will then begin to use the broad creative possibilities that our platform unlocks both for them and for creators.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We have had the opportunity to share our story in several leading publications such as Women’s Wear Daily, Daily Front Row, Entrepreneur.com. We are proud to have worked on the #StopHate campaign with Boy Meets Girl USA, an athleisure cause driven brand that used QMocha to help 7 activists communicate their response to hate using color and texture.

We also partnered with Caravan Social Club to run an innovative comarketing campaign where six retailers and six fashion models collaborated on a photoshoot in Brooklyn. We then transported the creatives to their favorite destinations around the world (virtually and therefore safely in these challenging times!). We also were able to match the same model images to backdrops that were brand approved.

We will soon be running contests where creators and retailers can collaborate to produce inspiring content. Look for them to be showcased on the QMocha website — there are some fun campaigns coming up. We also have virtual events planned at Fashion Week and other venues.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

As an engineer, I used to pride myself on being dispassionate and objective when solving problems and leading teams. At one point in my career I was leading an important project for a major telecom customer. In a key meeting with my project team which my boss was attending, he repeatedly provoked me but I worked hard not to lose my temper.

After the meeting I went to his office, closed the door and told him that he almost made me lose my temper. He said “Great! I was trying to make you lose your temper. You need to pay more attention to emotions when you lead people and showing some passion is not a bad thing.” It was an important lesson for me that I have taken to heart since. Emotions do matter and I am glad my boss helped me with that insight. I have become more open and aware about my and other people’s emotional needs since.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I was successful as an engineer rising to become VP of Engineering of a LED company. However I felt like my contributions were relatively narrow and only understandable to engineers that used our products in TVs, projectors and entertainment lighting. But along the way, I learned about color and light and perception. My technical knowledge is now helping develop new creative and commercial possibilities. At QMocha, we are hoping that this creates new earning possibilities for artists, creators and photographers to participate in the growing world of eCommerce.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Do something you truly enjoy doing.

I started my career in Engineering simply as a way of avoiding a career in Medicine which seemed to be the only two choices when I graduated from high school in India. I may today be a doctor if not for a random coincidence. I was admitted to a medical school in India and while heading to the interview it was cancelled because someone filed a suit and the courts stayed admissions for a week. I never went back and then joined an Engineering program at a leading school in Mumbai. Ironically it took me years to understand that I did not want a career in Engineering either.

2. Don’t wait till tomorrow.

This is definitely easier said than done. I always wanted to start my own company but there always seemed to be a reason not to do it at the time. There may never be a time that is exactly right. The first time I had the opportunity was during the fading days of the telecom boom. I was at Nortel Networks at the time and our site was being shut down. I could have joined a couple of startups with my friends or started one on my own. I had a young family at the time and hesitated. It was another decade before I had my next opportunity.

3. It takes both inspiration and perseverance.

We all hear narratives that make it appear that there was a singular moment of inspiration that led to dramatic success. We all know that is a fantasy but it is an appealing fantasy. The truth is that it is a long journey and while the moments of inspiration do matter, it is persevering on the journey that matters the most. At the very first company I worked at, my team was working on improving the current generation of lasers and there was a second team that was working on a completely new technology. Our team persevered, steadily producing 10 to 20% compounding improvements in brightness — the new technology was never able to catch up to us.

4. Walk towards your difficulties.

We all avoid doing things that make us uncomfortable. I once listened to a meditation which asked — what if you walked towards your difficulties instead of away from them. Embrace how you feel and be curious about what might happen when you do that. It is a lovely metaphor and I now use curiosity as the fuel and motivation to embrace my challenges.

5. Value the process and not just the outcomes.

This is consistent with the themes of perseverance and embracing challenges. Being mindful and focusing on the process maximizes the possibility of good outcomes. We hold ourselves to high standards at QMocha. Our product works for all eCommerce products but is especially effective for fashion retailers. Fashion retailers have very high standards for their imagery and the only way to achieve them is to have an extraordinary focus on detail. We obsess about every subtlety when it comes to imagery. We use the power of machine learning to meet the high standards set by creatives. This process is essential to delivering a quality outcome.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

At a time when we are flooded with information about the world around us, we are surprisingly ignorant about the workings of our own mind. I think one of the root causes of polarization is a lack of awareness of our own responses to external triggers and a lack of openness to new ideas. Despite my own initial skepticism, I have found that meditation and mindfulness are powerful tools that can help us become more aware of what triggers us and build intellectual curiosity.

I see many wonderful meditation apps these days that are building awareness of these techniques but think even more could be done. I truly believe that this could be an antidote to the poison of polarization.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by the author James Sherman. He said “You can’t go back and make a new start, but you can start right now and make a brand new ending.”. I started my career doing something very different — working with quantum mechanics and designing lasers and LEDs. While I enjoyed the intellectual challenges and the complexities of developing new products, I was looking for something that balanced technology with creativity. I am fortunate to have the opportunity to do just that today leveraging my analytical side to help unlock creative possibilities

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

QMocha AI brings the photoshoot location to the product catalog, when stores cannot get their product to the location.

QMocha has unlocked a $3B+ TAM opportunity targeting growing eCommerce stores that cannot afford the cost and logistics of editorial photography but know that retail imagery has to be Instagram ready to convert sales. The QMocha Shopify app seamlessly connects the store’s existing studio product photography to millions of backdrops from Getty Images™and creators with an AI powered no-code, no-editing platform.

QMocha AI dynamically restyles an entire store in a few clicks which would otherwise take hours or days with photoshoots or traditional editing solutions. With innovative technology that merges machine learning and creativity, QMocha’s analytics power marketing campaigns transforming how retailers deploy imagery to engage customers.

When you tag your VC friends, be sure to tell them to ask about our super cool demo 🙂 Seeing is believing!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on LinkedIn and on our Instagram page. We will be sharing our journey as we launch our product for Shopify retailers

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Arvind Baliga Of QMocha On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Scott Walker Of Screenmobile: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Scott Walker Of Screenmobile: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Trust your team — Allow them to do their job, but make sure you’re available as a resource for guidance.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Walker.

Scott Walker is the President and CEO of Screenmobile, the nationwide leader in screen doors, windows, porches, and screen repair and installation. Operating since 1980, Screenmobile is the world’s first network of mobile screen professionals, with more than 100 franchise locations currently open across the United States. Scott has led the Screenmobile Corporation since 1999. Prior to that, Scott served as the Vice President and spent 18 years as a service technician, support manager, and operations manager.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Absolutely! I actually got my start in the industry by working with a home improvement franchise that offered handyman services. My father, brother and I were all involved in the company, and it served as a great learning experience that has helped to lay the groundwork for how we run our company today. We soon realized that a good franchisor needs to have certain leadership qualities and characteristics and found that we didn’t quite align with this company. As a result, we decided to start our own mobile screening company in 1980 out of our garage in Glendora, California. Screenmobile began as a converted tent trailer that became the first mobile manufacturing unit for screens. This business model allowed us to conveniently measure, manufacture and install our products on-site. By 1984, the demand for Screenmobile had become so great that we decided to branch out into franchising. Today, our company has been established as the leader in the screening business and continues to grow to new territories across the United States.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Early on in my career, I was outside working on a screening project and all of a sudden, a guy pulled up with a beat-up truck and messy hair and clothes, looking to get a screen done on his property. I reluctantly agreed, assuming based on his appearance, that he wouldn’t be able to afford the work that I do. This was a huge mistake, and a classic don’t judge a book by its cover moment, because he then had me follow him to his home, where he proceeded to pull up to a gated country club. His house was a lavish property, with an 8-car garage filled with luxury cars, and a huge patio that needed to be screened in. The biggest take away I learned from that experience was to never assume what your clientele are willing to invest in, especially when it’s for excellent service and quality craftsmanship from a Screenmobile professional.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I owe my business partners, my dad and brother, an immense amount of gratitude for the work they’ve put in to help Screenmobile grow to what it’s become today. We all have a really strong working relationship, and we rely on each other to grow and build together, trusting each other every step of the way. We all came from different backgrounds — my dad had years of business experience while my brother had lots of home service and maintenance experience. These combined areas of expertise helped us develop a great mentoring module to lean into as we grew the business together. I have 40 years’ worth of stories, but we did learn early on that when you have a family business, there’s a time for business and there’s a time for family. We learned to be very cautious of co-mingling those throughout our early years.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When Screenmobile launched its franchising division in 1984, our goal was to provide people with an opportunity to build wealth by using our system and then change their lives as a result. We envisioned Screenmobile locations from coast to coast, with all of our Screenmobile professionals committed to providing exceptional quality and convenient service that homeowners can depend on.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

At the start of the pandemic, we got our system together via Zoom and we made sure to honestly and openly communicate our game plan for the year. We looked back to history, like the economic downturn of 2008, and made plans accordingly. We advised our teams to be mindful of their cash, be cautious of investing too much in a growing plan given these uncertain times, obey local ordinances, and overall tried to give reassurance to the team that Screenmobile was prepared for an economic downturn should it come and had our franchisees’ backs. Despite the pandemic’s challenges, our business actually boomed in 2020 as more people were working from home and had time to focus on renovations. This helped our team not feel the pandemic as much financially and feel stable working alongside Screenmobile.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

No, we never considered giving up. That wasn’t even an option in our minds. Thankfully, all of our franchisees were on board and all-in throughout those early pandemic days. We were all facing the same challenges, so our motivation was supporting our Screenmobile team members. We wanted to skillfully guide our franchisees to make good decisions and help them navigate building a business rather than building a job. Our drive is sustained by our desire to continuously uplift our team, keeping in mind that the decisions we make also affect their families. So, we pride ourselves on providing guidance and coaching through regional meetings and virtual conventions, for example, to remain in close contact with our franchisees.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The most critical role of a leader is to have the patience and foresight to make good decisions for the long term. It boils down to your leadership style, but I believe taking time to think on decisions, strategizing conservatively, and prioritizing your team’s best interests, go a long way when leading your team through challenging times.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

When the future seems uncertain, I think it’s best to shut off outside distractions and influences and make sure you focus on just doing business. Of course there are concerning aspects in these trying times, but it’s best not to overwhelm yourself with negativity. In our particular industry, we have to remind ourselves that everyone is going through it and to be grateful of where we are at today. We always make sure to reassure our team and internally we always try to approach our staff meetings with these three questions — what are our franchisees working on, what do they need help with, and what do others need to know? This helps us foster an environment of open communication and trust and keeps us tight within our network of professionals across the country.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

It’s best to approach difficult situations with love and integrity. I’m very big on being straightforward. Even though the truth can be uncomfortable, I don’t believe in massaging or manipulating it. People always recognize and appreciate when someone is open and honest with them.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Our company used to do our planning a year in advance, but in these times, we’re finding that six months is about as far as you can plan right now due to how fast things are changing. We believe in moving one step at a time to keep yourself agile amidst all the change.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Integrity from the top down — we believe in walking the walk and talking the talk. If you are the same person no matter where you’re at, whether it’s with family or at work, then that integrity will shine through. We pride ourselves on this as it helps our franchisees instill trust in us. We gave them our Screenmobile baby to generate wealth for themselves and they trust our vision, and together we bring our investment to new heights.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I find that some businesses are not mindful of their cash flow and don’t have good accounting practices which is crucial. Business owners also need to assess all situations logically and strategically to continue furthering their brand. They should always keep an eye out for trends and opportunities. Good communication internally and externally is also incredibly important. Making sure that everyone is doing a good job and is on the same page allows for the team as a whole to prosper.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Part of our strategy is to make sure we are in good communication with our vendor teams. We ensure that our vendors are operating profitably and make sure that our team members are financially stable. We want to be sure that all parties are mindful of their debt and are focused on growth. We remind our teams to look at what’s affecting the economy and our industry and plan accordingly. It’s also important to not overreact to personalities in the business world, and instead assess whether this is an industry decision or a personality reaction. We make sure to analyze data to decipher trends and most importantly picking the right partners and franchisees will help you keep forging ahead.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Trust your team — Allow them to do their job, but make sure you’re available as a resource for guidance.
  • Listen to your CFO — Communicate efficiently internally and talk to business partners to ensure your finances are stable.
  • Make sure your franchisees are “healthy” — Franchisees are often measured by sales dollars, but this doesn’t reflect on their “health” as an individual. By that, I mean are they taking time to spend time with their family, are they paying their employees enough, etc. Always check in with your teams and make sure they are not just surviving but thriving.
  • Look for trends and opportunities — Don’t get comfortable, but instead always look ahead to what’s happening in the industry to stay ahead of the game.
  • Lead with integrity — Know your values and what is expected of you as a leader and serve as an example and a mentor to your colleagues. This helps to build lasting trust amongst your teams and leads to greater organizational effectiveness.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.” This embodies exactly how we run our business and what keeps us thriving.

How can our readers further follow your work?

They can visit our website at https://www.screenmobile.com to learn more about our services, take a look at our blog for industry-related insight, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Scott Walker Of Screenmobile: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Alex Willen Of Cooper’s Treats On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Take it one thing at a time. As an entrepreneur, you have to multitask, but I’ve had the most success when I’ve tackled one big project at a time.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Willen.

Alex Willen is the founder of Cooper’s Treats, a premium dog treat business he launched at the height of the pandemic. He left a decade-long career working as a Product Manager at enterprise software companies in Silicon Valley to start a business focused on his one true passion — dogs. Alex lives in San Diego, CA with his wife Maggie and their dogs, Cooper and Maple.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I grew up in a suburb of Los Angeles, and I’ve been a Californian my whole life — I moved north to attend Stanford for college, lived in San Francisco for several years and have now come back south to San Diego. I was always thought of as the smart kid when I was young, and I leaned into that. Lots of reading, computer games and the like. We never had dogs at my house, but my aunt and uncle always had two Golden Retrievers that I absolutely loved.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” -Bill Gates

It can’t be said enough — learning from your failures is everything. Entrepreneurship is failure after failure after failure, but if you look at them as lessons instead of failures, it’s a whole lot more palatable. I’ve failed more times than I can count since I started this business (and it hasn’t been that long), but each failure helped me to understand the business better and improve fundamental parts of it that will outlast my memory of the failures.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I’m a huge fan of Odd Lots, a Bloomberg podcast by Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal. It started as a nerdy economics podcast, but through the pandemic they’ve really focused on the global logistics industry and how it’s been disrupted. They’ve interviewed owners of trucking companies, the head of the port of LA, and a host of other people who are deeply involved in the day-to-day operations of the logistics industry. As someone who started an ecommerce company right as major disruptions started, I really appreciate how educational it’s been about the inner workings of an industry that affects everyone, but especially small business owners.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

This was the single biggest obstacle for me when it came to starting a business. I had ideas, but none of them were good enough. I spent a decade working in Silicon Valley at startups, so I was watching many of my peers go and start their own companies. Somehow it just seemed like there was something different between them and me.

Ultimately, I started a business by joining a franchise. The idea of using an established system helped relieve the fears that my business idea wouldn’t work. That ultimately didn’t end up working out (I was just about to start construction in March of 2020… poor timing to say the least), but just going through the process of starting the business helped me to come to a realization that starting a business isn’t about having a perfect idea — it’s just about actually taking the first step, and the second, and so on, until you’ve started a business. If you don’t know what to do, just do something — anything that gets you moving in the right direction is a good start.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Before you start researching whether someone has thought of your idea before, ask yourself: “who cares?” Seriously — think about all the businesses that have started by people who weren’t the first to have an idea. There’s probably more than one burger joint in your town; that means someone decided to open a burger joint even though it was clear that someone else had already had the idea (and executed it). There are plenty of car companies — Soichiro Honda didn’t think about starting a car company, realize Toyota already existed, and then give up. Things still turned out okay for him.

Having a unique idea isn’t a requirement for success in business. If you can take an existing idea and do it better, that’s plenty. There are endless ways to do it better — you can add features that improve a product, you can have more efficient operations that allow you to have lower costs, you can have better customer service, you can target a new market or you can just be better at selling to customers. Instead of fixating on a unique idea, figure out what your strengths are and figure out how you can apply those to whatever business you start in a way that gives you an advantage over your competition.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

In my case, I started as simple and small scale as I could. My first product was a mix that’s used to make frozen dog treats at home — it’s a powder you mix with water, and it only contains a few ingredients. That meant that I could make it in my kitchen in small batches.

In terms of specifics, there were a few things that had to happen before I sent it to customers. First, I developed the recipe — this was just researching ingredients that are good for dogs, ordering them off of Amazon, combining them and giving the results to my dog to taste test. I also kept some spreadsheets of what the treats would cost with the different ingredients, but frankly I was more focused on giving my dog treats than doing the math at that point.

Once I’d settled on two flavors, I had a logo as well as packaging designed. To make that happen, I ran a logo design contest on 99designs and then had the winner do my packaging as well. When that was ready, I had a small number of boxes and jar labels printed.

At that point I had a product, so I needed a website. I put up a quick Shopify site, took some photos of my products (thank goodness for portrait mode), and we were off to the races. When the first order came in (it was from a friend of a friend), I packed it, printed a label and shipped it.

When it came time to scale up, I found a manufacturer by Googling, making a spreadsheet of anyone who looked like they might work, and calling all of them. Out of dozens of possibilities, I found two that were willing to work with me. I asked a whole lot of questions, picked the one that felt like a better fit and had my first production run made. My only recommendation here is to start with the ones that seem less likely to be a good fit — that way you can ask all the dumb questions and get a basic understanding of the jargon from your early conversations.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Think through the plan just a little bit more. I tend towards just trying things and figuring them out along the way, but there were certainly issues that I could have foreseen if I’d put a little more thought into them up front. The best example of this is shipping costs — I really did not think much about how much it would cost to ship my products, and I eventually realized that I could save a lot of money by shrinking my best-selling product down a few ounces to get it under a pound, which saves about 40% on shipping costs. If I had done a bit more research, I could’ve figured that out without wasting time and money doing it the wrong way.
  2. Just because things work now, don’t assume they’ll stay that way. I was having excellent success with Facebook ads until the iOS update that everyone familiar with digital advertising will be familiar with. Apple made a change that was totally out of my control, and suddenly my cost of acquiring new customers shot way up. I had been building my plans on the assumption that things would continue as they were, so that really threw a wrench in things.
  3. Prepare for crazy customers. Thankfully most of my customers are amazing, but I’ve had a few get very upset with me because the instructions for my frozen dog treats didn’t mention that they had to be stored in the freezer or they’d melt.
  4. Take it one thing at a time. As an entrepreneur, you have to multitask, but I’ve had the most success when I’ve tackled one big project at a time.
  5. Make sure your partner’s on board. Thankfully, my wife has been endlessly supportive, but our garage and our extra room are currently stacked to the ceiling with boxes of extra inventory. I didn’t really prepare her for that before I got started, so I’m particularly thankful it hasn’t become an issue (and I certainly wouldn’t blame her for it if she told me to get everything out of the house).

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Make a prototype! I don’t care if it’s made of sticks, twine and gum and it looks like it was done by a second grader. Anything to get your idea in the world will help you refine it and begin to understand the challenges behind it.

After that, test it on your prospective customers. Luckily this was pretty easy for me — I had a willing tester of dog treats in the house — but no matter how complex your idea is, there’s some way you can communicate it to the people who you’d want to use it. Make a PowerPoint deck about it, draw up a diagram or just interview people. The earlier you start to get feedback, the more likely you are to avoid mistakes that will need to be corrected down the line.

Once you’ve got a decent feel for the product, do the basic financial analysis. Understand what it’ll cost you to make your product and operate your business. It doesn’t have to be perfect — the goal is just to make sure that you have a financially viable concept — but if there are any big questions you can’t answer, get those answered before you start investing lots of time and money.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I’ve hired a few agencies and consultants, and I regret each and every one. I’m now a firm believer that when you’re starting a business, you need to do everything yourself until you have a good handle on it. Once you’ve mastered something, you can bring someone in to help you execute and save you time, but you shouldn’t be bringing people in early to solve the problems that are core to your business.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I bootstrapped my business, and I recommend it if you’re able to do it. Either way, though, it’s a question worth thinking about early on. Do you want to raise capital, have investors and try to create a really big company, or would you rather start something smaller but self-sufficient and profitable. If the latter, then focus on ideas you can bootstrap. In my case, I was able to start the business with a limited amount of money because I could manufacture it myself in small batches. If I had needed $100,000 to do my first production run, I probably would’ve looked for another idea rather than try to go raise that money. That’s a personal preference, of course, but there are lots of folks who get suckered into the idea that the only way to start a business is with VC money — don’t be one of them.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

One thing I love about this business is that we can incorporate giving back into our marketing. Over the holidays, we launched a limited-edition holiday box with two special flavors of our Pupsicle Mix, and we gave 5% of the revenue from that to local shelters. The holiday box was a great success, and I look forward to doing it for a few more holidays this year, while giving back to a different rescue for each one.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s tough for me to answer a question like this about anything but climate change. Given that we’re in the process of destroying the only planet we have, there is nothing that would do more good than mitigating the damage we’ve done as much as humanly possible.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I would love to have lunch with Tracy Alloway and Joe Weisenthal from Odd Lots. They’re just total economics nerds and my kind of people.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Alex Willen Of Cooper’s Treats On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Friedhelm Weinberg Of HURIDOCS On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Friedhelm Weinberg Of HURIDOCS On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Make time to read and learn, even if you think you’re busy, it’s where the answers are. All good managers I ever had modeled this and I have seen that whenever I did not make enough time, that’s when I get stuck.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Friedhelm Weinberg.

Friedhelm Weinberg is the Executive Director of Human Rights Information and Documentation Systems (HURIDOCS), an NGO that supports organizations and individuals to gather, analyze and harness information to promote and protect human rights. Friedhelm has overseen HURIDOCS projects and partnerships around the globe as director since 2017, having first joined the organization in 2012. He is constantly exploring new solutions, approaches and collaborations.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

A combination of curiosity and chance led me here. Curiosity was a main driving force for me seeking out experiences in journalism, working at local newspapers, becoming the editor-in-chief of a youth magazine, and reporting from other countries. I was curious about people, their stories, and telling them. At the same time, I had started gaining experience working with nonprofits, in youth exchange and human rights education. Part of me was attracted much more to doing, rather than telling the stories of those doing.

By sheer chance, while visiting a friend in Armenia, I met someone who was working at HURIDOCS at the time, and I was immediately taken by the mission of the organization. I knew that that was what I wanted to be doing. By an even bigger chance shortly afterward an opportunity opened up to which my profile suited, and I jumped on it. Almost ten years later, I am still here and excited about what we do.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At HURIDOCS, we are committed to helping solve some of the trickiest challenges facing human rights defenders and we are using innovative technologies to do so.

Typically, NGOs collect and curate large bodies of human rights evidence, law, and research, with the goal of making these collections useful for advocates and human rights defenders. However, manually processing these documents can take several days, particularly when they’re published in unfamiliar languages or in PDF format which is difficult to search through.

HURIDOCS is making this process easier by leveraging the power of information and machine learning. In 2018, we were selected as a Google AI Impact Challenge grantee and received a $1M grant and a team of seven full-time Google.org Fellows, who supported us pro-bono for six months, to build new tools that automatically tag human rights documents so they are searchable. The result — making the curation process 13x faster (which now takes one week instead of three months).

In June of last year, HURIDOCS also won a CogX Award for our machine learning work, and we are continuing to explore what our machine learning models can do — from creating automatic tables of contents for documents to identifying references within text.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was asked to make coffee for a high profile visitor, while I was working at Kreisau Initiative, a Berlin-based non-profit organization focused on youth exchange.

My problem? I did not drink coffee at the time and had only ever watched people making it from afar. I improvised and did my best. After this, my boss took me aside. She complimented the way I served and how that helped make the guest feel at ease. She then went on to say that, alas, the coffee was so weak, it was undrinkable.

It taught me the importance of asking for help, even when it could be embarrassing. I could have easily sought out one of the colleagues in the office that drank and made coffee regularly, and I should have, given the stakes. It also taught me a lot about giving feedback. I did not receive a telling-off, but an important life lesson.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

One was Agnieszka von Zanthier, who was the boss I just mentioned. The other is Klaus Prestele, who took over her role, as she transitioned to our sister foundation. They were so different and so complementary, which in itself was a lesson in what organisations gain from leaders with diverse backgrounds and experiences. From Agnieszka, I learned so much about the importance of relationships, bringing yourself to it, but meeting the other where they are. She modeled how important it was to understand people and to speak to them from your heart. From Klaus I learned about balance and organisation: He was a very present father of three, studied in the evenings, wrestled at the national level, so he could have never worked an 80 hour week. Instead, he used his time smartly and made sure that as an organisation we met our commitments, and did so on time. Trust in people, clear processes and loads of fun were some of the key ingredients for that.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Nothing is ever always good and that certainly goes for disruption. Social change takes a long time, it’s changing attitudes, behaviours and how they shape systems. We’re not going to have an app, a policy or a law cut this journey short — but we should rather see all of them as part of the journey. It’s important to value the people, the movements leading the change. People and relationships are the unseen fabric, and disrupting these woven webs can be absolutely terrible.

Disruption can be much more positive when it is enabling these people. For example, with the machine learning work we do at HURIDOCS, we are enabling highly trained and overstretched curators of information collections to do their work faster and with greater detail. It is building on their work to make critical human rights information accessible, and it is focusing on the tedious and overwhelming tasks that they never ever could have had time for.

We’re hoping this will disrupt how accessible information is, and that, in turn, enables a much more diverse movement to take action with this information: to follow up on recommendations a State has received at the United Nations to combat gender-based violence; to find precedent from an international court that allows an advocate to win their case at the national level; to strategize who your unusual allies can be when you want to bring an issue to international attention.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Make time to read and learn, even if you think you’re busy, it’s where the answers are. All good managers I ever had modeled this and I have seen that whenever I did not make enough time, that’s when I get stuck.

There is a physical dimension to thoughts and feelings. Working with a coach made me realize how tensions, fatigue and restlessness are very much physical sensations in the body, and opening up to that has had a powerful effect to deal with them.

Exchange with peers. When becoming the executive director of a non-profit, I did not quite expect how isolated one can be with challenges. Having circles of peers has been invaluable for confidential exchange with people who get it.

Focus not on what you’re trying to say, but what the other needs to hear. It’s really about understanding how to create a connection — whether that’s with the team, a potential partner or the board.

Dress to show respect. My former boss at HURIDOCS was one of the most casual managers, interviewing me in jeans and t-shirt. But he’d put on a shirt and tie for occasions where it mattered to others, even though he would always prefer sneakers and hoodies. Since I fall into camp hoodie and jeans as well, it impressed on me when to make it more about the other person than oneself.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We’ve got great plans at HURIDOCS! We’re deeply convinced that information will be at the heart of a rights-respecting future. Truths will allow humanity to grow, learn and reckon with its past. Persuasion will lead to the realisation of rights of the vulnerable and marginalised. Accountability will deter abuse of power.

And that is why we’ll see how we can work with many more human rights groups across the globe. For this, we’re hoping to focus on exploring new technologies and equally crucially the infrastructure to allow all of us to use them, at scale and in a sustainable manner.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Evidence for Hope” by Kathryn Sikkink would be my non-fiction pick. It’s a compelling, well-researched book that makes a strong case on the incredible success the human rights movement has had, and how that’s rooted in its origin that is a lot more global than many would have thought. It resonated with me, because it grounds in research why we should be forward-looking and excited about the potential for positive change.

But to be honest, it has probably been novels that had the deepest impact on my thinking. I find they are best to open up my mind to nuance, perspective and surprise. There are many that have had that effect, but to name one it would be “Purge” by Sofi Oksanen as it covers so many aspects of oppression, liberty and the human condition.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“It is possible that there is no other memory than the memory of wounds. […] Memory thus is our force, it protects us against a speech entwining upon itself like the ivy when it does not find a support on a tree or a wall.” Czesław Miłosz

It speaks to the importance of remembering, and how it is a force in the present and to build a better future — without taking away the pain it is also linked to and how that endures. Miłosz expresses something that deeply resonates with me, growing up in a unifying Europe, but with the memory of the great crimes committed in the 20th century.

It also speaks to the work we do at HURIDOCS, supporting human rights organisations across the globe to preserve memory, to document abuses with the goal of achieving accountability and healing.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am a big believer in personal exchange and learning languages as a way to broaden the way we see the world, how we appreciate perspectives and the beauty that lies in something that is different from ourselves. If we could learn more languages together, I am sure that would help a lot of people on their individual journeys, and us together as societies.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow HURIDOCS on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Feel free to also connect with me on LinkedIn.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Meet The Disruptors: Friedhelm Weinberg Of HURIDOCS On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Elizabeth TenHouten On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t expect others to be your cheerleader. Be your own cheerleader. You are the best person to give yourself a pep talk to. You are the one who had the idea in the first place, so you are the only one who can have the kind of faith you need to succeed;

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Elizabeth TenHouten.

Elizabeth TenHouten, accomplished beauty expert and author of the beauty cookbook, Cooking Well: Beautiful Skin (Hatherleigh Press; 2009), and international bestseller, Natural Beauty: Homemade Recipes for Radiant Skin & Hair (Hatherleigh Press/Random House; June 25, 2013) is known for her distinctive approach and expansive knowledge of beauty, which she frequently brings to various outlets within the industry.

For five years, Elizabeth was the Editor-in-Chief of Celeb Life Magazine, served as Contributing Beauty Expert for DiscoverBeauty.com and ShareCare.com, and had a monthly column in Beverly Hills Times Magazine.

Elizabeth took her creativity and entrepreneurial spirit elsewhere and began a career in songwriting. As a songwriter, singer, and guitarist, she released her album, Broken in 2020. It is available on all musical platforms around the world. Her lyrics were inspired by her poems.

A poet all of her life, Elizabeth selected poems for her upcoming book, The Stars Fell Into the Ocean, from her vast collection of poems written over the past several years. She has been featured in the Dark Poets’ Society, and her poems have been featured on several poetic peers Instagram accounts. She writes with soul, and opens up her world for readers to observe, so they feel as though they have a glimpse into her heart.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

A native Californian, I grew up in Laurel Canyon, and was exposed to a creative culture from a young age. At age 10, my father introduced me to poets the likes of Edgar Allen Poe, e.e. Cummings, among others. I began reading poetry. It was incentivized by my father who would pay me a dollar for every line memorized, a dollar for literal interpretation, and a dollar for metaphorical interpretation. It became a way to teach me the value of a dollar and spend quality academic time with me, as well. Around that time, I began to write my own poetry! It was exciting for me to create my own ideas, seemingly out of nowhere, and put them down on paper. I had a new hobby. Writing poems.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by Marcus Aurelius. “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.” This quote has meant a lot to me as a poet when trying to access that part of yourself that you will not surrender, the obstacle becomes the way, and it is only a matter of surrendering that one finds the emotion they were searching for.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Just Kids by Patti Smith is a book that impacted me. Parts of it took place in Laurel Canyon, where I grew up. It’s the story of how with the encouragement from Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith was able to find her voice as a poet. It also took me years before I took myself seriously as a poet and desired to put my work out there.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

When you want to give birth to your idea and put it out there in the world to stand on its own merits, that is exactly when it will happen and not sooner than that. What I mean is that you have to be prepared for all forms of criticism, negativity, etc., and trust that enough positivity and good reviews will come your way that you boldly launch your ideas into reality. Once you have held onto an idea for long enough, there is a sense of urgency with the timing, and you will want to get you idea out there for the world to benefit from.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

I would recommend simply doing online research through google to determine if your precious idea in fact exists. It may exist, but you may have a part that makes it unique, and that has not been thought of, so dig deep and do your due diligence.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

For a poetry book, one has to create a book proposal for a publisher. You will often find on the publishers’ website what needs to be included in the proposal for it to be considered complete. Each publisher is different, but one part that is a common denominator is the Critical Analysis. The Critical Analysis is where you read roughly 10 books, and for each provide 1. A synopsis; 2. Ways that it is similar to your book; 3. And a final paragraph of ways your book is different from it. This can take approximately 6 months in my experience, but it is rewarding when it is finished.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Five things I wish someone told me when I first began as a poet with ideas that landed on paper and launched into a book are the following:

  1. Do not write for anyone but yourself. In order to get to the truth of your emotions, you cannot be concerned with how others will perceive your work;
  2. Get a copyright on a work in progress. Don’t wait until your completed with your book to copyright it. As I wrote my book, several months went by where I had the majority of my poems completed, but there were still more pouring out of me, so I needed the protection of a copyright;
  3. It is going to take at least twice as long as you think it will. Everything from inception of what the poem is about and what range of emotions it will tap into, to writing what you feel, and then finding the proper placement among your other poems, to copyright, to printing to publication can take much longer than expected. So set your launch date “loosely” around a few month’s time;
  4. Don’t expect others to be your cheerleader. Be your own cheerleader. You are the best person to give yourself a pep talk to. You are the one who had the idea in the first place, so you are the only one who can have the kind of faith you need to succeed;
  5. Do not let obstacles stop you, rather let them show you the way. It is true that the only way out is through, so if you hit a road bump on your journey, keep pressing onward and you will prevail!

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Having also developed my own skincare line in the past, I can advise to seek the assistance of a copyright lawyer who can do a thorough search for you. That would be the first step to take so you know your idea is novel. Then, if it is a unique idea, for instance a collection of poems, immediately apply for a copyright from the government. Then, you are on your way!

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I would personally not want my thoughts and ideas to veer one way or another due to someone else’s input. I would want to keep my ideas pure, so my advice is not to hire a consultant for your invention.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

This is tricky. I say, if you believe in yourself and have the funds then go for it on your own! But if you are not in a position to get to the necessary steps for your idea to launch, then there is no shame in having others invest in your idea. You may need to share part of the company, but that is the price for moving forward, and you want to move forward.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Yes. I am philanthropic and support the arts. I am in the Director’s Circle of giving at the LACMA (Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and was Vice Chair at an FIDF (Friends of Israel Defense Forces) event. I care very much about our community and our world, and feel it is important to give back.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

You know what?! I would have fun with this and invite schools to participate in creating one long poem that each student could contribute a line to. That way they express their creativity while being part of something bigger. It would be fun, and probably have the poem taken in a million different directions!

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

My idol is Patti Smith. Her lyrical books take you on a journey you feel a part of. She was awarded the National Book Award for Just Kids, my top 5 favorite books!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Elizabeth TenHouten On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Mike Becker Of The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) On

Agile Businesses: Mike Becker Of The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

Hire the right people. Build a team of people who are open to challenges, evolving the business, and taking it to the next level. If you surround yourself with people who understand that change is necessary, it will make it easier to adapt operations as you move forward. But make sure your team members also feel valued and have a voice. Encourage them to speak up and share their thoughts. They will guide the business, keep it on track while also taking it to the next level.

As part of my series about “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mike Becker.

Mike is Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA), one of the largest national trade organizations serving independent agents. He is a forward-thinking leader who embraces smart use of technology to drive business growth and operations. He has more than 14 years of insurance industry experience and has been at the helm of PIA since 2013. He leads the organization’s strategic initiatives, advocacy efforts, and insurance carrier relations as well as oversees all growth initiatives and program launches expanding the business.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Like many people who end up in insurance, it wasn’t an area I had planned to go into originally. In fact, I knew very little about the industry at the beginning of my career. I got my degree in Government and International Politics from George Mason University thinking I would pursue a career in politics. I’m a native Washingtonian, so Capitol Hill seemed like a natural choice. I was a staffer for former congressman, Nick Lampson of Texas and then left to work for congressional relations for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

Then in 2007, I responded to a job ad from PIA seeking legislative help. I got the job and began representing the organization on Capitol Hill and led our legislative efforts. Then in 2013, I was promoted to executive vice president and CEO and have been in that role ever since. It was one of the best moves I’ve made.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

In business we often say it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. However, that’s not always the case.

When I first started with PIA, I had to learn about crop insurance. I was a city person and this was a major learning curve. I knew nothing about farming or crop growing and was headed to an educational meeting about an hour outside Wichita, Kansas. This was pure farm country and I was meeting a crop insurance agent who was going to show me the ropes. I was always taught to dress to impress. I showed up in dress shoes, slacks, a button down, and blazer.

I learned pretty quickly that’s not the best attire to wear as we spent the day climbing into a combine with a farmer who was harvesting crops.

What it taught me is to meet your customers where they’re comfortable and want to meet. This could mean having to change your own expectations of what to wear or what the interaction would entail. Also, it’s always ok to ask questions if you’re not sure what to expect at a meeting. If I had asked the crop insurance agent what we would be doing that day, my blue jeans would have prevailed.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been very fortunate to receive guidance from a number of people along the way. I’ve worked with people both inside and outside the organization and industry who have helped me tremendously.

One name that springs to mind is Kellie Bray, my first supervisor at PIA. She helped guide me as I was first starting out in PIA and in insurance. During my first week in my new job in a new industry she came into my office and said the most important thing: when you have bad days, push your seat back from your desk, close your eyes and think of the people.

I keep that advice with me to this day. It’s the people who made me fall in love with insurance. The quality, the integrity, the compassion of our members and all those who make up our organization is at a level far superior to any other group of people I’ve ever interacted with.

This is true in most industries and jobs. It is the people — your customers, your colleagues — that make what you do meaningful. During those bad moments, thinking about them puts everything into perspective.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I agree with this research 100% and PIA is living proof. In the last year, we just celebrated our 90th anniversary, and our values, mission, and vision today are as important as they were 90 years ago.

We have an enduring mission to advance the needs of our members and be a leading voice in the insurance industry. We achieve this success by focusing on our four pillars: Inform, Educate, Advocate, Protect.

At the core of our pillars, we provide important insurance information to agents and carriers, offer educational programs, advocate at both the state and national levels, and deliver products and services to help insurance professionals protect and grow their businesses.

Throughout the generations, we have never lost our commitment to our purpose, yet we’ve managed to evolve and adapt to keep up with the ever-changing business environment.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

PIA is one of the nation’s largest trade associations for independent insurance agents dedicated to serving professional independent insurance agents. We use our vast knowledge, resources, and expertise to advance the business interests of all PIA members including aggressively promoting, protecting and defending the diverse interests of professional independent insurance agents in the legislative, regulatory and public arenas. We advance the independent agent model among carriers as the preferred distribution system for insurance products.

Independent agents are the best distribution channel for insurance and are the best way for consumers to ensure they are protected and sleep well at night. To ensure the success of independent agents, PIA is the trusted source for factual and relevant information for our members, is the unquestionable leader in insurance education, the strongest advocate with state and federal legislators and regulators, and the best provider of tools and resources specifically designed for independent agencies.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

Insurance has constantly been the focus for disruption and transformation. It all stems from the changing expectations of consumers. Today’s customers expect a more digital experience. They expect to be serviced immediately with on-demand access and 24/7 support.

But some independent agents do not have the most tech-forward businesses. Some operations still use dated and antiquated technologies to conduct business.

For consumers, there can be a real conundrum. Insurance customers want to work with agents. Insurance is so complicated and complex — and agents provide guidance and advice. Customers don’t want to risk not being protected and they want the agents’ expertise. But they also want an Amazon-like, on-demand buying experience where they can purchase a policy with a few simple clicks.

Technology companies are seeing the need and trying to fill the gap. The industry thought the main disruption would come from insurtechs that want to remove agents from the equation and sell products directly to consumers. But we have seen that most consumers still want agents. Now these insurtechs are actually turning to agents to help distribute their products.

The main disruption today is from the onslaught of technologies that are trying to improve the independent agent channel. Agents now are overwhelmed with technology choices, the impact on workflows, and how to convince team members to get onboard with change.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

One of our goals is to educate agents. This is an area where we have a significant impact and help agents adapt to change. One of the biggest challenges is simply understanding what solutions are out there and which ones are the right fit for particular agent operations.

We began creating programs which introduced agents to different tools and connected them with vendors for additional research. We also created agency experience videos, including interviews with individual agents to show real-life examples of how tech can work.

Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

Change has been a long time coming for the insurance industry. Change is necessary to keep up with customer expectations — many in the industry are realizing this and beginning to make adjustments.

But what has really accelerated insurance’s digital transformation is COVID-19. When the pandemic began, all agents — whether they were embracing technology or not — were suddenly relying on a variety of digital solutions to work remotely and connect with customers virtually. If they weren’t using technology before COVID, there were no more choices post-pandemic.

At PIA, while our overall purpose didn’t change, our focus and the ways we delivered support shifted. We created a whole program centered around how agents can excel in a virtual work environment. We identified different types of solutions to help agents run successful virtual agencies and connected them to different technology solution providers.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

It’s exciting! The future opportunities are motivating us to continue to move forward. Consumer and business reliance on agents is getting stronger. Direct to consumer insurance companies aren’t overtaking the industry. Insurance isn’t something that can be bought off a shelf. Insurance is complex and buyers are at risk if they don’t get the right coverage. They want the guidance that agents provide. With new technology, agents are able to make the insurance purchasing transaction simpler and easier. That includes customer portals, instant quotes and e-signature. Using the technology, agents are still able to provide stellar one-on-one customer service addressing a customer’s unique needs.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?

PIA had a “teacher becomes the student” moment as a result of the pandemic. We were able to embrace this and really take our service to the next level.

We introduce agents to many new technologies. But since we work with agents — and not directly with consumers — we don’t always use all the solutions we’re talking about.

But as a result of the pandemic and needing to work remotely, much has changed as we implemented collaboration tools like Slack or Microsoft teams and began to use Zoom more regularly.

Through Zoom, we were able to add another dimension to the programs and materials we were offering our agent members. It became even easier to record interviews, podcasts, and webinars with agents from across the country. We created a network of agent technology ambassadors: agents who successfully utilize different solutions in their agencies, sharing their experience with the tools and providing advice for other agents. These examples illustrate success with these solutions is not theoretical and can be achieved.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

Navigator, encourager, strategist: there are a lot of critical roles to successfully lead during change. But one of the most important ones is communicator. It’s imperative to communicate the strategy, answer questions, listen to feedback, and relay decisions. During periods of change there is uncertainty. And strong communication can help clear up any doubts, misconceptions or misgivings.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

A strong culture can get an organization through any storm. At PIA, we strive to have a team environment. We’re all part of the same mission. We all have each other’s backs. And, we try to have fun. I always say that if I go a day without hearing laughter in the office, then I get concerned.

Having this strong culture enables us to embrace change and accept failure. We don’t want to fail on any objective, but fear of failure is no excuse to sit on the sidelines. Learn from it. Work to make everyone comfortable so they embrace risk moving forward.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Every company is different so to come up with a single universal principle that can guide them through turbulent times is difficult. But there are several tactics that could be beneficial for a company to use including:

  • Celebrate the wins — big or small: We used to have a deli bell on our reception desk that any employee would ring to celebrate a victory of any size. Everyone popped their heads out of their offices to cheer on the success. In our virtual working world, it’s changed a little bit. We now send an email to share our good news.
  • Listen to your customers: Your customers are your North Star. When in doubt, let them lead the way. Use data to help understand them. Ensure your relevance by staying ahead of your customers’ challenges. Look outward.
  • Stay focused: Keep your eyes on the long-term goals.
  • Remember, everything passes: I used to have a career mentor that asked me, “Did anyone die?” That’s of course an extreme situation, but he was proving a point. It could be worse. Life will go on.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Burying your head in the sand: I have seen this so many times in the insurance industry. Businesses think that if they don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist. When I see organizations doing this, I often have the urge to share with them a quote from statistician, Dr. W. Edwards Deming. “Survival is optional. No one has to change.”

No one is going to force a business to change, but the business can’t expect to stay relevant. Not everyone likes change but it is the nature of life. Company leaders need to have an open mind and realize that there is no final or perfect version of how the business operates. It should always be evolving to keep up with customers.

Not listening to customers: We see this problem so often in business and I don’t understand it. To me, listening to your customers is like being given the answers to a test. They are telling you what they want to see from you to keep their business, so listen. No one knows the needs of customers better than customers themselves and most won’t stick with a company that tells them they are wrong.

Ignoring the competition: Thinking you operate in a protective bubble won’t protect a business from outside threats. You need to be aware of traditional competition and stay on top of nontraditional disrupters. Awareness is important, but there’s another way to look at it. Competitors don’t have to be threats. They can also be learning opportunities about how to improve.

We have seen this firsthand in insurance. Agents faced competition from companies selling insurance direct to consumers. The main competitive advantage over agents was a technology fueled transaction that led to a seamless buying experience. Instead of ignoring this competition, agencies began to upgrade their own technologies so they could provide a similar purchasing process.

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

1.) Stay on top of market research. There’s a reason there are so many reports. It can at times be a lot to digest, but information is important. Businesses can’t operate in a vacuum. Customer trends and industries are constantly changing and evolving. Research can give you an idea of what is coming down the road, so your business isn’t blindsided. Once you have the information, play offense not defense.

2.) Adopt a new motto, “Change is good.” A business that stands still will not last. Leaders should adopt the mentality that change is going to happen and they need to embrace it. Be open to new ideas from customers and employees. Be alert to new tools that might improve how your business operates day to day.

3.) Understand your “why.” Every change should have a reason. Unsure if a change is appropriate? Look back to your mission, vision, and purpose — you’ll find the answers there.

4.) Hire the right people. Build a team of people who are open to challenges, evolving the business, and taking it to the next level. If you surround yourself with people who understand that change is necessary, it will make it easier to adapt operations as you move forward. But make sure your team members also feel valued and have a voice. Encourage them to speak up and share their thoughts. They will guide the business, keep it on track while also taking it to the next level.

5.) Be properly insured. This is one thing every business leadership should be doing, but it doesn’t make it to the top of every list. Leadership should constantly be working to reduce risks in their organizations, and that includes making sure that they’re properly insured. Technology is changing the game — particularly in the area of cyber threats — and companies should be regularly talking to their agents about what’s best for them.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Straight home.” This was something my late dad always said to my four sisters and me whenever we left the house. Of course, when we were in high school and college, it was literal. He was really telling us to head directly home. Don’t stop anywhere, don’t get into any trouble.

Today it means something so much more. It’s something we say regularly in our family, and it serves as a reminder of the importance of home, family, and a strong work/life balance. I love what I do for work, but the quickest way for me to get burned out is when my work/life balance gets out of sync.

How can our readers further follow your work?

At PIA we are continuing to do really exciting things which people can see on our website: www.pianational.org. I also share a lot of things on my LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: Mike Becker Of The National Association of Professional Insurance Agents (PIA) On was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Renée Cohen Of Lucidworks: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Make your customers superstars. Across our entire revenue team, from marketing to sales to our customer success team, we say our mission is to get our customer champions promoted. As a B2B brand, we hold deep conviction in the value and return-on-investments that our offerings bring the businesses we serve. When our champions get a win, we celebrate with them. Nothing makes us happier than celebrating our own customers’ success stories and giving them the tools they need to tell a great story within their own industry.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Renée Cohen.

Renée Cohen is the VP, Worldwide Marketing at Lucidworks, a B2B SaaS search & insight engine provider. For almost 20 years, Renée has led demand generation, social marketing, branding, and market research in software startups and agency environments. Prior to joining Lucidworks, Renée was the practice area leader for social and marketing programs at professional services firm, Trellist Marketing and Technology, leading sales and delivery for brand refreshes, product launches, social management and campaigns for Fortune 500 clients and some of the world’s largest private companies. You can frequently find her in coffee shops around the greater Philadelphia region, where she lives with her husband, two children, and Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

In college, I was a political science and history nerd, thinking I’d apply to law school. But during school, I had to pay the bills. So I took a paid marketing internship at a start-up B2B software company, and that turned out not to be a short term gig. I continued in my marketing role there for three years, and upon graduation, I knew this was a career path where I’d grow and thrive.

Earlier on in my career, I had fun talking about how a double major in history and political science prepared me to be a well-rounded marketer. For both of those degrees, you do a lot of research and writing — particularly persuasive writing. The most well-rounded marketers I’ve worked with are analytical, know how to research, form conclusions, and, of course, write to move an audience.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The one that still makes my cringe inside was a technical mistake. Early on in my career, we were testing personalized email sends for some high-touch field marketing promotions (rather than branded email sends). This was long before tools like Outreach.io or Sales Loft existed.

I was setting up a simple mail merge using Excel, Word, and Outlook — which works great for what I needed to do on the cheap, by the way. And while I was setting up the send, I still had some “test” email copy in the set up while I was working on merging the send list from Excel into the Word app. One wrong button choice, and my test email copy started sending out to the real email recipients, our customers and prospects.

I was mortified. The fastest way I could think to stop it was to pop the battery out of my laptop to get the emails to stop mid-send. The “whoops” email went out to about 20 people before I yeeted my laptop battery, and I sent personalized apologies to each person.

Lessons learned: Order of operations matters. Risk mitigation matters.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Lucidworks is a leader in AI-powered search technology. That sounds…jargony…doesn’t it? So the cool stuff comes in when we talk about what search can do when you’ve got powerful machine learning driving it.

Every user interaction, every customer behavior, can be tracked digitally. Your customers are sending you “signals” all the time about what they like, what they want, what’s relevant to them, and what’s not. You can use these insights from customer behavior to drive really delightful and seamless user experiences.

This can manifest in a number of ways.

One of our customers, Regeneron, is using Lucidworks to power a research app, making it easy for their employees to access the most relevant, publicly available COVID-19 data sets.

For our retail customers, in 2020 it became critical to improve online shopping experiences during quarantine. This year for Cyber-5 (Black Friday through Cyber Monday) we supported over 1 billion search queries on our many retail customers eCommerce websites, including a top athleisure brand and one of the world’s largest big box retailers. This technology makes the holidays merry and bright for all of us, from the safety of our homes.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

The marketing team at Lucidworks is very busy right now (when are we not!) with the launch of our new search-as-a-service platform, Springboard, and the availability of our first SaaS application on that platform, Connected Search.

We’re taking search engine technology into the future. Springboard is a search engine that works really, really well and is really, really easy to use and maintain. With other search solutions, highly relevant search experiences have been notoriously labor-intensive to manage and require lots of technical expertise to get it right. With Connected Search, our first app on the platform, we’re making it easy for any marketer to set-up and manage a superior search experience on their own website to delight their customers and drive conversions and loyalty.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Brand marketing is hard to measure, but nearly every business leader and owner knows it’s important to achieving growth. Brand marketing is about building recognition, affinity, preference, and loyalty, which are measured with longer tail metrics. Your audience is not only people who are in-market for your solutions today, but the people who will be in-market for you in the future. Brand awareness is important for ensuring people think of you when they do need what you offer. Also, how does a relationship with your brand (or a potential relationship with your brand) make your audience feel? Do they feel safe? Do they feel they’re getting something superior? Do they feel you are real and down-to-earth, honest? Depending on your target market, what you want your audience to feel will differ, based on what drives them rationally and emotionally. But getting it right is key to driving future affinity and loyal customers who return again and again.

Product marketing is more easily measured with direct response metrics. Your audience is people who are in-market, now, today to purchase your solution — or soon will be with a bit of nudging. Here you’re promoting the superior benefits of your product, and either overtly or covertly contrasting the differences between your product and competitors’ (whether that’s quality, price, breadth of solution, etc.). You want to be at the right place, at the right time, with a compelling offer to induce a sale. You want to convince them that they will miss out by not taking action now and with you.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Creating a strong brand is an investment that pays off in future growth. As I mentioned, well-executed brand marketing should reach and resonate not only with the people in market for your solutions today, but the people who will be in market for your products and services in the future. This will pay off dividends as your business grows, creating a memorable connection with people so they remember you when they are ready to buy. If you’re tapping into the emotional drivers of your audience, you are not only one of the first brands they think of when they are in market to buy, but you also become their biased first choice when evaluating options (whether they consciously notice it or not).

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

Well, I believe a company should have one brand strategy.

The defined brand strategy should support your business goals in terms of growth, acquisition plans, exit plans, and more. For example, a company that’s building a diverse portfolio of products that meet the needs of notably different demographics may choose a product-branding strategy (house of brands) over a corporate branding strategy (branded house).

At Lucidworks, we are building a corporate brand that reflects the strength of our past and articulates the vision we have for the future. The new products we’re launching this year push search and customer insights technology into the future, and we are expanding the accessibility of superior on-site search, browse, and discovery to new markets.

Once that brand strategy is identified, these five tactics are crucial to building a trusted and believable brand:

  1. Before developing or refreshing a brand, start with documenting a well-defined company mission and vision. Why do you exist? How is the world better because of what you do? You’d be surprised how often this is murky and muddled amongst senior leadership in an organization. It’s important to bring the business owners and leaders together to define this. Creating a brand without first knowing, with conviction, why your business exists, it will be difficult to convince anyone externally of your brand values.
  2. Showcase your own people. Humans buy from humans. People want to connect with the real voices and thought leaders driving a brand’s mission. Midyear our social team implemented an intentional plan to feature quotes and voices from our own team on social media. The result? We’ve generated a 94% increase in impressions and a staggering 200% increase in engagement with our social content since highlighting the real people behind our brand.
  3. Stop talking about yourself. Who do you exist for? Why are you making their lives better? How passionate are you about that mission? Too often marketers fall into the trap of forgetting about the perspective of people outside our metaphorical walls. And I get it, we’re in the weeds every day. We see inside the sausage factory. Keep your message focused on the outcomes you’re promising to deliver. At Lucidworks we create really technical search engine software for companies to make finding information a seamless and easy experience. It’s really tempting to geek out and talk about all the artificial intelligence that powers our product, because we have massively smart people building it. But our customers care about solving their own business challenges. We’ve started to evaluate all of our marketing promotions through how well we’re empathizing with the pain and joys of our customers.
  4. Invest in initiatives that align to your brand values, even if they’re not overtly targeting your buyers. For example, Licidworks recently partnered with RetailROI, whose mission is to connect foster children with resources while in and after leaving the foster system. A healthcare biologics company I supported rebranding a few years ago is heavily involved in promoting tissue and organ donation and breast cancer research. These initiatives create strong engagement within the organizations because employees feel connected to the causes and the passion extends out into the marketplace.
  5. Make your customers superstars. Across our entire revenue team, from marketing to sales to our customer success team, we say our mission is to get our customer champions promoted. As a B2B brand, we hold deep conviction in the value and return-on-investments that our offerings bring the businesses we serve. When our champions get a win, we celebrate with them. Nothing makes us happier than celebrating our own customers’ success stories and giving them the tools they need to tell a great story within their own industry.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One that I’ve had my eye on for a while is startup Gong (gong.io). Gong is a saas company with a platform that offers sales teams automated insights into sales call performance. They’ve created a delightful human voice for their brand, they know their audience (sales leaders) really well. They know what drives them, they know what frustrates them, and that comes out in their brand voice. They’re a bit humorous, a bit irreverent, but always focused on the business value they provide their customers.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Brand building requires longer tail metrics, to be sure. Branding absolutely needs to support the growth of the company. However, the metrics to measure success tend to be softer and leading indicators of growth.

Social media followership is one proxy. How is your audience growing? Also web traffic, particularly branded keyword searches (searches using your company and product names) and direct website visits. Are these two numbers increasing? These KPIs are all indicators of people seeking out and following your brand, and they’re metrics that any marketer can easily access and track.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

For a B2B company, especially, it’s really tempting for brands to fall into the trap of trying to define social success through direct response metrics. Did we create leads from this post? How many downloads of that new whitepaper?

If you stand on that trap door, you’re going to miss the real opportunity. It’s stepping over dollars to pick up a penny. Social media is an opportunity to communicate genuinely and create a conversation with people. Success needs to be defined as growing reach and impressions (awareness, recognition), engagement (resonance) and followership (affinity). If you see these numbers growing exponentially, you know your brand voice is landing well, and you can use these KPIs as a proxy to measure growth in brand awareness (which is hard to measure directly without paying for expensive surveys).

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Marketing is a job that is very difficult to “turn off” at the end of the day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had what I describe as a “shower thought” — an idea I was mulling over during the weekend or overnight that pops into my head while getting ready in the morning. Or waking up from sleep and having to write down an idea in my notes app to come back to it.

For myself, I’ve learned to embrace the fact that my work brain doesn’t turn off after 5pm at night, so I try to create enjoyable “work-life integration” into my day. For example, my local coffee shop is a 30-minute walk from my house through wooded conservation trails. A couple times a week I’ll walk the trails to get coffee and use that as thinking time. If I need to write, I’ll start processing my outline while I walk, and sometimes record myself talking through the outline. This time away from my desk, walking and sitting at a favorite coffee shop, gives me that little serotonin boost and does wonders for my mental health to avoid burnout.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

The US public education system needs a massive overhaul, and we’re not setting up all socio-economic backgrounds for success in the future of the labor market. I’d love to see a movement toward integrating deeper engineering and coding curriculum, as a core standard, starting with primary school and throughout the entire K-12 experience.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One I’ve ascribed to for a long time: Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

This is not a pass for sloppy or lazy work. However, if you’re not constantly testing and floating new ideas, you’re going to miss out on growth opportunities. Inaction can be a failure. If you’re measuring with rigor, you can quickly determine what’s working and build on it from there. Trying to perfect a tactic that you haven’t yet proven out will result in slower speed-to-market and missed opportunities for growth. I like to challenge my team to quickly evaluate ideas, quickly refine them, and get them out in market to test and learn.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Some people who know me well wonder at my obsession, but won’t be surprised to read my answer: Ira Glass, the creator and producer of the NPR radio show This American Life is top on my list. The format, the human interest storytelling, and the journalism he brought to the medium has had a huge impact on me since I was 15 years old. I’ve listened to most of the 25 years worth of episodes at least twice, some three or more times.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn is the best place to catch me on the regular: https://www.linkedin.com/in/renee-cohen/

And I do occasionally lurk on Twitter: @cohen_renee

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Renée Cohen Of Lucidworks: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Apologies I Never Got: Bethany Nicole’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Stay Authentic. I wish someone had told me that I could trust myself to make decisions about my life. I came from an upbringing that was surrounded with fear and limiting beliefs. I was taught to always take the straight and narrow at all costs even if that didn’t feel right to me or caused a lot of pain. But what I have learned, is that when you follow your own path, you are sometimes your only guide. You have to shine your own light because how can you expect people who’ve never been where you are going, to lead or guide you. But by staying authentic, you will always be following the right path.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Bethany Nicole.

Bethany is an LA based author, freelance writer and relationship expert. Her breakout book, Apologies I Never Got, is all about dating and relationship horror stories, phrased as apologies you never got, from the people who never gave them to you. To see more of her work, or book a session, please visit her website www.bethanynicole.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I really feel like this career path chose me, as opposed to the other way around. I have always heard to just follow what lights you up and let the rest fall into place. Well, writing lights me up. Relationships light me up. And self-work and discovery lights me up.

When the concept of Apologies I Never Got, really hit home for me, I realized it was a concept that could change the world. Our relationships determine how we show up. Whether it is our relationship with ourselves, our parents, friends, family, romantic partners, etc. It all plays a part in how we function individually and how we can contribute to society. I believe that is part of why our culture is in so much chaos right now, we have no idea how to relate to others on deeper levels, let alone how to relate to ourselves.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Well, I will keep it light. I get asked quite often what my favorite “apology I never got” story is. (Some of them are mine, some belong to friends, family, coworkers, and some of them are submitted) One of my personal favorites so far, happened to a friend of mine, right here in LA. She went on a first date with a guy, they met at a restaurant for dinner. The restaurant had front facing floor to ceiling windows(this becomes important later.) She saw the guy pull up in an Uber. The two met and began engaging in fairly normal first date conversation. After a few minutes the guy excused himself, saying he had to use the restroom. At which point she saw him through the front windows hop onto a bike that she knew was not his, and pedal away as fast as he could. The guy snuck out the back exit, stole a bike that wasn’t his and left her there at the restaurant.

Pretty hilarious if you ask me.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Well, it took me a while to get there, but “Regrets Are A Waste of Time.”

We all do the best we can in given situations, even when that “best” doesn’t look very good. But when we learn better, we can do better. If we never learn better, or refuse to learn better, we probably won’t see a lot of changes in our lives.

That allows me space to be able to work towards forgiveness of others. They were doing the best they could at that time. If I don’t see any growth, acknowledgement or change on their part, I recognize their behavior is likely to continue as is and I can try to exit the friendship, relationship or situation with compassion and (hopefully) some grace.

That concept also allows me to give myself grace for past errors, especially because I always like to analyze what happened so I can try to do better moving forward. I trust myself now to course correct my own actions and to learn from my own mistakes. So why beat myself up over them? Time to move on and enjoy the moment.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The concept is based off of my book, Apologies I Never Got. The idea is that we don’t need an apology, to be able to move on with our lives and our healing. Healing is ultimately our responsibility and while that initially is a hard pill to swallow, it is actually quite freeing. That means we aren’t stuck waiting for someone to acknowledge the pain they caused, or even apologize for it. Because the truth is, we rarely get the apologies we deserve, and we have to learn to accept that. And it’s ok because we don’t really need them. We have a choice. We can sit around waiting for an apology that may never come, and let it hold us back for the rest of our lives, walking around inflicting our wounds on ourselves and others…or… We can get to work on healing ourselves. We can realize that we are free to move on with our own lives, no lame apology from an even lamer person, necessary.

How do you think this will change the world?

I have seen in both my personal and professional life, how people allow their past, to directly affect their future. They feel that their trauma or past gives them a free pass at messing up their lives and the lives of those around them. But it doesn’t. Because where would it end? Who would get to say that this person’s trauma was worse than that person’s, therefore they get to go around destroying other people and acting terribly? Obviously, that’s not realistic. There is no free pass. There is no one thing (or many things) that allow people to hurt others. And ultimately it just hurts themselves. Whoever or whatever hurt them in their past, has taken enough. They don’t get to have their future too. And ultimately that’s all that happens when we don’t let go, we live out our pain and trauma over and over.

To give you an example from my life, my anger and resentment at how my father treated me and the life he is currently choosing to live, did absolutely nothing to him. But it nearly destroyed me. And that’s a lot of people’s stories. That’s why, we have to learn to let it all go. Not because that person deserves our forgiveness, but because we deserve to have a good life.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Yes. I think people need to be sincere in their approach. It can’t just be a band aid of “ok I forgive them.” Forgiveness is a process; it can take years. It is a daily practice and some days it is far easier than others. It is important to be consistent and sincere in your intention, or else the anger and resentment will remain and fester. It is not about shoving down emotion, it is about working through it and coming out the other side.

I also want to remind people that you can forgive someone or let something go, without involving yourself back in that person’s life. In the example I gave above between my father and me, I work towards forgiveness of him daily, but I never interact with him. His choices are not safe for me. So, I have to distance myself.

There are lots of ex romantic partners I have had to forgive too, but that does not mean I call them up and let them know I forgive them, or that I get back with them. You can absolutely emotionally and energetically forgive someone, without having any interaction with them. And if they have truly damaged you, then sometimes that is what is best.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I just had finally had enough. My life was falling apart. I hated my job, I struggled in romantic relationships, I had no family to speak of, I was pushing all my friends away. And I was tired of holding grudges and letting the incidents of the past, shape the actions of my future. I was tired of watching mine and other’s life fall apart over and over simply because I couldn’t let go of the pain of the past. And I got tired of waiting for apologies from people over things that they would never apologize for. I finally realized that I never needed those apologies to begin with, and it was one of the most freeing moments of my life.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

For people to believe in its power and be open to its healing. It is such a simple concept but so incredibly life changing if you fully embrace it.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Stay Authentic- I wish someone had told me that I could trust myself to make decisions about my life. I came from an upbringing that was surrounded with fear and limiting beliefs. I was taught to always take the straight and narrow at all costs even if that didn’t feel right to me or caused a lot of pain. But what I have learned, is that when you follow your own path, you are sometimes your only guide. You have to shine your own light because how can you expect people who’ve never been where you are going, to lead or guide you. But by staying authentic, you will always be following the right path.
  2. Regrets Are A Waste Of Time- As I mentioned before, there is no changing the past. I spent a lot of time regretting one very extreme and intense romantic relationship I had for example. He was abusive in all the ways a person can be emotionally, financially, energetically and even physically at one point. As a now relationship expert I felt an immense amount of shame around that relationship. I felt like I couldn’t move forward with my life or career because of that experience. I felt like people would think I wasn’t qualified because of my past mistakes. But I finally realized, I am who I am because of it. I am an experienced and highly compassionate expert for that exact reason, I’ve been there. And I learned how to navigate myself out of that danger zone. But the regret over that experience, crippled me in the future. And ultimately that is ALL regrets do. Hold us back.
  3. Your Path Has Value, Even If No One Else Values It.

Obviously not everyone valued or even understood my path. Every step of my life from my various moves, to quitting my stable 9–5 job to pursue my passion in writing, has been critiqued, condemned and questioned. “Why can’t you do what everyone else does?” “Why can’t you do things the normal way?” “Why don’t you just stay in your hometown and be a dental hygienist.” (That is the height of accomplishment where I am from… to this day people still tell me I should stop writing and do that, so bizarre.) But that is how limited a lot of the people where I grew up are. They are not expanded enough to recognize or even value any different type of life. So it is important to value you your own life and path. Because some people are just never going to get it. No matter what your level of success, they will just not get it. So, you have to define your own success and be happy with your own achievements. Your life is valuable, your path is valuable, even if no one else gets it.

4. You Will Probably Never Get That Apology…Just Let it Go.

You know that apology you’ve been wanting on? That one that has been holding you back from living the life you truly deserve. The one that has taken up all your thoughts, time and relationships for years? Yeah, you know the one. I’ve got news for you…it’s never coming. And you know what…that is ok. Actually, more than ok. Because you don’t need it. I shared with you how I let those unsaid apologies run my life for many years. Don’t let the same thing happen to you. Learn to let it go and learn to accept you deserve a good life, no matter what has happened in the past.

5. You Teach People How to Treat You.

Obviously, everything that happens to us, cannot be prevented. But some things can. For years I walked around wondering why I was treated badly. Until I realized the person who was treating me the worst, was myself. The way I talked to myself, the way I let other people walk all over me, the way I ultimately ignored my own thoughts and feelings and shoved down my opinions, always deferring to others. And guess what… people followed suit. People treated me the way I treated myself and the way I allowed them to treat me. Once I stopped allowing that, things got better. And while boundaries are still a work in progress (they are for everyone pretty much) I am happy to report I have come a long way with them.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Honestly just stay aligned and stay authentic. If a situation, opportunity, job, person etc. doesn’t feel right to you, trust that. If it feels off or even just feels like it’s not meant for you, that’s ok. You don’t’ have to take everything that comes along. You can say no, you can choose yourself over someone else, and you can choose to stay true to your path, over the observations or expectations of other people.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would say, let’s get this book and this concept out on the market. We are standing on the brink of a new dawn of not only on dating and relationships, but how we interact with each other. Our perceptions are shifting, and in the darkness, we are walking through, I want this book to the be the light. The market is primed for a guide on how to dig deeper in our relationships both with ourselves and with others. This book does that. It offers more than just concepts; it offers step by step guides and practical ways to implement these practices in our daily lives. Let’s not let anyone walk around with the burden of resentments and unsaid apologies any longer. It’s time to put those down and move into the future of relationships.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@bethanynicoleauthor

@apologiesinevergot

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Apologies I Never Got: Bethany Nicole’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Inesa Ponomariovaite Of Nesas Hemp On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do not waste time on people who don’t produce results. In the beginning we hired many firms or marketing companies and agencies, etc., that promised the world, but under delivered or didn’t deliver results at all. From now on, we always ask to show us instead of just telling us.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Inesa Ponomariovaite.

Inesa Ponomariovaite is a holistic health expert who after years of improving the lives of her clients through her alternative and holistic health consulting services, became frustrated with the inability to source pure CBD products that met the highest quality standard. She’s also a visionary on a mission to change the world by teaching people to harness the power of nature, like she did, to restore their health and well-being. She is the founder and CEO of Nesas Hemp, a dominant player in the CBDa hemp industry. Nesas is the world’s first-ever full full-spectrum and first certified by FDA registered laboratories with safety seal CBDa hemp extract It is created through a unique process to preserve all the healing compounds of the hemp plant, which bring optimal health and healing and restore the body to its natural state. Inesa’s ethos, “doing right” for humanity, continues to propel her to develop products and services that are good for the environment and good for the body, mind, and soul. Deep down in her heart, Inesa truly believes she can create a positive revolutionary change in the world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Growing up in Lithuania wasn’t easy, particularly during the 1980s-1990s. As a result, my mother had to work away from home, many times far away, so I had to take full responsibility to do the day-to-day chores and take care of my younger brother and sister as a child myself. If I wanted to have anything, I had to work hard and earn it myself, including tastier food, clothing, or anything else children would want to have. My childhood helped me to appreciate every single thing in my life.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“I’m going to make everything around me beautiful — that will be my life.”

Every time I end up in situations where people have taken advantage of me, or unfortunate situations where things went wrong, I learned a lot from them, and I used them to empower myself to turn every dark moment into love and turn negativity into positivity.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

My faith has always been a huge part of my life. I reference the Bible constantly and have to say this book has had the most profound impact on both my life and how I do business.

Judge not. Keep your word. Live a worry-free life. These are all lessons I took from the Bible, and have helped to guide me. Anything is possible as long as you have faith.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

I truly believe that the desire to make it happen is always going to push you forward. I think many people who do not have a deep desire to succeed are the ones who struggle the most in translating those ideas into an actual business.

A business idea and a burning desire to succeed are two different things. If you are truly passionate about your business idea and have a deep desire for it to succeed it will translate into action automatically. I truly believe that when you are passionate about something and willing to work hard, taking any action won’t seem to be a problem.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

I strongly suggest that people do their research and even if someone has already created your idea, consider whether your idea is better. Maybe the first person just introduced the idea to the world, but you will introduce a much better version of that same idea. Whatever the case, you can research what worked and what didn’t. In some ways even if someone has already created your idea it might be to your advantage because you can make it even better.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

I think the first thing you need to do is to really understand the industry you are trying to get into. The next step is to think about how your idea would be different from what already exists in the market because you need to differentiate yourself to be successful. Once you’ve done this, find a manufacturer that understands what you are trying to achieve and can help you to be unique in that area. The manufacturer should have the same values and should understand and be capable of fulfilling your needs. In terms of retailers, I think it’s best to focus on e-commerce and selling your product online, because the world is shifting to digital shopping, and we already see a lot of businesses struggling selling products through physical stores.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Do not waste time on people who don’t produce results. In the beginning we hired many firms or marketing companies and agencies, etc., that promised the world, but under delivered or didn’t deliver results at all. From now on, we always ask to show us instead of just telling us.
  2. Always ask for references. We found out the hard way that some of the companies we wanted to collaborate with, were not even real companies, but had a successful business scam plan to take advantage of other businesses.
  3. Do not get into your personal life or stories, do not overshare. In the beginning I shared too many personal things about myself and family just trying to be friendly and open, and that was a perfect way for others to use it and take advantage of me.
  4. I wish someone told me this wouldn’t happen overnight. I think I was so excited and impatient in the beginning to make this happen that I worked myself into the ground. Now I know it takes time, patience, consistency, and persistence to create a successful business.
  5. Find yourself a mentor who is already successful and has done something good for themselves, instead of listening to people who haven’t really achieved much success in their lives or their businesses. In the beginning of my career, I took advice from people who were pretending to be experts instead of seeking out real experts. Their advice led me to failures.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

If they can’t invent it themselves, find the most knowledgeable people on that specific topic and try to collaborate with them. Talk to them, get some advice and insights, so you can become as knowledgeable as possible about the product you want to invent. I would also recommend people find a credible expert attorney that wouldn’t scam you, and patent your idea if it’s unique. Write down your vision and goals and create a roadmap for execution and start taking the action.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I believe that it’s better to strike out on your own. There is so much information online, so it’s better to patent the idea, discuss it with an attorney, and save some money, rather than spending it on consultation fees.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

If you have an option to do it on your own, that would be a great start, and even a priority. If you take venture capital, you could end up facing a lot of pressure to meet certain deadlines, or your idea can even be stolen or be manipulated to make investors happy. That’s just my two cents on that.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Thank you so much for this question. This question puts a smile on my face because that’s the only reason why I am in this business in the first place. Helping the world and making this earth a better place is my number one desire. I want to see people healthy, happy, and loving one another. On a daily basis, I am helping a lot of people improve their health through natural, alternative solutions. Besides donating our product to families who cannot afford it and really need it, we serve hundreds of kids’ food, and help at homeless shelters in the Chicago area. I am also currently putting together a project on how to help children in the South Side of Chicago. I am also developing a new strategy to help victims of human trafficking. My goal is to end human trafficking and sex slavery.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

It’s too early to share, but I believe we already started the movement.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Tim Tebow. I believe him and his wife are fighting for a great cause, and I passionately believe in their intentions.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Inesa Ponomariovaite Of Nesas Hemp On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Otten Of Ronin Content Services & ALTRD TV On The Five Things You Need…

Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Otten Of Ronin Content Services & ALTRD TV On The Five Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t work 24/7. — We celebrate the “hustle” and “rise and grind” but the reality is we are all here for a limited time and to spend it all working would be a shame. I try to turn my phone on and off at specific points of time every day and allow myself to be present.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Joshua Otten.

Joshua Otten spent the last 20 years as a trailblazing developer and producer of premium entertainment, builder of digital media platforms, and creator of content marketing solutions. He has founded a digital marketing agency and a cannabis content platform (PROHBTD) and has produced over 50 documentaries, TV shows and films. His most recent company, Ronin Content Services, is focused on integrating the connected-tv experience into the blockchain via their CTV network ALTRD.TV.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve spent the first ⅓ of my career working with some of the prolific and creative storytellers in the world in what would be considered traditional “old school” Hollywood. It really opened my eyes and showed me how powerful content is — it can shape our youth and elect politicians and it can also bring communities together. The age of social media has made this power accessible to everyone and it was fascinating watching big brands and major media companies try and pivot to this new reality. At the same time the democratization of content creation and the sheer amount of content out there meant that premium quality content was even more relevant. I took my background of broadcast TV development and production and experience working with some of the biggest brands in the world and merged it into a company that is focused on helping brands tell their stories to dedicated audiences while still maintaining authenticity and creativity.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are taking our existing CTV Network — Social Club TV (www.thesocialclub.tv), which has been focused on cannabis content, and evolving it into ALTRD.TV which will be the largest blockchain-powered “Watch To Earn” CTV network in the world. The key to its success is our content focus and our audience — we are creating content in the cannabis, psychedelic and crypto space with a focus on lifestyle, education and entertainment. I like to say we are ADULT SWIM meets VICE NEWS. These audiences demand authentic content and are turned-off by the mainstream media and the control large media conglomerates & social media companies have on content and distribution.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we first launched PROHBTD in 2015 the two other co-founders and I flew to Denver, CO to High Times Cannabis Cup to sort of celerbate but also promote the company and meet with brands and media companies who were in the space. Walking around I just started eating every gummy and smoking every joint handed to me — and honestly I’m pretty much a lightweight when it comes to cannabis. Needless to say about 2 hours later I was stuck in my hotel room listening to some “Calming Music” app on the phone and trying to talk myself out of a panic attack. The lesson there is don’t eat whatever gummies strangers hand you.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I’ve had way too many mentors to mention but I think the ones that have had the most impact are my family members. My Uncle, Mother and Grandfather all had their own small businesses as accountants and my Father worked his way up from a starting job in administration to run a large hospital group. Their focus, drive and hard work showed me what was possible and what it took to be successful.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I’ve found that the most transformative disruption happens when someone starts a new business focused on disrupting an existing business ecosystem. The entrenched players are usually too stuck in their way of doing things, the employees are not incentivized to find new ways to do things and they are set to maximize profits vs. take risks on new ideas or business models. There are obviously dozens of examples of this: Netflix taking on Blockbuster, Apple / Spotify changing the music industry, and social media companies like Facebook and Twitter completely changing news and media publishers. The common denominator is that technology companies end-up being the ones to disrupt the established players. And I think we can all agree that it hasn’t been “Good” — a specific example is Facebook and what they did to the media and publishing business promising them they would be able to grow their business if they invested in their ecosystem only to basically crush it years later. Not to mention the total dumbing down of our political discourse. One thing I’ve found is that no matter who the gatekeeper is (goodbye Sony hello Apple Music) the reality is the creator class is usually the last to come-up or benefit.

That is one of the unique things I really love about the entire blockchain platform — it is based on decentralization and distribution of power and resources to the masses — I’m sure Facebook will find some success in their Meta platform but in the long-term it may not be the biggest or most successful. And when you look at how the creator class can utilize NFTs, cryptocurrency and blockchain technology it becomes clear that even some of the big companies that emerged as winners from the last 20 years of technology disruption may not be the winners tomorrow if they can’t or don’t adapt.

Can you share five of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Don’t work 24/7. — We celebrate the “hustle” and “rise and grind” but the reality is we are all here for a limited time and to spend it all working would be a shame. I try to turn my phone on and off at specific points of time every day and allow myself to be present.

Learn from your (and importantly other people’s) mistakes — this is super cliche but still one of the most important business lessons. Mistakes are guidelines and provide knowledge on how to improve and do things differently and more efficiently.

Wisdom = Knowledge x Experience — It can take some time before what you are working on can become successful and even grow to where you want it to go. You can have all the knowledge in the world but without real world experience (and mistakes / failures) you won’t have the wisdom on how to apply it effectively.

Don’t be afraid to pivot — You don’t want to try and be all things to all people but being able to pivot is important if you recognize a unique opportunity or what you are doing isn’t working but can work for something else.

Separate yourself from your work — It is easy to allow yourself to get caught up in your job and business especially as an entrepreneur. You see people celebrate their success and create identities that are tied to their business or job. I’ve seen and heard way too many people talking about their legacy and not enough time being present and creating personal joy in their life.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I am beyond grateful for the team and co-founders I have. We have a very unique opportunity to create a massively successful platform with ALTRD.TV — we are in over 60M+ homes with 2500 hours of content and the largest broadcast quality cannabis, psychedelic and crypto content library in the world. We have a dedicated audience and with our upcoming integration into the blockchain and the capabilities that will bring including unique NFT projects tied to content and watch-to-earn technology.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Yes — I highly recommend people read “Wherever You Go, There You Are” and “Awakening from the Daydream”. The former is a powerful book that provides amazing tools so that anyone can cultivate presence, peace, ease and stillness. This is incredibly important for everyone but especially important for entrepreneurs where there are ever shifting goals and milestones and the job truly is never done. Awakening from the Daydream is a Reimagining of the Buddha’s Wheel of Life. It provides perspective on life in general and is incredibly grounding. I strongly believe that curating peace and ease in one’s life is incredibly important and without mediation it is nearly impossible.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I believe the keys to a peaceful, successful and joyous life are built on cultivating compassion, generosity and enjoying being present at all times in the experience you are in (even if it isn’t the experience you want to be in). The deification of wealth and “success” can create stress in people’s lives by creating unattainable goals (or even goals that should be attained do not come with the happiness and peace one has envisioned).

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think if everyone would meditate for 20 minutes a day and focus compassion for those they think least deserve it we would see a world has absolutely changed for the better.

How can our readers follow you online?

ALTRD.TV is the best way to follow my work.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Meet The Disruptors: Joshua Otten Of Ronin Content Services & ALTRD TV On The Five Things You Need… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Public Narrative: Jhmira Alexander’s Big Idea That Might Change The World

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Fight to see the good in democracy and pursue it — at all costs. I’ve had seasons that have taught me how to survive the highs and lows of business. As exhausting as resilience can be, remaining mission-focused has allowed me to leverage obstacles and the complexities of relationships.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jhmira Alexander.

Jhmira Alexander is the President and Executive Director of Public Narrative, Chicago’s Premier Communications and Media Literacy Resource. She is a trained journalist committed to improving community health and well-being through media and civic engagement. Under her leadership, Public Narrative uses storytelling to implement narrative change strategies addressing harmful narratives related to public safety, health, and education. Jhmira is a resourceful, solutions-oriented visionary and social impact leader highly skilled in diverse stakeholder engagement. She is an innovative and goal-oriented strategist with over 14 years of proven leadership experience training and consulting individuals, nonprofit organizations, media professionals, and outlets according to their own strategic goals for growth and communications. She’s worked with the Chicago Police Department, the Illinois Stewardship Alliance, the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance and Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, and the Medill School of Journalism, Media, and Integrated Marketing Communications.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

There’s a scene in The Best Man starring Taye Diggs and Nia Long where Nia’s character, Jordan, is directing a show on BET. I was fascinated watching this character stylishly carry out her vision. In high school, I knew I wanted a career that welcomed self-expression. Exploring a career in communications at Bradley University led me to focus on broadcast journalism specifically. Although, my media career was over just as soon as it began. I was interning at a news station while in undergrad and decided three months before graduation not to pursue a career in media. While studying broadcast communications at Bradley University, I found I didn’t love the kinds of stories we were sharing. I was a floor director at the time and the station had taught me how to direct newscasts. They’d even offered me a job directing the news on the weekends. Still, I wanted out of the industry if I had to tell such disheartening stories. My career advisor, Dr. Bob Jacobs, suggested I complete the degree and go do whatever I wanted to do. Fifteen years later, I am the President and Executive Director of the Chicago-based nonprofit, Public Narrative (PN), formerly Community Media Workshop. PN exists to balance narratives relating to public safety, health, and education. Through training and connecting community members to the media and each other, we actively diversify the voices participating in the news.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Since beginning my career, I’ve worked with some of the best leaders and teachers. Some of them have served as personal advisors sharing their own lived experiences through which I learned what to and what not to do. Their willingness to share their experiences gave me a significant lead in both my personal and professional development shaping how I support stakeholders as a leader. Every major moment in my career has started with an idea. While exploring the idea of leading Public Narrative, I attended the Studs Terkel Community Media Awards. After the event, a woman stood waiting for a cab, she’d left her phone in the office a few blocks away. While she was waiting, she was chatting with a woman I had spoken with to at the start of the event. I offered to give her a ride a few blocks away to her office. Our mutual acquaintance then said, “Wait until you find out who is in your car.” On our way, she began to share her story, including her five years working for Oprah. This woman was a trailblazer in every sense of the word. The most poignant moment that has stayed with me all these years is to believe, “Everything is possible!” I’ve never forgotten her words and have leaned on them many times in my leadership journey.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Identifying and remaining connected to my life’s purpose was a game-changer for me. I work with all kinds of people with different backgrounds and lived experiences. Therefore, I try to approach my work with compassion and understanding for their perspectives while remaining true to my own. My faith guides me and helps me endure difficult circumstances that surface in both my personal as well as my professional life. It’s through the lens of my faith that I’m able to allow those circumstances to shape me into a higher, better, more polished version of myself — — the version capable of grasping, implementing, and leading big ideas!

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World?”

I am extremely passionate about eradicating racism; dismantling systemic racism and encouraging people to find and cultivate their life’s purpose. I believe there is room to achieve this through entrepreneurship, community engagement, social justice, etc. There’s much debate about how to achieve this. For example, people with 9 to 5’s are often criticized by entrepreneurs and (sometimes) vice versa. Having been in both positions, I can say that both are hard. Both challenge you beyond your limits. In my experience, I was an entrepreneur whose work attracted a 9 to 5, positioning me for even greater access to resources, influence, and income. In any event, leverage is the name of the game. I want to curate an experience for stakeholders of all kinds to step outside of their comfort zones without fear of cancel culture. As tall of an order as that is, it’s not only necessary but possible for us to address root causes of issues harming Black and Brown communities.

How do you think this will change the world?

I think this is one of the most prolific moments in our history. We have a wide range of access to capital via technology and media. Social justice movements like Me Too and Black Lives Matter have challenged us to consider the place of morality in being accountable for the platforms we hold when replacing racial and gender harm with racial and gender equity. There are countless individuals with meaningful stories and experiences to contribute with the ability to truly change the public discourse that suggests we must share the same perspective of what we think, feel, and know. That’s impossible. My experiences as a Black woman in this country are different from those of a Black man. I can empathize with and support my brother, but I can’t represent his voice, his story, aspirations, or desires as he can. I can, however, create space that allows him to share my platform and perhaps even surpass it considering we are a complement to one another and not competition.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks to this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Potential drawbacks would include a continual debate about how to explore and bring resolutions to these issues without attaining meaningful goals. Presently, we see this fallout as with the debate around the controversial topics that insist on the shift of certain power structures that have depended on race to survive. Nonetheless, I think we must do it anyway!

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

The narrative change model is Public Narrative’s approach to changing harmful health, safety, and education narratives that threaten the wellness of BIPOC individuals. Created in 2020 around the time of George Floyd’s murder, the civil unrest that followed inspired the three pillars considering how protestors leveraged media and public space to speak truth to power. Phases in the narrative change model include the ability to uplift voices from the broader community through a series of ‘Community Conversations.’ Those conversations help inform organizational plans for community engagement with diverse stakeholders. In 2019, we began a research partnership with the Alliance for Research in Chicagoland Communities. It is known as the Chicago Community, Media, and Research Partnership. In two years, we identified the disconnect between health researchers and journalists. We leveraged our findings and lessons learned to create a framework for increasing engagement among researchers, journalists, and the broader community. In our partnership with the Obama Foundation’s My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, a series of surveys and focus groups were conducted to help us understand the origin of harmful narratives pertaining to boys and young men of color. The results of our surveys and focus groups indicate the role the media plays in influencing perceptions of boys and young men of color on whites and other nationalities. This is why we’ve chosen to focus our efforts in areas of safety, health, and education where harmful narratives exist causing detriment to marginalized and BIPOC communities. In addition to capturing demographics, we are exploring ways to evaluate our impact. We aim to understand how we improve the public narrative through media engagement. After implementing our narrative change model, our next steps include scaling impact in communities through non-profits, service agencies, and other institutions in our areas of focus, public safety, health, and education. The City of Chicago has several projects and initiatives that would be well served by our narrative change model. Because the narrative change model is enabled by community voice, story gathering is paramount in implementing efforts that help deliver social impact.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

We need access to capital to properly compensate leaders skilled in transformational leadership, policy and advocacy, diversity, equity and inclusion, health communications, and journalism. Presently, we’re exploring sponsorship options that align with corporate social responsibility to meet our needs and the needs of the communities and organizations we serve.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. I wish someone would have told me that so many trained journalists leave the industry for other careers. And though they leave journalism, they’re still well-served in other professions for the skills they attained in journalism.

2. When your ideas are rejected, pursue the good ones anyway. I’ve encountered my share of people who didn’t believe in my vision. It hurt at the time but failing to move forward would have hurt way worse. Believe it or not, the vision I hadn’t seen with my natural eyes was more real than the rejection.

3. You can have an impact in journalism in roles beyond publisher, editor, or reporter. Throughout my career, I grew an appreciation for helping people change both their own personal and professional narratives. Still, the work I am doing allows me to change the course of history through individuals committed to purposefully influencing the world around them.

4. How to navigate the bureaucracy without losing my interest in the industry.

5. Fight to see the good in democracy and pursue it — at all costs. I’ve had seasons that have taught me how to survive the highs and lows of business. As exhausting as resilience can be, remaining mission-focused has allowed me to leverage obstacles and the complexities of relationships.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Consider your power and your influence at the table. Don’t be afraid to set your table accordingly. Every season is not the same. If you’re developing and growing professionally, you’ll face all sorts of challenges. Challenges can and will be messy, discouraging, and frustrating. It’s not weird. It’s a natural function of progression as you’re sorting things out. Setting your table accordingly means putting the right people in the right positions while welcoming the thought that you could be wrong about all of it. In my experience, it’s been my willingness to be wrong that has challenged me to lead beyond fear and into a place of success and abundance. I don’t believe success is attained in silos but in a community with stakeholders who have the capacity to influence the larger vision.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

In over 30 years, Public Narrative has worked with journalists and non-profit organizations to tell better stories. Our relevance, in this moment, includes supporting systems change and transformation through media and civic engagement. We work with a diverse group of stakeholders to provide media literacy and communications training. The next phase of our work includes brokering relationships among corporations, startups, non-profits, educational institutions, and city agencies to help normalize the efficacy and practicality of diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts. In three years, we’ve built our capacity to implement this initiative along with increasing our budget by 47%. Presently, we’re seeking capital to establish five media literacy collectives throughout the City of Chicago. The collectives include the South Side, West Side, North Side, Far South Side, and Near North Side. Each collective will include non-profit organizations, researchers. and journalists who actively engage in the reshaping of Chicago’s narrative. To start, we’ll need an investment of $200,000 that allows us to invest $50,000 in each collective. Please contact me, Jhmira Alexander, at jalexander@publicnarrative.org to pledge your support and/or discuss further.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Public Narrative: Jhmira Alexander’s Big Idea That Might Change The World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Nikki Shum-Harden Of Subspace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake…

The Future Is Now: Nikki Shum-Harden Of Subspace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Working at an agency can be fun, and it provides a great starting point for a marketing career. But, make your exit before all your experience is agency-based because it will be hard to transition after more than 5–7 years. I found this to be true when I was in the job market after a decade at one agency with 12 years in the agency-side overall. I’ve also been passed this advice from other agency veterans as well.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikki Shum-Harden.

Nikki is a strategic marketing executive with nearly 20 years of experience in technology, media, entertainment, gaming, and digital marketing. Nikki currently serves as the Vice President of Marketing for Subspace, the world’s fastest, most secure, real-time optimized network. As the first marketing hire at the company, she has been instrumental in brand evolution, overall company growth, and the development of each marketing function. Her proven background as a cross-disciplinary leader creating, managing, and integrating teams across multiple business functions has led her in her success working with and driving results for a wide variety of iconic brands including The Walt Disney Company, Nike, Microsoft, Samsung, Netflix, ESPN, Under Armour, Bud Light, Budweiser, GoPro and Ubisoft. Nikki has a BA from UCLA in Sociology with a certificate in New Media Management from USC. In her free time, she’s an avid golfer, wannabe foodie, and Peloton enthusiast, all while being a mother to her two daughters Vivienne and Rosalie.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Growing up, my inspiration came from my father who is a serial entrepreneur and an electrical engineer. He took his first company, a VOIP startup, public in the mid-90s, sold his next company to Pioneer and won Inc. Magazine’s Entrepreneur of the Year award. Because of his tenacity, I grew up with a startup mentality and a passion for technical innovation. When I joined my first tech startup, he was beyond proud and excited for me and I couldn’t wait to keep exploring a career in this industry.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I was part of the core team at Super League Gaming that helped build and lead it to go public in 2019 which was a huge career moment for me. This was my first startup, and one of the big goals for many startups is an “exit” like an IPO. We went from a lesser-known startup with experiences for a few game titles, to the first esports company to go public. From all the publicity, along with the scrutiny of the public eye, that comes with an IPO to the addition of new titles, experiences, venues, and partners, it was an unforgettable experience. I learned that going public has its advantages and its disadvantages.

Can you tell us about the cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

At Subspace, we are creating a new internet. Literally. This includes all 7 layers of the open systems interconnection (OSI), hardware and software. The new internet is focused on prioritizing dynamic, real-time traffic which is a breakthrough from the outdated version we currently use. This innovative technology has an immediate impact on the way we communicate today in our video calls and multiplayer online games, but it also paves the way for truly interactive, digital experiences like the metaverse.

How do you think this might change the world?

Without an internet built for real-time, we can never have truly real-time experiences like what virtual reality is trying to emulate. When you experience jitter, lag, and packet loss which manifests as dropped calls, gaps in voice/video feeds and slow connectivity, you’re not interacting in real-time. There are many delays which make it such that virtual experiences can’t be seamless, and therefore, can’t feel real. But, with Subspace, connections happen securely, stably, and at the speed of light so the world can communicate faster and realistically in a virtual space. When this happens, anything is possible and autonomous driving, remote surgery and the metaverse are just the beginning, becoming truly achievable.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The main problem we face in this technology is access. Right now, it is cost prohibitive for an end user to get on Subspace. We work in the B2B space with massive companies who can afford to use our infrastructure. Eventually, this will also be a problem with individuals, as some people can afford better internet than others creating a gap in access to experiences — both critical and not. And in the future, when we do move into the metaverse, we have to establish appropriate social behavior and ethics. We already are seeing this as a major problem in video gaming. This issue will only be amplified tenfold when our entire world is essentially evolving inside a video game.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The global pandemic accelerated the need for Subspace. Suddenly, everyone was meeting virtually, and the internet was taxed. This made us realize the time for Subspace is now.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

The number one piece we need from people, companies and end users is acknowledgement that the current internet is not suitable for the way we communicate and interact today. Subspace is creating a new market and in order to demonstrate our solution, we first need the world to understand the problem.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Unfortunately, we are not allowed to disclose that we work with our game company customers because of strict NDAs. But, we know that game companies are influenced by what the gamers say. So, we’ve leveraged influencers to create video content and take to social media, complaining about lag and asking for Subspace. This took off in the Middle East, where gamers there have become and are huge fans of the company. We have also partnered with prospective customers to run their traffic on Subspace, as a means of showing, “the proof is in the pudding.” For example, the live stream for Avaya’s ENGAGE conference (https://avaya-engage.avaya.com/avaya-engage-2021) was executed by us and provided the evidence needed to back up our claims. We also spearheaded the initiative to create a Metaverse Advisory Board that’s in partnership with VentureBeat. Participants have included Epic Games CEO, Tim Sweeney and NVIDIA CEO, Jensen Huang.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Instead of just one individual, I’m grateful for a group — my content marketing agency, Foundation Inc. I came from the agency space, so I have a critical eye when it comes to agency partners, and Foundation Inc has exceeded my expectations time and time again. The company has been with Subspace since we had a budget of around $5K a month all the way to our significantly higher spend now. They have completely immersed themselves and truly became part of the Subspace team. I’ll never forget when their VP of Operations, Melissa Hughes, once gave me such critical feedback that I’m forever grateful for. It was a bit shocking at first, given that I’m her client, but I learned and grew greatly from it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

As a result of bringing more connectivity to the Middle East, which has large geographic areas of desert sans internet, we were able to enable completely new esports teams to participate in a massive, high-level tournament for the first time ever. This is just one of many examples of what bringing greater access to the world can do.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Ask for a company’s mission, vision and values before you join. If they don’t have them, it’s a red flag. You should feel passionate and aligned, especially if it’s an early stage startup, because the ride is going to be bumpy.
  2. Decide if you’re a pre- or post-product-market fit (PMF) marketer, then find out which stage your company is in. Your experience and required skill set is going to be vastly different depending on whether the company has achieved PMF or not.
  3. Link in (LinkedIn) with everyone you meet. Assistants, customers, agencies, friends and family. You never know where people will go, what they will do or how your paths may or need to cross. I’ve leapt from job to job all from connections in my network.
  4. Working at an agency can be fun, and it provides a great starting point for a marketing career. But, make your exit before all your experience is agency-based because it will be hard to transition after more than 5–7 years. I found this to be true when I was in the job market after a decade at one agency with 12 years in the agency-side overall. I’ve also been passed this advice from other agency veterans as well.
  5. Experience with sales/selling is useful no matter what specialty you choose in the long-term. Learning how to pitch based on the audience has applications to personal life and all job functions. Then, you can pitch yourself in job interviews, pitch an idea internally, pitch an opportunity to a customer — or even pitch an alternative solution to your family, partner or toddler.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d hands down say the movement I hope to see adopted is supporting employees who are parents in the workplace. As evidenced by the sharp decrease of mothers in the workforce during COVID-19, companies do not amply support parents to be effective in raising their children while working. A solution to this is to allow families to disclose their family planning with their employers and feel like their employers are an active, helpful part of making their home lives positive. Additionally, governments should give companies resources to keep their businesses thriving if their employees choose to have a family. Children are our future, as Whitney Houston said, and what better way to engender positivity in humankind than to empower parents to raise their children to be good people?

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The quote is, “dress for the job you want to have, not the one you already have” but I don’t take it literally. While I believe the quote is speaking about appearances and clothing, I think it applies to aiming higher, providing more value and acting the part. I’ve been promoted every two years and given more access and exposure because I acted for the part I wanted to have before it was given to me.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I’m a Swiss army knife and a chameleon. I know a little bit about a lot of things, adapt to situations and figure things out quickly. From new media to esports to the metaverse, I have a history of learning the new-new; bringing opportunities to market and then accelerating significant growth. All of these are traits I consider to be critical in a high-growth environment, and yet very hard to capture in bullets on a resume.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Yes — https://twitter.com/NikkiShum and https://www.linkedin.com/in/nikkishum/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Nikki Shum-Harden Of Subspace On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Comcast’s Steve White: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Lead with a clear vision that is purpose driven.

Develop systems to ensure you’re connecting to all levels of the organization.

Share transparent and regular communication (with customers and employees).

Remain customer driven. What are your customers saying? What do they need? Be responsive.

Start disrupting yourself before others start.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Steve White.

How does a poor kid from the housing projects make it to the corporate boardroom? For Steve White, it’s the result of an uncompromising attitude and work ethic. President of Comcast’s West Division for eleven years, Steve launched his career in 1996 as Regional Vice President. A commitment to his why and the influence of mentors enabled him to demonstrate consistent growth for his teams and divisions, which led to increasing leadership responsibilities. Driven by continuous learning, radical responsibility, and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Comcast’s West Division became a pacesetter by delivering industry-leading results. Steve White was responsible for all Comcast Cable operations in the Western U.S., leading nearly thirty thousand employees, serving almost eleven million customers, and driving annual revenue of nearly $18 billion. If the West Division was a stand-alone company, it would be one of the top 150 companies in America. Today, Steve serves the role of special counsel to the CEO of Comcast — one of the top 20 companies in the U.S.

Giving back and paying it forward are two of Steve White’s life values. He has lived in Denver for more than ten years and champions causes related to family and education, such as the Denver Scholarship Fund. He partners with the University of Denver as an Executive in Residence, providing academic enrichment for the Daniels College of Business. Additionally, Steve serves on the board of directors for New Leaders, which focuses on the development of public school principals. Steve also speaks to various professional groups helping others along their journey to professional and personal success.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

How does a poor kid from the housing projects make it to the corporate boardroom? For me, it’s the result of an uncompromising attitude and work ethic. President of Comcast’s West Division for eleven years, I launched my career in 1996 as Regional Vice President. A commitment to my why and the influence of mentors enabled me to demonstrate consistent growth for my teams and divisions, which led to increasing leadership responsibilities. Driven by continuous learning, radical responsibility, and an unwavering commitment to excellence, Comcast’s West Division became a pacesetter by delivering industry-leading results. I was responsible for all Comcast Cable operations in the Western U.S., leading nearly thirty thousand employees, serving almost eleven million customers, and driving annual revenue of nearly $18 billion. If the West Division was a stand-alone company, it would be on of the top 150 companies in America. Today, I serve the role of special counsel to the CEO of Comcast — one of the top 20 companies in the U.S.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I was 21 years old, and I was attending my first national sales meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada. As a new teammate, I was trying to fit in. A large group of leaders hit the casinos for a little gambling. I joined and wanted to fit in and “be cool,” so I started gambling with the group. We started at the blackjack table, and quickly realized that I was in over my head. I lost $100 within 20 minutes. I quickly stepped away from the blackjack table. I learned that you need to be you, and you shouldn’t try to be someone else. Ultimately, people will respect you for being authentic.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

The two most important women in my life: my mother and my wife. My mother was a motel maid, and we would often assist her on the weekends. While my mother’s talent was greater than what her position required, she did what she had to do to support my brothers and me. I learned the importance of sacrifice, commitment, and living your why during those long weekend days helping her clean motel rooms.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our founder Ralph Roberts bought his first cable system in Tupelo, Mississippi( the home of Elvis Presley). He was looking for a business as his current business selling suspenders in the early 60’s was being disrupted by belts. In essence, the business was launched as a result of disruption. Ralph quickly realized that this was a local business, led by local teams and empowered to do what was right.

The original vision of allowing consumers to have access to entertainment and information is still as relevant today as it was in 1963 when the company was birthed. Our purpose is to connect customers to information, entertainment and what’s important to them.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

At the beginning of the pandemic, we moved over 15,000 employees from an on-site environment to working from home.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Yes. We all have difficult days of doubt, feeling overwhelmed and not sure we’re on the right track. I start counting my blessings, and after listing three to four, I realize whatever I’m facing is not that critical. Reflecting on my gratitude allows me to re-focus on the matter at hand.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Clearly communicating a compelling vision in the simplest way that is purpose driven.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Keep the team focused on the purpose of the organization. Paint a picture of what customers and/or employees would experience if the company wasn’t able to fulfill its mission.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

In person if possible. Too often, leaders take the easy way out because they’re not comfortable with delivering bad news. The reality is that employees will have greater respect for you if you convey as much as possible about the rationale behind your leadership decisions.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

There are only two things that you can truly impact and influence: 1) the quality and development of your people and 2) the culture of the organization.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Do what’s right while honoring the company values.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

  1. Taking shortcuts — especially as it relates to expense reductions.
  2. Reducing your investment in employees.
  3. Not readily sharing information. Employees can handle more than you think.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

  1. Stay committed to being a customer-focused organization.
  2. Start disrupting yourself. Don’t wait for others to do it.
  3. Focus on a long-term view and approach.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Lead with a clear vision that is purpose driven.
  2. Develop systems to ensure you’re connecting to all levels of the organization.
  3. Share transparent and regular communication (with customers and employees).
  4. Remain customer driven. What are your customers saying? What do they need? Be responsive.
  5. Start disrupting yourself before others start.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“The two most important days in your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.”

How can our readers further follow your work?

stevewhitespeaks.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Comcast’s Steve White: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Gabi Saper & Lorenzo Gonzalez Of CMY Cubes On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Gabi Saper & Lorenzo Gonzalez Of CMY Cubes On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may be certain that your product idea is the next best thing but make sure you only buy stock you can move. Yes, there are economies of scale, and yes, you’ll pay a higher unit price, but if you can move 100 units quickly you won’t sweat the extra costs you had in the beginning as you scale to 1,000 units. On the other hand if you are sitting on 10,000 units that it turns out people don’t want, you will be in a world of stress. Trust us, we’ve been there!

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gabi & Lorenzo.

With many businesses under their belts, Gabi and Lorenzo found themselves going back to the drawing board during the pandemic, when the world was flipped on its head and previous business’ dried up.

Together, they created CMY Cubes- the most curious and utterly magnificent sensory toy you’ll ever get to handle. These seemingly magical colour-defying cubes, tetrahedrons, icosahedrons, and more are captivating the world, seeing 1200% growth in the first six months alone. The almost instant success came from a mixture of launching a first-of-its-kind product that is extremely visually appealing and good digital marketing, thanks to Saper’s experience in the industry. Shortly after launching, CMY Cubes went viral on TikTok & Reddit, which launched CMY into the market quickly. Lorenzo has a history in science and engineering and together, they both have always loved experimenting and making new things. This was the inspiration behind the idea for making CMY Cubes. What they didn’t realise is that it would be as big of a hit as it has become all over the world. They soon realised that they created something that people not only wanted but needed.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Lorenzo: I was born and raised in Hollywood Florida which is in South Florida between Fort Lauderdale and Miami. My father died when I was 18 months old so my mom raised my older sister and me on her own our whole lives. She was always working 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet and thankfully we never went without food or shelter. When I was 11 my sister left to go to college and so it was just my mom and me for all of my teenage years. At 18 I left home to attend the University of Florida for Aerospace Engineering but I soon discovered that, at that point in my life, university was not for me and so I left university and started backpacking and travelling the world. After travelling through North and South America I found myself backpacking through Europe which is where I met Gab when I was 21 in France. Her and I continued travelling together for several years through Europe and Asia and we settled in Sydney, Australia where Gab is originally from. In Sydney, I worked as a Carpenter for several years eventually starting and running a successful renovations company before returning to University for degrees in Aerospace Engineering and Physics.

Gabi: I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia. My parents got a divorce when I was about 9 years old and so I lived with my mum majority of the time. She was a flight attendant and flew around the world every other week so I spent a lot of time on my own at home. This definitely taught me to be very independent, it’s the reason I got my first real job at 15, working in retail. I was very self driven. My dad was always self employed during my childhood, whether it was his carpentry services or his retail shop, he was always his own boss — this inspired me a lot and gave me motivation to want to do the same. I remember making my own bedazzled phone cases in grade 8 for the iphone and walking around school selling them to my peers, my aspiration for entrepreneurship started early, haha.

Can you please give us your favourite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” We have found that success is as much a function of persistence and perseverance as it is of talent or luck. So many things in life won’t always work out the first time but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep trying. We like to think of our failures as the paving stones on our path forward. Between us, we tried and had varying levels of success with 8 different businesses that produced some sort of revenue before CMY Cubes. While some of those did turn out to be successful, each one that did not could have been where we decided to cut ourselves short and stop trying. Thankfully we tried, tried, again!

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Lorenzo: Probably the most important book I ever read in my life was “The four-hour work week” by Tim Ferriss. During my time as a carpenter I was constantly listening to audiobooks so I could reclaim my time and the first time I read The Four Hour Work Week I was actually building an exhibition for the Museum of Applied Sciences in Sydney so I wasn’t able to follow any of the instructions provided in the text. The value of the book came through to me regardless because it showed me for the first time that it was possible to start a business or curate and construct your own life anywhere that you wanted in a way that was meaningful to you. Until I read a book, I thought that the barriers to entry for being your own boss or running your own business were just too high for me to surpass. It was a direct result of reading that book that I started my own carpentry business, and the subsequent businesses that Gabrielle and I have run together including CMY Cubes.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

It’s true that there are plenty of good ideas, the real issue is execution on those ideas and people‘s risk tolerance because having a good idea isn’t enough. You really have to be able to stomach spending (likely your own) money on your idea which means having confidence in yourself and/or your team. You have to be able to cope with failures which are so likely they are basically guaranteed. As far as the practical execution of a good idea goes, a lot of research has to be done, and you’ll come across what will seem like perpetual dead ends. The mindset you need is of going through a finite list, you need to find out all the places where you’re NOT going to be able to manufacture your product or provide your service, and cross them off the list. And if you can persist, if you can summon the resilience to go through that list, if you can find your way past all the deadends, eventually you WILL find the right place. And only then can the merit of your good idea stand.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

It may sound simple but Google is your best friend. It’s as easy as searching for the term of your product that you have the idea for and if it has been done before it will likely come up very quickly. There’s been plenty of times that we thought we had the greatest idea yet but shortly after googling we realised it had already been created and sold. If your product idea doesn’t show up on the first, second, or third page of google it’s likely that it’s not a very common product and it may be potentially worth executing. Another great place to look at is social media. A simple search on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook or twitter will give you a good idea on whether the product is already trending and it’ll also give you an idea on whether people are asking for it.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

1. Researching the idea to find out how large (or small) the competition is. Is there a need or want for this product in the market? Can you make something that already exists even better? What would your positioning in the market be?

2. Start brainstorming, designing and writing a brief on what you want the product to look and feel like. Is it a particular colour? What size is it? What material is it made from?

3. If possible, try making a DIY sample of what you’re wanting to create, or get someone locally to help bring the idea to life in a sample. Fiverr is a great resource filled with professionals to help create 3D designs, drawings or highly detailed tech packs. This will really help when taking your idea to manufacturers.

4. Start researching the name of your product to find out if it’s available, this includes the business name, website domain name & social media handles. It’s a good idea to have all of those secured before your move to manufacturing.

5. In tandem to working on your product design and samples, work on your company logo and overall business look and feel. This will become necessary when working with manufacturing as you’ll either want it on the product, product packaging, or labels.

6. Set up your website by using a platform such as Shopify. There’s a lot of free ready to go templates that you just need to update with your branding and products. If budgets are low, you can easily do this yourself, alternatively you can pay somebody to design and create the website for you. You’ll want your website ready to go by the time your products have been manufactured.

7. Once you have your product brief, a sample in hand, or a design tech pack complete you can then start to research for manufacturers. If you’re looking for local makers, a few simple google searches looking for a local manufacturer of the type of material your product is made from will point you in the right direction. You can even email them, and they’ll likely point you in the right direction. If you’re looking for a product to be made further abroad, Alibaba is your best bet. Remember, if you’re using an overseas manufacturer, your brief will need to be clear, and a product tech pack will really help avoid miscommunication and translation error. Start off by getting samples from multiple manufacturers to compare quality and price. Don’t rush this step — it’s important to consider your best option. Never settle for second best.

8. Once you’ve got samples on the way and your website is almost ready, it’s time to start shooting content (photos, or videos) to get your social media accounts and advertising underway. Whether you use influencers, content creators, or just do it yourself, content is key. Showing off the product in engaging videos or writing blogs will help you create a need for what you’re selling. It’s important to start building your audience through a mailing list or social media following before you officially launch your product to start off with a bang and continue to go up from there. When customers become ambassadors, that’s when you’ll be set up for continued growth and success almost guaranteed.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

1. Value your own time. When you are providing a service do not sell yourself short. If you have gotten to the point where you think you can have a business offering your services then you must be good at what you do and there must be a need for your skills, do not be afraid to price yourself appropriately. If you offer yourself for less than what you’re worth, you will make your clients happy at the expense of your own happiness and this is not the ideal situation. Close your eyes and imagine your business going extremely well, with lots of happy clients and enough remuneration to feel fulfilled. Whatever number makes you feel this way is what you should price yourself at. You will find out very quickly if this is realistic, and can adjust from there. When Enzo started his carpentry business he would work long hours for free because of a sense of obligation to the clients, and it took several projects before realising that the obligation works in both directions. Reasonable people are happy to pay for a quality service, provide that quality and charge that price.

2. Value your own opinion. There is a quote by Steve Jobs: “everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it-you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” When you finally realise the truth in this statement it will change your life forever. Whatever it is you want to accomplish there is a path to that fulfilment, and all that path requires to divulge itself is self belief. There is a time and place for expert opinion, but you should always start with what YOU think, and how YOU feel about it. Chances are you’ve got a pretty good head on your shoulders and can probably reason through 99% of what you’ll encounter. And don’t take advice from people who aren’t experienced in what you’re doing. When you are starting a business everyone’s got an opinion on it which is kind of funny considering none of them have ever done it! Meanwhile there are great resources (like this publication) full of free advice from people who actually HAVE accomplished something, start there.

3. Trust people to do their job. If you can’t do it yourself, and learning how to do it yourself will take more effort than it’s worth: outsourcing is key. Finding the right help from the right people is often cheaper and easier than taking the time to figure it out for yourself. People with the entrepreneurial spirit often feel like they can do anything and everything themselves, and true as that may be, there is only one of you. With few exceptions anything of significance that has ever been built has eventually been the result of teamwork. Find people who you connect with who you can trust, and then trust them. As good as you are, collaboration is so important and always leads to something even greater than what was possible on your own.

4. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You may be certain that your product idea is the next best thing but make sure you only buy stock you can move. Yes, there are economies of scale, and yes, you’ll pay a higher unit price, but if you can move 100 units quickly you won’t sweat the extra costs you had in the beginning as you scale to 1,000 units. On the other hand if you are sitting on 10,000 units that it turns out people don’t want, you will be in a world of stress. Trust us, we’ve been there!

5. Working with manufacturers is hard. They tend to over promise and under deliver. Quality control is so important and do NOT believe it until you see it (in your hands). Never settle for less, remember — anything can be made.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Clearly define why this product needs to exist. Try to figure out why it doesn’t already exist, and if it does exist then find out what’s wrong with the current version. Then really think about whether you yourself would buy the product and how it would improve your life. Finally construct a prototype or have it made for you.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

We have never done that. Whether or not that’s beneficial to somebody I think must be judged by them. I feel the utility in a consultant might be in how to increase the manufacturability of their idea rather than the utility of their idea. As with any contractor, you should look at their track record. They should prove they are successful otherwise don’t waste your time.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

We have always been self-funded because we haven’t yet fallen in the need to raise capital. We think it’s important for each business to do as they feel is necessary but if you decide to bring on a venture capitalist, make sure it’s for the right reasons and not just for the cash. Do they have the connections you need? Can they mentor you to grow your skill set? Can they help you grow your company? Don’t forget there are always other options out there as well, such as business loans and crowdfunding websites either funded by customers believing in your product or micro loans from new investors.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

At every opportunity we share the lessons we’ve learned the hard way with those who are just starting out or struggling. We were fortunate enough to receive advice early on from successful business owners and we endeavour to pay it forward. We are constantly engaging with our customers to provide them with products they will cherish. We are also currently working towards collaborations with schools to promote science literacy and involvement with young people.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

We strive to promote self belief, independence, and personal responsibility in people of all ages and backgrounds. Being your own boss brings a sense of fulfilment in your life and we would love for everyone to reap the benefits of their potential. We truly believe that the world would be a better place if more people were able to express themselves meaningfully through their work and provide their communities with role models for success and leadership.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Tim Ferriss has been so influential on our lives. His books opened our eyes to what is possible for everyone and his podcasts keep us constantly engaged with what success means to us personally, be that in business, personal development, or engagement with our community. Meeting him would be an honour.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Gabi Saper & Lorenzo Gonzalez Of CMY Cubes On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Jehan Luth Of Banyan On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Essentially, the concept is to spend each third of your day on one of the following — spending time with people that know more so you can continue learning, spending time with those who share a similar mindset and are on the same page, and spending time mentoring others who are seeking advice and direction, which helps me live with purpose. This is a rule I like to live by and so far, it has proven to be helpful and offer balance.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jehan Luth.

Jehan Luth is the founder of Banyan, a fintech infrastructure company whose mission is to harness the power of item-level receipt data to empower retailers and consumers. Jehan’s broad background includes degrees in Computer Science, Public Health Epidemiology, and Privacy Law, which led him down a path of constantly identifying challenges and ways to solve them by applying high-quality data insights. Jehan cares deeply about people, the world, and breaking down barriers while taking the road less traveled.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Being an immigrant from India and moving all around the world, I came to the U.S. over a decade ago, so I have a unique appreciation for being here and I am humbled to have such incredible access to technology, people, infrastructure, and capital to tackle some audacious goals.

In addition, I have a unique journey, which is not what anyone would consider “traditional.” My educational and professional journey has been anything but linear. I have always followed my passion to work toward determining my mission and purpose in life and to fulfill that mission. My professional and educational journey continues to lead me down a path to answer the question, “How can we use data to keep people safe and healthy?”

My educational background is different. The way I look at it, all educational programs are teaching rules or how to be creative. For example, I have a degree in law and law is all about teaching rules. Whereas, my culinary degree taught me how to be creative and combine different elements to create something truly unique. In addition, I have degrees in Computer Science and Public Health Epidemiology. In general, the world is not black and white. That grey area in the middle is where we learn and explore. And my “ping-ponging” between incredible technical and creative learnings helped me appreciate both sides and learn how to live in the grey area and innovate. For example at Banyan, we designed and created an innovative solution that adheres to specific, necessary rules and systems, but the solution is truly inventive and fills a need for both retailers and consumers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

At the core, I want to solve the complicated problems facing our world. What I learned is that solving some of the most complicated problems requires data, people to make sense of the data, and established processes.

Through my past experiences, I identified a glaring gap in verifiable receipt data. This experience motivated me to find a solution, which led to my latest venture, Banyan. The problem we are solving is that consumers do not have digitally available item-level receipt data. Today, you get a paper receipt. Digital access to that data has the potential to solve problems for all of us — and we are providing that access.

Here is an example of a real-life situation and how Banyan can help. Consider an individual who is aging and has a caretaker — an adult child or otherwise — who is responsible for helping manage their finances. The aging individual has some dementia but can still function independently. The individual goes to the grocery store every other day. And for whatever reason, they buy the same product over and over again resulting in a surplus of the product and a deficiency in funds. Using Banyan’s technology, the caretaker can view item-level information and understand this spending habit and help make a change. This is a pretty specific scenario, but it explains the value in the data that can be found below the surface.

In short, Banyan is a fintech infrastructure company that enables fintechs and banks to deliver incredibly personalized experiences to customers. With item-level data, consumers can be aware of product recalls, evaluate spending habits, and overall, make changes that can positively affect their well-being.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

This may not be the funniest per se — maybe it’s kind of crazy — but it is something I learned along the way that I think could be helpful for others. Coming from a diverse background of experience, I had a different perspective and would often ask questions that surprised others. For example, early on, I met with a large retailer to discuss a few ideas and at one point I said, “Why don’t you just give us your data?” Maybe that wasn’t the best way to approach the retailer, but I was a little naive. And sometimes being naive leads to optimism and audacity that having too much experience or being denied too many times can squash. I want to hold onto a little bit of that naivety.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I had many mentors throughout my journey. So many of them have offered advice and various perspectives that helped shape my personal work and leadership style. Honestly, I think my best mentors are a part of my trusted network, which offers honest, open feedback that really helps me refine my vision and make intentional decisions.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In the technology space, we often follow the principle of “move fast, and break things.” That approach results in some of the game-changing products and services we all know and love. But, there are times when the disruptors don’t always see the bigger picture and don’t always consider who is impacted by the innovations, who is losing their job or being dislocated. This is why we really tried to build a company that balances the commercial aspects of our technology with the potential benefit for the broader society. In the future, our technology will empower initiatives such as cancer trials and use item-level details to provide insights about how people are shopping to help improve their nutrition and enhance how they live.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

One of the best pieces of advice I received was the rule of thirds. Essentially, the concept is to spend each third of your day on one of the following — spending time with people that know more so you can continue learning, spending time with those who share a similar mindset and are on the same page, and spending time mentoring others who are seeking advice and direction, which helps me live with purpose. This is a rule I like to live by and so far, it has proven to be helpful and offer balance.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I previously mentioned how our technology will be used in the future to help improve health and well-being. And we are just getting started with the scope Banyan’s infrastructure can cover. Today, most of the data flowing through our system is from retailers. However, now we are moving into a broader class of merchants including restaurants and other sectors. Beyond that, we see a huge range of transactions, ranging from services to experiences, flowing through our network. We are also focused on the U.S. for now, but the rest of the world is out there and we know we can make a greater impact when we enter into those markets.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I enjoy reading and I will often read and then reread a book that makes a difference in how I think or work. One of my favorite books is “The Power of Habit,” which I read multiple times and keep on my bookshelf. In business, wins are most often a result of building habits that thrive on focus and consistency.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

One of the most influential life lesson quotes is “You don’t get what you don’t ask for.” It’s the idea that if you never ask, you will never receive. I believe that when there is something you want or need, you can waste time hoping it shows up, or you can go ask for it. Generally, the latter is the best way to go and it has not failed me thus far.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d recommend trying the one-third rule I shared. It’s a unique way to strike a healthy balance in life, which seems to work for me. I encourage you to give it a try!

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn, Twitter

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Meet The Disruptors: Jehan Luth Of Banyan On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Glenn Lane Of Westchester Family Care On 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Wellness After…

Glenn Lane Of Westchester Family Care On 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Wellness After Retirement

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Work on your social life after retirement- Make sure to have fulfilling plans every day to keep you moving and looking forward to new experiences.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things You Should Do to Optimize Your Wellness After Retirement” I had the pleasure of interviewing Glenn Lane.

Glenn is the Founder and President of Westchester Family Care, an at-home health agency that coordinates care for seniors who are aging in place in Westchester County and Connecticut. Glenn opened Westchester Family Care in 2016 with the belief that high-quality personal home care through exceptional caregivers will “let family members be family again.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

In September 2010, my mother, my mother-in-law and her sister were all diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. We were devastated and needless to say overwhelmed. We were unsure about what to expect. What were our options? We knew we had work to do and our journey began. We learned about Alzheimer’s, dementia, and the treatments available at the time. We learned how to properly care for our loved ones. We also learned that we needed to care for ourselves. We learned a lot and continue to learn.

Since then, we have shared our story with many friends and acquaintances. We quickly realized that there were many families like ours who were dealing not only with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia but an entire array of illnesses and disabilities. Like us, they wanted their loved ones to be cared for and safe at home, but they needed help. We found that sharing what we had learned through our experience was not only helpful to others, but also gratifying for us.

So, this became our mission, and Westchester Family Care was born.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

Every person who is a client has an interesting story that we are able to be a part of for a short period of time. One testimonial that really stood out was from a patient’s daughter:

“Three years ago, the world changed for my parents — as well as for me and my sister, who both live hours away from them. Enter Westchester Family Care and those who would become our brothers and sisters from other mothers. Everyone — -from Glenn, who sits at the helm, to the nurse whose expertise, devotion and compassion is unparalleled, to billing and has provided me with tremendous personal attention, to sometimes-last-minute coverage requests, to the numerous reliable and dedicated caregivers — -is like a gift. If not for WFC, I would likely have had to quit my job and relocate, suffering untold emotional and financial consequences. They are simply the best and have provided hugs, hand-holding and holistic support to help us take every step of this challenging journey — -ALWAYS with our best interests at heart.”

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

I believe humor and laughter is the best form of medicine and helps us give the best care for our patients, as well as build camaraderie amongst our team. A part of growing a business is overcoming obstacles and always learning. This creates the opportunity for us to continue to grow and evolve and be the best we can be.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I am very grateful for my friend and colleague Andrea Brown whom I met at an industry conference 5 years ago. She is my go-to when it comes to the home care business. She has become a trusted adviser, consultant, coach and friend as I navigated new waters with her invaluable guidance.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

Avoiding burnout in our industry is a top priority. It is important to take mental health breaks to make sure your client is getting the best care possible while taking your own wellness into consideration. Make sure to have a good team in place that is communicative and understands realistically how much time and care it takes to be successful in this industry.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

Work culture is ever evolving, and communication and transparency should be top priorities as we are still navigating this pandemic. Since the start of covid-19, my company has started communicating more now than ever. This interaction is important to know how clients are doing but also to check in with staff daily to make sure their needs are met as well.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your point of view or experience, what are a few of the reasons that retirement can reduce one’s health?

When you come from a 9–5 workday to retirement, your whole world shifts and you can suddenly see an overwhelming day filled with so much time and nothing to do. Not having a sense of purpose throughout the day can cause one’s health to decline.

Can you share with our readers 5 things that one should do to optimize mental or physical wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Work on your social life after retirement- Make sure to have fulfilling plans every day to keep you moving and looking forward to new experiences.
  2. Create a Schedule or Pattern- When coming from the work force, our bodies sometimes feel the need to be on a routine schedule. With no pressing events throughout the day, it is easy to just sit and wait for something to fill your day which can sometimes lead to depression and long-term physical implications. Instead set a routine that is easy to follow and allows you to have a purpose every day to get up out of bed.
  3. Physical Activity- Movement is very important for any age, however after retirement, it is more important than ever. Going for a simple walk every day for 10 minutes, dancing in the living room, or going to a group fitness class gets the blood flowing and gives your body the energy it needs to fuel the rest of your day. Find something that is easy to stick to and that you like.
  4. Keep Busy- Retirement is the time to check off that bucket list! Fill your day with activities you enjoy every week. Keeping busy will help with your mental and physical wellness.
  5. Create Obtainable goals- Create goals that inspire you. This can be goals like getting involved in the community, training for a marathon or even waking up before 6 am to see the sunrise. These goals should be fulfilling and excite you to accomplish them.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

A part of happiness is enjoying life. Always keep laughing.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

A life lesson quote that always resonates with me was said to me by my former boss at JP Morgan. He claimed, “Hope is not a strategy”. While we want our clientele to be hopeful, it is our job to make the process easier by structuring our business so that our clients only have to worry about their loved ones.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with Bill Gates. I believe there are a lot of lessons to learn from someone so successful.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

LinkedIn- Westchester Family Care Inc.

Twitter- @westfamilycare

Facebook- @westfamilycare

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!


Glenn Lane Of Westchester Family Care On 5 Things You Should Do To Optimize Wellness After… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Jessi Clayton Of The Prep On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. One of the smartest things I did was hire an assistant! I was starting to get burnt our trying to manage the day to day of the business all myself.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessi Clayton.

Jessi Clayton is the co- founder and co- owner of Professional Performance Prep. Jessi began her career as an actor and musical theatre performer for several years before falling in love with coaching and mentoring young, aspiring performers. Jessi and her business partner and Prep co-owner, Theresa Pittius, recognized that performing arts studios for professional actors and singers was almost non existent in central New Jersey and students would have to travel all the way to NYC for professional training and services. Jessi and Theresa capitalized on the opportunity and have been thriving in New Jersey with almost 1000 students all over the country and even a handful internationally.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Growing up, my absolute favorite thing in the world was singing. I grew up on a farm in an incredibly small town in North Carolina where performing opportunities were minimal, but I did enjoy yearly recitals with my voice studio as well as singing weekly with my church choir. I knew music was my passion and calling so when it was time for college, I earned a Bachelor’s in music with a focus in voice at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. I graduated with honors in 2010 and moved to NYC right after to continue my education in musical theatre at the New York Film Academy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“When I thought about why I was sometimes reluctant to push myself, I realized it was because I was afraid of failure — but in order to have more success, I needed to be willing to accept more failure.” — Gretchen Rubin

I believe as a business owner and mentor one of the greatest things you can pursue is education and willingness to learn from others. You’re only going to be as successful as what you are willing to change so humble yourself enough to fail and dream even bigger.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

One of my favorite books is Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin. I learned a lot about myself in that book and how to sustainably build habits based on personal tendencies. This has been a game changer! Highly recommend. I’m constantly looking for ways to better myself as a business owner, mentor, and wife and absolutely believe Better Than Before had a significant impact as I was able to learn so much about myself. Things I had never even realized!

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

In my experience through co- founding Professional Performance Prep, if the idea and need are there, a business will follow after execution. We saw a real need in Monmouth County, NJ for a performing arts studio that services aspiring, professional performers. We were surprised to learn there were not any performing arts studios in the area created to help young professionals navigate this insanely difficult industry. Our passion to mentor young performers was the driving force behind founding The Prep. We worked really hard and were able to get a studio running very quickly!

I believe one of the biggest challenges for new entrepreneurs is fulfilling dreams while being scared. Having a new idea is exciting but also terrifying! If it’s your passion, push past the fear of failure and see what happens! I think the moment we feel fear over something close to us, is when the doubt creeps in which extinguishes our passion.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Don’t be afraid to ask others for their opinion. Meet with other professionals you trust and see what they think. Maybe your idea isn’t brand new, but a better way or different spin on something that already exists. Ask other people! Gather information and data.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

The Prep’s journey was a bit different than filing a patent and finding a manufacturer, but once we realized the need for a professional performing arts studio in NJ, we first began marketing to the local community who would typically travel to NYC for training and audition prep. We hosted several open houses in the beginning and teamed up with other small businesses to get our name out there. For example, we hosted a talent show at a local beach club and gave their kid members mini lessons to get them ready. We made sure all of our students felt like a part of the Prep family and did camps, cabarets, and even a few family outings!

We quickly began to expand not only in the local community, but across the country using Facetime. Online sessions really are quite effective and have been important for The Prep in growing the number of students we can impact. It has been a joy seeing students from across the country continue to thrive in their craft when several of them we have not even met in person!

We have grown to almost 1000 students with a staff of 28 instructors all over the country in just three years!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Being your own boss is not as easy as it seems. Sometimes it’s almost harder to set my own hours as I have to remain super motivated a disciplined to get tasks done on time.
  2. Even after you have established your business and product, never stop learning. This was a HUGE lesson I have learned along the way being a mentor and business owner. Just because you start to become successful doesn’t mean you know everything there is to know about your industry.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask others for help. One of the smartest things I did was hire an assistant! I was starting to get burnt our trying to manage the day to day of the business all myself.
  4. Don’t underestimate the power of a morning routine. Setting yourself up for success by starting your day on your terms is invaluable. Setting aside that small chunk of time for myself before answering to other people has been crucial in productivity.
  5. Safe guard your time more than ever. As a business owner, you’re always needed, but creating a work/life balance is a necessity. Being busy and working hard doesn’t mean no time for yourself and family.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

I would say research research research as your very first step. Talk to other professionals in addition to friends and family and gather opinions and data. Look into similar businesses and see how they did it. Next create a plan. Planning is everything. You won’t have success by just hoping everything magically comes together. Envision, plan, and will it into existence.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I believe it depends on the business and how advanced the plans are. I believe hiring a development consultant can be a valuable move once the proper groundwork is laid. Having a consultant can provide incredibly useful insight, but also add cost to a new business which can be more harmful than helpful if you aren’t ready with a plan.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I personally believe in remaining debt free with a solid business plan before expanding or investing. When we started The Prep, we bootstrapped as we had no investors and little capital. We have been able to remain a debt free business through bootstrapping first and expanding second. I recommend bootstrapping as a new business, but also know when to ask for help. Burning out in the beginning won’t be useful for you or your new company.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

Like I mentioned earlier, the entertainment industry is an insanely difficult one to navigate especially for kids and families just starting out. I grew up in a small, country town in North Carolina where performing arts mentors were non — existent. I wish I had what my students have. A mentor and guide through the whole process. I feel as a mentor to children, I have been able to impact so many kids over the years as they have grown and progressed through the industry.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

My passion is helping children of all different backgrounds achieve their dreams. If I were to start a movement, it would be to set up a mentorship program for lower income families and underprivileged communities. Talent and passion exist everywhere and I would love to see the performing arts be more accessible to families with financial needs.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Amy Landino is one of my business heroes. I have learned so much from her YouTube channel and books about organization, running a small business, starting your day on your terms, and so much more. She has realty inspired me personally as well as business owners everywhere. I think it would be incredible to meet her and thank her personally.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Jessi Clayton Of The Prep On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: Drew Hills Of Veritone On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The…

The Future Is Now: Drew Hills Of Veritone On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Two fold…authenticity is one. Allowing someone to own their brand forever. Giving them 100% control of where and when it is distributed. In addition, allowing more control and distribution at scale. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t again mention producing content in multiple languages in the talent’s voice. This is an ultimate dedication to inclusion and truly serves so many people on a large scale. Not only offering authentic and personalized content to audiences in their native language but also allowing talent to connect with their audience like never before.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Drew Hilles, SVP Global Commercial Sales.

Currently, SVP/General Manager of Veritone Inc. Veritone’s Operating System for Artificial Intelligence (aiWare) orchestrates and unlocks the power of cognitive computing to transform and analyze audio, video, text and more into actionable insights. Drew runs Media and Entertainment Globally for Veritone. Veritone’s aiWare enables media companies, brands, networks, teams, and political groups to grow their audience, enhance workflow efficiencies, improve the efficacy of ad campaigns, index live and archived media content, and unlock hidden revenue streams.

Drew was one of the key founding Senior Executives of dMarc Broadcasting (later acquired by GOOGLE for $1.4 Billion). For GOOGLE, Mr Hilles served as a Senior Director of Sales overseeing Content Partnerships and Advertising Sales & Operations ($25 Billion in revenue). Drew was a key Senior Executive of GOOGLE’S North American Organization for 4 years. Drew worked on many key projects at GOOGLE including a GOOGLE sales restructure and and integration of YouTube’s Sales Organization.

Thank you so much for doing this with us !Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career that lead you to Veritone?

The “AI sunami.” Some say artificial intelligence will be as impactful to the human race as fire. I want to be a part of that impactful pursuit for good. We were the first to develop an AI operating system (aiWARE™) and I knew that would accelerate the impact AI could have on companies and people.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs you see in use of the Veritone’s MARVEL.ai? How do you think that will help people and/or the industry?

I can’t think of MARVEL.ai these days without thinking about scale and localization. Localization is not a novel idea or technological advancement, however localization in the original talent’s voice is — and it’s mind blowing. Think about releasing podcasts, radio programs, movies, and TV shows in multiple languages in that same actor’s voice. It’s incredible and it will fundamentally change how not only the media and entertainment industry operates but also corporations for training materials and government agencies issuing critical announcements. Content curation and distribution has accelerated by multiples over the last several years and synthetic voice can aid in keeping up with that pace from; localization, distribution, etc…

How does Veritone’s MARVEL.ai fit into a Future Now technology that might change the world?

Expanding on the previous question too, this type of authentic localization and dubbing at scale will not only change how these organizations do business but it will change the way audiences relate to and engage with content. Inclusion is a challenge for nearly every single company out there and now those same companies have a way to include audiences who speak a different language in a way that is more personable and genuine.

What will be the “tipping point” for MARVEL.ai?

Certainly there are numerous media companies who clearly see the benefit and value in synthetic voice for advertisements and endorsements, localization, regionalization, news, financial and weather reporting, scene narration, audiobooks, etc. Emergency public safety announcements, corporate training materials across all industries, education –- we are already seeing demand in these areas, the tipping point will be when these industries outside of media and entertainment realize the benefits at scale.

What revenue opportunities are there for media companies, brands, celebrities and influencers that are using MARVEL.ai?

Celebrities, athletes, and influencers are often in highest demand during their busiest times of the year. An ethically created and authorized clone of their voice makes it so they are accessible even when they are on the road, playing a game, or otherwise performing. Perhaps more importantly, their voice clone can be put to work when they are at home spending valuable time with their families. In other words, synthetic voice reduces the time needed to produce content such as audio endorsements, saving production costs and accelerating voice talents’ ability to monetize their brand (and the brands’ benefit as well).

What is Veritone doing to ensure that the use of MARVEL.ai is not abused for unethical such as voice authentication fraud?

First and foremost, Veritone will not ever produce a clone of someone’s voice without verbal and written consent from the talent themselves or in the case of the deceased, the estate and/or IP owner. Once that is in place, from a technical standpoint, we have implemented protective measures such as inaudible watermark and traceability. Furthermore, the voice owner has full control over who can license their voice and for which projects. Additionally, Veritone is an active member of governing bodies such as The Open Voice Network and the IAB. We uphold extremely high standards of security, and believe that transparency maintains that trust. We will always protect the t, their voice identity, and any IP you create with our technology.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Two fold…authenticity is one. Allowing someone to own their brand forever. Giving them 100% control of where and when it is distributed. In addition, allowing more control and distribution at scale. Also, I would be remiss if I didn’t again mention producing content in multiple languages in the talent’s voice. This is an ultimate dedication to inclusion and truly serves so many people on a large scale. Not only offering authentic and personalized content to audiences in their native language but also allowing talent to connect with their audience like never before.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I really like to study great leaders. I think to be a great leader you first need to be a great Student. I think great students are great leaders. You should never stop being a student

  • Always be curious
  • Always learn
  • Be open
  • Understand that you don’t know everything
  • Ask question

To be a great leader you need to be willing to be a great student.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: Drew Hills Of Veritone On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Sergio Suarez Jr Of Humankind Investments On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Sergio Suarez Jr Of Humankind Investments On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I wish someone told me earlier on that I need to be a better listener. You hire these talented, intelligent, creative people, and I wish someone had told me from the beginning that I should listen to them a lot more. They have great ideas. I hired them because of how great they were, so why not listen to their ideas and opinions more? I definitely value and listen to all my employees more than I did in the beginning.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sergio Suarez Jr.

Sergio Suarez Jr. is the founder and CEO of TackleAI. He began coding at 11 years old, and his passion for useful and industry disrupting technology led him to create successful startups and develop software applications ranging from small business analytics and security to Artificial Intelligence and Neural Networks.

He was inspired to launch TackleAI following his career as a healthcare data engineer, where document management led to lack of efficiency, decreased productivity and unnecessary costs for the organization. He recognized an opportunity to create a technological solution that could minimize the human element of document processing, and maximize the productivity of the human element elsewhere.

Using funds from his time as a professional poker player, Sergio and the development team spent years writing code in Sergio’s basement, where they originally launched TackleAI, which now uses that code as the basis for all of TackleAI’s automated data extraction capabilities.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’m the son of Mexican immigrants, who are both entrepreneurs. It was a huge influence on me to see my father and mother working together in their businesses, which many of our family members work in now. Many of my business strategies and way that I learned how to interact with people in business came from watching my parents run their businesses. They both had their specific roles that they excelled in, but they were always honest and hardworking.

I was good at school but it really bored me, so by the time I got to high school, I lost interest in what they were teaching, and got into computers and learning to code. They didn’t teach this in school so I started learning things online, especially once video sharing sites came up, where you could get resources more easily. I went to college for a year, tried it, and it just wasn’t for me.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Steve Jobs said “The only way to do great work is to love what you do”. People talk about struggling to get out of bed to go to work in the morning, and I never feel that way. I’m excited to think about what I’m going to solve that day, and to be around these people that are so talented, and inspire me. I’ve always liked that quote because if I wasn’t in that mindset of loving what I’m doing, I don’t think TackleAI would be where it is, or I could’ve helped get it where it is today. Creativity thrives on passion, and if you’re not motivated to even get to work, you can’t be giving your all.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

It’s a toss-up between The Matrix and Good Will Hunting. When The Matrix came out, I thought the technical aspect, like the special effects they used, and the different cameras were all so cool. The story of us living in a simulation was so interesting to me because it’s something we’ve thought of in physics with simulation theory, and it kind of made me look at the world in a different way. I was raised believing certain traditional things, and this made me think that there could be alternative realities to what I perceived.

In Good Will Hunting, I enjoyed that they didn’t portray highly intelligent people as a stereotypical awkward, social outcast. This genius character was charismatic, good looking, and didn’t stick out negatively. Growing up, I always played football, so I felt like I had to either dumb myself down and play up the jock role, or not play football and really lean into my intelligence and be okay with being called a nerd. I felt like I had to fit into one of these boxes, and at the time, usually football was easier. I really connected with the character in that a genius could live a normal life, have different facets of his personality, and how going through struggles and growing up poor, his intellect got him out of things.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

The biggest obstacle I see is that people are afraid to fail. Innovators and entrepreneurs don’t fear the failure. It takes a lot of belief in yourself. It takes ego to think that your idea is going to make a significant impact on the world, and I think there’s a tenacity and drive that’s needed that not everybody has. There’s a notion of work/life balance that people strive for, and that’s hard when starting a business. In a startup, you’re wearing every hat, and have little to no capital, and it’s stressful. Once you get your idea off the ground, it’s still hard, because you’ll have so many obstacles and struggles that can stop you and it takes special people to not see walls or obstacles and stop, but figure out how to get around them.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Well, it doesn’t matter. I’m sure someone’s had the idea, and someone’s attempted it, but it doesn’t mean you should stop. There are a ton of restaurants, even more specifically a ton of Indian restaurants, Mexican restaurants, Chinese restaurants, etc. Competition is healthy. A lot of times, it’s not the first person that makes it to market that succeeds, but the 2nd or 3rd person, because they’ve learned from the other’s mistakes. If you think of your Geocities and Lycos, or even Myspaces that were around, and then there’s Facebook, who was late to the party but has been the most successful. If you have the passion for it, it doesn’t matter if someone’s already come up with the idea. The chance someone has had the idea is very high. That shouldn’t stop you. Make yours better than what’s already come out.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

First, always start a company to hold whichever IP, or intellectual property, you’re creating. If a company holds it, ownership can’t be argued like it can be if just an individual person owns it. Second, if there are multiple people in the company make sure you have an operating agreement. You’ll be referencing that agreement many times over the course of the business. My third piece of advice is you need to structure your business as if it is going to succeed. You need to put the work in to make sure that you have the proper documentation and licenses. Some people say, “we’ll take care of it later” or “we’re only going to need that if we get big”, but when you have investors and more people involved, it becomes much more complicated to try setting these things up. The operating agreement solves so many problems later on. I can’t stress enough that the people who don’t do this have so many headaches down the road, and spend a lot more time and money trying to solve them.

I come from the world of software where we don’t tend to patent because if you publish your patent, you have to tell people how you wrote all of it, and then you’ll have to prove if someone stole it from you, which is difficult. If you’re writing software, I suggest not patenting your software. From a software perspective, focus on security, because one breach can take down the whole company. My last piece of advice is to make sure you always have your customer in mind when making your product. Make sure that it’s applicable to a wide range of people and not incredibly niche. It’s really important to put together a diverse team, so the product made suits everyone. If you don’t have a diverse team, you’ll miss perspective and viewpoints that are crucial to a product’s success.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Culture within the company, especially as it grows, is so important. You need to create a work environment where people can feel creative, innovative, and collaborate with each other. When you find the key values of your culture, you have to do your best to make sure those things are being cultivated. It’s something that takes work and attention, but it’s too important to be ignored. It’s how you retain employees, and keep people happy. As the company starts, employees will work out which values are important to their happiness in the workplace and agree upon it together.
  2. You’re going to spend ten times more than you think on legal. It’s too painful to give stories. But really, you’ll be spending money on legal to protect your company, and you’ll need to be thorough.
  3. The company is going to need you twice as much as you think they’re going to need you. You think someone won’t need you after 7pm, but you’ll get phone calls and emails at all hours. You just need to be available all the time. A lot of times if someone contacts you, they needed you at that moment to do something, so you need to help them get their task done so you’re not holding things up, or if it’s a business opportunity and they were thinking of you for something, they may move on to someone else if you’re not available.
  4. The quality of your investors matters way more than you think. It’s not just about raising money. I’ve been really lucky in having amazing investors at TackleAI, in that they’re easy to communicate with, they bring a lot of great ideas and resources and that’s important when starting a company. I didn’t realize how much I would lean on them for sales and introductions. Many times, these people are already really successful, and they’re great to take advice from. You’re going to spend a lot of time with your investors.
  5. I wish someone told me earlier on that I need to be a better listener. You hire these talented, intelligent, creative people, and I wish someone had told me from the beginning that I should listen to them a lot more. They have great ideas. I hired them because of how great they were, so why not listen to their ideas and opinions more? I definitely value and listen to all my employees more than I did in the beginning.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Number one, talk to people you respect in whatever industry you’re trying to get into and ask their opinion. Is it something that excites them, knowing it could potentially be something? Number two, figure out how you’re going to pay for it. When those things are done, start a company for your IP, then be prepared for long days and some sleepless nights. Wake up ready to do it all over again. It’ll be worth it.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

Strike out on your own. No one is going to be as passionate and care more about your product as much as you do. I believe that your company lives and dies by you, not consultants. You could be in a portfolio of inventors, where you’re one of many, and their attention is divided. You will focus and work on your company harder than anyone else. Spend money on consultants once you’re making money.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I have a lot of thoughts on this. As a person of color, so many people have told me to bootstrap. It seems like this proud thing to push as far as you can with as little as possible, not get assistance from others, and do it completely on your own. I don’t want to struggle through that if I don’t have to. If you can get venture capital, you’re able to focus on core business, product, customers, and not worry about how to pay your employees next week. When your mind is on that, instead of the product, it’s more difficult, and the product suffers.

So many times, the people you’ve raised from have a great network and have significant resources and/or customers. Then you have helpful people around you where your success is now in their best interest. Your investors become teammates. Worrying about finances when you bootstrap is just not conducive to a healthy work environment or mental state. You start making bad decisions, because you can only worry about today’s problems, and great decisions are made when you’re planning for the future. Investors put you in a great position to grow. It’s crucial to raise money, and it’s a thing in our community that’s almost looked down upon, but so many of the successful companies that have made it to IPO have raised money in some form or another. I believe in order to give your company the chance to succeed, it needs to have money, and if it doesn’t have it, it needs to go raise it.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

TackleTheFuture.org and Necahual.org are the two main nonprofits that I focus on. I was given lots of opportunity and access to learning materials that others do not, and without that, I wouldn’t have been able to learn what I did at such a young age. The younger you learn to code, the more creativity and understanding you’ll have as you get older. It’s not impossible to learn when you’re older, but you’re tending to learn tasks, when younger people tend to think outside the box. I want to give that chance to as many children as possible. At TackleTheFuture, all children receive laptops because in underrepresented communities, many times they have one computer or laptop shared between the whole family. We’re offering coding courses for all children free of charge, including any apps, laptops or other tools they need.

Necahual Foundation is an organization founded by my parents that supports a children’s shelter in Guadalajara, Mexico, where my father is from. For over 20 years, we’ve provided shelter, clothing, food, allowances, tutoring, birthday celebrations, and now a new swimming pool. The children are taught life skills, and even job skills so that when they turn 18, they can be self-sufficient. There’s also a home shared by some of the young adults who have moved out, and now work or we help pay for them to go to college, and they pay rent and utilities on their own.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Thank you. I would say a movement to get every child involved in STEM, especially for the communities that don’t have access to all the things needed in science, tech, engineering, and math. STEM makes up the universe, and the more we understand the universe, the more progress we make as humanity, and the more we can be better as people. STEM is crucial and plays an undeniable role in the progress of people, and I wish everyone had easy access to it so they could just explore their creativity with it.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Dan Price. He raised the minimum salary of all employees to $70,000 and lowered his from $1.1M to $70,000. I met him briefly around six years ago at, I think, the Inc. 5000 party in Florida. I took a photo with him and told him that his salary idea was crazy, but that I really admired him for doing it. I said it would be really difficult getting people to stay at $70,000 because upper management wouldn’t be happy, but he built an amazing culture, and was such a great figurehead in that company that I would love to pick his brain on how he cultivated their culture, and what he does that makes him such a great leader.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Sergio Suarez Jr Of Humankind Investments On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nicholas Svensson Of SMART Technologies: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader…

Nicholas Svensson Of SMART Technologies: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Explore how technology can support your business goals. Agility is key so don’t just focus on externally focuses capabilities, also think about how to make your operations/decision making ability efficient. Innovation can come in many forms — such as recent work we’ve done on internal process mapping.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Nicholas Svensson.

Nicholas Svensson is the Chief Executive Officer of SMART Technologies. Since he joined SMART in 2009, Nicholas has led cross-functional teams consisting of engineers, technologists and scientists to develop and launch numerous SMART products. With a career in technology spanning over 30 years, Nicholas has gained valuable experience during his tenure at various companies, including leading telecom and space hardware providers. Nicholas holds a BSc in Applied Physics from the University of Waterloo and an MSc in System Design and Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I am a first-generation immigrant to Canada. My family were small business owners — designing, manufacturing, and commissioning wire drawing machinery that made welding wire. Like many who work in family businesses I didn’t fully appreciate the value of the experiences I gained while working through all the challenges and the normal cycles of ups and downs associated with running your own business. What I did learn about myself during this time was that gaining new skills, for me at least, was very rewarding. The phrase “necessity is the mother of invention” rings true to this day. Sometimes our best work comes out of adversity. I loved University there were so many interesting courses to take. I didn’t focus on my grades but rather took courses that I was interested in. Admittedly not a great short-term strategy as grades where often used as a course filter to get job interviews.

However, I was very fortunate to land a job in product development at a small company in Cambridge Ontario called Com Dev. They specialized in the design and manufacture of microwave filters and multiplexers for the satellite industry. It was a great place to start a career. A small enough company where I were exposed to all aspects of the business and learned a lot. I quickly understood that “other duties as required” didn’t just apply to the family business — and embracing asks or projects that weren’t quite in my job description was in fact a great way to grow.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

One key mistake that I made early on all came down to misreading the room; and I remember it as vividly as if it happened yesterday. It was my first design review. It was a big deal, weeks of work, lots of preparation and practice to walk into the room and deliver. And, through all my preparation, it never occurred to me that the people I would be presenting to actually knew a lot more about what I was working on than I did.

The presentation went well but only because the several industry experts — all with PhD’s in Synthetica Aperture Radar remote imaging and multiple publications in the field — were very gracious with their feedback following what I realized were fairly outrageous statements about the subject matter. There were two big things that I learned from this — one at the time and one much later. The first is not to underestimate your audience — never assume that you’re the smartest in the room, and be open to the idea and opinions that each person brings. The second lesson is to be gracious with your feedback — particularly with new grads or those new to your company or industry. The people in the room for that first design review could have crushed me, ridiculed me, but they didn’t. Instead, their feedback and approach is something that helped to shape my own leadership, and that I still carry with me many years later.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

There are two important people that come to mind for me.

Michael Pley is the former CEO of Com Dev — the company I started at after graduating from University. Michael had started in the same role I had at Com Dev and had risen in the ranks, ultimately becoming CEO. He was the first manager I had who sat down and discussed career development with me, convincing me to broaden my horizons and look at more than simply product development. At first, I was very apprehensive about leaving product development where I was comfortable and progressing well in my eyes, but Michael encouraged me to try Operations Management for a few years. I did and thoroughly enjoyed it, learned new things, and gained experiences that I would never have had the opportunity to had I not taken the chance when it was presented.

The other person is Dan Rodrigue, my manager at Nortel Networks. Dan encouraged me to take on broader responsibilities as well ultimately sponsoring me to get my Masters Degree and hiring me into SMART Technologies where I still am today. Both gentlemen gave me the same advice which was “you need to focus on your new role with the same passion as you current one. Managing requires as much focus and effort as doing.”

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

SMART is absolutely a purpose-driven business. We were founded over 35 years ago to create classroom technology that provides interactive solutions to help every student and teacher discover the greatness within them. And we believe that we are here to help foster strong connections between students and caring adults because we know that those connections play a positive role in a student’s academic and social-emotional development. Our business has evolved to this, it was very important for us to define it for ourselves. Today, our stated purpose at SMART is “Inspiring Greatness”. We believe that there is inherent greatness in every teacher and every learner, and technology, when deployed in the right way, can be an enabler of this greatness. Our promise to our customers, every day, is to provide the connections that matter to them. Especially during these pandemic times, connections matter more than ever.

Our founders in Calgary, Alberta were pioneers — driving forward a technology vision in a city built on natural resources. They set the pace and opportunity for more innovative companies to also shape the landscape of business in the city — today, Calgary is a hub of technology advancement and SMART sells into every corner of the world.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

The pandemic forced fast and unfamiliar changes to the ways we operate our business and work with our partners. Our team was immediately working from their homes or other locations. Internally, we wanted to ensure that everyone was safe and that we could provide resources to help our employees navigate the unfolding crisis.

For our teachers and students, we knew that they were being forced to go fully remote at the outset. We knew that they were trying to juggle making the most of each instructional moment while also tending to the very real social emotional needs facing our students as well as teachers themselves. Educators are heroes in so many ways. We tried to support their efforts to keep the continuum of learning going while making their days as seamless as possible, and to pursue strategies that help develop students’ sense of agency and ownership over their learning, which will serve them well in the years to come. We tried to develop new, fun, and engaging tools to keep students engaged and give teachers critical insight into learning.

I felt it was very important to keep the communication channels open, and to share information as it became available. My ask of all employees at the time with respect to communications was to “keep it real”. Let’s not get to down in the dumps but let’s also realize we have some critical items that need to get done and significant challenges to accomplishing them. The team was fantastic — I couldn’t have asked for a better response.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I never consider giving up because I know that everything that we do at SMART is in support of partners, teachers, students, and full learning communities. I work with some of the smartest, most passionate, and most committed colleagues and they inspire me every day. Also, all you have to do is go into a school or hear from educators about the power of learning using our tools, and it reinforces why I do what I do every day.

We recently launched a worldwide initiative called Connections That Matter that showcases the incredible work happening in schools all across the globe. I invite you to check out the powerful stories of hope and innovation from a classroom near you.

As well, I think back to my earlier days and can see that it’s true that experience helps you weather the ups and downs. You realize that change is the only constant and that adapting quickly is the only real assurance of success. There does come a point where you need to believe that what you are doing is absolutely the right thing. Persistence is a powerful force when harnessed properly.

How do you climb a mountain? One step at a time.

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

Do you believe in your strategy? If not you need to change it, that’s not giving up. That’s adapting, learning, pivoting and being agile. None of which is easy.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Communication, clarity and transparency

It is critical to ensure that everyone is very clear on the goals of the company and their role in moving the business forward. I also believe that people need to be commended for their tenacity and innovation during tough times. I am continually astounded at what is possible when everyone understands what is needed.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

As a company, we celebrate innovation. It is in our ethos. We look for ways to showcase the work happening across the company and give our employees a platform to shine. We also do monthly town halls and give out awards. If you think about working it’s all about solving problems. If there were no problems most of us would be out of work so it’s very important to celebrate what went right. Let’s talk about the 99.99% shipments that left on time rather than the 0.01% that didn’t. Reminding ourselves of our accomplishments and authentically saying thank you is a simple, powerful way to motivate and engage.

It also comes back to our purpose of Inspiring Greatness. It’s incredibly inspirational and engaging to spend time with the teachers, students, and corporate collaborators who are excelling even in these challenging time. When we get things right, we are making the world a better place, and that’s truly motivating for the team.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

One word: “quickly”.

We are a company that believes in relationships. We have many long-standing partners and employees who have been with the company for many years. We believe in basing communications in information and being transparent about details and context about what it means for the future while always operating with empathy. Communicating difficult news early allows for possible mitigative actions you may not have thought of yourself.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Part of being a leader is having a long-term vision. When we do strategic planning at SMART, we are planning three to five — or more — years out. We need to understand when to stay the course and when to pivot. We use a system of hierarchies within SMART to describe our planning horizons. We have our strategic goals (longer-term), imperatives (mid-term) and diamond projects (short-term). By looking at it this way we found that it helps us stay focused on the longer term, which isn’t always easy!

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Don’t wait too long to make changes. During turbulent times details make the difference and being able to manage at a detailed level is critical as time is not your friend. This ensures that your core business is profitable (which is tough sometimes!). And, don’t bet the farm on new ventures — they usually take longer than you would like.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I have seen businesses jump into a new fad or a new type of business. You can’t abandon your core business. You can certainly innovate, and you should innovate, but being strategic about any changes is core to coming out of difficult times in a successful position.

Use proof points before investing more into a new venture. In other words: have a good understanding of why you are successful or why you are not successful before going all in.

Make sure your leaders are passionate about their roles and not simply good soldiers, you need that passion to get through the challenges and to learn from one another. Your leaders need to feel they can share the real status with you.

Stay calm, focus on the data and don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Sometimes the data isn’t nice to look at but it’s necessary to keep things real and grounded. I have found this helps get employees bought into and engaged as well.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Focus on net earnings, think of it as you would your household. If the net earnings aren’t there you are in a perilous place. So don’t get seduced by EBIDTA if you aren’t a startup. Again, don’t shy away from the details. Getting into the details helps everyone align on what’s critical, where the waste is and where opportunities may exist, regardless of how small. I have found that this applies even to projects or initiatives with longer term horizons.

Partnerships is another good way to share the burden of investing for the long term. Do you need to do it all yourself to start with or can you learn from others as you go?

Another area that is frequently overlooked is your commercial model. How you go to market, channel, distribution, bringing work in house. It may be counter intuitive but once you reach certain volumes or steady state it may make sense to bring work in house. After all, nobody cares more about optimizing your costs than your own company.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

{ADD EXAMPLES]

1) Communicate clearly and often to your employees and your partners (and your shareholders). There have been many examples of this over my career, and one that stands out from this past 2 years relates to supply chain and shipping delays. We found ways to mitigate risks caused by the global supply chain challenges through early, direct, and open communication.

2) Look for opportunities to diversity while never losing sight of your end user, your core business, and mission. At SMART, we’ve recently branched into at-home gaming with Funterra — giving parents easy access to vetted videos and games that keep kids entertained AND informed. We’re also leaning into Software As A Service with our could based digital learning tool Lumio. It’s so exciting to see growth in these area, while we maintain our position with leading interactive flat panels.

3) Forge new partnerships. We have done this with many organizations and resellers through the years, for everything from distribution to marketing, content and more. Recently we worked with an organization out of the UK to bring free, ready-made Social Emotional Learning resources into Lumio — our digital learning tool — to support teachers who’s students are facing crises in their classrooms and lives.

4) Explore how technology can support your business goals. Agility is key so don’t just focus on externally focuses capabilities, also think about how to make your operations/decision making ability efficient. Innovation can come in many forms — such as recent work we’ve done on internal process mapping.

5) Cultivate a culture where people are willing to say yes to ‘other duties as required’ — and are supported and recognized through both success and failure. We’ve worked extensively on not only our values but our behaviors at SMART — ultimately I believe that behaviors are what defines your culture. We have codified all of this into a framework that has become part of the fabric of our company.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Necessity is the mother of invention” — unknown

“Innovation is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration”– (Edison)

I am always impressed by people’s ability to innovate when they need to. Some of the most creative and long-lasting innovations I’ve seen have come out of necessity. I had taken over a production team only to find that the planning for long lead items required to build the test systems had been missed. We had to quickly figure out how to get the job done. The process was well established and considered impossible to change. We found a way by completely changes the paradigm, spoke with the customers, and managed to show them that our proposed changes were actually better for them. It wasn’t a pleasant experience, but did it ever make a difference going forward.

“If you want it bad, you (will) get it bad”” — 1953 U.S. DoD Pentagon

As a manager, I have learned the hard way. Be careful what you ask for, this is something I have to remind myself of all the time. If you don’t have a solid delivery process, be careful how hard you push.

How can our readers follow

Twitter: @SMART_Tech

Linkedin: SMART Technologies — https://www.linkedin.com/company/smart-technologies/

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Nicholas Svensson Of SMART Technologies: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Marshall Sandman Of Animal Capital On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

It’s never going to get easier. Starting a business means making a lifestyle change. I love what I do, but it’s important to understand before you take that plunge that you are making a decision that in most ways is irreversible, and you need to have the constitution to stick with it.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marshall Sandman.

Marshall Sandman is an entrepreneur, investor, film producer, philanthropist, and Managing Partner of Animal Capital, the first Gen. Z-focused venture capital fund founded in partnership with social media superstars Josh Richards, Griffin Johnson, and Noah Beck.

Prior to starting Animal Capital, Marshall worked in venture capital and corporate development at WarnerMedia, where he focused primarily on leading sports betting, podcasting and distribution research. In the past, he was an investment banker at Goldman Sachs and Jordan Edmiston Group.

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Marshall left WarnerMedia to concentrate on philanthropy full time. In just a few months, he raised tens of thousands of dollars for Harlem Grown, a nonprofit that operates local urban farms and provides increased access to healthy foods for Harlem residents. As a proud partner of the American Cancer Society, Marshall has also raised more than $1M for cancer research through the Hood to Coast relay.

In December 2021, Marshall launched Money Goals, a financial literacy initiative in partnership with WonderFi, which provides relevant resources for Gen. Z to learn about traditional and new forms of finance, including cryptocurrency.

Marshall is also an owner of CrossCheck Holdings, a production company, branding and sports agency in collaboration with Josh Richards, Michael Gruen and Chris Sawtelle. He was a producer the award-winning Tribeca Film Festival movie, Dating & New York, and has orchestrated dozens of investments on behalf of members of the Sway House in companies such as Breakr, a platform that connects artists and influencers; Step, a banking app that helps teens build a credit history and learn about financial literacy; and Super Coffee, a sugar-free, enhanced coffee line that has attracted celebrity investors such as Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez.

Marshall is a North Carolina native and a graduate of Cornell University. He currently resides in New York City.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?

I’m originally from Raleigh North Carolina. My dad works in real estate development and as I grew up, I was able to see him become successful through his incredible work ethic. Like, to this day, my dad has never really taken time off. Even when he takes trips or goes away for the weekend, he’s up at 4 or 5 in the morning working his ass off. Watching him gave me the work ethic I have today.

Starting at a young age, I would go to sleep away camp in the summer in southern Maine. I was about 7 or 8 years old — really young — and all the kids there were older than me. They were mostly Jewish like me but from New York and Los Angeles, and a lot of them were extremely wealthy. They went to fancy boarding schools and rode in private planes to camp. Being in that environment was a deeply formative experience for me. Getting to know them and hearing about their lives inspired me to leave Raleigh and move to New York City, to go to Cornell and create something bigger for myself.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

That’s easy. My best friend from high school’s dad once told me, “We all have time for all of the things we want to do. It’s all about how you prioritize.” I think about this today and it resonates in every part of my life, with everything I do. For me, I prioritize work, and I have friends who prioritize fun, and going out. But at the end of the day, we all make time to do the things we truly want to do. Sometime that’s going on dates, hanging out with friends or spending time with family, and sometimes it’s figuring out how to advance your career and improve the lives of the people around you.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether their idea has already been created? What is the best way for people with new ideas go about translating them into reality?

First, it’s so important that you write these ideas down when you have them — whether on a note pad or on the notes app on your phone — you need to have a place where your ideas can live, where you can solidify your thinking and find ways to make it different than what’s already out there. Second, it’s essential to remember that even if something has been done already, there are lots and lots of ways to reformat old ideas for the 21st century.

The recommendation I would make is that if you feel passionate about an idea, even if it’s not completely original, you should run with it. Stop talking about it and just do it. To use an analogy, the thing that keeps most good writers from writing a book or a movie or a T.V. series is just putting pen to paper. I don’t want to hear about it at the 7th dinner party in a row, just do it and then let me know how I can help.

Can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

First and foremost, you need to surround yourself with people who are smarter than you in whatever space you’re looking to get into. I don’t think there’s a real shortcut for that, and I am a perfect example of the fact that this works! I run a venture capital firm, but before that I’d never run a business before. I had to learn all of this, and I did it by surrounding myself with people who knew what they were doing and asking them questions.

Let’s say you’re manufacturing a space pen that can write upside down, right? Chances are that no one in your life knows how to do that. Your first step should be Googling “pen manufacturers in my city,” then picking up the phone and seeing if they’re willing to answer your questions. The worst thing they can say is no, and you might find you end up learning what you need to learn. Then you can pick up the phone and do it all over again.

What are the 3 things that you wish someone had told you before you started your company?

  1. It’s never going to get easier. Starting a business means making a lifestyle change. I love what I do, but it’s important to understand before you take that plunge that you are making a decision that in most ways is irreversible, and you need to have the constitution to stick with it.
  2. Find some people you trust and keep them close. At the beginning of this process, I got a lot of feedback. I mean, it’s kind of like when you get a dog and you’re walking around New York City and suddenly everyone is giving you advice on how to take care of a dog that you never asked for. It becomes very difficult with all the noise, and you need to be able to sort through the good advice and the bad advice. For me, the people I take advice from are the people who were there for me in the middle of the night when I had tears in my eyes. Find people you trust and ignore everyone else.
  3. Remember what your thesis was on day one. Never forget exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing, and never let go of that passion.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I honestly don’t think it’s a great idea to hire a consultant when you’re just starting out. What is that person there to do besides just take some of your startup money? There’s a time and a place for consultants, and I think that independent idea development consultants are a really good way to frustrate some of your investors. I also think it’s a really good way to show that you’re not ready to take the leap into running your own business because someone else has to invent, develop, and push out your idea.

If you get stuck during the process of building your business, then I guess hiring someone makes sense. Or later down the line when you can hire in a more prescriptive manner, then sure, hire an IT consultant with a legal background who can help you file patents or whatever. I just don’t think it’s a good idea to hire someone who is going to shape the direction of your business from the start. You should be doing that.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

I am going to be prescriptive and specific about this: Founders need to think more thoughtfully about the venture capital life cycle and what being in a frothy environment means versus being in a little bit more of a conservative funding means. Right now, we’re in more of a frothy environment and a lot of founders are going to need to raise and think that its going to be super easy are going to have a hard time in 2022. I don’t even think its about bootstrapping versus venture, its more about thinking about your entire capital staff and what you can do to be most efficient. If you’re going to make something or you have a contracted business and you have the ability to take out some debt and go get a regular old bank loan, I think that is really interesting. I also think taking a little bit of venture money can be interesting as well as bootstrapping and getting some of your friends and family to give money. It’s not just bootstrapping versus venture capital, I think that there is a really lost art today of forming a capital staff that the most efficient for you where you own as much of your business as you deserve to own. I can not tell you how many people have said, “yeah we’re raising 5 million dollars in a 20-million-dollar evaluation” but what they really need to be doing is thinking more holistically about all the different ways that they can be funding their business out of the door. When you decide to take a big venture route, have a really good reason for it and know that you’re taking Tiger Global money because Tiger Global offers me this type of structure and this type of support. When you’re ready to take money and it’s the right thing to do, every dollar should be strategic. If you’re taking money because you need it, then make sure you’re taking it from someone who can keep their mouth shut.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

When I left my job at Warner Media at the beginning of the pandemic, I decided to raise money for Harlem Grown. Harlem Grown is a not for profit after school program based in Harlem. During COVID, the actual program was closed, which meant the kids who participated normally weren’t receiving their government subsidized meals. So, I decided to raise money for kids in Harlem to continue feeding them even when they couldn’t participate in the program.

I am a very firm believer in paying it forward, and with my venture capital firm now, we are always thinking about ways we can give back. Right now we are focused on mental health charities, but I have also raised more than $1 million for the American Cancer Society over the years. We think of ourselves as a mission serving platform: investing and making people lives better.

Recently, we invested in a business called Parallel, is a for profit company creating accessibility through the first ever telehealth platform that is able to diagnose dyslexia. We’re also invested in Zen Business, which allows people who went to trade school start their own businesses and helps them set up their first operating or employment agreement and guide them along the way.

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I truly believe that for-profit businesses can and should be solving non-profit problems. I think about all the non-profits that sprung up during COVID, and I wonder, where did people’s money go? I don’t know. There are all these spectacular charities that often are not affecting real change that needs to be made in certain communities. For us, I think a lot today about environmental change, so we’ve invested in Colossal, which is dedicated not only to resurrecting the woolly mammoth, but other extinct species as well. I think that is the most important for-profit solution to a non-profit problem, because de-extinction and re-wilding species that support ecosystems around the world is the #1 way to reverse climate change. At the end of the day, companies that are going to go out and make money in the space are the ones that are going to be motivated properly to fix problems that we have.

If you could have a private breakfast or lunch with any person in the world, who would it be and why?

I have two: First, Rich Kleiman. He works at Thirty Five Ventures with Kevin Durant. What he’s done to create influence for Kevin both on and off the basketball court is spectacular. To be not only mission driven but constantly thinking about the way that the business world is moving and what is going to be popular or cool while helping people and making money, I mean he’s amazing. I try to emulate him every day.

Number two is Cynthia Erivo. She is someone who has proven over and over again that she is going to use her platform to do good. I also like multi-hyphenate celebrities who are not only singing, dancing, acting but are also out and working hard, positively impacting their communities. Cynthia is an advocate who takes every opportunity to better herself, and I love that.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Marshall Sandman Of Animal Capital On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Sarah Boisvert Of New Collar Network On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Sarah Boisvert Of New Collar Network On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Success is about people, not your product or technology, and it is most important to respect and value your team. People can read through slogans — Remember the Ford “Quality is Job 1” slogan when their products were being overtaken by Japanese quality cars and trucks? Fancy Christmas parties don’t make up for taking advantage of good, loyal people. Be genuine in your relationships and the benefits of an engaged team will fuel your success.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sarah Boisvert.

Sarah is the Founder & CEO of the New Collar Network that provides Digital Badge micro-certifications for New Collar Jobs like operating a 3D Printer or repairing a robot. Sarah came to workforce training from manufacturing, where she was a co-founder of Potomac Photonics, Inc. that invented and built lasers for micro-manufacturing, including the Laser used in LASIK eye surgery.

Photonics Media Press published her first book, “The New Collar Workforce”, in January 2018, and her 3rd book, “How to Get a New Collar Job” will be released by Art Guild Press in early 2022.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Well, my Dad was my inspiration! He was an entrepreneur and was always solving problems which taught me how to be successful in my own businesses. Most importantly, he believed I could do anything I wanted to do! He was a part of what Tom Brokaw calls “The Greatest Generation” that had achieved so much, especially fighting for democracy against Hitler in World War II. Many years later a French business executive said to me, “Of course you think everything is possible — you’re American”! I guess those GI’s made a huge impression on the countries they freed from the grip of the Nazis.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Winston Churchill is credited with saying, “If you’re going through hell, keep going!”
I try to remember that when things are tough. It does not help to wallow in self-pity and stop fighting. In order to succeed at anything, we must keep moving forward as any business that has survived hard times can verify.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Marketing High Technology by former Intel Vice President Bill Davidow was written in 1986 but the principles are as strong today as they were then. His emphasis on market segmentation strategy starts with designing what he calls the Complete Product and that has been a guide throughout my career in building products that meet customer needs in every area surrounding the technical.

One of my best examples of how I used the complete product concept was with a laser marking application for Anheuser-Busch in which I was working with a joint venture partner. Lasers were failing from overheating and so our head of QC and I visited the huge production lines in the Los Angeles plant. Clearly the maintenance staff was not reconnecting the laser cooling system after routine checks and to the horror of the engineer with whom I was working, I asked if the staff could read the cooling warning labels. “Well,” answered the VP of production for the beer company, “we think most of the supervisors can read, but many can only read Spanish!”

I quickly saw that we needed a complete product that paid better attention to the actual user. The product design team installed a temperature sensor that shut down the production line when the lasers over-heated and the problem was solved. In addition, the cost of a line going down is astronomical in high volume production so our customer improved training of maintenance staff to avoid the problem in the first place.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

In my opinion, good ideas are a dime a dozen. The good ideas that succeed in the marketplace succeed because of great execution. Execution is tedious and boring to many, but when a process is followed, can bring stellar results.

Execution requires:

  • Identifying your target customer — no, they are not usually a Ph.D. in engineering or science and often are nothing like you! Who is going to use this product and learn EVERYTHING about them that you can without your personal filters!
  • Competitive Analysis — look at who else is out there and how successful are they
  • Competitive Advantage — do you have one? If not, why would anyone buy your product?
  • Product Differentiation — Whether or not you have a big competitive advantage, how will you differentiate your product?
  • Complete Product — if you want to conquer mainstream markets, be sure your product doesn’t just meet technical needs, but also addresses training, service, etc. at a high level of market acceptance.
  • Prototyping Your Product — prototypes confirm “proof of principle”, demonstrating that your idea is viable. But again, it’s a process: build prototype, often utilizing 3D Printing, test, evaluate results, iterate design, repeat. While at some point you have to stop and get to market, the more extensive your prototyping process, the better chance you’ll launch with success.
  • Designing for high volume production — think you will be successful and have to manufacture millions of parts. 3D Printing is getting so much attention today and is a great rapid prototyping tool but it is slow [read: expensive] for high volume manufacturing. Think through your volumes [consumer products for sure; aerospace not so much] and how you will build those products. This is a critical juncture since production method often impacts material choice.
  • IP — determine if strong IP is critical to your product and find a good patent attorney. Although VC’s usually are looking for a company with a strong IP portfolio, think about whether or not you can afford to defend a patent if a big player tries to copy it. Strong marketing starting with product development and being first to market — which a good prototyping process will ensure — are in my opinion as big barriers to market entry as patents.

Ok, I’m going to stop there, but you get the picture — be methodical in your processes!

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Today with the internet that is not too hard, but you have to remember to dig deep. Go beyond company websites and look at retailers, distributors and customers. AND talk to them! Retailers and distributors are always looking for new products so they are usually excited to help you design just the item they need to be successful.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

I’ve already talked a bit about execution but really it’s about working with good people, be they employees, mentors partners, or consultants. I’d highly recommend connecting with the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnerships if you have a physical product. They are in every state and give great advice.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Just 5? There are so many!

  1. Success is about people, not your product or technology, and it is most important to respect and value your team. People can read through slogans — Remember the Ford “Quality is Job 1” slogan when their products were being overtaken by Japanese quality cars and trucks? Fancy Christmas parties don’t make up for taking advantage of good, loyal people. Be genuine in your relationships and the benefits of an engaged team will fuel your success.
  2. While my partner and I genuinely respected everyone with whom we worked, it was not until I learned about LEAN, the continuous improvement program, that I saw how we could empower people to improve our operation. LEAN can be utilized in every function of the organization and while the goal is cost reduction through improved efficiency, the real power of well-implemented LEAN is creating an engaged workforce. Who knows a task better than the guy or gal doing it? So, trust that they really do want to make their own life easier and will come up with the best solution to improving tasks. As a great byproduct, people will feel empowered at work and that can only create a more satisfying workplace.
  3. Everything changes. So, be prepared to respond quickly to changes in every aspect of the business, but especially market disruptions. When Covid hit, the New Collar Network had a nice little business training workers in Santa Fe, NM as well as at about 12 remote member locations around the country. With the buildings in which we operated closing, we had to pivot to an online platform. I was not sure it would work but I had few options. We pride ourselves in our unique hands-on training on machines like 3D Printers but miraculously we found a $268 printer that could be drop-shipped to the customer and combined with our on-line digital badge micro-certifications! For less than $1,000 a student had a home printer and training to operate, maintain and repair it, as well as design in CAD software. I would not have made that move without the forced Covid shutdown and I now see the potential for a business that is exponentially larger than my original model.
  4. Entrepreneurship is more work than you can ever imagine! I often feel like the over-the-top government interest in fostering startups does not take into account that working as an entrepreneur is not for everyone. Despite well-laid plans, the unexpected will happen and the buck stops with you or your closest senior team. Employees get sick which is really challenging in a small startup, and someone has to make payroll, man a booth at a trade show, and so much more. So be sure you prepare your family and friends to understand when you miss Thanksgiving — again!
  5. There is never enough capital. My biggest mistake is always to underestimate how much money it takes to do anything. Anything and everything from product development to hiring a stellar sales closer costs much more than you expect. Plan for more funding than you think you need and then add more!

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Not enough product ideas are run past the end user…seems simple, doesn’t it? But I find inventors — like everyone — live in a little circle of like-minded people. You need to break out of your familiar mindset and talk with real potential customers to get honest feedback.

And most importantly, take their advice! Don’t sweep comments like, “Is it free?” under the rug.

Gather up data and most importantly, use ruthless critical thinking in evaluating what you have learned and how you should or should not change your ideas about the product.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

I find the most important consultants are on the technical side, especially prototyping a product that can be economically made in high volume production.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Bootstrapping is not easy without public funding such as the SBIR Small Business Innovation Research Grants. But that is how Potomac Photonics funded our lasers! All without giving up equity or having someone else trying to dictate your company’s direction. But it limits growth.

I’d advise bootstrapping to get some revenue generated and demonstrate that your business model and product works, and then to fuel growth you’ll most likely need outside funding.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

During Covid, the New Collar Network students built 30,000 face shields for the Navajo Nation and Pueblos in Northern New Mexico. While people were running around trying to figure out how to 3Dprint PPE’s, my vast experience in manufacturing found a tried and true affordable old-school method could produce high volume quickly and cheaply. Going back to die cutting!

I also believe that we can bring back the middle class and bridge the wealth gap by providing digital badge micro-certifications for New Collar Jobs like running a 3D Printer or repairing a robot with NO college degrees. My non-profit work for the New Collar Network is bringing these trainings to people across the country.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

Aw…thanks for the kind words! Our digital badge micro-certification and 21st century US DOL registered apprenticeships are the start, and we now need to get more companies hiring based on skills rather than degrees. That is how true equality can happen in hiring.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

I think that Warren Buffett sees what has been lost in a rush for companies to make stellar profits.

I’d love to talk with him about how we can bring back the middle class and bridge the wealth gap. We all can’t be billionaires, but people need well-paying, engaging jobs to support their families.

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Sarah Boisvert Of New Collar Network On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.