Braylon Creighton, The Creature Preacher: Why I Believe That Visualization Is One of the Best…

Braylon Creighton, The Creature Preacher: Why I Believe That Visualization Is One of the Best Success Habits

I would say that one of the best success habits is visualization. Visualizing your success, achievements, and events are key to victory in the modern world. Visualization gives you immense amounts of clarity, and further brings your desires to fruition. By visualizing your desires every day, and getting into the feeling of how it feels to have that thing which you would love to manifest or achieve, you consistently get into the receptive mode, letting that which you desire flow into your reality faster and easier than ever before!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Braylon Creighton.

Braylon lives in Silicon Valley in Northern California with his two brothers, mother, and father, and one-eyed rescue puppy. He is an upcoming 9th-grade student. His current YouTube name is The Creature Preacher. Braylon films hands-on videos with different organisms in a variety of environments! Braylon has had a passion for all living creatures since he can remember. His mom recently came across a video of Braylon teaching the viewers and his little brother all about how earthworms are great for the compost. He continues to be inspired by his two favorite wildlife explorers, Jonathan Bird and Coyote Peterson.

Braylon strives to teach and show people how cool and interesting all organisms are, and that we do not to have to be disgusted by them, but instead that we can appreciate them. As a vegetarian, he believes people will have a better appreciation for living things if they understand them better. He loves to be out in the field being led by his curiosity and hopes to do lots of traveling in the near future. He is also a yet to be an author, as he is currently writing a new book about being a deliberate creator of your reality by using the Law of Attraction. He is also currently planning a documentary about the Mojave Desert.

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

So the very first spark of my career was a big family trip to Hawaii. I was so excited because I hadn’t been to the islands in eight years (I was only five then!). When I arrived, it ended up being one of the best experiences of my life…so far! We went snorkeling in an incredible reef at Molokini Crater. As I swam, I could see the vibrant and colorful fish beneath my feet, a moray eel weaving in and out of the rocks, parrotfish taking bites out of incredible corals, and a beautiful black triggerfish swarming our boat, plucking algae from the side of it. There were colorful reefs, delicious food, fire and hula dancers, and my awesome cousins to play with. I had an absolute blast! It was absolutely everything that anyone could ever want on a trip.

When I left Maui, it was one of the worst feelings in my entire life! I felt devastated. I had just experienced the best five days of my life, and now it was all slipping away from me as I crossed the Pacific Ocean back to my home in the Bay Area. So, I decided that I would get back to Hawai’i again, one way or another.

Little did I know, that very plane ride would inspire me to do so many great things, and share my big idea that I believe will change the world! By the time I was in my house, I was already thinking about ways to get back to the Hawaiian islands. Back then, I thought that was the only way for me to feel the way I felt in Hawai’i ever again. I asked myself how I was going to make it back, and of course, I needed money!

So, I decided to start a business called Braylon’s Bread Business selling loaves of gourmet homemade bread to customers around my city of Palo Alto. Before I knew it, I had around $800 dollars in my pocket! But, because I was selling them at $4 each loaf, I had to make a lot of bread and, in turn, had a lot of stress. I often stayed up past midnight, and woke up at six a.m., only to ensure my customers were satisfied. One night, I woke up in my sleep and started to vigorously knead my covers because I thought it was dough! That’s when I knew that I was doing way too much, for far too little.

After that endeavor, I started an online business, selling phone cases. By now, I was still figuring out the whole small business thing and entrepreneurialship. As I was learning the ropes of selling phone cases through my online shop, I remembered something my mother had told me many years ago. It was something called the Law of Attraction. I recalled that it had to do with something about getting back whatever you put out into the Universe. I thought my mind might have made it up, and I had truly no idea what it really meant, but I decided to ask my mom about it. She told me that it was true, and gave me a podcast to listen to called the Think, Believe, and Manifest show by Constance Arnold. I decided to take a listen…and was confused, yet astounded!

I thought it sounded absurd that if you believe something, have a desire for it, and trust that it will come, you can have it. Sure, I was confused, but I thought that if it were really true, then my business would be booming! By then I had a very basic understanding of how the Law of Attraction actually worked and decided to apply a few principles that I had learned from the podcast along the way. On one of Constance Arnold’s podcasts, I heard a guest say that our most productive time was in the morning. Because of this, I decided only to work on my business in the morning and at no other time in the day.

Now, looking back, I see that this is absurd because whatever time you feel most pulled to do whatever it is that you want to do is when it’s time to take action on it. But these were the sorts of thoughts that were in my head at the time. Because of my still limited understanding of the Universal Laws, I only made one sale on my phone case, a sale I was proud of, but still just one.

After that, I decided to take a break from making money, especially because summer was nearing an end. During my eighth grade year, I didn’t feel all that compelled to make money but to pursue my own desires. Because of the teachings of many Law of Attraction masters, I learned that you are most successful at whatever it is that you are passionate about. At the time, I was really getting into biology, specifically in the tropics, so I took inspired action, and created a YouTube channel called Life in the Tropics (now called The Creature Preacher). It focused on plants and animals found all over the tropics of the world. On the channel, I would showcase artifacts that either I had found, bought, or had gotten from my uncle, who is also into that sort of thing. I explained how organisms such as banana plants, corals, seahorses, octopuses, and shark egg sacks adapt and survive in their environment. Part of the reason why I started the channel was that I actually wanted to gain knowledge about the world of organisms. I decided to do research and share this knowledge with others. From that point on, I have been consistently putting out YouTube videos about the world of creatures, and have been continuously manifesting miracles in my life, and gained an immense amount of knowledge about wildlife in the process. The Law of Attraction has changed my life for the better, and through this interview, I hope I can help change yours!

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

One night, I decided to meditate and visualize my success. I was working on my YouTube channel called the Creature Preacher, and was super excited about it! I couldn’t wait to share even more of my knowledge with the world about all sorts of different organisms. I decided that even though I didn’t know how anything would unfold, I would just let it flow! That very night, I came downstairs and my mom read me an email from my Uncle about a publicist, Grayce McCormick, who wanted to work with me on my Creature Preacher channel for free! I was a little surprised and a bit happy because I didn’t know how good the publicist was. The very next day, it turned out that she was bigger than I had originally thought, and had worked with many celebrities such as Jim Carrey, and Scarlett Johansson. This is just one example of how the Universe is always working miracles for you, and once you let go of the how, and allow them into your life, they will come to you like flies to sugar!

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

The main principles that have guided my life thus far are from the Law of Attraction. Anything regarding the creation of reality is what has guided my life. The Law of Attraction, intuition, spiritual relationships and visualization are all examples of what has guided my life, but in general, they all revolve around the knowledge and practice of Law of Attraction.

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

So my idea is more so a philosophy than an idea, but I guess you could say it is both! I believe so strongly in the Law of Attraction and manifestations, and the power that people hold. The Law of Attraction states that whatever vibration you broadcast out into the Universe, that vibration is then reflected back into your reality. Now I know this may sound complicated and a little strange to some, but let me explain. Your vibration can mean a lot of different things. (Mood, emotions, thoughts, and vibe are all other words for describing vibration, but I like the word vibration the most because it is the most specific). Essentially, the Law of Attraction means that you are the creator of your own reality! Many people go through life thinking that they are a product of their environment, or that life happens to them when in reality, life is the exact opposite. As we live our lives, we broadcast a vibration, or frequency, much like light or sound vibrations out into the Universe! These ‘vibes’ are picked up by the Source, God, or whatever you want to call it, and the Law of Attraction does all of the work. It lines up the path of least resistance in order to get that which you have broadcast, and turns it from vibration, into physical. You could essentially call this, ‘Law of Attraction’ , a mirror, which bounces right back at you, things which you cast into that mirror.

My idea is that we can use this seemingly magical Law of the Universe to our advantage, controlling what we broadcast into the Universe, and therefore controlling what we receive!

How do you think this will change the world?

By harnessing how to control the Law of Attraction, people can literally change their reality! This completely challenges most people’s perspective on life, and in fact, their realities, of course. Just imagine if everyone was consciously creating their own realities what the entire world could accomplish! We would have people passionate about what they do, everyone manifesting miracles daily, and all things working out for everybody all of the time! The Law of Attraction is incredibly powerful, yet to have the whole world harness that power would be just incredible! People would be able to achieve whatever success they could ever imagine, and there would be far less anger and sadness in the world if everybody implemented the Law of Attraction into their lives! There is so much possibility and potential in the Law of Attraction, so take my advice, and we can share this with the world!

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?

No, not in the least! The Law of Attraction says that you can manifest absolutely anything which you desire! This law already exists, and it is simply a matter of harnessing this Law of the Universe in order to achieve great things. One thing that I’ve noticed when using the Law of Attraction to manifest my desires, is that it not only works out for me but also for everybody involved. The Universe has a way of finding the path of least resistance in order to please everyone. So if harnessing the Law of Attraction allows your source/inner being to flow through you, allows total happiness, helps you to understand the true nature of who you are and your place in the world, and manifest absolutely anything and everything that you want and in everyone’s favor, then I see absolutely zero drawbacks!

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

Really, it was Hawai’i that led to such a big change in my thinking, and in my life. Before Hawai’i, my plan for life was really just up to what others would influence me into doing. I might have become a wrestler like my dad wants, or an artist, or maybe a scientist. Who knows.

But after experiencing all that I could become from being so inspired in Hawai’i, and all the good things that I realized I was missing out on in life, I decided that I needed to make a real change.

I remember sitting by the window of the plane, imagining all of the terrible effort and hard work that lay ahead as we headed back home from our trip..and all of that leading me to absolutely nothing that I actually wanted to do! I could just imagine and see all the terrible things that were going to happen unless, of course, I made a change.

After that plane ride, and starting a series of small businesses, a sort of gradual change led me to the discovery of the Law of Attraction, and how to harness it. This was part of my journey.

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

Right now, I am actually in the middle of writing a book on the Law of Attraction, and how kids my age (teenagers) can implement this Law of the Universe into their lives. I think that this will be revolutionary, as many kids my age don’t have much literary material on the Law of Attraction that is intended for an audience such as themselves! But for widespread adoption throughout the globe, I think it is really just up to the people. Specifically, people who are into the Law of Attraction .

Personally, most of the people whom I know are into the Law of Attraction, have discovered it by others who have shared it with them. I, for example, was introduced to the Law of Attraction gradually, but my mother was really the one who shared a lot of the beginning basics with me.

Also, one of the greatest Law of Attraction masters, Esther Hicks, also discovered spirituality as well as the Law of Attraction through her husband, Jerry Hicks. Almost anybody that you ask who is into the Law of Attraction will likely tell you that they discovered it through somebody else, and I think that that is really the key to widespread adoption. As long as we keep sharing our discoveries and knowledge with each other about the subject, the more people will be involved, and the more lives the Law of Attraction can amaze!

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

  1. Everything is always working out for me! Sometimes it can feel like the whole world is falling beneath your feet, and all of the wrong things are happening in your life. Even if it feels like all is lost, or your life is falling apart, simply remember that everything is constantly and consistently working out for you! There was this one year in eighth grade, where I was fed up with school, and I didn’t want to do so much work all of the time. There was also a middle school wrestling season which I was dreading, and I couldn’t imagine dedicating 8.5 hours of my day to pointless things I hated doing! Thankfully, I just had the desire, and gave it to the Universe to handle it for me. After that, things started to look up, and the year ended early, due to the Covid-19 outbreak. I got a whole month of no school! The rest of the year, after that, I spent only half the time on academics, plus we got to learn from home! And the best part was the fact that the wrestling season was canceled! This is just one example of how things are always working out for you, and even though it may not always seem like it, the Universe lines up events that are always in your best interest…all you have to do is have faith.
  2. Take only inspired action. Don’t do something just because you feel like you should do it, but because you actually feel compelled to do it, and want to do it. Whenever I am working on a Creature Preacher video, I am always working from a place of alignment, clarity, and inspiration. I only make videos because I feel compelled to make videos, not because I should. Have you ever seen a big actor, producer, music artist, architect, or big-time chef who does things because they feel like they should? The answer is NO! They do things because they want to, not the other way around. By not taking inspired action, you are actually working away from your goal, because you feel like you have to do something in order to get it, instead of letting your success/manifestations come to you! Inspired action, on the other hand, brings you closer to your goal, and is super fun to do! Inspired action is how you achieve success, not the shoulds.
  3. Have faith. It is so easy for some people to get caught up in what is going to happen, or the doubt that something will not manifest. In reality, as long as they have faith, it will come. So don’t get all caught up in the how, and just trust that whatever you desire is on its way to you. There was this one time, where I was attempting to manifest a lottery winning, where the prize was $10,000 worth of reef tank supplies. I was very excited but also excited in the wrong way. I kept worrying about it not coming, and if the Law of Attraction was actually even a real thing. Unfortunately, I put so much of my energy into the how, and the worry of things, causing that which I truly desired didn’t come to me. Of course, it was even more proof that the Law of Attraction was working properly, but also it gave me more reason to just have faith in what it is that I desire, and trust that it is on its way to you, because if you do, there is no doubt that it will come.
  4. Be in the present; be in the now! The now is the only time that we have, that we’ve had and that we ever will have. The now is our place of creation, and it is where everything that ever was, is, or will be starts and ends. Sometimes it can be easy to get wrapped up in the future, and what the future might hold. And it is great to visualize your future success, only as long as you are experiencing it as if it already is, and not worrying about what might come, something that I have done many times. Simply be in the present moment, have gratitude for what is, and what is to come, and I promise you, that you will achieve your desires in no time!
  5. Trust your intuition. Your inner being knows what’s best for you 100% of the time. This story I am about to share may sound a little insane, but I promise you that it is true! I was playing some sort of game in P.E. which involved the players doing Rock Paper Scissors in order to see who serves first. I decided to work a little of my intuition and win at Rock Paper Scissors. To make a long story short, I won 15 times in a row when I listened to that voice inside of my head, and lost only when I didn’t. This is just a small example of what our intuition allows us to achieve, and by listening to it, you can do way more than win a simple child’s game…you can achieve success!

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

I would say that one of the best success habits is visualization. Visualizing your success, achievements, and events are key to victory in the modern world. Visualization gives you immense amounts of clarity, and further brings your desires to fruition. By visualizing your desires every day, and getting into the feeling of how it feels to have that thing which you would love to manifest or achieve, you consistently get into the receptive mode, letting that which you desire flow into your reality faster and easier than ever before!

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 🙂

Do you want to create the life of your dreams? Do you want ease, clarity, abundance, and absolutely anything and everything that you could ever desire in your life? If so, then I welcome you to the Law of Attraction. The Law of Attraction states that whatever vibration we broadcast into the Universe, it is reflected back into our realities as the form of physical manifestation. In short, the Law of Attraction means that we create our own realities, and we are in control of what we think, feel, and the physical outcome of what manifests in our lives!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow me on Instagram @the_creature_preacher and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/The-Creature-Preacher-106761650853406/

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

Thank you!


Braylon Creighton, The Creature Preacher: Why I Believe That Visualization Is One of the Best… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Darab Ali of Better1: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

Online community shopping forums where consumers can learn from each other’s shopping and product experiences, and where they can consolidate orders to save money will continue to grow. These forums will also produce valid online videos and tutorials that will create more awareness and information about any product or service.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darab Ali.

Darab Ali is a serial entrepreneur who takes a very positive and inspirational approach to his business ventures. Born and raised in a small town (Saharanpur, India), Darab and his family immigrated to Canada in late 90’s and settled in Scarborough where he attended high school at Dunbarton High School and then went on to Australia for further studies. Today, Darab and his very young family reside in Vaughan, Ontario and run a number of businesses based in the Greater Toronto Area, including Better1.

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

Becoming an entrepreneur wasn’t something that was by design for me. In fact, upon attending university, I enrolled into a Pre-Dental course with the intent of becoming a dentist. Some people have a very clear idea from a young age as to what they want to do as their profession, but I think many might not have that early clarity. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as long as you are honest with yourself. During my first years at university, I discovered that my interests were much more people-oriented, and I was always more engaged when I was dealing with others in very dynamic discussions and projects.

So in my view, taking the path towards dentistry was not a wrong path. Really it was the road that gave me a chance to read the sign-posts that pointed me in the direction in which I was really interested. That destination was business, and it has further led me to where I am today, and becoming an entrepreneur.

Now having said that, knowing that I enjoyed business wasn’t enough. After trying a few businesses that taught me a lot about grit and determination, I reflected again on my interests, particularly in people. They say that “Business is an action taken after thinking” so that’s what I did, and I decided to get into the people business.

I started my career in human resources and recruitment industry 11 years ago with zero experience in that area. Zero is not a good number to use when mentioning your experience but if the will is there, you can soon add many zeroes after any digit in terms of your days of experience. You just have to stick with it and never give up if you believe you have a good business proposition. Today, I am fortunate to have a thriving placement agency business run by a very strong and capable team of professionals.

I now have more time and resources to look at other ways to interact with people. In particular, I see how technology is changing how we do things, and see so much opportunity to apply many innovations to improve the day-to-day lives of consumers. I recently put a team together to build an app with smart and innovative products for smarter living. While the idea has been further developed since its initial inception, with the help of my team, we created the Better1 business, an online destination for Canadian consumers to discover, learn and buy innovative products that best fit their needs.

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

When I first started my business I had no customers, no phones ringing, no emails and no experience around how to run the organization. All I had was just a few credit cards in hand and some personal savings to keep the business afloat. For 6 months or so, it was all about doing door-to-door sales on my own everyday while learning about the industry and business.

I was trying to get an appointment with the HR head of a company one day and after a few unsuccessful calls, I tried just visiting their office location. As I was just entering the building I bumped into a gentleman who was on his way in as well and he asked me what the purpose of my visit was. I told him what the agency did and quickly pointed out some of the key benefits that we could bring. It was a brief conversation, maybe three or four minutes, but he essentially said “that’s great, and by the way, nice pen” and I said back to him “Thanks, but here, please keep the pen, it’s a company promo, and I want you to have it”. I figured, that was the end of the conversation and we would each just move on with our days. He simply smiled and asked me to follow him inside. Turns out he was the owner of the company and he arranged for me to present to the HR head that same day. All went well and I was able to gain a very important client in those early days. I know it wasn’t the pen, but more because I was so rehearsed in my elevator speech and so passionate about what I could bring to a customer, that he eventually made the decision to have me meet with his team. I still have the pen, and my company does have promotional pens, but more important is what the pen stands for, and the passion and belief we have for what we can do for our customers.

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

It’s funny when I look back now on the situation, but back when it happened, it was a bit stressful. I knew that advertising and exposure was important to building a business so when I first started my human resource placement agency business, I quickly placed banner and signage advertising up as soon as I secured my 200 square foot office space. With no other employees, and not even pen and paper yet in hand, candidates began to call and show up that very first day! I had to scramble to neighbouring offices in the building for office essentials and made due with a very progressive open-concept office setting! I learned quickly that your infrastructure and back-end processes are just as important as the front-end.

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

Well, Better1 is brand new! We’re very excited as we just launched in late June, 2020 and currently building our exposure and business base. Better1 is all about helping consumers live better through today’s innovative products. Technology and innovation work hand-in-hand. We see so many new products being introduced to the marketplace and many of these products can really help to improve the day-to-day lives of consumers. Better1 is all about making today’s great products and innovations accessible to our customers. As an Ecommerce platform, we curate, sample and review products and then display those products in a uniquely immersive and familiar setting to help consumers find, understand and purchase innovative products that fit their needs. In a nutshell, we offer “better products for better living”.

I’ve got a few other projects underway, but one of them is an advanced Human Resources and recruitment project which will enhance simplified solutions for temporary, permanent and contract placements in day-to-day recruitment needs with a centralized platform that any business, agency candidate can use. This is still under development and more to come on that in the Fall.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I think you’d have heard this before, but I truly believe in its importance. Always do what you enjoy doing, not something that you don’t. The more you don’t enjoy the work, the quicker and easier for you, your colleagues and employees to “burn out”. If you enjoy the work, and you allow your team to be creative and have meaningful input, they too can enjoy their work, and working hard becomes much more destination driven. What I mean is the team becomes much more productive and charged to get to achieve their goals. Working hard in a start-up is pretty well a given, but if you have a team that is enjoying their work, your chances of finding success are significantly greater.

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 Father, who is himself an entrepreneur, has had a huge influence on me. He’s always appreciated me and gave me the freedom, motivation and support to explore and experiment with different aspects of life. I am very fortunate and grateful for this. I’ve learned the importance of good values such as remaining humble, taking care of your employees and customers first. Our relationship allowed me to adopt these strong values early in life and in my career. I believe doing so is critically important for any successful business.

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

I think Better1 is an example. With the help of my business ventures and as an entrepreneur who has a passion towards technology, I am hoping to make smart and innovative products more accessible to consumers so that they can simplify their day-to-day lives and free-up time in their busy lives to spend it in more meaningful ways. I truly believe that there is a gap between the products that can make a difference in helping people live better, versus the number of people that should be benefiting from these. I would like to see Better1 play a bigger role in helping consumers as we continue to grow and find more innovative and unique products for them.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  1. In my opinion, retail change will continue to accelerate. As I said earlier, technology and innovation go hand-in hand, and as new technology arises, products and services in retail will continue to evolve and consumers will continue to change how they shop. I believe most retail companies will be moving towards using A.I., robotics, automated kiosks, augmented and virtual reality platforms as part of the continued growth in online shopping, rather than retail stores and outlets. While the recent pandemic certainly has accelerated the use of online shopping, I believe that consumers see inherent benefits as technology improves and costs continue to fall.
  2. Online growth will increase the direct Business-to-Consumer (B2C) channel as brands can access and interact with consumers more directly and intimately via all of their technology touch points (PCs/laptops, touchpads, Phones/PDAs). This will further pressure intermediary (middle-man) businesses unless they bring true value to the product-to-consumer process.
  3. The prevalence of social media advertising and digital marketing including YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat will increase, as will the advent and proliferation of new social media channels. Additionally, influencers and social media celebrities will become a larger voice as consumer advocates and reviewers of brand and product value, versus traditional mass media approaches.
  4. Smart shopping options with the use of online reviews and ratings will accelerate. Consumer validated information will increasingly become the currency by which products are viewed. While brand owners and product manufacturers will always need to have a voice, consumer reviews will continue to evolve into a more prevalent part of the purchase process.
  5. Online community shopping forums where consumers can learn from each other’s shopping and product experiences, and where they can consolidate orders to save money will continue to grow. These forums will also produce valid online videos and tutorials that will create more awareness and information about any product or service.

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 think my answer reflects on my people background as well as my passion for technology in people’s lives. If I could start a movement, it might be one where there is one common global talent platform where people could post their skills and services. With technology, so much can be done to allow all countries and economies to benefit either from providing talent, employing talent or both. With such a platform, technology and best practice standards could be readily shared across borders and so much could be advanced, whether that is technologically, economically or socially. I realize of course there is the reality of political factors , but I also believe that nothing is impossible, and to achieve the impossible, all we need to have is the will and the persistence from talented individuals acting as a team. Just like a start-up, but at a much larger scale!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can always follow my LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/darab-ali/

And follow Better1 on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/better1.store


Darab Ali of Better1: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Rob Koenen of Boxed Water Is Better: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Simplify your message. In the beginning, we were way too technical in our messaging…thinking that everyone studied plastic and understood that recycling isn’t working. It wasn’t until we dialed back to the very basics of recycling — -i.e. 1,500 bottles are made every second and 90% are garbage…. then people finally started to understand the scale. People are busier than ever and don’t have time to unpack a complicated message.

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

Rob is the Chief Marketing Officer of Boxed Water Is Better; the first national company to offer a sustainable alternative to plastic water bottles. Rob is charged with expanding Boxed Water’s core message and empowering consumers to make a statement that “sustainability matters.” Rob’s extensive marketing and leadership experience is rooted in story-telling with innovative campaigns that span multiple communication channels. In his role at Boxed Water, Rob leads the brand’s trial and awareness efforts, digital opportunities, and retail experiences. In prior leadership roles, Rob has built true lifestyle brands for companies in food, apparel and footwear.

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 don’t think there is a straight-line career-path for anyone; you have to go where your heart takes you. Boxed Water™ was not on my career path when I graduated from college. I was going to be a stockbroker. After a few years, I was needing a creative outlet, so I started working on brand building. I had the traditional career path in larger corporations, primarily in the fashion industry. My career took me all over the world and eventually, I ended running some of them. I loved making connections with consumers and building trust; but at a certain point in your life, you realize you want to do more than build a brand; you want to leave something more enduring. So I looked for a way to help others….I was blind to the plastic pollution problem like the rest of us, until my daughter mentioned that Boxed Water Is Better® was focused on renewably packaged on-the-go water. After researching the problem, it was clear that robbing the planet to service a single-use society is not sustainable.

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?

Early on, with Rollerblade, our leaders wanted to branch out into other products. They had an offsite where they looked into other opportunities and came back with the idea of selling Rollerblade bicycles….since both in-line skates and bicycles have wheels; so it was a natural connection to them. I was in charge of innovation and had to launch the concept. After numerous focus groups, we showed that wheels were not a connective tissue for the consumers. Luckily, we were able to redirect our efforts to an “off road” skate which was a success. The overriding lesson is to look at your business through the eyes of the consumer. Realize that your consumer is not thinking about your brand, your product, or your product category as much as you are (or should be)….so always step back and think of how you fit into their world; not the other way around.

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

Our consumers and our community make Boxed Water special. We make great water, but beyond that, we believe strongly that one small act can make a big impact. As such, we’ve been planting trees in our national forests and for every photo of our box that is posted by consumers at @boxedwater or #betterplanet we plant a tree. For free. Think about that…do you know of a company that is willing to that? And based on our consumer posts, we’ve planted over 1,000,000 trees with the National Forest Foundation so far. We have a passionate community of people who want to help this planet.

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

We have a ton going on…We finally developed a new plant-based cap which is made from the by-product of paper production. This is a huge breakthrough and now our carton is made from 92% renewable materials. Most plastic is made from petroleum oil and some companies have been offering caps made from sugarcane residue as an alternative. Sugar cane is not an environmentally-friendly crop, and now it’s being grown to make plastic. This didn’t make sense to us, so we waited until we could use caps that leave a smaller environmental footprint. We are working on our next million trees- “You Post. We Plant.” We are also working with our partners on beach cleaning…and just finished a Life Cycle analysis that shows how plastic and aluminum production is a greater emerging threat than anybody had anticipated. We are always challenging ourselves to do “better.” It’s in our name.

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 today is rooted in your brand’s values and provides transparency into your company’s personality. Advertising usually revolves around product features, or lifestyle shots of models implying that you can have a better life with a particular product. Consumers have moved far beyond this type of advertising, but a lot of companies have yet to figure that out. For us, plenty of companies provide pure pH neutral, BPA free water like us; but we’re the only ones that go beyond water into reforestation and other major environmental efforts. Branding builds an emotional connection and relationship with the consumer built on trust — and asks them to come along with us on a journey.

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 are smarter and have more resources than ever. They have been over-marketed to and are skeptical of claims. The internet gives them the tools to do extensive research into your brand beyond its products. Your website is a critical source of information to introduce you to current and future consumers. Also, it’s a perfect place to get feedback from them. Remember, they will also be visiting your competitors’ websites, so you better be compelling.

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.

Simplify your message. In the beginning, we were way too technical in our messaging…thinking that everyone studied plastic and understood that recycling isn’t working. It wasn’t until we dialed back to the very basics of recycling — -i.e. 1,500 bottles are made every second and 90% are garbage…. then people finally started to understand the scale. People are busier than ever and don’t have time to unpack a complicated message.

Focus on the consumer in every way. Everything we do goes through a consumer-lens. We ask ourselves if it’s important, impactful, understandable for our consumer. We also listen to our consumer. So many consumers asked us about single-use, that we started testing our product over multiple refills. It turns out our product is refillable and reusable. So now we have a sustainable and refillable option.

Live your values (set values). This is another way to be authentic. In today’s market, consumers can see if you’re just paying lip-service. Make sure you set down some solid values- and make sure you live to them- in all aspects of the business; staffing, messaging, quality etc.

Find your tribe — consumers and partners that believe in what you believe. We have high standards and have turned down partners that want to use us as a publicity stunt. Protect what you have built and don’t chase down a fast buck…your reputation is your brand. Conversely, once you find an authentic partner- do all you can to support them.

Leverage partnerships. We’ve managed to find like-minded companies with comparable consumers — we’ve used social media, field marketing and promotions to share each other’s messages. Many hands make lighter work.

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?

Patagonia is the easiest answer. They have consistently held to their beliefs of great product, but moreover helping the planet. But I salute some of the brands that go out of their core competency to support the environment….Some of our partners like Rag&Bone, DVF in fashion or Dogpound fitness are companies that could keep buying plastic, but have made the commitment to switch to a sustainable alternative. Companies like this have taken millions of bottles out of circulation, and aren’t doing it for publicity.

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?

In our company, we look at Marketing as demand-creation. Everything we do should drive demand in some manner; but some things are more directly related to sales. We set up KPI’s like any company, but sometimes sales are secondary in the brand-building strategies to consumer loyalty and awareness. We know that once people know the facts about plastic, or our overarching brand mission, they will make the right choice for the planet. For example, our reforestation efforts are part of brand-building, and we’ve had many new customers choose us strictly because they want to be part of 1,000,0000 trees. But in the end, our brand reflects the beliefs held by our employees and our customers….like-minded people can join the brand and sales will come naturally.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Critical to branding. As I stated earlier, our website is the most critical platform to tell our story. Social media and digital advertising will bring people to your website as well as amplify your brand’s message. In addition, it’s a chance to show your brand’s personality — are you serious, luxurious or relatable and fun. It’s also a great way to measure your message. We spent 8 years trying to explain why recycling is no longer enough — you need to use renewable materials…..we were able to see when the market shifted to understanding sustainability and started looking to us for answers. Social media also is a two-way street. We listen and learn from our consumers everyday- and on every subject.

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

Make sure you find other outlets to find balance….whether it’s reading, exercise, or family….do something that helps you unplug. Make sure your teams are also taking time. You’re only as good as your team, so make sure that they’re taking enough time to be energized. And make sure you make time for fun.

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?

I honestly believe that the world-wide single use plastic pollution problem, coupled with the aluminum problem, will be one of the greatest threats to our environment’s eco-system…education and hunger.

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

My two favorites are:

Persistence breaks down resistance

You didn’t get up today to be mediocre

Over the years, I’ve found both to be true. If you believe and stay persistent, you will eventually meet your goals.

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.

My daughter and I just had that conversation……both of us said: Malcom Gladwell. He offers most unique insights into modern culture. I’ll buy breakfast.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

One small act can make a big difference. Everything is on Boxedwaterisbetter.com, but also follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook…..@BoxedWater….but also post a picture #betterplanet….Help us plant the next million trees….it’s actually fun to see all the creative posts. And, learn more on the aluminum effect here…. https://boxedwaterisbetter.com/blogs/blog/is-aluminum-really-sustainable


Rob Koenen of Boxed Water Is Better: 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.

Rick Caballo of Dead Horse Branding: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

It’s more important to have a well branded brand and product than to have a great advertising campaign with a mediocre brand presence. Let’s say people finally go back to your site or product and it doesn’t represent what you have sold in your advertising. Consumers may not buy into it as they may not be confident that your product will last, get delivered on time, or the message is so scrambled that they do not believe in the integrity of your brand. When you spend dollars on advertising, you want 100% certainty that when they go to your brand it’s flawless.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Rick Caballo, Art Director and Co-Founder of Dead Horse Branding.

Equally at home on stage before thousands, or working up designs for a cutting-edge brand, Rick Caballo is nothing if not creative. Now based in Nashville TN, Rick was born and raised in Wollongong, near Sydney, Australia. This accomplished singer-songwriter, artist, photographer and designer has a rare combination of charisma and ingenuity that means he is constantly in demand.

Working with partner Melissa Core, Rick has established numerous successful enterprises. After launching their flagship company, rock-fashion label CORELLO, in 2012 the pair quickly attracted interest from several quarters. Rick’s CORELLO designs have been donned by Steven Tyler, Don Was, Miranda Lambert, Train, Hayden Panettiere and Ryan Roxie / Alice Cooper, among others. The line also featured in hit TV series Nashville and Duck Dynasty, plus LA Fashion Magazine, Country Weekly, People Magazine and InStyle.

In 2015, the pair launched Dead Horse Branding. This 360-degree creative management company provides creative art and brand management, combining Rick’s across-the-board art and design direction with Melissa’s visionary approach to marketing and management. One of Dead Horse’s major projects is a coffee table book for legendary music producer (and keys player for Elvis) Tony Brown. Due for release in 2016, the book is entirely art-directed by Rick, from graphic design to photographing the 40+ featured celebrity portraits and working with Brown to document the history of modern country music.

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

As a kid, I always wanted to work in a visually creative field, I used to draw a lot. I left school at 16 and started my apprenticeship as a sign painter, as it was the only place I could be creative and get paid at the time, BC…Before Computers. The skills I learned there gave me the capacity to take on anything from mural art, screen printing, sign painting, graphic design, fabrication, sculpting to automotive painting , branding and marketing.

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?

I can’t say I have a funny story with marketing as everything is so strategically prepared before we go for it. But as a sign painter’s apprentice, I went out and painted a sign, only to get a call later that day to let me know I had spelled the word available wrong. Keep in mind, back in those days it was paint not digital printing. So, I drove back out to paint over the mistake and then corrected the spelling. The next day I got another call, “Hey man, you spelled the word available wrong again!!” That story is more embarrassing than funny.

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

Dead Horse Branding is a one stop shop in having all services from graphic / visual design, publicity, marketing to overall brand management all under one roof. If you are outsourcing several services to different companies for your company, there’s a good chance the end product of your brand will be disjointed and incohesive. We encompass all facets of branding. We aren’t just a PR and marketing company; everything is executed from a branding perspective. Most PR firms will take what you’ve given them and then run with it without any revision to entire business structure. We like to look at the overview of the brand and fix any cracks in the foundation, which will save a lot of time and hardship on the back end. Given our edgy approach to doing things, we’ve had several corporate companies that have acquired our services because they want to shake things up and be a little cooler than usual.

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

We just finished working with the Baha Men on their rebranding of a logo, website and social media.
They are super talented and equally as fun to work with. 2020 sees their 20 year anniversary of the release of ‘Who Let The Dogs Out?’. We are also in the works with a country music documentary and a TV show that we can’t talk about quite yet but are super excited about.

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?

A BRAND is your identity. Who you are, what you stand for and what are selling?

Marketing and advertising are the vehicles you use to sell your brand.

Think of a brand as your home. You can decorate it how you like it, paint the walls a certain color and hang all your favorite pictures on the wall that represent you best. To finish it off, you place your number and house name on your mailbox for all to see.

Marketing, advertising and sales are the real estate agent selling your house. You advertise your house on certain websites and magazines. You may also choose to plant an abundance of beautiful, rare plants in your front yard to entice people with green thumbs to seek out purchasing your home, for example.

You need a brand to be able to market something. Marketing a product that has no foundational identity will be short lived as you will be a bland rival to your competitor.

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?

These days websites are your storefront where you get to curate and showcase your brand. If people are Googling you and getting information from a multitude of places, they will make up their own minds on who you are rather than you driving the narrative for them.

Just investing your efforts into socials like Instagram, TikTok and Facebook is not a smart move. What if these platforms fizzle out like Myspace did? It is so important to own and control your assets by building a website of your own sharing to socials from there and visa-versa.

As for general advertising efforts, it truly depends on the business. Most of the time we’ve built a solid brand, PR and marketing strategy with a great social media roll out, so we don’t need to engage in advertising as the PR is enough to get the eyes on our clients.

Anyone can pay for a billboard or a page in a magazine if they have the money. However, not everyone is worthy to have an editorial written about them in a magazine or TV spot. For that reason alone, PR shows more credibility than advertising to us. Let others talk about you, rather than you speaking about yourself.

Can you share 5 strategies/ methods that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?

  1. Who are you and what’s your story?
  2. Who are you selling to?
  3. After reassessing your brand’s core attributes, make sure your message aligns with your brand’s identity and audience. It’s great to be happy with what your brand is, but if your core demographic doesn’t connect with your message, then you won’t be able to capitalize from your audience.
  4. Once you have gotten your brand’s identity and message down, now is the time to get your assets together to make sure your message is loud and clear across all platforms. This includes your mission statement, photography, website, social media aesthetic and voice, in the flavor of your brand.
  5. Finally, get out there and be seen. Clever marketing and PR will help shape the story and bring eyes towards what you have spent all this time building.

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?

APPLE, they say so much with so little. They are clean, sleek, sexy, high quality, cool and consistent with their brand messaging throughout the entire company. The less you have to explain yourself to the consumer the better. Each brand is different and requires their own aesthetic, so replicating the Apple format when you’re selling $2 fidget spinners is generally not going to work. Find out what your demographic is, as well as who your competitors are and check what they are doing, then fill in the blanks.

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?

It’s hard to quantify both advertising and a brand build as they both have more of a trickle down effect in regards to sales. How do we know that the sales you received were purely based on your advertising spend? Versus, what if the brand build was so solid, it convinced people to buy your product?

It’s more important to have a well branded brand and product than to have a great advertising campaign with a mediocre brand presence. Let’s say people finally go back to your site or product and it doesn’t represent what you have sold in your advertising. Consumers may not buy into it as they may not be confident that your product will last, get delivered on time, or the message is so scrambled that they do not believe in the integrity of your brand. When you spend dollars on advertising, you want 100% certainty that when they go to your brand it’s flawless.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

It’s super important to be actively on it and redirecting people back to your website. Between all the traffic from various social media platforms and your own website, you can compile stats which help you adjust your message, as well as provide you a laser focused target audience to sell to.

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

Nothing burns you out more than working with clients and products that you’re not passionate about.

Do what you love and love what you do, show that enthusiasm and the clients will come.

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 are so polarized as a nation and the list is too long to mention just one. But right now, I would love to see the day, sooner rather than later, where all our brothers and sisters of all different creeds and colors are treated as equals without question. In these hard times, the creatives of our world pull everything together through, art and music. They are the HE-ART!!

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

“A river cuts through stone not because of its power, but because of its persistence.”

Be patient, be focused and be consistent. You may have the skills, but relationships take a lot of time to build. It doesn’t matter how good you are as a marketer or designer, if you can’t consistently deliver on time, you’re no good to the client. Baby steps then big leaps!!

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? –

Bono, not only is he an amazing performer and great songsmith, he constantly is fighting for a better world and speaking out for the less fortunate. I’m also a huge fan of U2’s graphic design and merchandise team, as well as their very creative stage production and music videos. Very cool!!!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Our company can be found on Instagram or online at

https://instagram.com/deadhorsebranding

www.deadhorsebranding.com


Rick Caballo of Dead Horse Branding: 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.

Beth Doane of Main & Rose: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Focus on social good: Today, as our society is coming to terms with issues of racial and health injustice, viable brands must focus on goals beyond themselves. Since we launched our firm, we have made a commitment to help all of our clients pursue and share work in the social good space. When you show what you care about and how you are making the world better, you’ll establish yourself as a values-driven brand, consumers will respond and you and your employees will feel good while doing it.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Beth Doane, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Main & Rose, a global creative agency. With nearly a decade of experience creating, growing, and selling several companies by the age of 30, today Beth serves as a trusted advisor for some of the world’s most innovative CEOs, nonprofits, and governments. From delivering insights that pioneer digital movements to overseeing creative concepts for multi-million dollar campaigns, she is the driving force behind ROI-driven work. Previous to founding Main & Rose, Beth established one of the first sustainably and ethically produced fashion brands on the market, as well as founded and later led the private acquisition of Parlor, the first open marketplace for freelancers in a diverse set of industries. An award-winning author and writer, Beth frequently contributes to Forbes and Darling Magazine and has advised on literary strategy for several New York Times best-selling books. She sits on The Pacific Council on International Policy, and The Forbes Young Entrepreneurs Council and was named one of the world’s top branding experts by Inc. Magazine. Beth also speaks frequently about branding, social impact and the importance of mental health initiatives in the workplace. She has spoken at conferences and events for prestigious organizations including Google, Harvard, MIT, The United Nations, and the Concordia Summit.

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 have always had a passion for how products and companies can create a positive impact on a global scale, and I founded my first company when I was 22 years old. It was one of the first fashion lines that was manufactured sustainably and launched at Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Los Angeles. The success of the line led me to consult for several brands on how to make their lines more sustainable. My love for consulting and creative thinking eventually led me to start advising more on branding, marketing and design, and I launched an agency. I eventually met Kelly Gibbons, my business partner a few years later and we created Main & Rose together.

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?

While it’s nice to be able to learn (and survive) from past mistakes, rather than being funny memories, my mistakes have helped guide my decision-making. They continually serve as powerful reminders of how much I’ve learned as a business owner and leader. Among the mistakes, losing hundreds of thousands of dollars from failing to do enough market research. Today, this lesson helps me see where my clients may take a wrong turn, and steer them away from the same mistake I had once made. One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that when people have an idea, they go full-steam ahead and invest too much money into something without testing the idea or investing in a GTM strategy. It’s too easy to think something may work, and then lose everything along the way. My advice is market test, A/B test, get advisors, hire experts, and don’t invest a fortune. Leaving room and capital for mistakes is key to success.

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

At Main & Rose, we believe that we are the design firm of the future. What sets us apart is that we’re intention-oriented and committed to working with impact-driven brands that truly make a difference in the world. We believe that commitment to diversity, inclusion and change starts internally, and we take great pride in being women-founded and women-led, with communities of color and LGBTQ people represented at our highest ranks. With offices around the globe, including in the Middle East where we have a strong female presence, we’re dedicated to building a team that is strengthened by our strong workplace culture, top management, and values-based brand.

I’m proud to say that Main & Rose is an award-winning global creative marketing agency that works with some of the leading brands and non-profits around the world, from the United Nations to YouTube and Disney. We run multinational branding, design and marketing campaigns that are values-based and evidence-driven, striking the balance between cutting-edge and time-tested, to harness the power of data and beauty of storytelling to shape and share a narrative that always puts our clients above the competition.

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

We’re working on several exciting projects. Recently, our team was hired to design and launch a rebrand for Oceana, a stunning luxury hotel in California and the first Hilton LXR property in the United States. As a company, one of the industries we specialize in is the travel, real estate, and hospitality sector and we’re proud to take the lead on campaigns and initiatives that will help drive the evolution of the industry forward.

We also focus on governments and emerging global markets, and have a strong presence across the MENA region. We recently partnered with the United Nations to raise awareness around the 17 Sustainable Development Goals in support of the UN Agenda 2030. As we work to mobilize a new force of activists that’s largely focused on GenZ, we’re creating shareable grassroots campaigns to drive unprecedented change and measurable impact in the world.

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 tells us the story, the mission, the underlying values of a brand, while product marketing should tell us what something is. Think about Nike, and its tagline “Just Do It.”and the iconic swoosh symbol. It’s brand marketing enables us to instantly recognize all Nike products because it’s constant. What makes it impactful is that the swoosh and tagline have remained the same, while promoting the company’s underlying mission around innovation and inspiration.

Yet, every year we see Nike release new products. Advertising and marketing enable Nike to continually change and evolve its products without having to change its original branding and mission.

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 doesn’t happen overnight. If done right, it can take years and may involve a large amount of investment in advertising, marketing, and design. While people often hear about a start-up company that “took off” over night or went viral, it’s important to know that that’s usually a one-in-a-million story. To establish a recognizable brand, it’s going to take time and investment. The reality is that any brand is going to have to compete with competitors that can spend millions of dollars more on marketing and advertising. To stand out, you’re going to have to realize the importance of strategically planning, building, and launching a campaign that helps you tell your story and sustain your 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.

1. Tell Your Brand Story Well: Most agencies and companies make a fatal mistake by focusing on new products and services, rather than the story behind the person making those products or services. My philosophy is based on the truth that humans have a natural urge to connect with people and want to share powerful stories. To build a trusted and authentic brand, focus on having a strong, relatable identity and brand story that resonates.

2. Focus on social good: Today, as our society is coming to terms with issues of racial and health injustice, viable brands must focus on goals beyond themselves. Since we launched our firm, we have made a commitment to help all of our clients pursue and share work in the social good space. When you show what you care about and how you are making the world better, you’ll establish yourself as a values-driven brand, consumers will respond and you and your employees will feel good while doing it.

3. Balance Timeless & Trendy: One of the toughest challenges for both new and old brands is figuring out how to offer a service or product that is trendy and current, but also feels classic and enduring. I advise my clients to study trends without copying them, which risks coming off as inauthentic, and is the quickest way to cause issues. I urge clients to find a balance between timeless values (reliability, creativity, honesty, service, e.g.) and more modern methods of branding (social media, video content, earned media, e.g.).

4. Create Communities: Brands are strengthened by having many enduring ties across customers and audiences. I encourage my clients to not only foster traditional relationships with their target audiences, but to also create communities centered around their personal brand, and a shared ethos or lifestyle. Create social media environments where your followers can interact and share their stories, or go offline and organize hikes, dinners, or retreats for your customers and your team. The point is to offer something more than just a product or a service — and in doing so, you can gain a major marketing advantage.

5. Be inclusive: For years, we have been saying that inclusion is the new golden rule of branding. Gender equality, diversity, and inclusion are not only morally important, they are also absolutely imperative to your brand if you want to succeed. Modern customers prize these values: regardless of what industry or market you’re in, any business leader who wants their company to be able to compete and thrive in the modern era needs to embrace the values of equality and inclusion. 21st-century clients and customers overwhelmingly consider these to be non-negotiables, particularly millennials, who grew up with a greater appreciation for diversity and tolerance. Inclusive brands will help your company tap into new markets and tend to financially outperform their less diverse counterparts, especially because they lead to better, faster, and more innovative thinking.

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?

There are so many unique brands that I have fallen in love with over the years. Some are smaller brands like Ila products, Aromatherapy Associates, TKEES, and Opal + Sage who I think have all done a beautiful job with their products, brand story, and more and have a loyal customer base which really speaks to their success.

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?

Advertising and branding go hand-in-hand, and sales also capture the success of branding. Like advertising, with any branding campaign, we can measure impressions, and base measurable impact on how a person views a branded campaign. Perception plays a huge role in the success of branding campaigns, and can impact loyalty, trust, and ultimately, the survival of a company.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media plays a massive role in our branding efforts and understanding its value is key to our clients’ success. Many agencies today don’t understand how to use social media or how true creativity plays such a role for it to really “work.” The key is not simply consistency or even posting nice images, but rather, knowing your audience, it’s interests, and how to engage them. At Main & Rose, our clients count on us to advise and execute their social media and digital marketing strategies. Whether that means creating plans or posting daily, just as we do with creating a branded campaign, we prioritize strategic and creative thinking in order to truly understand a brand and its target.

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

Thriving and burnout go hand-in-hand with mental health, which is something that’s personally close to my heart. Discussing my own experiences with mental health and the support systems I created has helped my team and business relationships grow. A challenge with working remotely that many organizations are facing today is identifying and managing the balance between work and home life. It can be very easy for the lines between personal/professional lives to blur and to create an expectation of being “always on” for your team, which leads to burnout quickly. As a leader, you set the tone for the rest of the team — so it’s important to be intentional about 1) setting appropriate expectations among the team that they aren’t expected to be dedicated their lives to working around the clock and 2) walking the talk and leading by example. If I am intentional about prioritizing my mental health and that of my team, they’ll follow that lead.

At Main & Rose, as a fully distributed and remote team due to the nature of our work, we’ve cultivated a transparent, open, and communicative culture that helps team members be seen and heard during challenging times — whether it’s about a personal or business matter. Several of our team members, including me, cite meditation as a key practice for success when it comes to taking a break. This break allows us to “turn-off” the noise, and thrive in our own controlled environment. In fact, many studies have proven meditation can increase productivity and even empathy. Taking time to practice wellness that can help relieve burnout can be as simple as taking a 20 minute walk every afternoon, or making time for an evening run or virtual yoga class. You’ll be happier, healthier, and have an easier time filtering out the chaos and finding the spark of inspiration you need to succeed during this challenging time.

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. 🙂

Luckily, the work I do each day involves building movements. Our clients are some of the most recognizable and impactful brands in the world. We’re honored to work with brands like The United Nations and TED and help build movements that drive monumental change, help spread innovative ideas, and inspire and impact millions of people.

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

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and do that because what the world needs are people who have come alive.” — Howard Thurman

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. 🙂

There are so many people I would love to meet and who greatly inspire me. I’d love to sit down with Michelle Obama, Marc Benioff, and Rose Marcario, former CEO of Patagonia.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I encourage you to follow everything Main & Rose is doing by visiting our website and our Twitter page.

https://www.main-rose.com/

https://twitter.com/mainandrose

Feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/bethdoane/

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


Beth Doane of Main & Rose: 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.

Chris Nardone of Venture Music: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize…

Chris Nardone of Venture Music: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Start by clearly defining the “why’s” behind your brand. The goal is to zoom out as far as possible. Why are you in business in the first place? And why should people care about what you have to offer? We find a lot of times people haven’t forced themselves to really think through these questions. Once you start to dig in you’ll start fleshing out some important philosophical ideas that will inform the next steps.

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

Nashville-based Chris Nardone is the CEO and founder of Venture Music. With a degree in finance from University of Georgia, Nardone always knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur. During his senior year, Nardone was one of the first students to be accepted into the school’s new Music Business program. This is where Nardone discovered he wanted to pursue a career in music and he has spent the last decade doing so. Right out of school, Nardone began managing and developing artists from Georgia, while spending a lot of time in Nashville. Eventually making the move to Music City, Nardone attended the EO’s Catalyst program at the Entrepreneur Center, led by legendary entrepreneur and teacher Michael Burcham, in an effort to find an innovative path in the music industry. Through the program, Nardone saw the opportunity to pivot from a traditional artist management firm to a trusted resource for creating and executing digital strategies. With an informed new business model and that mindset, Nardone built Venture Music into what it is today: a marketing collective developed to suit the ever changing needs of the music industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us!

Of course! Thank y’all for the invite!

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?

Music has always been a constant obsession in my life. But for whatever reason my dream and obsession since childhood was to be an entrepreneur and start a company.

My senior year in college, I was about to graduate with a degree in Finance during the peak of the Great Recession in 2009. I wanted to follow my passion and skip all the job interviews ahead. I just had no idea what I actually wanted to do in the real world. A career in music had never crossed my mind. But around that time, I figured out the University of Georgia recently started a Music Business Program. I applied and the stars aligned. I had exactly the right number of elective hours left to complete the certificate program in my last two semesters.

A few months into my first semester, Alan Walden (co-founder of Capricorn Records) took the time to speak to our class. Looking back now, that lecture was life changing for me. Alan was candid with us and opened up about the early days of starting a record label (in Georgia of all places), finding and developing ground-,breaking talents like Otis Redding, Al Green, Percy Sledge, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and so many others… Hearing his story was the beginning of my motivation to pursue a career in music.

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?

At this point, there are sooo many mistakes and embarrassing moments that it’s tough to keep up. Thankfully none of them have been significant enough to stick out. At least right now… That in itself is actually the most helpful advice I could offer. Dwelling on mistakes isn’t productive. Keeping those mistakes readily available in the memory bank isn’t productive for me either. Owning mistakes, accepting responsibility, learning how to improve, and then getting over the hurdle of embarrassment is a process that gets better with practice, in my experience.

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?

As a company, our tipping point has really come in the past year. We’d been experimenting with digital marketing strategies in the music industry for more than a decade but on a very small scale. We made a very conscious decision to take risks in building out our team in 2019. Each new addition to our team strengthened our ability to do great work, which then provided us more referrals and then supported our growth. Our team has grown from 3 to 9 in the past year, and our ability to work together is what’s allowed that in the first place.

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

We’ve been working on a new program we’ll launch this Fall called Venture Academy. We set out to distill down the big picture experience and expertise we offer as music marketers into a 12-week online course. Our goal is to expand our reach and help give DIY self-starters in the music industry a useful template for what works in 2020. A lot of what we see out there now is either outdated or just not really useful in the real world.

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

My goal is to focus on the people. Not the work. We have a unique power as marketers. If you focus on using that power to connect people with things that make a positive impact in their life, the work can be incredibly fulfilling. I’m not sure I could ever get tired of that feeling.

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?

Music is a unique product. It’s always required a dynamic approach to marketing. Our clients and their customers (fans) have a deep emotional attachment to each other. We have to treat that relationship with more respect and integrity than a typical B2B 0r B2C relationship. We start by creating two funnels based on the size of the artist. Splitting up strategies between: brand marketing (creating awareness) and direct marketing (converting sales). It’s important to know when and how to push for sales conversions depending on the size of our client’s fanbase. With new acts, we might be 100% focused on brand marketing for months before we try to actually generate income.

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?

Branding is the one common denominator in everything we do. It’s always our starting point with every new project. A brand is a lot more than just a logo. I like to think of it as the feeling or story a customer has in their mind when deciding whether or not to click an ad or buy a product. If that story isn’t compelling, or ultimately isn’t in line with the client’s stated vision for the future, we know we need to regroup.

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

We usually have some sort of rebranding conversation with every new project. Artistic brands are always evolving to some degree, but it’s important to keep certain constants when it comes to the name or core personality. Doing a total rebrand is a unique opportunity to start fresh with a clean slate. Sometimes it’s an extremely useful tool to have in the arsenal.

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

Doing a total brand makeover can be a huge setback or at its worst, a total catastrophe. In most cases, there’s no easy way to convert existing followers or customers. Using a successful artist or band as an example. Simply changing the name can throw off trajectory for years, and sometimes indefinitely. So, it’s important to create a clear plan and then commit to a total brand makeover.

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.

Start by clearly defining the “why’s” behind your brand.

  • The goal is to zoom out as far as possible. Why are you in business in the first place? And why should people care about what you have to offer? We find a lot of times people haven’t forced themselves to really think through these questions. Once you start to dig in you’ll start fleshing out some important philosophical ideas that will inform the next steps.

Define your target audience by creating hypothetical personas.

  • Creating hypothetical characters to define your target audience will do wonders for maintaining a clear idea of who your customers are. We like to give them a name, “Jamie is a sophomore at UT in Austin.” Then the goal is to be as descriptive as possible. Create multiple personas to give a more well-rounded picture of your audience.

Research similar brands both you and your target audience respect.

  • For me, understanding the success of other similar brands is the only way to start defining a clear template for a new brand. It’s important not to imitate. Put in the work to figure out what works and why. Then borrow bits and pieces of what you like from as wide a range as possible.

Hire outside help when you can afford it.

  • It’s easy to get stuck when you and your team are working to retool your own brand. We’ve hit a handful of roadblocks like this as a team in the past. A lot of times, we’re just too close to the work, and we need a fresh outside perspective to help bring it all together.
  • The good news is, working through steps 1–3 first will provide someone outside your organization with a clear template of what you’re looking for. That will ensure you’ve found the right person for the job and can keep the cost to a minimum.

Stay committed to the plan.

  • Flipping a switch with a logo or a new website happens in an instant. Re-energizing the story behind a brand is a process that can take months or years. Commit to the process. Be open to feedback and be willing to pivot along the way.

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?

Netflix is a great company to use as a case study. The way they successfully managed the real-world execution of a brand makeover on that scale is so rare. Long story short, in 2011 Netflix had come up with a plan to prepare for the future and split up into two services: Netflix would become an online streaming service, and their existing DVD by mail subscription service would be renamed Qwikster. The backlash that ensued threatened to bankrupt the entire company. Instead, they listened to feedback, retooled their plans, and persevered to success.

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 still be focused on music! A great song can unite people and inspire change in ways that are kind of unparalleled. When you combine that with the power an artist has to use their voice and be a leader, incredible things can happen.

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

“Control your controllables.” Honestly not even sure where I learned it at this point… I should probably figure that out, because it’s really the foundation of everything we do now. We have to trust that if we focus on doing great work, great things will happen. There are 100 different ways that something could go wrong (i.e. a global pandemic). If we choose to let those uncontrollable factors distract us, or discourage us, we won’t be able to focus on being our best.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.venturemusic.com/blog

www.facebook.com/venture

www.instagram.com/venture

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Thank YOU!


Chris Nardone of Venture Music: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nikola Baldikov of Brosix: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

It all starts with leading by example. As a manager you play a crucial role in setting the right expectations. Too many businesses don’t practice what they preach, saying that they care about a healthy work environment and then constantly making unreasonable demands of their employees, for example. You should also provide ample time and space for employees to share how they’re coping with remote work. People want to be heard and have their concerns validated, which can be tricky in a remote environment.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nikola Baldikov.

Nikola Baldikov is a Digital Marketing Manager at Brosix, specializing in SAAS marketing, SEO, and outreach strategies. Besides his passion for digital marketing, he is an avid fan of football and loves to dance. Connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter at @baldikovn.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I began my professional career working in the National Bank of Bulgaria, my home country. During that time I decided to launch my own company selling unique t-shirts as a side job. I quickly had to develop marketing skills and contacts, and I had some great experiences working with influencers. Of course at the time I didn’t know them as influencers, since the term hadn’t become popular yet, but nevertheless we did some excellent marketing work together. It was exciting to find ways to advertise products that I cared passionately about. To this day I’m very proud of the experience that I gained through this business. In the end it set me on a completely different career path in the field of digital marketing.

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

It’s difficult to pin down one story in particular, but the most interesting aspect of my career has certainly been building friendships and partnerships with people around the world. Through this I’ve gained a global perspective, and gotten to know some amazing people.

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 the early days, when I launched my first business while working another job, I was so excited about my education and participating in as many online courses as possible that I went to work every morning exhausted. Looking back, this led to some humorous situations and mixups. If I had to start over, I’d try to spread this education over a longer period of time in order to find the right balance. I realize that when I’m tired I’m not able to retain as much information and my learning suffers, which is the case for most people.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Burnout is a challenging issue, but it’s important to understand that it can have numerous causes. Most managers try to jump into solution mode when they notice that their employees are experiencing burnout, without actually diagnosing the underlying problem. At times it may be that there really is too much work to be done, in which case there are several things a manager can do to address this. More often though, burnout comes from an internal drive within employees to constantly do more and more. This is a sign that employees care deeply about their work, but it’s not sustainable in the long run. In order to address this it’s important for CEOs and founders to set the right personal example and send the right messages. You can’t preach work-life balance and expect employees to achieve this when you yourself are working 14 hour days. Instead, lead by example and make real resources available to support employees in their quest for balance.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been managing a remote marketing team for over 5 years now. At different times my colleagues have been located in multiple countries across several time zones.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Supervising employee work

Working remotely means that you’re not able to keep an eye on things as easily as working from an office. When working from an office it’s simple enough to pop into an employee’s room to ask a quick question or get a quick update on a task. Not so much when working remotely.

Maintaining employee engagement

Many employees, particularly those new to remote work, find it difficult to stay connected and engaged with their colleagues. I’ve noticed that there’s an initial period of excitement when beginning remote work, with numerous things like virtual happy hours and get togethers. With time though, this engagement usually falls off.

Encouraging innovation and creativity

Humans are social creatures that thrive on in-person interaction. For me personally my best ideas come through discussions I have with colleagues. When working remotely it can be difficult to replicate this creative energy.

Keeping track of complex projects

Remote work requires a high level of independence. It also requires the ability to stay on top of complex projects involving multiple colleagues from a distance. This is much easier to do when working side by side in an office space.

Developing organizational culture

Much like engagement, alignment around an organizational culture can also be difficult in a remote work set up.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Addressing all of these challenges requires 3 main things in my experience: the commitment to change, a plan to change, and the right tools to implement the change.

Supervising employee work

There are some technical solutions to online supervision, but it needs to be grounded in mutual respect and understanding for it to be effective. It’s important to have honest conversations with remote employees around how exactly your management style will look. Of course these shouldn’t be one-sided conversations, so take time to listen to your employee’s needs as well. In terms of specific recommendations, I’d encourage more frequent check-ins in order to keep track of progress and act as a thought partner as needed.

Maintaining employee engagement

When working remotely you need to make a conscious effort to keep your team engaged. One fun strategy I’ve used is having 30 minute happy hour type meetings several times a week where, on a rotational basis, team members lead the team in an activity. We’ve done yoga, drawing, cooking, etc. This was a great way of boosting team engagement when I noticed that it was dropping by reconnecting colleagues remotely.

Encouraging innovation and creativity

The most important thing you can do to encourage innovation and creativity in your remote team is to create the right setting for it. That means finding a way to connect your team and equip them with the tools they need to brainstorm and plan. There are several team communication solutions that can help in this regard, but it takes a manager to set these types of interactions as a priority.

Keeping track of complex projects

This is a challenge that requires a technical solution in my experience. There are a wide range of project management software solutions on the market, so it’s a matter of choosing one that works for you and your team. In an ideal world you could test out several options together before making a final choice. This will ensure greater buy in from your team.

Developing organizational culture

Organizational culture is a complex issue, even when your team is working from the same office. The best thing you can do when working from a remote team is to set up some ongoing routines that reinforce the type of culture you want. For example, setting aside time at team meetings where team members can celebrate success or thank a colleague, or sending out a weekly round-up email that highlights good examples of your organizational values.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

First off, I’d say you shouldn’t give high stakes feedback via email or instant message if possible. Reading feedback in such a message leaves too many things open to interpretation, and discourages dialogue. That’s why I always try to give constructive feedback using video calls. I want to be able to establish a visual connection with my employee, even if from a distance. This makes feedback much more personal and sends the message that you’re there to support your employee. I also make sure to set aside time during online team meetings to give positive feedback publicly. Celebrating good work is something the entire team should do as a way to develop positive team culture.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

As mentioned above, I try to give constructive feedback ‘in person’ via video calls as much as possible. When I do have to give such feedback over email, which happens from time to time in urgent cases, I always try to depersonalize it and present the facts as they are. I start off by stating that I’m not giving this feedback in order to pass judgement on the employee, but rather to address a specific situation and align our expectations. I then outline objectively the facts of the situation, and describe how exactly this didn’t meet my and the team’s expectations. I then always present a way forward with concrete actions that the employee should take. I finish by mentioning something that I think the employee’s done well recently in order to reaffirm that I value them as a colleague.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

The most important thing is to be kind and supportive of one another. Such a sudden transition is difficult, and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to pull it off completely smoothly. On my team, for example, I had employees who also had to deal with their children’s education due to school shutdowns. It’s important to discuss these challenges openly in a non-judgmental way.

I’d also recommend setting up a clear collaboration and engagement structure from the very beginning. This may mean setting up weekly team meetings on Monday morning, scheduling one-on-one check-in meetings, and setting aside some time for informal get togethers. Many people struggle with the lack of structure that can be present in remote work, so make this a top priority.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

It all starts with leading by example. As a manager you play a crucial role in setting the right expectations. Too many businesses don’t practice what they preach, saying that they care about a healthy work environment and then constantly making unreasonable demands of their employees, for example. You should also provide ample time and space for employees to share how they’re coping with remote work. People want to be heard and have their concerns validated, which can be tricky in a remote environment.

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’ve been thinking a lot about environmental issues recently. Even with the world’s attention rightfully focused on the COVID-19 crisis, there’s a looming environmental crisis out there. I’d really like to see more proactive leadership in this area among the business community mch beyond simple green initiatives. I think we need to harness our creative energy to really think through some of the tough questions around the environment, like how do we ensure a high quality of life while also protecting the environment.

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

I’m a big fan of the quote: “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced” by the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard. It’s been a good reminder to open myself up to new experiences and not always focus on the next task ahead.

Thank you for these great insights!


Nikola Baldikov of Brosix: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kyle Nakatsuji of Clearcover: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More…

Kyle Nakatsuji of Clearcover: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

You must have the courage to keep moving forward when things are hard, and you have to be resourceful to find a path when it’s hidden. Courage isn’t the lack of fear. It’s the choice to override the fear. Couple that with the unflappable persistence to find a solution and that’s resilience made tangible.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Nakatsuji, Co-founder and CEO of Clearcover.

Kyle is the co-founder and CEO of Clearcover, the smarter car insurance company. Under Kyle’s leadership, Clearcover has raised more than $104 million to date and has launched in multiple markets — California, Illinois, Arizona, Ohio, Utah, Texas, Wisconsin, Louisiana with more on the way. Before founding Clearcover, Kyle was a founding member of American Family Ventures where he was responsible for sourcing, evaluating and structuring over 50 equity and debt venture capital investments in nationally-based tech startups. Prior to this role, Kyle was a corporate attorney focused on emerging company business matters at AlphaTech Counsel. Kyle has a law degree and an MBA from the University of Wisconsin.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Like many entrepreneurs, I was unsure of my exact future after getting my BA in Political Science at University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. I had grown up in Milwaukee and I was lucky to have the support to explore my options while majoring in Political Science. I “tried out” law school post-graduation but quickly realized that wasn’t the right fit. After looking around for ways to increase my career options (and apparently, not very hard), the business school just across the street caught my attention.

So, I went across the street and said, “I’m a law student. I’d like to get an MBA as well.” They said, “Great. So, tell me how many years of work experience have you had?” I said, “Well, none.” They said, “Okay. Tell me about how many business courses you’ve taken and what you’ve learned.” I said, “I actually haven’t taken any business courses.”

So they said very nicely as Midwesterners do, “Well, why don’t you go away?.”

But I kept coming back week after week to a kind woman there, Erin Nickelsberg, who listened to me week after week with a new plan as to how I could convince them to let me in the business school. Finally, either I came up with the right plan or she got sufficiently sick of me because I was finally accepted. From there, I spent a bunch of time trying to get real-world business start-up experience. Primarily, through clinical programs at the university where I could work hand-in-hand with local startups and learn the ropes in real-time. Which is a great segue into your next question…

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

My success so far has been dependent on many people…Erin Nickelsberg mentioned above — she took a chance on me. Peter Gunder who hired me to help start the VC fund at American Family. I had very little experience but he believed in me, and that really started everything. He eventually became Clearcover’s first Board Member and Investor. I’m grateful to my co-founder, Derek Brigham who took a very big chance on helping me start the company and lending his 30+ years of insurance experience. I’m also grateful to Clearcover’s first employee (our “first follower”), Clearcover’s first customer — actually every customer ever — these are the people that brought Clearcover into existence.

However, I can’t answer this question without acknowledging my mom. She raised me in challenging circumstances while also working as an administrative leader in the local school district. She helped improve schooling in our town while also balancing the demands of being a great mom. She provided the right amount of structure and freedom to teach me the value of pursuing hard goals. There’s absolutely no way I’d be who I am today without her as a role model.

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

If we aren’t making our customers’ lives easier than we aren’t standing out in the way that matters. We founded Clearcover with the mission to help digitally-native consumers have a fully digital insurance company that understood their needs (which includes paying less for great coverage.)

Given our age, we’ve had the benefit of access to the latest technologies like the cloud and AI to build a convenient, personalized, and mobile-first experience. You can do everything you need to do with your car insurance policy (make payments, file a claim, chat with our Customer Advocates, etc.) on your phone. We measure our success by the efficiency of our processes so our customers can enjoy quality, convenience, and cost-savings. For example, close to 85% of our policy sales occur unassisted online. We’ve also adjusted 96% of our PD claims virtually — helping most customers to be repaid in 2 business days. Our customer satisfaction score hovers around a 95% so we feel good about what we’ve built so far but we have so much more to do.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Great question. It’s a trait that’s been important throughout all of history. From my perspective, it’s the ability to keep going when the majority of other people would quit. This ability consists of two characteristics; courage and resourcefulness. You must have the courage to keep moving forward when things are hard, and you have to be resourceful to find a path when it’s hidden. Courage isn’t the lack of fear. It’s the choice to override the fear. Couple that with the unflappable persistence to find a solution and that’s resilience made tangible.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

It’s never just one person, it’s so many people. It’s the unsung, silent heroes out there who work multiple jobs, get up early, go to bed late, and do hard things to keep others healthy and safe. This could be the single parent, the frontline nurse, or our sanitation workers. People in tech tend to get credit for doing hard things and being resilient, but I think there are millions of resilient people doing amazing things every day that deserve that attention too.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

There’s been a few times but the one that’s most relevant to Clearcover happened in 2016. After spending months ruminating, I took a risk to pitch the idea to my boss at American Family. I’ll never forget his face as he responded with obvious hesitation, “So you want to start a competitor in a market where the top four leaders spend a combined $6B on advertising every year? And you want to spend barely any money on advertising to instead focus on experience?”

From there, I’ve heard ‘You’re crazy’ at least over 100 times. Between car insurance being dominated by massive competitors, a tough regulatory market, and predictions (now outdated) that autonomous cars will eliminate the need for car insurance, the odds were not in my favor. But that’s generally how the biggest opportunities work, right?

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I can share a setback from two years ago…I don’t know if it caused me to bounce back stronger per se but it certainly made me more resilient.

Clearcover first launched insurance in California. With most products, including insurance, it takes a bit of time to understand if it’s going well — is pricing correct? Is market demand there? In less than 90 days, we had over 1500 new customers and we felt great. But we were growing too fast and in danger of running out of funding. We needed to raise a Series B..and fast.

Tomasz Tunguz at Redpoint VC once said a Series B funding is the most challenging round for a startup company and it’s very true. It’s a delicate balance of having enough proof to show the company is worth funding but not so much ‘proof’ that you’re about to grow yourself into bankruptcy.

After about 15 ‘no’s’ in a row, I had to admit to myself (and my board) that I wasn’t going to be able to raise the round in time. That was a tough conversation. American Family stepped up to help us close the new round of funding with the addition of two new investors — Cox and Hyde Park Angels.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Hmm, I have many experiences from growing up and learning from my parents. One that stands out for me happened during my senior year of high school.

During the first play of the first football game of my senior year, I tore my ACL. It was the second time in two years I tore the ACL in that knee, and it was clear that I should take the season off to heal. But football was my life at the time — I had spent most of the last six years preparing for this season and how it could launch my college career. And more importantly, our team had worked hard to prepare for the season and were relying on me to be there. I didn’t want to let them down.

So, my parents and doctors put the power to make the decision in my hands — keep playing through the pain or take a break. That was a moment where my resilience was tested — was I willing to do the nearly impossible for an accomplishment that I wanted more than anything? I decided to play the remainder of the season on a torn ACL — trying to make it through each game and help the team as much as possible.

At the end of the day, I don’t know if this was a great choice. But I don’t regret it. And having the choice itself demonstrates how my parents created a place for me to learn that life doesn’t hand you anything. You have to work for it. That’s a mindset I bring to Clearcover every day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are the 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Just 5 clear steps would be ideal but life is a bit messier than that. Everyone has to create their own steps to becoming more resilient because each individual is faced with unique challenges. Overall, my advice would be to keep choosing to do things that scare you and do it often. The more confidence you can build in your ability to actually ‘do the thing’, your own efficacy will grow and you’ll inherently become stronger.

As a start-up, Clearcover has faced many challenges in our last four years including a few catastrophic ones. None have been as challenging as maintaining our business through COVID-19 though. And one of the major reasons that we were able to survive as a business (in addition to good fortune and a supportive board) is that our team had already been tested time and time again. We’ve faced our fear before; resilience is coded into our culture. We’re still working to survive the impact of the pandemic but I’m confident in my team because they’re confident in themselves.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

How do I choose just one? It’s a long list…Warren Buffett, Mary Barra, Jeff Bezos, Serena Williams, Tricia Griffith, Jay-Z…if I had to choose, it’d likely be Jay-Z. I’ve always admired his work, both in music and business. He says it better than I…“Only two things can get you through this: that’s patience and persistence.”

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@clearcover

@Kylenakatsuji


Kyle Nakatsuji of Clearcover: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Randall Popelka of Herbalife Nutrition & Erik Cooke of Feed the Children: Rising Through…

Randall Popelka of Herbalife Nutrition & Erik Cooke of Feed the Children: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

I realize our history doesn’t suit everybody’s narrative but don’t try to rewrite history — learn from our history. The founding, creation and growth of our country is the ultimate story of resilience. Through our high and low points, we learn from our past. We are one people — one country — let’s start living that way. If you don’t like your current situation, change your situation — don’t rely on governments to change it for you. This country is based on the fundamental “Equality for All”! Take charge!

I had the pleasure of interviewing Randall Popelka, Vice President of Government Affairs at Herbalife Nutrition and Erik Cooke, Government Relations and Government Business Development, Feed the Children.

Randall Popelka serves as vice president of Global Government Affairs at Herbalife Nutrition. Based in Washington D.C., he works on a variety of policy issues for the company with the U.S. and foreign governments. He is also responsible for managing industry relations, helping ensure Herbalife Nutrition continues its industry leadership role in advancing healthy, active lifestyles, balanced nutrition; and financial empowerment.

Prior to joining Herbalife Nutrition, Mr. Popelka worked in the U.S. Senate for over 12 years as a policy advisor and legislative director for two U.S. Senators. While working in the U.S. Senate, he was responsible for providing policy guidance on multiple issues including tax, trade, technology, economic development, transportation and science related topics.

Following his work in the legislative branch, Popelka moved from Capitol Hill to the Executive Branch where he was appointed by President Bush as the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce during the tenure of Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. While at the Department of Commerce, Popelka focused on trade and technology related issues including U.S. free trade agreements with Panama, Peru, Colombia and South Korea. He also worked with the Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), a law enforcement agency dedicated to exposing waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars. His role included establishing an Office of External Affairs and working with Congress, other Federal agencies and the media to provide awareness and transparency of OIG products.

Popelka is a native of the state of Montana and holds a degree from Montana State University.

Erik Cooke heads government relations and government business development for Feed the Children, a nonprofit dedicated to ending hunger in the United States and around the world. Prior to that, he led government business development for Easterseals, one of the country’s largest disability service providers. For many years, Erik has taught a popular course at American University on theories of democracy and human rights. Past assignments in the nonprofit and government sectors include the U.S. Senate, Witness for Peace, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, the International Scholar Laureate Program, political campaigns, and a fellowship at the Center for the Study of the Presidency. He is also active in local mentoring programs and community gardens. Erik holds degrees in government and international politics from George Mason University and comparative politics from American University.

Thank you so much for joining us Eric and Randall! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

The path to my current position was mostly influenced from my work in the Legislative and Executive Branches of our U.S. Government. My career has been focused on addressing challenges for business growth and opportunities — promoting jobs and economic development for Americans on a domestic and international level. In my current position, I use those skills to promote Herbalife Nutrition’s mission — ensuring our business model can succeed in a manner that protects our consumers, promotes our great product and creates awareness to issues related to food security and hunger.

(EC) I actually started in the mail room on Capitol Hill. Back then in Congress, the entry level staff members were called Staff Assistants. I had a range of jobs, all at once, from driving the senator, opening the mail, fixing the computers, and whatever else needed to be done. After that, I had a few other political and Hill jobs before moving to nonprofits and education. Even years later, running a team on a campaign, at a university, or in a nonprofit office, I’ve always wanted to know what everyone was doing so that I could jump in and help if needed.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

(RP) It’s really a culmination of my career — mostly working on Capitol Hill. Many leaders of all backgrounds came through the office to meet with the elected officials I worked for. It was those meetings that I learned how legislation and regulations impacted our economy, jobs, the daily lives of our fellow citizens. This input was important. The legislative process is incomplete without it.

(EC) One of the most memorable moments to me was years ago, when I brought my son in for take your kids to work day. He was four years old. He wore a collared shirt and tie. He walked around to everyone’s desk and asked them what they did. When he came back to me, he said that I must work with very important people because they all were all very happy to be there. Then he told me that I must have an important job because I help to make them happy. There aren’t many days when I don’t pause and remember that.

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

(RP) Herbalife Nutrition is really two companies in one — the company is a direct selling company in which independent contractors — called distributors — create their own business and sell the product — the best part of this business model is that the distributors are consumers of the product so not only do they know the product, they can also work with consumers to help them meet their weight management goals. The other half of the company is defined by the product proven and refined over the last 40 years. Our biggest advantage is our quality control. Combining the high touch of the business model with the great product and the proof is in the results! We all know how difficult it is to stay motivated — eat healthy, exercise regularly. When you belong to a community of like-minded people using a common product, it’s amazing to see the energy and results! I’ve met several of our distributors over the years and they all carry a level of charisma and enthusiasm you won’t ever find in any retail store. They are amazing!

(EC) Feed the Children is a unique entity. Most of our peer organizations are based on the coasts and specialize in either domestic work or international work. At Feed the Children, our mission leads us to work in both domains, and with the perspective of an organization from the heartland. I’m not saying that’s better, but it is unique, and I remind my team and the folks we lobby of the distinctive value that we bring to whatever we’re working on.

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?

(RP) I’m most grateful to those I’ve worked with who understand the value of real leadership and are confident enough to encourage self-motivation and drive within their teams. If you have good people working on your team and provide a collaborative foundation for them to do their job, the gears turn!

(EC) That’s hard to answer, only because there are so many people who have given me a needed boost in career and life. I’d say that my friend, Liz Ching, who helped run the district office for my US Senator and helped me get my first job in Washington is maybe the most pivotal. I was a very young 20 years old and leaving my coffee shop job to work with a photographer. Liz enthusiastically pressed me into service to work for the Senator in Washington. It all had to come together in a few days, and it did! I moved to DC, sight unseen, and have happily been here for more than 20 years. I always try to emulate that enthusiastic encouragement with others. There’s something about just being someone’s cheerleader that can give them the needed margin of courage to change their lives.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

(RP) Resilience is a necessity in the world of politics. Thick skin required. It’s my job to work with anybody and everybody — Republicans and Democrats alike — I leave my personal beliefs and opinions at home. Authenticity is also important — if you can’t understand and see the empathy in another party’s plight, you’ll not be taken seriously in today’s environment. In my perfect world, there are no real losers — but there’s always a path to common ground.

(EC) I don’t think that resilience is a single thing. There is the resilience that shows up as an individual’s ability to recover and face challenges. And oftentimes that’s as far as we think of the idea. It’s all on the individual. But I also think we need to pay much more attention to how our communities, policies and systems support people and their resilience. On an individual level, we can see how some people are like rubber bands — they snap right back. That’s wonderful and we should encourage and honor that. But we often attribute resilience or its absence solely to individuals, and that’s usually misleading. What about their starting line, what about their upbringing, what about the support they get that helps them develop that resilience? That’s why our work at Feed the Children is critical. Our starting point is that in order for kids to thrive and grow into resilient, strong adults they need some basics covered. Food, educational supplies, role models, support when disaster strikes. The fact that they might not have enough of those things is no fault of theirs as individuals, yet those are critical ingredients to their long-term resilience. Only once people have what they need — food, security, love and support — does it make sense to start talking about building individual resilience.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

(RP) Not trying to seize on our current social environment but I believe resilience is ultimately defined by Martin Luther King Jr. I mean, given the mountain he climbed and overcame in the face of such fierce division and intolerance. And, in retrospect, he did it for all of humanity, not just a race. He was focused, used his platform with integrity, all while promoting a peaceful approach to change. Patience is a virtue for most but for King, it was his foundation.

(EC) In truth, no single person holds this title for me. When you look for it you see it everywhere — like when you buy a new car and see it everywhere. There are a lot of famous folks — Malala, Robin Roberts, Gabby Giffords. But I also think of moms on the train wrangling kids and your coworker who’s well beyond retirement age. I do have a very personal hero, a cousin who has since passed away. He was born severely autistic and approached every day as an opportunity, as though he had the right to be there. It’s not that he never got frustrated or was always happy, but he approached every day ready to give it another shot. Despite all the challenges that he lived with every day — dietary, medications, speech difficulties — he never gave up on grabbing every day with both hands. It’s the only sensible way to be, and I sometimes remind myself that I’m using excuses not to try that my cousin never would.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

(RP) I find many people are generally quick to criticize and take a negative approach to life. It’s just more difficult for people to think positive and respond with encouragement. I try to make this my goal — be positive. Give everybody a chance to succeed. That’s particularly true where politics, policy and advocacy intersect. You can’t just read a textbook to understand Capitol Hill, you need to experience it. Once you do, you’ll realize there is no one single solution to any problem — not only are the many solutions but the solutions are always evolving.

(EC) I’m incredibly lucky to have had support throughout my life. Especially from my parents, they held me close enough to support me but not so close that I didn’t have to do the work. I will say that there were times when I saw a collective head-scratching from my friends and family, especially early in my career. When I first came to Washington and for several years, I had not completed college. I remember that following the 2000 political campaign, during which I worked in my home state, I decided to return to DC and then find a job. I had to regularly reassure my family that I would be okay. Until I actually had a job, I don’t think that they were sure. I may have been overconfident, but their support and love allowed me the room to take that risk.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

(RP) In a former role, I was terminated as part of an M&A process in which my office was eliminated. It was devastating as it all happened so quickly. Totally out of my control. However, I realized I had no choice but to move forward — I started interviewing for multiple positions while consulting for former clients who were seeking assistance — four months later I was offered a position with two different organizations — I accepted the position with Herbalife Nutrition.

(EC) We all face setbacks all the time. It just depends on how we remember them. Were they the times that we got cheated or failed, or were they the times in which we learned and showed ourselves that we would try again in spite of getting knocked down? Just to pick one — several years ago I fell and broke my kneecap, which was a much more difficult recovery than I would have imagined. On top of that, in the course of my care my doctor accidentally broke it again, extending my recovery. It took me years of therapy, training, and practice to recover. In the course of that recovery, I realized that I didn’t want to just return to how I was before, but to improve. So, I continued my training and rediscovered running. Today I regularly run races and am in better condition than ever before. It’s turned out to be such a critical practice, and running has been my lifeline during a period of personal turmoil over the past couple of years.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

(RP) I grew up on a cattle ranch in the middle of nowhere in Montana. So yes, I have a story or two about resilience. We hunted for our food — big game animals like deer and elk — it was what we did — it was how we were raised. Harvesting the animal is only half the battle. Getting the animal off the mountain is always the other half.

(EC) I think that one of the most formative aspects of my childhood was being born with a cleft palate. I was incredibly lucky to have the parents I have and to receive excellent medical care and therapy, but through the course of that part of my childhood, I had to regularly confront surgery and medical appointments, speech impediments, my body image, pain management, and occasional childhood bullying. There was something about grappling with my life and the world, with the support of my wonderful parents, that gave me a strong training ground for dealing with the challenges in life. I remember my dad telling me when I was 17 and aging out of the state service system that we met with the plastic surgeon who reconstructed my face when I was young. The surgeon — a wonderful guy — asked me if I wanted any additional reconstruction of nose and lip to further subdue the evidence of my cleft. The care would be covered at no cost to my family and the doctor assured me that no one would ever know that I had a cleft palate. According to Dad, I calmly and confidently told him that I was happy with how I looked and didn’t need the surgery. Dad told me that was the day he was proudest of me and knew that he raised a strong child. I carry that with me every day.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

(RP)

  1. Listen and learn from other people — people want to talk about themselves and share their experience and guidance. Your job is to take the best. I say that to my children — watch your parents, learn from your parents: adopt those traits you admire and learn from those you don’t.
  2. If you are hired for a job, do your job but find ways to expand your job description. Do the work that others won’t do or don’t want to do. That’s the guy who stands out.
  3. Read a book. Stop watching You Tube and Tik Tok. You know who you are….
  4. Be patient and flexible — learn to adapt — your ability to adapt is your key to success. During my career, I’ve had my share of managers who didn’t know how to manage. It’s better to adapt and help those managers become better at what they do than to resist. And if that doesn’t work, take them hiking in the mountains and push them off a cliff.
  5. Always be positive! Negativity is paralyzing not only for you but for your team.

(EC) I believe the first step has to be recognizing that life will often be hard, unfair, or otherwise defy your expectations. Once you accept that, then you have decisions to make. Will you let your circumstances define you? Will you keep trying? Will you accept the support of people around you? What is worth doing even when things don’t go your way? Adversity can be refining. If you can smile in the face of unkindness, if you can be a good friend even after not having one, if you can keep practicing your craft even when you know you aren’t good, then you will become a better version of yourself.

I had a student several years ago whose first language wasn’t English. He was very frustrated in expressing himself in class and in his writing. Early on in the semester, he came to my office and shared his disappointment and fear that he was going to fail. I felt his pain, and especially because he had very sophisticated and original thinking that he really wanted to express. At some point, after coming into visit me regularly, he said basically, I’m not good at communicating in English and I need to get better. What was remarkable was that you could see the emotional clouds had cleared and he was stating a fact. We identified a number of resources, including ESL writing, an academic tutor, and a writing support group. He was basically working the equivalent of a part-time job to improve his English writing. By the end of the course, not only did he have one of the best term papers but had applied for and received several scholarships for grad school. It was such a joy to witness that transformation.

You are both people 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. 🙂

(RP) Learning U.S. history. I realize our history doesn’t suit everybody’s narrative but don’t try to rewrite history — learn from our history. The founding, creation and growth of our country is the ultimate story of resilience. Through our high and low points, we learn from our past. We are one people — one country — let’s start living that way. If you don’t like your current situation, change your situation — don’t rely on governments to change it for you. This country is based on the fundamental “Equality for All”! Take charge!

(EC) I vote with my work. Organizations such as Feed the Children that support children and vulnerable people help make society live its values. I believe we’re judged by how we care for the most vulnerable among us.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

(RP) Dwight Schrute

(EC) How do you choose one person? I love to talk with artists and creators about what inspires their work. I would have wanted to meet the late Octavia Butler, who was a pioneer in science fiction. Currently, I would have to say the inimitable Tawny Newsome, who is a force of nature. I don’t know how she has time to be incredible across all the media that she’s on — recording artist, podcaster, actor. She proves the power of comedy and art as a voice of clarity. If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend anything she’s in.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

(RP) iamherbalifenutrition.com

(EC)

  • Facebook: @feedthechildren
  • Twitter: @erikwcooke and @feedthechildren
  • Instagram: @feedthechildrenorg


Randall Popelka of Herbalife Nutrition & Erik Cooke of Feed the Children: Rising Through… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Deb Boelkes: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Heartfelt leaders inspire everyone to be the best they can be. Heartfelt leaders strive to align the personal goals and career visions of each team member with the goals and vision of the organization.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Deb Boelkes.

Deb is the founder of the leadership development firm Business World Rising, LLC. She is also the award-winning author of The WOW Factor Workplace: How to Create a Best Place to Work Culture and Heartfelt Leadership: How to Capture the Top Spot and Keep on Soaring .

Deb is not just a role model heartfelt leader; she’s the ultimate authority on creating best places to work, with 25+ years in Fortune 150 technology firms, leading superstar business development organizations and global services operations. As an entrepreneur, Deb has accelerated advancement for women to senior leadership. As a keynote speaker, Deb has delighted and inspired over 1,000 audiences across North America.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I was the only child of parents who were born during the Great Depression. They were strong believers that you could do anything if you put your mind to it. While growing up, they continuously reminded me “anything worth doing is worth doing well.”

I started working at age 12, during summer breaks and school holidays–for $1 a day–as an office clerk in my dad’s agricultural irrigation company in California’s San Joaquin Valley. I was interfacing with customers and I found the goings-on in the C-suite especially fascinating.

After obtaining my MBA, I went to work as a Systems Engineer for the Pacific Bell Telephone Company, in a business segment which became AT&T. I was immediately assigned to resolve a disastrous call center system implementation for the largest cable television company in Los Angeles. I pulled all-nighters for about a week, working remotely by phone with Bell Laboratories to get fixes developed ASAP. Saving the account, I was immediately promoted. Forever after, I was attracted to seemingly impossible, bleeding edge, high visibility projects.

Most of my Fortune 150 leadership career was with IBM and Arrow Electronics where I founded and spearheaded services development organizations dedicated to global 500 technology clients. Most of my direct reports were remotely deployed, initially throughout the country and eventually worldwide. Along the way, I acquired a reputation as an engaging and passionate, heartfelt leader who inspired and built talented teams that could be counted on to achieve the impossible.

Over the past decade, as an entrepreneur, my business focus has evolved to helping organizations become best places to work, where leaders at all levels inspire everyone to be at their best day-in and day-out.

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

Some years ago, while I was working for Arrow Electronics, a Fortune 150 technology distribution company, I was in charge of information service offerings for global technology manufacturers. As such, I become an expert on international law and regulations impacting technology manufacturing firms.

Seemingly out of the blue, the Chinese government announced it would be instituting new regulations to restrict the use of hazardous substances in electronic products to be manufactured in China. Within just six months, China would require new labeling on all electronic technology packaging. Any electronic components shipped into China would be prevented from delivery to manufacturing sites within China if not properly labeled with all the chemical substances used in the manufacture of the components.

Our company’s inability to meet the new labeling requirement could mean hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of our electronic components could be turned away at the border. Worse yet, our customers who manufactured their products in China could be out billions of dollars in finished goods which would not be allowed to ship out of China to their end customers throughout the rest of world. Not meeting the pending Chinese regulations could have almost unimaginable consequences for technology manufacturers and their customers worldwide.

I personally contacted every relevant internal senior leader in every country where we had operations. I asked them to dedicate staff to work with my organization to define and implement a solution to revise our business operations, our database management systems, our product labeling processes, and our shipping procedures. This was especially onerous given our numerous distribution hubs around the world all utilized different systems and procedures.

Talk about a huge remote team management opportunity! This was one of the most complex, time critical projects our company had ever undertaken. Employees worldwide who had never before worked together in unison had to flawlessly design business processes for systems that had never been coordinated before. To our C-Suite executives, the project seemed impossible given the unreasonably short time frame.

It helped that I was known throughout the company as the expert on the subject. Within days, I had commitments from virtually every person in the company who needed to be involved. Mind you, this was in the days before Zoom or other desktop based virtual meeting technology.

I immediately instituted daily telephone conference calls in which nearly 100 individuals from around the world participated…not an easy task, given all the time zones to consider. Fortunately, the participants were unusually flexible and eager to be part of such a vast undertaking. Some of our best and brightest people, in country after country, stepped up to the plate. We educated each other as needed. Certainly, none of us alone had the expertise or wherewithal to map out a solution as complex as would be required to address this challenge.

We had no choice but to jump into immediate action to work seamlessly and flawlessly together to meet the looming deadline. No other projects mattered. If anything got in our way, I would immediately go to the Chief Compliance Officer. If necessary, he would go to the CEO and we would quickly get whatever we needed.

To make a long story short, we designed and implemented new global databases along with new shipping and labeling processes with just days to spare. We did the seemingly impossible.

Wherever they were in the world, every single member of this ad hoc team gave it their personal best–the few who didn’t were quickly removed from the group. Virtually everyone maintained a positive can-do attitude for the duration of this WOW project. Of course, our customers were incredibly grateful and we were rewarded for it with even more of their business in the ensuing months.

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?

About five years into my career I was recruited away from AT&T to work for IBM, back in the days when voice and data technology integration was touted as the wave of the future. IBM hired me into a telecommunications consulting group, thanks to my technical expertise. Little did they know I was expecting my second child at the time.

Fast forward a few months. I had just returned from a 6-week maternity leave. I was to lead a full-day, educational presentation for all the other IBM technical consultants, all men and all senior to me, about AT&T’s technology. Never-the-less, I was confident there was virtually nothing they could ask me that I couldn’t address better than anyone else in the business.

Mind you, this was back in the days when John T. Malloy’s book, Dress for Success, was the ultimate guide for business attire. Everyone who worked in sales or consulting at AT&T and IBM at the time wore conservatively tailored business suits, per Dress for Success guidelines.

On the day of my big presentation, I wore my most expensive camelhair business suit, quite elegant. I definitely looked the part of the seasoned expert. Speaking confidently in front of my audience all day, I handled every question with aplomb and commended myself for an exemplary job educating my new IBM colleagues.

At the end, I received a rousing round of applause. Several men in the audience congratulated me on a job well done. When the final admirer approached to shake my hand, he offered these kudos, “You did a great job today. I was especially impressed that you could stand up in front of all these men, all day long, with baby spit-up all down the back of your sleeve”.

I looked at him quizzically, assuming he was deliberately making an inappropriate, sexist joke, just to throw me off my game. I simply grinned in response.

“I’m serious,” he said, as he pointed to the back of my right arm.

Somewhat annoyed, I pulled my right arm forward and looked at the back of my sleeve. Sure enough, there was stale, caked on and dried baby-spit up all the way down the back of my sleeve, from my shoulder to my elbow. I was mortified.

The moral to the story is: whenever going anywhere important, whether visiting a customer or speaking in front of an audience, take a quick 360 degree look at yourself in the mirror before going in. You just never know what you might have sat in or had spilled on you.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

It’s important to know each of your direct reports’ personal objectives so you can ensure their personal goals are aligned with achieving the goals of your organization. You won’t inspire your employees to thrive and be at their best, day-in and day-out, if you aren’t tapping into their passions, enabling them to do something meaningful to them, something they enjoy doing.

Have regular conversations with every team member to develop trusting relationships and make the workplace as engaging as possible. If your employees love what they are doing, work won’t be work for them. It will be a joy. The job will actually give them energy rather than cause burnout.

If an employee isn’t happy in their role, you owe it to them, yourself, and everyone else to find out why they aren’t happy. Have a heart-to-heart, non-judgmental conversation to find out what’s not working for them. Then either do what’s necessary to get the roadblocks out of their way, realign roles, or make other changes that better suite everyone’s ambitions and needs.

If you have an employee who just doesn’t fit with the culture, or who is incapable of meeting the needs of the organization, then help that individual move on to something more in line with their passions and personal vision of success, even if it means helping them leave the business.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been managing remote teams for over 25 years.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Getting to know your remote reports well. Whether your direct reports are working right outside your office door or in their own apartment half way around the world, the same kinds of things keep people inspired and engaged: A mission, products, and services that team members take deep pride in; feeling they have a career instead of a job; skills they learn that help them to succeed within your organization and in their career; skills they learn that help them to feel happy, fulfilled and successful in the rest of their lives; friendship, camaraderie, and a strong sense of belonging.

Maintaining that strong sense of belonging can be a challenge, yet it’s especially important for remote reports. Whatever it takes, find ways to routinely keep each team member informed about what is going on, what’s expected of them, and what they can expect of you. More than anything, take time to listen to them. This builds trust.

Pick up the phone, make a webcam call, leave a video message, send short emails or an occasional text to keep team members updated in real time. Be transparent. Share what you know and ask them what they know on a regular basis. The more they know about what’s going on in the business, and the more you know what’s going on with them, both in their jobs and in their lives, the more connected, comfortable and assured each of you will feel. Don’t underestimate the importance of having pre-scheduled virtual performance reviews and professional development one-on-ones at least once a month, if not more often.

Eagerly encourage your remote team members to contact you, at their convenience rather than yours, to ask questions, express their feedback about what’s working and not working, and share their concerns. Let them know your virtual door is always open.

Even when my own direct reports and I were working in the same office, I proactively made time to chat with them regularly, both informally and formally, at the times and in the ways that worked for them. It should be no different with remote reports.

Start today by asking each remote individual how they would prefer to keep the lines of communication open and flowing with you. Some people prefer to have set times and durations for conversation, some prefer to talk by phone, some prefer Zoom, Skype or Facetime. Some prefer to call when they have something urgent or an unexpected minute to spare. It’s up to you, as the leader, to flex to the time and method that works best for them.

If you haven’t done so recently, ask each one of them, “What keeps you at our company?” You might be amazed at what you will learn. Ask about their career goals. Make sure they know they have your full support in working toward achieving their dreams and desires, whatever they are. Determine how, in the current situation, they can best align their unique strengths, evolving professional objectives and personal needs to best support the organization’s objectives, including any new business objectives that may have recently evolved. Let them know you care about what’s important to them.

During your one-on-ones, ask, “What might lure you away from here?” What they tell you today might be totally different than what they might have told you when they were working in the office or when life was more predictable. There may never be a better time to create a new position or a new set of responsibilities that will allow them to do what they love AND help take the organization in a new or different direction.

I made a point of making sure my remote reports knew my schedule, when I would be in meetings, what times I was most likely to be free. They also knew that, aside from my own family, they were my most important priority. They were to never feel they were bothering me or intruding. I was always happy to take their calls, even when I was on the road, driving somewhere. I tried to arrange at least one or two face-to-face meetings each year, if not more often. Difficult conversations were never difficult because we knew each other so well and we really trusted each other.

As a remote report myself, I made a habit of calling my own manager each and every morning, as I was driving to work or as soon as I sat down at my desk, before any other distractions got in the way. This way, we were able to shoot the breeze before diving into work issues. On Monday mornings we’d update each other about our weekends. We developed close friendships as a result.

Knowing in advance who will work well in a remote / isolated environment and who probably won’t. It’s important to keep in mind that some people simply don’t do well working remotely, on their own. It is normal for some people to feel isolated and unproductive when working alone. Some become distracted or even depressed without routine face-to-face interaction with co-workers.

If you’ve had the luxury of working directly with a team member for a while before moving them into a remote reporting assignment, you may be able to readily assess from their work habits–such as their ability to work without direction–or by observing their interactions with others, that they could be at risk of disengagement if not working with or around others. Knowing in advance about such tendencies can pay dividends, as you can plan up-front to mitigate the potential downside triggers.

But how can you really know in advance that a team member might not work well alone? Often, the best way is to ask them. If you have developed a close, trusting relationship, they should feel comfortable telling you the kind of support they might need to stay engaged and work at peak levels.

Even then, sometimes we get surprised. I recall hiring one new employee, in particular, into a remote reporting business development position. He had a great resume and references. He had graduated from a highly regarded university and he had held a similar position before, albeit in a different industry segment. I flew out to meet him before deciding to extend an offer. He was enthusiastic about the role and I believed he would make a great addition to my team of remote reports.

Over the ensuing months, we regularly chatted about the client opportunities he was developing. Things seemed to be going well until none of the deals he had forecasted closed. I started calling him every few days to discuss what he was doing and offer my assistance. He always turned down my offers of help. He insisted he was quite capable of succeeding on his own. He said he just needed a little more time.

Eventually, I called some of his target clients, either to introduce myself or to personally follow-up after he had introduced me to them on conference calls. I was surprised to discover he wasn’t actually making the in-person client calls he was reporting. I then called the university listed on his resume to confirm his degree, something I thought our Human Resources department had done before we extended an offer, only to discover he had not graduated. He had only attended for a few semesters. He had lied on his resume.

Upon learning that, I immediately flew out to meet him face-to-face and share what I had learned. Surprisingly, he still insisted he had graduated from that university and conjectured they had made a mistake. He also insisted he was indeed calling on the customers as reported, but he had not been meeting with the decision makers I had apparently called on the phone.

To get him back on the right track with business development, I immediately put him on a performance improvement plan with clearly defined Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Reasonable and Time-bound (SMART) goals, to which he agreed. I made clear to him what would happen if he did not achieve the performance objectives and, once again, offered my dedicated assistance if and when we needed it. He knew that failure to achieve the objectives within the defined time frame would result in termination.

To make a long story short, he never asked for my assistance and he failed to attain the agreed-upon results. He was one of the few people I ever fired in my 25 years in corporate leadership. When I fired him, I flew out to meet with him in person. His termination was no surprise and we parted amicably.

Sometimes you just can’t know in advance who will work well as a remote report, but the situation I just described has certainly not been my typical experience.

Correctly reading the early warning signs that a remote report is not happy or engaged. Even those who normally do work well on their own can have situations in their personal lives that unexpectedly take their toll.

With all the unexpected pandemic-related issues, many otherwise highly capable remote employees may struggle to weave their business responsibilities around new, additional responsibilities of homeschooling and childcare. Single parents may be particularly overwhelmed by managing both work and family duties simultaneously, especially if they have infants or toddlers and no one else to rely on for child care assistance. You as the leader might be struggling with these things yourself.

For reasons like these and more, it’s especially important to keep your virtual door open and the communication lines flowing, so you as the leader can catch the early warning signals and take corrective action as quickly as possible.

I once hired a young woman to remotely report to me, working out of her home office as a technology consultant in the national practice I managed. When I hired her, she assured me she was quite accustomed to working from home. She had done it for years in a similar role before joining our team. For well over a year she was a stellar performer.

What I was not aware of was, at some point after that first year, her husband was laid off from his job and their marriage began to unravel. Working from home became extremely difficult for her. I took notice when, suddenly, she was not her usual cheerful, highly motivated self and her performance began to decline.

Had I not already formed a close bond with her, I may have never discovered what had transpired, nor would I have been able to quickly help get her work life back on track. Fortunately, before too long, she broke down and confided in me, apologizing for her sub-par performance. I was able to refer her to counseling through our company’s Employee Assistance Program. I temporarily reassigned some of her accounts to other members of the team while she worked things out in her personal life.

If you suddenly find your own remote reports struggling to stay engaged, proactively take the opportunity to have a heart-to-heart conversation. Find out what’s causing the downslide and then dialogue together on how to help them regain their footing.

Solutions might be as simple as allowing the team member to revise their work schedule to better coordinate with a life partner’s schedule. Alternatively, you might encourage the individual to volunteer to be part of a small group that rotates into an office or a company warehouse every few days where other people are working yet maintaining social distance. Such an option might give them a chance to get away from the confines of home; give them something to look forward to; bolster their sense of self-worth, well-being, and belonging; and enable them to stay engaged and productive.

Setting appropriate objectives, measuring results, and holding remote team members accountable. Both in good times and in bad, the leader’s role–at any level–is to define and communicate the organizational strategy and the objectives to be achieved. The leader is responsible for explaining the why of the mission and the intended outcome.

Not understanding the intent of the mission or why things are being done the way they are can be a big de-motivator. Failure to communicate on the leader’s part will surely cause a failure to perform by those reporting to them, regardless of whether they are working in the office or remotely.

Of course, most individuals working in sales or in a call center environment are used to having sales targets or call metrics assigned, by which their performance is measured. For anyone who isn’t already accountable for such objective performance metrics, consider initiating a performance-based Management by Objectives (MBO) program. This can be especially important for managing remote reports.

Keep in mind that it’s happy, engaged employees who make your workplace a WOW factor workplace. Only happy and engaged employees turn customers into raving fans. Demotivated employees rarely do. Therefore any Management by Objectives program must be carefully designed to ensure fairness and buy-in and foster engagement.

Any individual’s performance objectives should be clearly tied to achieving the objectives of the business and reflect whatever it is that motivates and engages the employee to be at their best. One size may not fit all remote reports, even those in the same role.

A poorly defined MBO program can be a huge de-motivator. For this reason, be sure to discuss with each individual what it will take to maintain a “Best Place to Work” environment–in their view–whether it be in a temporary or permanent remote work location. Let them decide what time frame will work best in terms of reviewing their performance (i.e. daily, weekly, bi-weekly, ad hoc). Let them decide if holding them accountable to measurable internal or external customer satisfaction ratings might make sense.

Then, with MBOs defined and agreed to, be available whenever the remote employee needs you. Be willing to listen to their concerns and mentor them. Help each team member feel empowered and confident in taking initiative for solving problems for themselves. Your efforts to help them learn, become more self-sufficient, and be more productive will be appreciated.

When it becomes clear that roadblocks can only be dealt with effectively by you, as the leader, do whatever you can to get the roadblocks out of the way as quickly as possible. Provide whatever tools are necessary for them to perform at their personal best. You should never be the reason an employee fails to achieve their MBOs.

The late Teresa Laraba, who until her death served as Senior Vice President of Customers for Southwest Airlines, told me this:

The leaders I’ve worked with, who have reported to me, who really connect with their teams and know how to get back to them when they have questions and help provide them with the tools they need with the sense of urgency to do their job are the ones I consider to be indispensable.

It takes discipline to be excellent at follow-through. It takes discipline to have a sense of urgency to get your employees the tools they need. You can’t do any of that if you haven’t tapped into them.

The most important feedback we get, as leaders, is when our employees don’t feel like we follow back up with them.

Communicating by email. Email is still one of the most widely used communication tools in the workplace. It’s quick. It’s simple. It’s accessible from most anywhere. It allows for efficient mass distribution of information, and it can be referenced time and time again. Email is especially effective when it comes to clearly communicating specific details.

Yet, some things are best communicated by other means. It’s not unusual for the simplest, seemingly straight forward email message to be misinterpreted by the recipient. Such misunderstandings can be especially problematic when the subject matter is sensitive or corrective in nature, or could be construed as degrading or laying blame.

When communicating with team members, especially with those working remotely, minimize the use of email whenever there is a more effective medium such as Skype or Zoom, telephone, or even a quick text message. Declare a moratorium on sending out your own work-related emails after business hours.

One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from employees, whenever I’ve conducted 360 degree reviews of CEOs, is about receiving emails from the boss on weekends or late at night. As the leader, if you feel compelled to write an email after an employee’s normal business hours, save it as a draft until the next business day. This is a small but very important way to give the employee their personal time back, a small courtesy that can make a huge difference in employee engagement.

Of course, people will do almost anything for a leader who is appreciative and praises their efforts, especially in times of struggle. Be especially forthcoming with good news and praises for jobs well done. Good news and praise can be quite effectively communicated by email because of its permanence and ease in sharing on a broad basis.

However, before sending out even the best of news about specific individuals in an email, try to have a person-to-person conversation with the individual(s) to be highlighted. Let them know the news before notifying others, if possible. Make your initial conversation with the target individual as personal and as meaningful as possible, and gauge their response. Afford them the opportunity to put their stamp of approval on any message to be distributed to a broader audience.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Corrective suggestions or criticisms of any kind are usually best communicated face-to-face, even if that means using some kind of video technology. If an in-person meeting or a video call is not a viable option, arrange to have a private phone conversation when there will be no distractions, no one else listening in, and plenty of time for a candid, heart-to-heart dialogue.

Over the years, I have found the best outcomes are typically achieved by first taking time to address any other important outstanding issues the employee may have, which may or may not have anything to do with the topic you ultimately intend to address. By first dealing with the employee’s most important issue, they will then be better able to give you their undivided attention, when it’s your turn.

At that point, start by asking the employee how they perceive things to going relative to the issue you need to address. By giving them the floor to speak on the subject first will put them more at ease and in control. It will also afford them the opportunity to bring up whatever might be bothering them about the subject at hand. It may well be that the issue is something they have wanted help with but were afraid to ask. Now you will have given them the perfect opportunity to ask for your input and guidance. You will now be in a much better position to serve as a mentor and friend.

Before offering advice, take the opportunity to ask open-ended clarifying questions. Let the employee fully share whatever they know. Encourage them to express how they feel about the situation. By seeing the issue through their eyes as well as through your own, you will be better able to judge what is really going on.

The more insights you have, the better the solution the two of you will be able to define together, as a unified, cohesive team. Any suggestions you may offer will likely to be better received. In the end, this kind of process can help build stronger bonds between the two of you, regardless of whether you are face-to-face or on the phone.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

In the words of the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, “Be slow to correct and quick to commend.”

It is always risky to convey “constructive” feedback via email because there is always the potential that your comments will be taken in a way that you did not intend. It’s best to have such conversations face-to-face or over the phone.

I personally consider the use of email in such cases as a coward’s way out. It’s like hurling a grenade over a wall and then running away before the explosion occurs. It’s best not to engage that way if it’s at all possible to handle the issue via other means. If it’s absolutely necessary to communicate only by email, it’s best to do so when the employee asks you for your feedback or advice.

I also find it works best when you can put caveats around your comments, like, “I know your situation is unique and that the people are different, but when I had a similar situation (describing your former challenge), I took x, y, and z actions. That worked for me in that case because of factors a, b, and c (or it didn’t work the way I expected because of d, e and f factors). Given that, maybe we can talk through your situation together and explore alternatives to address it differently. We could even role-play, if you’d like.”

This way, you put yourself in the position of being a mentor and friend versus playing the know-it-all critic and you keep the conversation door open for helpful and effective dialogue.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Organizations the world over have had little choice but to work from home during the pandemic. Some people are working even longer hours than normal to support customers across the country and around the world. Worse yet, some are facing furloughs and potential layoffs. No matter where you are, people at all levels are scared.

As a team leader, now is definitely not the time to mentally check out. To the contrary, now is the time for you to lean in. Likewise, now is not the time to allow team members to mentally check out, become frustrated, or depressed, which can certainly happen to those not used to working alone.

The best way to help team members lean in is for you, the leader, to be even more visible and readily accessible than you might have been in the office, even if it’s only possible to do using online technology.

Garry Ridge, Chairman and CEO of the WD-40 Company shared in my book, Heartfelt Leadership, “In hard times, as a leader, you need to be more visible than ever before. We’ve got to be there, in the moment, when people need us.”

Ridge continued, “I’ll tell you a funny story. When we were going through the global financial crisis in 2008, I observed people in the company as I’d wander around this office or any of our other offices around the world. People were asking me more often, ‘How are you?’ I realized they were looking to me, in their time of uncertainty and fear, to give them that little bit of security to carry them through. Leaders need to make sure in times of trouble they are visible.”

Some team members and even leaders can become especially frustrated when challenged by technology issues at home. Rather than allowing anyone to struggle, ask your team’s more techno-savvy staff members to make themselves available to help teammates by phone, when needed. Enable these techno-savvy team members to make it their first priority, during this transition / adjustment period, to do whatever it takes to help get the technology roadblocks out of way of their teammates as quickly as possible.

Understand that both managers and team members may find it necessary to learn some new tricks when it comes to communicating by video chat with those they are normally used to seeing in the next cubicle. Make it clear to everyone on the team that if anyone is challenged by Skype or Zoom or other business technology at home, they should not hesitate to call the “resource buddies” on your team, those more comfortable and proficient with using that technology. And be forgiving if people are late to virtual meetings due to technical challenges.

The designated “resource buddies” may feel more needed than ever and honored to assist their teammates with the kinds of things they simply take for granted. This new role might even increase their confidence when communicating with higher-ups who are behaving in an unusually humble manner. It can also help build new bridges between team members.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

The best leaders will accept these challenging times as an outstanding opportunity to learn. They will be grateful for the chance to take their leadership skills to an entirely new level. They will use this time as a catalyst to test their mettle. They will leave their egos at the door and embrace this new conundrum with humility. No matter where you are on the organizational ladder, be this kind of leader.

Working remotely, or alone for a change, might enable team members to see things from a completely new perspective. Encourage all team members to seek to understand the cause of any new issues that will undoubtedly arise. Prepare them to anticipate quickly changing demand, delivery challenges, supply chain limitations, as well as opportunities to serve new markets. Ask them to share any ideas they may have to improve internal processes, operations, products, services, vendor relations, client services, and/or the customer experiences in light of the current situation. Take advantage of the new paradigm to learn and adjust.

Encourage everyone on the team to maintain meaningful relationships while working apart. Foster networking between team members. Create online task forces, as needed, to solve new problems that may now come up. Ask for volunteers from different departments–or from key customer accounts and/or from suppliers–to keep ideas flowing and everyone engaged, working together toward achieving common goals.

Whatever it takes, find new ways to keep team members informed about what is going on, what’s expected of them, and what they can expect of you. Be readily available and willing to listen to team member concerns and mentor them. Help each team member feel empowered and confident to take the initiative for solving problems for themselves, to the fullest extent they can.

Your efforts to help team members learn, become more self-sufficient and more productive will be greatly appreciated. It might even set your team up to work in new ways that will be even more effective and efficient than when they were in the office.

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 love to inspire a movement that will turn all organizations, the world over, into Best Places to Work — WOW factor workplaces — through Heartfelt Leadership.

Heartfelt leaders inspire everyone to be the best they can be. Heartfelt leaders strive to align the personal goals and career visions of each team member with the goals and vision of the organization.

Team members choose to follow Heartfelt Leaders because they want to, not because they have to. Shared vision and passion becomes achievable. Enduring success becomes a team sport.

With a Heartfelt Leadership movement, everyone in every workplace would find purpose, meaning, joy, and fulfillment at work, each and every day.

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

For many years I kept a brightly colored sign hanging on the wall behind my office desk which said:

Attitude is everything. Pick a good one.

I still keep a small version of this sign in my kitchen for all my family and friends to see and take to heart.

I learned long ago, and it’s paid dividends ever since, that conveying an “I’m confident we can do this” attitude is sometimes all that is needed to generate the talent, the ideas, and the traction necessary to make WOW factor results a reality.

When I was writing my first two books, The WOW Factor Workplace and Heartfelt Leadership, I found that virtually all the heartfelt leaders we interviewed–those who were identified by their team members as “the best boss I ever had”, the kind of leaders people want to follow and would do anything for–were firm believers in hiring for attitude. Skills can be taught, but a positive, upbeat attitude is innate and fundamental to engagement and success.

You have the ability to determine your attitude. Don’t let others determine it for you. Set your own attitude sails. Strive to be a positive attitude role model.

This all goes hand-in-hand with another quote I love by the legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden, “A leader’s most powerful ally is his or her own example.”

Attitude is everything, so pick a good one.

Thank you for these great insights!


Author Deb Boelkes: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author and Actress Lorraine Devon Wilke: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

At this moment of a global pandemic, economic chaos, nationalistic bigotry, and racial upheaval, I can think of no better time to put our focus on how best to survive and even transcend our current state. Empathy is the antidote to everything, so making it a part of every education, at every step of life, seems a wise movement to set in motion.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lorraine Devon Wilke.

An accomplished performer, actress, and photographer, as well as a prolific writer in several genres of the medium, Lorraine has built a library of expertly crafted work with a signature style that exudes intelligence, depth, and humor.

In 2010 she launched her “arts & politics” blog, Rock+Paper+Music, and from 2011 to 2018 was a popular contributor at HuffPost and other news and media sites, typically focused on politics and social issues; she continues to publish at both her blog and a column at Medium.

After self-publishing her first two award-winning novels, After the Sucker Punch and Hysterical Love, her latest, The Alchemy of Noise, contemporary literary fiction that digs deep into issues of privilege, profiling, and prejudice, was published by She Writes Press in 2019, winning a slate of awards and positive reviews along the way.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events drew you to your specific career path:

There was an early spark point for me, drawn to the arts, as I was, by parents who loved music, theater, and books, a language I inherently understood and was thrilled by. But the first awareness of my own skills in the area happened back in the eighth grade, when I was singing in a choir and the girl in front of me turned around and said, “You’re a really good singer.” I remember being stunned… “Really?” This was the first inkling I had that there was something I did that stood out. My curiosity piqued, the journey began!

With growing awareness that I had certain talents for performance, I acted and sang regularly in high school, right into my college years — where I majored in theater, wrote plays, and sang in various bands. There was never a doubt I was headed for entrepreneurship in the arts, in particular, at least at the start, as a performer. This plan took a few controversial turns (at least as far as my parents were concerned!) when, on the road with a band for so long during my junior year in college, I ultimately took leave from my studies and followed that path right to Los Angeles, where I leapt all-in. From that point forward I built my education around rich, eclectic, and always interesting life experiences with never a regret.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

A maxim in the pursuit of any career is that you have to want it more than anything else in the world if you’re to endure and sustain in the face of required work and the inevitable challenges and set-backs. That is especially true in the world of the creative businesses, where metrics for success are often hard to define, seemingly based less on talent (though talent is ideally a requisite) and more on arbitrary, ephemeral things like “it factor,” physical appeal, connections, and “right place, right time.”

As a young artist in a big city filled with other artists (of every age) working tirelessly to carve out their own dreams, the quest was immediately daunting. Money was tight, always; the flexibility needed to be available for auditions and interviews demanded jobs like waitressing and catering, not always solid earners! And finding viable, paying opportunities to act, sing, or write required relentless diligence and activity, with auditions, interviews, bush-beating and pavement pounding of every kind. Away from my family, new in Los Angeles, without representation in those early days, yet filled with indefatigable optimism in my ultimate goal of a successful career in the arts, I was, nonetheless, occasionally discouraged by the dearth of jobs, lack of viable contacts, seemingly unsurmountable competition, and lots and LOTS of rejection. There were more than a few yogurt-only dinners back in those days!

But even as I got older, made tangible progress, and expanded my entrepreneurial palate to include play- and screenwriting, the ever-present challenges built into each of these creative avenues were nonstop. After a decade of writing, recording, and performing original material with my band during the 80s, with the good fortune of having producers, managers, and financiers deeply involved, and even with tremendous smaller successes along the way, there always seemed to be a tipping point when hope of the imminent “big success” (record deal, world tour, etc.) was thwarted by, say, inept representation, a band member who decided to quit, music execs who failed to follow through, or record labels who decided I was too old, or the band members were too old, or the songs were too literate, or any number of given reasons… and the gold ring would slip by.

During the 90s, when I co-wrote both the screenplay and several soundtrack songs for an indie film in which I co-starred, the subsequent reviews amplified my writing and performance, and agents and casting directors came calling. Yet, once again, opportunities and interest shifted, projects didn’t come to fruition, and the ring that seemed headed my way flew by.

By the 2000s I was back to music, working with an amazing band that garnered immediate interest and performance opportunities, enough that my songwriting partner and I ultimately wrote and recorded an album’s worth of original material, but before we could play out and parlay that success to another level, key people left and the project ultimately lost momentum (though I still do love that album!).

Then, by 2010, given the music business’s changing landscape and unchanging focus on youthful branding, I stepped back from that pursuit (though I still have a band today…the Muse lives on!), and jumped headfirst into another of my goals: writing novels. While creatively exhilarating and artistically satisfying, the business of publishing presented all the same, familiar challenges I’d found in acting, film, and music. The endless days, weeks, months, years I put into writing my books were matched by the time spent querying literary agents in hopes of getting those books published. When interest failed to garner the goal of representation and ultimate publishing, I decided to self-publish my first two books, with my third finally scoring the attention and support of a small publisher. I’m now writing my fourth.

So, yes, even ever-optimistic me stumbled through some hard times… maybe that’s why I so appreciate the blues!

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I think it always goes back to belief in self. Someone once made me a poster that read, “I always believe in myself. It’s other people I’m not so sure of,” which struck a chord for a whole host of reasons.

I learned early on that, while I can’t control the outcome of my interactions with other people, certainly in business, certainly in the creative businesses, I could control how events impacted me: how I dealt with rejection and disappointment, how I recovered from broken promises and sometimes unscrupulous behaviors; how I recalibrated or reinvented my strategy when previous ones failed or netted less than desired results.

Like anyone, I struggled with doubts, self-criticisms, concerns and fears about where I was headed and if and how I was going to get there, but at the core of my being I held on to my belief in self; I never lost faith in my abilities, my “voice,” my creativity. I never stopped believing I had something worthy to say, to impart to the world, through my art.

Those convictions were hard won, honed, I believe, while growing up in a large family (I’m one of 11 siblings) where I had to fend for myself, fight for my space, and learn certain life lessons my over-burdened parents didn’t have time to teach me. As soon as I became aware of my particular set of talents — and a tangential ability to parlay them into productivity — I had my plan. I didn’t necessarily know what all the steps would be, but, still, I set off, threw myself in with a certain reckless abandon. The self-reliance and self-belief I’d developed — both harmonics of “grit — kept me dedicated and focused. They still do.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

GRIT: firmness of character; indomitable spirit; pluck:

resolution, fortitude, courage.

Bouncing off my previous answer: If you’re able to maintain self-belief and self-reliance, you’re beautifully set up to push against, endure, and transcend whatever obstacles and challenges get in your way. Certainly that’s harder when you’re younger, inexperienced, and sometimes unrealistic about the playing field you’re on. I can’t tell you how many actors, singers, songwriters, and writers I met over the years who were absolutely convinced they’d be winning Oscars or selling out stadiums, yet had no clue how to maneuver the business they were in… or how, even, to manage their own frustrations and disappointments.

I’ve noticed more recently, particularly in our “influencer” culture, an impatience some have with the trajectory of their careers, often times giving way to giving up, or framing their goals in very limited terms. One young singer/songwriter, when I asked what his goals were, said, “Getting famous.” “That’s not a goal,” I responded. “That’s a potential consequence, a possible result. The creation of good art, the conveyance of your unique voice, the dissemination of your inspired imagination are goals.” But he was adamant, certain he’d be plucked off Instagram or Tik Tok to find instant fame, and when that didn’t happen, he ultimately crashed. Rejection has sent a lot of talented people packing — but, then again, I always say, “If you can actually imagine yourself doing something else, do that.”

As for me, what my personal dose of grit offered was thicker skin, a tougher, quicker bounce-back. I learned not to take things too personally, found a resilience that kept me going when it seemed there was no point in doing so; it shook up my imagination when I felt I’d run out of ideas.

“Grit” is really about tenacity and doggedness. Both are needed to endure and succeed, sometimes, even, to reinvent: I also learned that pivoting at the right time can lead to unexpected new roads that still end up taking you where you want to go. It’s all about sticking to it.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1. “Listen to the voice that’s your own”: That’s a lyric from a song I wrote when I first started my band back in the 80s, a reminder to myself to always honor my own voice. At that young age, just starting out in the very competitive music scene of Los Angeles, I had so many people telling me how to be, what to wear, how to do my hair, how to perform on stage, what to say or not say in interviews, etc., that I began to feel overwhelmed with other people’s ideas of who I was… or should be. I would sometimes try to wear the mantles they designed for me, but ultimately always came back to my own skin, my own voice, willing to take the risks, but reap the emotional and creative rewards, of staying true to myself. That still holds true today.

That is not, of course, a suggestion to ignore solid advice, learned experience, and useful education that can be offered by good mentors, influential teachers, effective representatives, or helpful collaborators. But, at the end of the day, it’s your dream, your journey, your goals, so developing enough faith and belief in yourself to stand by them (grit, by any other name!) is always your best bet.

And, while on this topic, about reviews: Either don’t read them (if you’re in a business that engenders them), or read them with the thickest skin you’ve got, with a mandate to learn from anything you might, reject anything that rings false, and let go of all of it, either way, to proceed with the work. Nothing takes more grit than enduring a bad review and not letting it stop you.

More on that, if you’re interested: Oh, Our Heartbreaking Relationship With Reviews.

2. Be just the right amount of humble: That may sound like a contradiction of the above, but it’s actually part of the equation. The only way to grow enough, to have the confidence to believe and stand by your own voice, is to LEARN enough to have that skill. To be open to mentors, teachers, fellow artists, veterans in the field who can impart their knowledge to help you build your own sense of YOU.

Those whose arrogance, entitlement, and lack of humility keeps them from learning, adjusting, evolving, may achieve some level of success, but without a foundation, a willingness to pay attention and listen enough to ascertain if someone or something has value to offer, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds. Real grit comes from a having and maintaining an abiding respect for continuing education.

3. Pick your team and stick with it: When I was coming up, a valued mentor said to me: “Take time to listen to lots of people (see #2), then choose five of them to be your team, the people you’ve determined to be the most trustworthy and knowledgeable, with the right expertise for your work and sensibilities, then let them, and only them, judge your work, give you notes, and steer your direction. Otherwise — because every person you encounter will have an opinion — asking everyone what their opinion is will only lead to confusion and contradiction, which tends to stop people in their tracks.”

I learned he was right. Needing feedback from everybody can wreak havoc: I collaborated with a writer once who could end a day of work feeling satisfied by what we’d written, but every night would hand those pages to assorted, sundry folks, then come back to me in the morning, panicked, because he’d gotten notes and responses that countered the work we’d done or the direction we were headed. This was maddening, as these were not people whose opinions mattered to me, and I could see how my mentor’s exact warning was playing out: my co-writer would end up deflated and discouraged, which made him very challenging to work with.

The grit you need to follow #1 & 2 comes from learning to trust yourself. Do what my mentor suggested. If you need more than five on your team, go for it, but keep it simple. I’ve discovered gold in that advise.

4. Talk less, do more: In these days of social media, with their pull to engage, interact, promote oneself, promote others, attempt virality, spark debate, troll, get trolled, lose friends, gain followers, drive yourself mad, or have a blast sharing vacation photos, it’s easy to spend copious amounts of time on various platforms without getting any actual work done.

There’s good in the medium, surely — I could not have promoted my work, or that of others, as successfully without social media — but there’s also a need to limit and curate the time.

I’ve noticed, particularly with some writers’ groups I was in on Facebook, that some people were busy every day talking about their work — what word count they’d achieved (or not), if this name or that worked for a character, if they should or should not kill off their protagonist, what to write if they couldn’t think of anything to write — and I couldn’t help wondering if they’d lost the script along the way, the one that says, “shut up and write!” I found myself less and less willing to participate in these long threads on matters that seemed more like distraction than actual research, interactions that may have felt productive, but were more likely time-suckers keeping people from buckling down.

And beyond wasted time, I also found “talking about the work” can potentially dissipate the energy and excitement you originally had about it. Analyzing, getting opinions, hearing feedback, sharing experiences can certainly be helpful in the right context, but I’ve learned that not talking about my work while in the process of creating it — kind of like not letting people into the dining room until every light is lit, every decoration set, and the table is perfectly arranged — kept my energy and momentum focused. I want the completed piece to have impact; I don’t want to share it midway and lose the effect.

Some people enjoy (or seek out) audience participation, virtual story suggestions, etc., while putting a piece together, but that’s not my way. I’ve always been proprietary about my artistic statement, my story, my song, my message, protective of delivering exactly what I choose to say and how. This is a personal choice, but it’s also one that requires belief in self, grit; a willingness to trust what you’re doing enough to move forward without the crutch of a cheering squad. There’s tremendous freedom in that.

5. If you can’t get permission to proceed, give it to yourself: Regardless of what career path you’re on, forward motion, especially in the nascent stages, typically relies on the help, support, contribution — the “permission,” if you will — of other people, whether it’s starting a business, garnering a record deal, putting up a play, getting a book published, making a film; whatever your goals are. And often times, particularly in the more competitive spaces, getting that “permission” can be very difficult to accomplish, which dead-ends many a good project. What I’ve learned?

When you hit that wall of “no’s,” or “not now’s,” or “you’re just not right,” or “we’re looking for something else,” instead of slumping to defeat, shake off the rejection and give permission to yourself to proceed. I’m not sure anything takes more grit than that!

Here’s how that’s played out in my own life: When I couldn’t get hired as a singer, I found great players and started a band that kept me working for decades. When record companies told me I was a “wondrous” vocalist but “we’ve already got someone like you,” I collaborated with top producers to make my own album. When I got frustrated trying to peddle my screenplays, I collaborated with a skilled team who ultimately got the film produced. When literary agents kept telling me my books were “outstanding” but still wouldn’t commit to a contract, I self-published the first two and ultimately found a brilliant indie publisher for my most recent.

The takeaway is that, whatever business you’re in, it’s your business to see that your goals are met. There is no more evidence of grit than a person who refuses to give up because others aren’t inviting them in the door, but, instead, opens it themselves, or maybe even gets up and builds the damn door!

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Like many people, I’ve had the great good fortune to have had tremendous creative, production, and business partners throughout my life and career, without whom I wouldn’t have achieved the successes I have. But the one person, at least for the last thirty+ years, who’s been most solidly, tangibly, and indefatigably in my corner is my husband, Pete Wilke.

We met on the film I mentioned earlier (he was the attorney for the film company), and from that moment on, our creative and personal lives have been intertwined. During the years I was pounding pavements as an actress and singer, he was there to keep a roof over our heads, act as my manager, and keep my spirits from being pummeled beyond my sanity quotient. When he wrote and produced a brilliant musical called Country, the Musical, he invited my input as a script consultant and vocal arranger, then cast me in a lead role. When I transitioned into the book world and began writing novels, he respected the solitude I needed, created space and time for me to get the work done, and has contributed everything possible to help me both afford and implement whatever was needed to support the business end of that endeavor.

Beyond that, he’s been my emotional rock, my best friend, and a brilliant father and husband. I am acutely aware of how fortunate I am, and not a day goes by that I don’t feel gratitude for that, and for him.

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

I love that phrase: “Bring goodness to the world”! Maybe because I’ve always had a mission to create art, create work, that did, in fact, exude a positive message of some kind, a hopeful story, an inspirational idea. Whether it was the songs I wrote, the screenplays and plays, the articles and books, I’ve always wanted the content to be of some emotional value.

Not that there’s anything wrong with music that’s simply, “get up and dance,” or stories that are just good thrillers or fluffy romances — there’s a market for that, and many excellent writers, performers, etc., who can well deliver it. But having grown up in the era I did, with the story songs and heartfelt books I read, I wanted to an artist like those who inspired me, whose work made me feel I wasn’t alone, that my emotions were valid, my journey wasn’t so strange. Who taught me something, who raised my awareness.

Consequently, everything I’ve done has been with that goal in mind. My hope is that when someone reads one of my books or articles, or listens to one of my songs, they’re inspired to a new thought, they feel moved or exhilarated; they come away with something that sticks. My last novel, in particular, which takes on thorny issues of race and privilege, is very specifically intended to open eyes and minds toward greater understanding and compassion (see next question).

So, beyond making killer banana bread and being known to kickass a good blues song, I’d say all-the-above is my contribution to worldly goodness!

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

Given our current situation with COVID, a good number of my projects and endeavors have been grounded for the time-being — which is true for so many. So, as book events cancel, fundraisers with my band are put on hold, and theatrical projects with which I was working are back-burnered, I’ve been left to get creative with what projects I can actually move forward at this moment in time. One, in particular, has my attention:

Since my most recent novel, THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE, is still relatively new in the marketplace, and is a book I intended to spark and/or contribute to a movement toward greater understanding, compassion, and awareness in matters of race, I looked at how I could maximize its potential to speak to those issues at this explosive and evolutionary post-George Floyd moment.

I was particularly moved when I heard a comment by comedienne, Wanda Sykes, whose response to a question about race and prejudice was: “We can’t do it alone. If we’re out there marching and asking for change, we need white people to do it. We need white people to tell white people to stop being racist.”

That struck me — “We need white people to tell white people to stop being racist” — because that’s not only absolutely true, but something that’s compelled my own intentions with THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE. Its messages and themes are focused on prejudice, privilege, social injustice, and police brutality, and my voice, as a white author writing with the intent to inform and illuminate, particularly, a white reading audience (though, hopefully, all readers will be impacted), is certainly a response to Wanda’s call-to-action.

While I’ve done several podcasts and interviews focused on the book’s messages, my goal is to parlay its positive reception from readers and reviewers into a platform for discussion, debate, interaction, and illumination for those honestly looking for clarity and raised awareness on the topic of race. I believe too many white people lack enough tangible proximity, connection, and interaction with the Black population to grasp the day-to-day reality of Black life in America. This has proven out in conversations and interactions I’ve had, both in life and as related to my book.

I also feel that, given my experience having been a partner in a long-term interracial relationship earlier in my life, as well as my rigorous research and input from Black editors and consultants on the book, I have valuable insight and unique perspective to offer, specifically, as a white person telling white people to “stop being racist.”

Another interesting aspect to consider: While there are many excellent non-fiction books on the topic of race and bigotry (by both Black and white writers), there is less substantive fiction on the topic. Yet, as I detail in my piece, Truth Finds Its Story: The Illuminating Power of Fiction, and is well-covered in the New York Times article, Does Fiction Have the Power to Sway Politics?, fiction has a unique power to tell stories non-fiction can’t, with impact that hits the emotional centers of thought and memory in ways that the didacticism of more scholarly works cannot. It also engages the mind and triggers the imagination in ways that allow the themes, messages, and illuminations of well-told stories to “stick,” to be deeply felt and permanently remembered (as was true for me in reading books like To Kill a Mockingbird, The Little Drummer Girl, The Color Purple).

And since, as author Mohsin Hamid states in the NYT piece, “Politics is shaped by people. And people, sometimes, are shaped by the fiction they read,” I’m currently working with a Black writer and media consultant to get THE ALCHEMY OF NOISE included in seminars, discussions, classes, and round-tables focused on issue of race and prejudice, particularly, again, as it relates to “white people telling white people” in the effort to educate, expand, and evolve their thinking.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I thought about skipping this question, as I’m neither an executive nor a founder, but as someone who’s been an employee enough to know, I thought I’d offer this bit of advice:

If one actually takes the time to seek, suss out, and hire people who really fit the mission and vision of a company or organization, with the talents and skill set to do the job well, allow them, then, to flourish without micromanagement, constrictive rules, and limited access and opportunities to advance or contribute. Encourage their “voice,” their ideas and innovations. Validate their successes and put their less successful moves into proper perspective. Respect their boundaries, allow for the vagaries of family life, and offer encouragement, incentives, and an upward trajectory of opportunities.

I have seen, and have been in, situations where true talent and excellent ideas were overlooked, dismissed, or minimized for the sake of seniority or favor, and when that was the situation for me, it left me feeling undervalued, underutilized, unseen, and irrelevant… none of which engender goodwill or the desire to stay in a job. Where I was encouraged to fly, I flew, and it benefited both me and the companies and organizations I worked for.

Do that.

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. 🙂

Given that we all have the pulpit of social media, blogs, and websites, I think we’re basically all people of great influence. In my case, the movement I would most like to inspire is one that implements the study and application of EMPATHY, whether in schools, businesses, politics, or one-on-one interactions.

My Twitter profile has always included the line, “Empathy is the antidote to everything,” an idea I believe and one which I extrapolated on in an article of the same name back back in 2014. It has always seemed to me that, if we start early to teach our children the age-old wisdom of, “walk a mile in another’s shoes,” helping them gain tangible, real-life understanding and compassion for the lives, experiences, and challenges of those outside ourselves, we’d ultimately be able to eradicate bigotry, prejudice, racism, sexism, discrimination, hate, and fear of other. Each of those is propagated by the lack of empathy, a state that keeps one from gaining the knowledge and awareness needed to open a mind, change a thought, revise a reaction, evolve a viewpoint.

At this moment of a global pandemic, economic chaos, nationalistic bigotry, and racial upheaval, I can think of no better time to put our focus on how best to survive and even transcend our current state. Empathy is the antidote to everything, so making it a part of every education, at every step of life, seems a wise movement to set in motion.

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

Well, the above answer lays out one of my most favorite quotes (“Empathy is the antidote to everything”), but here’s another:

“I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

I love that quote, because it suggests that if we approach life with humor, with a heart, mind and soul that revels in joy, gratitude, and appreciation, we are better equipped to transcend the darkness, discouragement, and drama inherent in life. As I get older, I realize how my own journey has taught me to let go of petty concerns and worries, to focus, instead, on what I have, as opposed to what I don’t. What follows that revelation is a greater ability to laugh, and, as I’ve learned, there really is less cleaning up to do afterward!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Here are links to my main media:

Twitter: http://witter.com/LorraineDWilke

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke

Facebook Writer’s page: https://www.facebook.com/lorrainedevonwilke.fans/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lorrainedevonwilke/

Amazon author page: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00K2ZOLSA

Rock+Paper+Music blog: https://rockpapermusic.com

Medium Column: https://medium.com/@lorrainedwilke

SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/lorraine-devon-wilke

Official website @ www.lorrainedevonwilke.com.

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

Thank you for inviting me… it was a great conversation!


Author and Actress Lorraine Devon Wilke: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sahin Boydas of RemoteTeam: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

If given the opportunity to inspire the world, it would be on creating an equal society for everyone. A society where a woman is not viewed as a less human being to a man. A society where people are not discriminated against because of their skin color, religion, or who they choose to love. I think society has come a long way. However, social inequities have been instituted for so long, there would have to be major changes to make society a better place for all.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sahin Boydas.

Sahin Boydas is the Founder and CEO of RemoteTeam, and his goal is to revolutionize the future of work with the best HR and management tools for remote-first companies. Sahin is a serial entrepreneur living in Silicon Valley and an alumnus of 500 Startups, Stanford StartX, Betaworks Vision Camp, and Quark Accelerator. From movie marketing marketplaces to augmented reality applications, Sahin has built and successfully exited companies with a 100% remote team for over a decade.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’m a serial entrepreneur with a love for building startups. I got my Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering from Koc University in Istanbul and my MBA (Entrepreneurship) from Bahcesehir University. Ten years ago, my entrepreneurial journey saw me move from Turkey to Silicon Valley. Since moving, I have gone on to join many entrepreneurial and startup communities, including Founder Institute, betaworks visioncamp, Batch 19 of both 500 Startups and Stanford StartX, and Quark Accelerator.

My passion for the entrepreneurship world started years ago and has been a major driver of my move to Silicon Valley. Since settling in the Bay area, I’ve met with 400 investors in the valley and raised from 40+ investors. I have had the chance to work with amazing people through the startups I founded and co-founded, including co-founding movie marketing platform MovieLaLa (later sold to Gfycat); one of the most successful consumer-facing AR apps:, Leo AR; and my current startup, RemoteTeam.com.

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

When I first moved to Silicon Valley a decade ago, and as someone who had already operated startups with remote teams — it was really interesting to realize that many investors and founders were not supportive of the idea of remote work at that time. And it was also surprising that such thinking would be so prevalent in the very place where technology and great ideas come from. As a result, early on in my career in the Bay Area, especially when I tried to raise money for my startups, I heard things like ‘operating a remote company will limit your ability to get funded’. Founders also pointed out a lot of bottlenecks to operating a remote company. While this kind of atmosphere may have changed my mind, looking back right now, I’m glad I continued to pursue the remote work revolution even before it was cool. And here we are looking at a future that will have remote work as the default work type.

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?

We are working on a social media viral loop for MovieLaLa. We were making customers follow movie stars and see their upcoming movies. If the users come from Tumblr, we were using tumblr connect and reposting the best tumblr post of that movie star. Our users were liking it and getting many hearts and followers. We saw that the most engagement comes from gifs in Tumblr. Then we built an instant gif maker :). We saw the trend but we thought it would never get big. This was in 2012, before giphy and gfycat. 🙂 , so we always felt that we had a huge contribution in the gif space. In a funny turn of events, later in our second company Gfycat, Giphy became our investor 🙂 but we missed the opportunity of building a hundred million dollar business 🙂

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Every founder should know that being so rigid and bureaucratic in the remote work environment doesn’t work. What wins in this work revolution is flexibility. So CEOs should desist from micromanagement and creating tight organizational environments that do not exhibit open communication principles and trust.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been an advocate for remote work since before it became cool. While running my startups, I wanted to find the best people from around the world and that’s what led me to consider hiring remote talent — and I’ve never looked back since then. This is not just limited to the people we hire — I have had co-founders who were remote, but we still managed to build great teams and successful startups. From co-founding MovieLaLa and Leo AR, to my current startup RemoteTeam.com, my teams have always been remote. Today, as the CEO of RemoteTeam, I manage a 20+ team located in Turkey, the U.S., Ghana, and Nigeria.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

My 20+ team is spread around the world, many of whom are in Turkey, some in Ghana, Nigeria, and the U.S. Turkey is 3 hours ahead of Ghana and 2 hours ahead of Nigeria. Nigeria is also 1 hour ahead of Ghana. I am in Silicon Valley, which is 10 hours behind Turkey, 7 hours behind Ghana, and 6 hours behind Nigeria. What this means is that while the Turkey team is already in the middle of the day working, the team in Africa is just waking up or just starting — and for myself as the CEO, that will probably be the time I am going to bed or already fast asleep. Managing a diverse team of this kind is never an easy job, and so there are challenges relating to:

  • Communication — difficulty in getting a single time that suits all of us, especially when there’s something that needs everyone on board.
  • Collaborating — working together on the same projects, making work difficult to sync.
  • Managing productivity — knowing what’s to be done, how much time is going to be spent on a particular project.
  • Dealing with cultural differences — which may lead to communication misinterpretations and subsequent issues.
  • Trust issues as a result of the lack of physical presence — which can usually culminate into micromanagement and sometimes, unnecessary pressure.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Some of the best ways to address remote team challenges, which I have found success in my current and previous startups, include, but not limited to:

Setting expectations. one of the best ways of managing a remote team and overcoming the challenges mentioned above and one that I particularly encourage remote teams to do is to set expectations. Your expectations of productivity, timely submission of tasks, and participation in group discussions should be made known to the team. This serves as a pillar against which your remote team’s output is measured. Apart from being a great way of measuring productivity, it helps create an environment where everyone is on the same page, at all times.

An open communication environment. Building a remote team requires constant communication, some may call it over communication. In this kind of atmosphere, it’s good to loosen the communication channels — letting teams feel comfortable talking to one another about inconveniences, their grievances, and their contributions towards big issues in the organization. This does not just solve communication problems, but also builds trust among employees and managers.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Of course, giving feedback in a remote team is difficult, but there are ways to make feedback achieve its purpose. I recommend using a video call — some remote managers and even employees may not like it when feedback is given over video, but it’s one of the most effective ways of achieving the purpose of your feedback and making the experience look like that of a physical office. It gives an opportunity for the manager and remote employees to see each other, read facial expressions, and even articulate conversations better, which might sometimes be misunderstood if done over chat.

Personalize Feedback. Whether it’s a positive or negative one, don’t give people feedback in public Slack Channels or during company Zoom meetings unless the feedback is a clarification to something that everyone should know — and even with that, I usually find a way to still keep it personal between myself and the employee. Personalizing feedback by talking to employees one-on-one is a great way to calm nerves and not make them feel intimidated.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Giving feedback over any form of written communication is never easy as a result of the absence of the “physical human” touch, like facial expressions and gestures. But there’s always a way to make things better.

What I’ve found useful is for managers to use more positives in their email, especially for more constructive feedback. Mentioning an employee’s contribution to the company’s progress and how you want them on the team before going to a negative review is a great way to make your feedback email sound ‘normal’ and not ‘insulting’ or ‘intimidating’.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

If you’re a team that has just transitioned to remote, there’s one important thing I have for you: don’t rely on tools too much for things that need a “human touch” to them. We all know tools are crucial to every remote team. Right from communication to file sharing, we can’t do away with them. However, one thing I see new remote teams doing wrong is to rely too much on tools. Tools may help you communicate, but they don’t replace the empathy and the clarity you need to exhibit when communicating as an employee or manager. Tools will help you create nice team-building activities, but that doesn’t replace the effort you need to put in to trust one another as a team. This is why I usually remind new remote teams that while they use these tools to make work better, they should never forget that there is a part they need to play as team members to make the connections worthwhile.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

My biggest advice to remote teams when it comes to building a healthy work culture is to start everyone on the team during the onboarding stage. Onboarding should be an avenue to learn more about a person’s life and less about the work they’re coming to do. Of course, onboarding time is too short to get to know employees, but it’s a great avenue to get employees to talk about their personal lives — which gives managers and other employees an idea of how to treat each other.

Additionally, I recommend managers to call in and check on employees from time to time, outside of work. Not every conversation should be about work — but rather some conversations should focus on getting to know one another as a team. When practiced well, this could be replicated by other employees, which will help build a people-first culture in the team.

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. 🙂

Equality. If given the opportunity to inspire the world, it would be on creating an equal society for everyone. A society where a woman is not viewed as a less human being to a man. A society where people are not discriminated against because of their skin color, religion, or who they choose to love. I think society has come a long way. However, social inequities have been instituted for so long, there would have to be major changes to make society a better place for all.

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

Charles Bukowski

“invent yourself and then reinvent yourself, don’t swim in the same slough. invent yourself and then reinvent yourself and stay out of the clutches of mediocrity. invent yourself and then reinvent yourself, change your tone and shape so often that they can never categorize you. reinvigorate yourself and accept what is but only on the terms that you have invented and reinvented. be self-taught. and reinvent your life because you must; it is your life and its history and the present belong only to you.”

This quote has influenced how I hire talent. When I see the good in people, I take the decision to hire them even if they’re not the best at what they do — with the hope that they will improve themselves as time goes on. This is my way of giving opportunity to growing talent to better themselves while working. In startups, most successful companies are founded by people who have no experience in the field , so one of the most important things in startups is to become self taught.

Thank you for these great insights!


Sahin Boydas of RemoteTeam: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Erica Hornthal of Chicago Dance Therapy: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To…

Erica Hornthal of Chicago Dance Therapy: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

There is movement in stillness; our breath, our heartbeat. It is imperative that we take time to be still so that we give space to the voices and thoughts that get suppressed when going about the day to day routine. This supports resilience because it allows hardship and gratitude to be experienced and expressed.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Erica Hornthal.

Known as “The Therapist Who Moves You” Erica Hornthal, a licensed clinical professional counselor and board-certified dance/movement therapist, assists clients in making lasting changes by learning to harness the power of the body for improved mental health. As CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy, Erica has worked with individuals from all backgrounds ranging in ages from 3 to 107. Erica is highly sought out by media outlets to comment on the power of the mind body connection. Erica knows that everyone has a body and mind… it’s time everyone learned to use both to achieve greater resilience as well as potential.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I grew up dancing since the age of 3 and when it came time to choose a career I knew that dance would be central to that. The more I researched careers in dance, the more I felt discouraged because nothing seemed to truly fit my passion. It wasn’t until I was in college that a professor turned me on to the field of dance/movement therapy. It married my passion for dance with my love for helping people. I have been a dance/movement therapist for 12 years; my hope is to mainstream the principles of dance/movement therapy to bring positive mental health through body movement to the world.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

An interesting story that stands out for me is from graduate school when I was pursuing my masters in dance/movement therapy and counseling. I was a model student, liaison to the graduate school, and active in the student body. In my 2nd year I was asked to meet with an administrator in the department who thought that I should reconsider being in the field. While she had no tangible evidence as to why I should reconsider, it taught me several lessons. One, never let anyone deter you from your dreams. Two, while dreams are important it is vital that we are realistic and authentic with our own expectations. And three, people will try to keep you down when you don’t conform to the system. I have always thought out of the box and I do not plan to stop anytime soon.

What do you think makes your company stand out?

My company, Chicago Dance Therapy, stands out for many reasons. First the name alone makes people stop and think. What is Dance Therapy? This causes some confusion, but has always opened the door for communication and education. Second, the company is dedicated to the field and only hires dance therapists. While this has also been met with some frustration from potential hires it solidifies the brand and reinforces our commitment to the work and visibility.

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 story that stands out is the way I found out about the field of dance/movement therapy. As a freshman I was a declared dance major but not really feeling it. The chair of the dance department met with me to discuss my future, as she did will all students, and noticed that I was taking a psychology class. We had a long discussion and she asked how I would feel about merging psychology and dance. She mentioned dance/movement therapy. I had never heard of it before, but did all the research I could and never looked back.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a capacity to handle difficult situations and to move through or beyond them. A resilient person can sit in the unpleasant and unknown, but has a desire to find the positive and lessons that can be learned. A resilient person doesn’t wait for others to take action, but finds ways to make things happen without taking no for an answer.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I think of not one person in particular but all of my clients actually. They come to therapy because something in their life is preventing them from thriving. They are the true definition of resilience because they look for assistance and the ability to help themselves through a challenging time.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes, actually starting my own business. I wanted to do it in a different way than had traditionally been done before and many people told me it would never work. I did what I felt was authentic and true to myself and 10 years later my business is thriving.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I would say this pandemic counts as a setback. Although we are not through it I can tell I am getting stronger, looking for new ways to push the envelope, and engage with my community. I have created a virtual summit dedicated to dance therapy that included 19 presenters from 12 different countries. I have also been writing and creating webinars/workshops to reach a broader audience.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I moved in the middle of my sophomore year of high school which was quite a difficult transition. My family relocated from Florida to Illinois and everything changed; my support system, my friend circle, my hobbies. This taught me early on that for me to be resilient it wasn’t just a mindset but something I had to embody. I learned that finding a new community and connecting to my first passion, dance, allowed me to literally move through this difficult time.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Breathe

Breath is a basic movement that everyone engages in everyday. It is such a simple way to tap into the present moment and reconnect to the self. It enhances resilience because it teaches us that we can move through any situation- the rise and fall of the chest, the expansion of the rib cage- each reinforce that the body is capable of moving through and beyond.

Stretch

Exploring the space that we take up and the space around us allows us to externalize our experiences. We can gain a new perspective and again find new ways of moving in the moment.

Practice embodiment of emotions

When we are aware of our emotions we can take responsibility for our actions and behaviors. By learning where we feel and carry our emotions in the body we can increase our awareness and become more responsible. This allows us to recognize our position in a situation and work through it as needed.

Diversify movement

The more we move and the more we challenge the ways in which we move, the more elastic and flexible our minds become. The mind and body are connected, yet it can be difficult to change our mindset. We can start in the body by increasing our movement vocabulary- the movements we have at our disposal- which supports new perspectives as well as recognizing others’ points of view.

Find quiet time for reflection

There is movement in stillness; our breath, our heartbeat. It is imperative that we take time to be still so that we give space to the voices and thoughts that get suppressed when going about the day to day routine. This supports resilience because it allows hardship and gratitude to be experienced and expressed.

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. 🙂

Body Awareness for Mental Health; I want the world to understand that how we move our bodies and what we are aware or the lack of awareness greatly impacts our mental health. I have actually taken the first step by creating a workbook. You can check out more here if you are interested,

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Maria Shriver. I really appreciate her Sunday Paper, her wisdom, and her appreciation for brain health and the power of movement for overall wellness.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @EricaHornthal

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EricaHornthal

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Erica Hornthal of Chicago Dance Therapy: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Marcey Rader: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Get out of your pajamas! Fight the stereotype! 🙂 Really, I would want people to start having a transition from work to home. We tend to work more at home, and our days run into our nights, and the lines are blurry. Even if you are only stepping away for a few hours to hang with the family before you have to go back to work, transition.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marcey Rader.

Marcey Rader is a productivity speaker, author, and coach. She is the founder of Work Well. Play More! Her latest book is Work Well. Play More! Productive, Clutter-Free, Healthy Living — One Step at a Time. You can learn more about her at www.marceyrader.com and www.workwellplaymore.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I spent the first part of my adult life in different roles in the clinical research industry. After experiencing severe corporate burnout and health issues seven years ago, I started Work Well. Play More! I help individuals climb the ladder or build their business without sacrificing their health. I speak, write, and coach individuals and teams on personal productivity and health behaviors. Topics include focus, time boundaries, task management, email habits, eating for energy, movement opportunities, and stress reduction. I’ve worked remotely since 2002 with all remote teams and coach businesses on how to navigate working from home post-COVID.

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

One of my first keynotes was for $500 to the North Carolina Business Travel Association. My first book, Hack the Mobile Lifestyle, was for sale at the expo. A senior leader for the Extended Stay America hotel chain purchased 13 copies. Six months later, I received a call asking if I wanted to be their spokesperson. This led to a two-year contract and multiple opportunities in the travel industry. I updated that book to Beyond Travel: A Road Warrior’s Survival Guide, which I am really proud of. I don’t even tell people about the first book!

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 gave a half-day workshop to 100 executives of Emaar Properties in Dubai. I explained the concept of decision fatigue and the benefits of automated decisions, even down to your wardrobe. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs were my examples. One of the men in the audience pointed out that wearing their white dishdasha was decision automation. It was a big ‘duh’ moment for me. I could have used them as examples because 3/4 of my audience was wearing the white robe!

My lesson was to look at my audience and really think of how my words will affect them. It was early in my career, and now I tailor my workshops and keynotes to the groups I am speaking to differently.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Post-COVID, we have to give a lot of grace. People working remotely aren’t doing so in an ideal environment. Their spouse may be home, have to be a part-time teacher to their kids, or don’t have a proper set-up. Ask people about their boundaries and what they can handle. They may be afraid to tell you that they are distracted all day with the kids and working only after they go to bed. They may be afraid to tell you that they are struggling emotionally or mentally. They may think that they shouldn’t complain or discuss any negative things going on at home because they have a job. It’s survivor’s guilt. Have a resource available to them to speak with if you don’t have someone on staff.

Remind people that they need to take time off. Even if we can’t go far, we need vacation and days off. Several of my clients have felt guilty for taking vacation days because they are working from home. Your brain needs time to rest! Your family needs some hang time!

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been working remotely since 2002 and managed remote teams since 2010. I currently manage a global team in the Philippines, Kenya, and Guatemala, as well as have a team of contractors in the US.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Overcommunication. The tendency may be to check in frequently when working from home, but this can often feel like micromanaging. When we are in an office, we expect to be interrupted by people walking by, doors shutting, phones ringing, and instant message. When we are remote, we are not expecting these things. Any interruption — text, chat, telephone, email — tends to be seen more as a distraction.

A friend of mine said that her instant message, text, and email blew up the first two weeks after her entire company moved to work from home. All of the typical water cooler talks had now moved to tech channels. She would have been having one conversation in the hallway. There were now three people trying to have different conversations with her at the same time. It was overload.

Lack of Trust. Your staff has more than just work going on. Their kids may be out of school, have parents to worry about, concerns about job security, and at some point, may get sick. They are not robots. Please give them the space they need to get the job done. It may not be your regular office hours, but this is not an ordinary time. If you can’t trust someone to work from home than there is a much bigger issue.

Often staff will feel like they are being watched or micro-managed and will fear not reacting immediately to a message. Direct reports will worry that their manager will think they aren’t working. Don’t encourage this behavior. It increases telepressure and reactivity. Accuracy is more important than responsiveness for most roles.

When I first started working from home in 2002, I never left the house during work hours because I was afraid if my manager called and I didn’t answer, she would think I wasn’t working. I never thought about people in the office going out for lunch or stepping away from their desks for work social events. It resulted in low-level anxiety that I had to always be ready for a message.

Ineffective storage. This may seem obvious to some, but I’m still shocked at how many teams store documents on their local hard drives rather than in the cloud, even when the company has cloud storage. If teams haven’t started adopting the use of Microsoft Teams, Dropbox, Box, or Google Drive, they need to start now. The IT department won’t be down the hall to fix your computer, and anyone could get sick at any time.

It’s not too late to start the process and follow your SOP on shared document storage (most people have procedures for this, they just don’t follow them!). Using a cloud storage service, preferably one that allows multiple people in a document at once and can be used in real-time can be a savior. No one is waiting while a document is being checked out, and you always have the latest version.

Several years ago, I was in a bike accident and suffered a Grade III concussion. I wasn’t allowed to look at a screen for two weeks. I stored most of my documents on my hard drive, and my team was at a loss and had to recreate things while I was out. A CEO I’ve coached recently suffered a head injury as well, and her team would have been at a loss if they did not use their shared drives effectively. She couldn’t have just dropped off her computer to someone else. She needed to follow the protocol for cloud storage.

One to One meetings. Many of my managers miss the face time and don’t feel they get what they need from their one-to-one with their staff. I didn’t meet my manager in person for four years, and it was before video, yet I felt close to her. Because we were used to it, there wasn’t a learning curve.

Video can be great to see the nuance in a person’s expressions, however, know that it’s okay to just make a phone call. We’re getting video fatigue, and the phone still works! If you talk by phone, do it as a walking meeting. They aren’t just good for your butt, they’re good for your brain! After about 10–15 minutes, it can increase creativity and collaboration. You aren’t competing with a device sitting in front of them (or you!) to get distracted and lose focus. Since we move less when we work from home, there are health benefits as well. One platform I recommend for one to one meetings is All Elements 1:1. Their service makes your sessions consistently human and productive.

My Vistage Chair, Janet Boudreau, has been doing some of her sessions with her Chief Executives as walking meetings in parks. Being outdoors away from the office, whether at home or onsite, gets you to think outside the box and get a dose of nature to increase your happiness.

Create and respect boundaries. Due to circumstances at home, people may have to work odd hours. Remote workers often feel a low level of anxiety that if they don’t answer every email, text, or instant message, that their co-workers will think they aren’t working. They work long hours and never really shut it off. Ask your team members what their most productive hours will be and have everyone communicate when they are available. Remember, this wasn’t a choice for everyone, and they may not prefer to work from 6–10:00am and then again from 8–11pm, but they need to until kids are back to school.

This may not work for you or your role, and it’s not permanent, but it may be what you need to do for now. Avoid increasing telepressure by not sending messages late at night or on the weekends if that isn’t what you would do in the office environment. Schedule your messages using Delay Delivery in Outlook or Boomerang or Streak in Gmail.

One of my private coaching clients is a scientist with two kids under the age of five. They need a lot of attention at that age, and during the pandemic, they have struggled to find a sitter, and daycare isn’t open. She has to be as productive as she can during the windows she has available. It’s not ideal, but once she accepted things would not be normal at home, she communicated her boundaries and availability to the team and showed model behavior.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Many people went remote fast without a plan in place. We’ve been doing this long enough that it’s perfectly okay and encouraged to take a step back and regroup. Anonymously survey your staff to find out what’s working and what isn’t. Hold a meeting with different stakeholders at various levels and take those results to heart to implement new policies. Pretend you are a new company and throw out the old ways. You’re building from the ground up with a new hybrid or fully remote structure in place. What would you change? Then….change it. It’s not too late.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I think it’s even more important to give feedback more often when working remotely. Use video at least occasionally for one-to-ones, so they get used to your tone and inflection. Make sure the camera is positioned so they can see your upper body. They will be able to read body language and not just facial expression. I use a Virtual Daily Check-In in Asana, my project management system. I ask staff to tell me: Daily Productivity Score, One concern they have, Top Priority for tomorrow, and their Big Win for the day. It allows me to keep a pulse on what’s going on and catch things that I may otherwise miss.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Make it very clear, especially with new employees, on what your communication style is. If you are very direct like I am, it may come across as curt. Whenever I am dealing with someone new, I let them know how I write my messages and emails. We each have a section called our Owner’s Manual in our Employee Success Manual. We each write How to Work With Me, and then others can write How to Work With X. The rule is we can’t be upset about what someone else says about working with us. We have all found it very helpful!

Even when giving positive feedback, it can be seen as unfavorable if the tone is misinterpreted. I recently praised someone through an online message board, and for five days, she thought I had insulted her! I felt terrible and so did she. Sometimes the mood the person is in when they read it can affect how it is interpreted. So many things go in to it that, especially if it is constructive or negative, it needs to be done via video or phone.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

It’s great to do weekly meetings over the video, but don’t do them daily unless people really desire it. It can be seen as disruptive and micro-managing. Survey them to find out. I had a client who was doing book clubs, trivia events, and meetings several times a week thinking he was keeping a bond with his team. Actually, some people were getting tired of the meetings, and with their families at home, they wanted to spend that extra time with them. Ask your team what they need! Don’t assume.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

One of my clients has a Fun Team. They really stepped up and created fun virtual events like trivia nights, a talent show, and scavenger hunts. The turnout is astounding. They’ve had over 100 people participate in online events! A lot of entertainment companies have made their services virtual, like trivia, that can be a fun way to keep the social aspect.

Another client used the steps in my book for a book club, and they went through the habit changes together. Don’t force fun or social interaction, because there were people before in the office who didn’t always participate, but have some options available for those people who need that stimuli.

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. 🙂

Get out of your pajamas! Fight the stereotype! 🙂 Really, I would want people to start having a transition from work to home. We tend to work more at home, and our days run into our nights, and the lines are blurry. Even if you are only stepping away for a few hours to hang with the family before you have to go back to work, transition. My friend Lilly Ferrick has Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off play on her iPhone at 5pm every day. I have Robert Randolph and the Family Band’s song Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That play at 6:00pm. That song gets me pumped and makes me want to dance and is my trigger to stop working. Find a trigger to transition with. Mr. Rogers was the king of transition. Changing his shoes and putting on that sweater told him he was in a different mode.

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

Talk doesn’t cook rice. It’s a Chinese Proverb. Talk gets you nowhere and it isn’t going to feed you. Start boiling that water!

Thank you for these great insights!


Author Marcey Rader: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Calvin Rosser of Mechanism Ventures: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Pay it forward. A now-deceased mentor of mine taught me about the value of helping others as you navigate life. No matter where you are in your personal life or career, you can find ways to help others improve the quality of their lives. Life is much more enriching when you help others, so don’t wait until you’re rich and famous to start giving back. Find ways to pay it forward every day.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Calvin Rosser.

Calvin Rosser is the Director of Business Operations at Mechanism Ventures, a fully remote startup studio that helps founders fund, launch, and scale ambitious companies. He is also the Founder of Life Reimagined, an organization dedicated to helping 10 million people live a more conscious and fulfilling life.

Prior to his current roles, Calvin graduated from Princeton University and spent his early career as an M&A banker on Wall Street and a team lead at a $1B+ fully remote staffing company.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Hi, I’m Calvin! My story began in Orlando, Florida. My dad disappeared early in my life, and while my mom did her best, we lived an unstable existence with very little money.

I didn’t know how poor we were or how well other people lived, but I did know that I wanted a more comfortable and stable life. I despised the world of scarcity, and I committed to finding a way out. So I spent my early life figuring out how to improve my circumstances. I ended up getting a full scholarship to Princeton University and graduated with a degree in public policy.

After college, I joined a big investment bank in New York to find my financial footing. I worked on mergers and acquisitions for private equity firms across the automotive, healthcare, and consumer retail sectors. Wall Street offered a steady paycheck, but I didn’t enjoy spending 15 hours a day in a cubicle doing grunt work.

I knew there had to be more to life, so I looked for a new path. I ended up joining Toptal, a fully remote staffing company, in a growth marketing role. That experience hooked me on remote work and scaling companies. I spent the next few years growing Toptal, leading teams, and traveling to dozens of countries. I recently paused my travels to settle in Southern California.

For the last year, I’ve been the Director of Business Operations at Mechanism Ventures, a fully remote startup studio that helps founders fund, launch, and scale companies. I work on everything from launching growth channels, to improving internal operations, to hiring great people. I’m also the Founder of Life Reimagined, an organization dedicated to helping 10 million people live a more fulfilling life.

While I’m not sure where my career will take me, I’ve found a nice sweet spot for the time being. I spend most of my time writing, podcasting, and helping early-stage startups with growth and operations. It’s a lot of fun.

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

I’ve been fortunate to work with great friends throughout my career. In 2018, I hired one of my best friends to be my number two. I convinced the company to fly him to Croatia to meet me for onboarding. We spent the next month onboarding him to the role while traveling through Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Serbia, and Hungary.

Getting to travel the world and work with your best friends is so much fun. It adds a lot of meaning and joy to work, and I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything.

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 I left banking to join Toptal’s growth team, I found the work incredibly engaging. I was learning the fundamentals of growing a business, and within a few months, I was managing tens of thousands of dollars in ad spend, managing a small team, and getting paid very well. The autonomy, pace, and practical nature of growth marketing work felt so much better than investment banking.

When I got my first performance review 6 months after starting, I learned that my colleagues thought I was far too serious. Someone said something like, “You do a great job of growing the business, but it’s important to remember that we’re not all APIs that focus only on results. You’re working with people.”

That feedback taught me an important lesson. I learned that fulfilling your core job function is not enough. You have to build meaningful relationships with your colleagues. From that point onward, I’ve spent a lot of time connecting with colleagues outside of just getting work done. This increased focus on relationships has served me well as I’ve moved from individual contributor to team-management roles.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

While it’s easy to expect people to manage their own energy, they often don’t. No one wants to seem like they’re struggling, so they often hide their struggles.

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to understand each individual and how that person may end up on a path to burnout. To do this well, you need to understand what motivates each individual, what triggers them, and how to create a psychologically safe environment for people to discuss challenges.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve managed remote teams across Growth, Operations, and Community for four years.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Aligning a global team.

With the proliferation of remote work across the globe, it’s increasingly common to work on teams of people who don’t share a common location, time zone, culture or language. In this context, it’s much more difficult to align, motivate, and engage such a diverse group.

Prioritization.

There are endless requests, messages, and things to do in the remote world. But as a leader, your mission is to drive results that translate your vision into reality. To do that well, you need to avoid the fallacy that everything matters equally. Multitasking and task-switching are ineffective and inefficient. They cost your team valuable energy, time, and results.

Digital miscommunication.

Because we aren’t physically present with colleagues in a remote working environment, we have fewer cues to understand the intent of our colleagues. So when we receive a Slack message or hop on a Zoom call, we’re more likely to misunderstand the intention and tone behind the message. If we assume mal-intent when there is none, that can cause unnecessary strain on working relationships.

Cultural differences.

In remote working environments, it’s common to work on teams of people with very different cultural backgrounds and values. For example, I’ve managed teams that span multiple continents and operate in over 75 countries. This environment is ripe for communication gaps and misunderstandings.

Managing burnout.

In a traditional office environment, it’s easy to rely on physical cues to sense when a team member is burning out, unhappy, or getting ready to quit. But in a remote environment, the lack of in-person contact means that you can easily miss these important signals. For instance, you don’t see the physical signs (baggy eyes, unwashed hair) or body language (rolling eyes, folded arms) that can indicate a person is burning out or unhappy.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Aligning a global team.

Good storytelling can help solve this challenge. Stories are an ancient art form that helped us survive and bond for thousands of years. Across time and cultures, stories have been used to educate, entertain, and engage people.

Because stories engage our emotions, they motivate us to feel and take action. They have the capacity to change attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors in ways that no other medium can. In an increasingly data-driven world, many leaders turn to logic and data to align, motivate, and persuade others. Without realizing it, these leaders are doing themselves a disservice. Because while facts and figures should certainly inform our decisions, they don’t make us feel. And if we don’t feel, we simply don’t care.

So to align a global team, build a culture of good storytelling. For example, lead with a story in every presentation. That can be a story of your vision, a story of something another person did, or a story of something you found interesting. You can also implement dedicated “storytime” on team calls. Have a rotating schedule and allow people to tell a story. When you see an initiative that went particularly well or something a teammate did that you want others to do, prompt the team to talk about it.

Prioritization.

High performing leaders of remote teams have an eye for the essential. In a remote environment, the contribution you provide to the team and organization is far more important than the hours you spend working. Results stem from doing the right things, not doing things right. Effectively managing in a remote environment requires you to empower your team to prioritize and execute on the initiatives that deliver the most business impact.

As a manager, ask yourself and your team every day, week, month, quarter, and year: “What’s the one thing I can do such that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Ruthlessly prioritize that one thing and encourage your team to do the same.

Digital miscommunication

Digital communication provides us with fewer cues to understand the intent of our colleagues. Intent is important. It makes us feel safe with colleagues and helps us accurately interpret the information we receive. To mitigate the risk of intent issues in communication, you should:

  1. Be thoughtful with what you say. Before you send a message, try reading it from the perspective of the person receiving the message.
  2. Use emojis to soften the anticipated sting of an email or message.
  3. Meet face-to-face at least once if possible.
  4. Avoid sending a long wall of text: Record a quick video and send that instead.
  5. Ask people to clarify: “Sorry, I don’t think I understand, can you clarify?”

These techniques are not perfect, but they help.

Cultural differences.

To lead a global team, you need to understand how different cultures view work, think about feedback, treat hierarchy within organizations, and so on. You’d be surprised by how the place in which you grew up biases you to think about work in narrow ways.

Outside of learning through experience, read The Culture Map by Erin Meyer. It’s a great book that explores the many ways in which communication differs across cultures and how we can bridge the gap. This book will give leaders a head start on avoiding some common mistakes.

Managing burnout.

I mentioned this earlier, but you need to understand your people — what motivates them, what makes them unhappy, what they want out of work, what they’re dealing with in their personal lives, and so on. You can do this by getting to know people through conversations that focus on topics outside of day-to-day work projects.

If you think someone is approaching burnout, have a conversation with them. Start by asking questions and listening. Never assume anything about what’s causing the problem. The problem can be anything ranging from too much work, to a specific roadblock, to a personal health issue, to working on the wrong types of projects.

Once you understand the problem, you can offer specific solutions. The solution may include helping them to solve a difficult roadblock, offering tools or resources that may help, or getting them on new projects that align with their career goals. You can’t offer solutions until you understand the problem from the employee’s perspective.

Finally, you need to make people feel psychologically safe. If someone thinks they will be fired for having a bad week at work, they won’t feel comfortable talking about their struggles. You need to let people know that it’s okay if they need some extra help or time to step away.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

You need to build a genuine culture of feedback and continuous improvement. There are many ways to do this, but an essential component is creating psychological safety for people who are giving and receiving feedback.

As a leader, you need to set the tone. Proactively ask for feedback. Talk about your mistakes openly. And never punish anyone for giving feedback. For example, imagine I just gave a big presentation as a leader. One of my teammates who worked with me on the presentation comes up afterwards and says:

“Hey, great presentation — I think it went well overall. About halfway through, I think you could have stated [x] more clearly and responded to the questions from [y] with more information.”

If I want to foster a culture of continuous feedback and improvement, I need to be careful with my response. The correct response is to thank the person for the feedback, ask clarifying questions, and change my behavior over time if it makes sense to do so. With this approach, the person will feel safe giving me feedback again.

If I start dismissing the feedback or justifying why it’s wrong, I won’t ever get feedback again. The person won’t feel that I’m actually open-minded and won’t go through the discomfort of providing me more feedback in the future.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Whenever possible, I recommend getting on a Zoom call instead of giving feedback over email or Slack. But if you can’t do that for one reason or another, I use the following structure — start with a soft intro, mention something good, note the area for improvement, explain why, and demonstrate appreciation.

For example, imagine one of my teammates sent something unprofessional to a client. I might say something like:

“Hi, hope your week is off to a good start! I liked how proactive you were in reaching out to the client. That’s an important account for us.

I noticed in your message that you included a link to a politically-charged Youtube video in your last email. While I think it’s great to connect with clients on a personal level, we generally try to avoid politically-oriented content with clients. We’ve had a few bad experiences with this in the past, so as a general best practice, we avoid discussing politics with clients.

Appreciate you working so hard on growing this account. We’re close to reaching new milestones with this client thanks to your dedication and work.

Best,

Calvin”

If you’ve built a culture of feedback and continuous improvement, this message will be received well.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Try not to get paralyzed by information overload. Slack, Zoom, Trello, and other companies have made digital collaboration frictionless and cheaper. While these tools enable seamless remote work, they also come with lots of messages and alerts that can make it easy to get overwhelmed with information.

The speed of information can be overwhelming, and in some cases, paralyzing. So finding a way to filter through the noise and focus on what’s truly important is an incredibly valuable skill for the long-term.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Encourage people to create separation from work. When you go in and out of a physical office, there’s a natural separation between home life and work life.

With the flexibility of remote work, you can open up your laptop and work at any point in the day. So while you can enjoy an afternoon nap or workout without anyone shaming you, you can also find yourself working at ten or eleven at night from my couch.

In this new environment, you have to help people create healthy boundaries between work and life so that they don’t 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. 🙂

Pay it forward. A now-deceased mentor of mine taught me about the value of helping others as you navigate life. No matter where you are in your personal life or career, you can find ways to help others improve the quality of their lives. Life is much more enriching when you help others, so don’t wait until you’re rich and famous to start giving back. Find ways to pay it forward every day.

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

With respect to good leadership, I often revisit a quote from the founder of Walmart, Sam Walton,

“Celebrate your success and find humor in your failures. Don’t take yourself so seriously. Loosen up and everyone around you will loosen up. Have fun and always show enthusiasm.”

I have the tendency to accomplish goals and not celebrate them. I often take mistakes and failures too seriously. And I certainly don’t have enough fun on the journey.

Walton reminds me that life is too short to operate this way. Life and business are a lot more fun when you celebrate more, show more appreciation, and don’t take mistakes too seriously.

Thank you for these great insights!


Calvin Rosser of Mechanism Ventures: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Anne Lackey of HireSmart Virtual Employees: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a…

Anne Lackey of HireSmart Virtual Employees: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

“Done is better than perfect.” When I realized that my perfectionism was actually keeping me from progress, I was able to accept myself and others. I was able to do more by allowing others to come alongside me and work together to achieve my vision.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anne Lackey.

Anne Lackey is the Co-Founder of HireSmart Virtual Employees. She helps business owners improve their bottom line by reducing overwhelm and staff turnover. She does this by assisting businesses to raise their customers’ satisfaction through strategic staffing with virtual employees. Three-time best-selling author, national speaker, and featured expert on hiring, team building, managing remote employees, and business growth.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

My husband and I started our first business in 2000. When we got married, we knew we wanted to build a legacy, but at the time, we were not sure what that would look like. In 2009 when I finally quit my corporate gig, we owned four businesses, each of which we started from scratch. One of those was a property management business in Atlanta. Fast forward to 2013, and a key employee who had been with us over four years, quit via text while on our first vacation in seven years. My husband and I were burned out from traditional hiring and sought out a hiring alternative. We hired our first virtual employee from the Philippines in January 2015, and the difference it made in our business and personal lives was tremendous. So much so, that two CEO friends asked me to help them find amazing talent and HireSmart was born. Interestingly enough, those first placements made over five years ago are still working for the client.

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

Probably the most interesting thing that has happened to me is that businesses seem to “find me.” I never really intended to start more than one business, but people just asked me to help them, and I found I was able to help them and make money. Our property management business started when an agent friend who was selling investment properties talked to us and wanted us to manage for her clients. We had been managing our properties for a while, and we were always full even when it was hard to find quality residents. She needed someone who cared, so in 2015, we started managing rentals for others. Similarly in 2015, when we began hiring virtual employees, other CEOs wanted help finding virtual employees.

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 don’t think I have a funny mistake that I can share. I do have plenty of lessons, however. One of the best lessons I can share is, “done is better than perfect.” I am a little controlling and I like things done in a particular fashion. This mindset hindered me from doing everything that I can do. Once I realized that “done was better than perfect,” and that I didn’t have to have everything done my way, I was free to expand and create more. I was able to affect more change and serve more people. It didn’t matter if the spreadsheet was perfect if it provided the results.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

My best advice is to set clear goals and expectations. I like to manage using key performance indicators (KPIs). It is tough for someone to know how they are doing without setting clear expectations. I believe that everyone wants to succeed. If they know the goals, then they will do what they can to achieve those outcomes. Often, however, when I am working with CEOs, most don’t have any KPIs for themselves, their management team, and therefore, their employees don’t understand what a good job looks like.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I have been managing remote teams for over 15 years. Of that, the past 5 years have been a global workforce and a local workforce.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Lack of Communication

Managing remote workers requires conscious effort to include remote team members in the conversations. Unlike teammates, you see down the hall, and there is no hall virtually. You have to make time to reach out and check in on them.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Having KPIs for all team members allows for better outcomes regardless of in-house or remote staff. However, not having clear outcomes for remote workers puts them at a disadvantage as they don’t have the benefit of “hearing through the grapevine” how the company is doing overall. There are a lot of missed conversations as they are sometimes, out of sight, out of mind.

Ignoring Remote Workers

This relates to the previous one. As a manager of a remote team, I have to make them a priority. I schedule 1-on-1 meetings with each direct report each week. This allows me to focus on them, their needs & questions, provide feedback, and give direction.

Lack of Community

Remote workers can start to feel disconnected from the company, the mission, and the team. Having regular meetings helps with this. Also, having them as part of every company meeting helps as well. I also recommend having a “water cooler” chat for teams to use and check in to stay connected. We also have contests, themed zoom meetings, and other fun interactions to help everyone be invested.

Lack of Career Path

Often remote workers are overlooked for promotions and career development because they are not available to build relationships as easily as those in office. When you manage through KPIs, and you can outline a career path for a remote worker, this enhances their experience and allows them to do more. It also allows them a pathway for personal growth.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Lack of Communication

Involve remote teams in all corporate communications.

Lack of Clear Objectives

Develop KPIs for their role.

Ignoring Remote Workers

Schedule weekly meetings.

Lack of Community

Provide opportunities to connect like weekly lunches via Zoom to chat with the team. Invite in office and remote teams to participate.

Lack of Career Path

Have clear career development goals for all staff members.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I recommend you don’t try and have difficult conversations via email or text. It is so easy to have a virtual meeting via Zoom or Skype. This way, you can see the person and judge the reaction first hand.

I also recommend that whenever you are having any kind of difficult discussion, you have specific talking points and provide a solution to fix it or have them provide a possible solution to fix it before the end of the meeting. You want to have clear objectives moving forward. I also recommend recapping the strategy in an email after you have an agreement on how to move forward.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I think you can, but I don’t think you really should. Too often, people hide behind email and text to avoid having these difficult conversations. I believe, however, a great leader is one who isn’t afraid to have open, honest, and at times, difficult conversations. We do others a disservice when we dehumanize them and not treat them like we would want to be treated. I know how I felt when my key employee quit via text; it was impersonal and left me with a feeling of unimportant. I don’t want any of my team members to endure that.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Increase the communication frequency. Do daily check-ins and weekly meetings. Have lunches together via zoom. Make it a point to connect.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

The connection is vital. Do everything you can to maintain the same level of communication and connections that you did when in office. Keep everyone informed about the company’s goals & missions. Recognize those who are excelling.

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. 🙂

A mentor of mine shared three phrases that I remind myself of daily:

Choose:

Responsbility over Blame

Curiosity over Judgment

Clarity over Conformity

I would encourage others to make these choices, as well.

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

“Done is better than perfect.” When I realized that my perfectionism was actually keeping me from progress, I was able to accept myself and others. I was able to do more by allowing others to come alongside me and work together to achieve my vision.

Thank you for these great insights!


Anne Lackey of HireSmart Virtual Employees: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a… 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: “The application of quantum mechanics to biological objects” With Quanta CEO…

The Future Is Now: “The application of quantum mechanics to biological objects” With Quanta CEO Eric Rice

Currently, we are the pioneers in Quantum Biology or the application of quantum mechanics and theoretical chemistry to biological objects and problems. We are optimizing natural laws to best deliver life-enhancing biological reactions. Our patented technology dramatically improves the function of targeted molecules by increasing the kinetic energy of electron clouds while preventing it from ionizing. More simply put, we are using Quantum Theory to dramatically improve the performance of organic compounds on and in the human body.

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

Eric, Quanta CEO and Chairman, is a leading American entrepreneur. A former professional baseball player, he started his business career in Chicago in wealth management and high-net-worth financial advising before spending more than a decade building businesses at the nexus of AI machine learning and advertising technology. Along the way, he worked with founders across multiple sectors to create profitable, enduring enterprises, demonstrating a keen eye for the nuances of markets and corresponding growth opportunities. In 2013, he cofounded 25 Ventures, a venture studio that developed multiple successful companies in the fields of media and technology, and made him a sought-after partner for start-ups and established businesses around the globe. With its world-changing ambitions, Quanta represents the culmination of Eric’s years of insight and experience, merging his market acumen with his longstanding interest in the applied sciences. He lives in Burbank with his wife and two children, and still finds time to make it to the batting cages.

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 genuinely believe that I am one of the few people on this planet who is doing exactly what he was meant to do. As a younger person, I was blessed to grow up in a great home. My dad got his Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics then ended up getting into technology and non-profit work and my mom worked odd jobs before going to night school to become a nurse when I was younger.

I was taught at home, everything about the human body and physics, all fields of physics.

I can remember being 10 years old and helping my mom with flashcards while she studied for nursing boards when she worked at a liquor store. But I did not care, all that stuff seemed easy to me, I wanted to play baseball.

So I did, and I was pretty good at it. I played in college and a little in Mexico. I worked my butt off and had a lot of fun, but I did not focus on applying myself in academics. My ambition truly exceeded my abilities and the game eventually wore my body down. I was not naturally gifted, so I played through tons of injuries and eventually found myself taking handfuls of ibuprofen before every game. Hell, my last season of competitive play my teammates nicknamed me “duct tape” because they thought that was what was holding me together!

I finished school and got into managing money for a major financial institution and eventually I started building my own businesses. I have had the pleasure of learning multiple industries, succeeding, failing, and all along the way, learning. I carved a niche for myself by being able to understand complex ideas and explain them to the masses. I found myself to be a strange type of hybrid who could understand complex ideas, explain them to others, and build businesses around them.

Along the way, I met a medical researcher who discovered an amazing technology to amplify ingredients that could truly help people. The technology involves quantum mechanics, which is funny because (1) my father is a Ph.D. in Nuclear Physics and a career in the field never occurred to me and (2) I now spend my days talking about how this technology can significantly impact various natural plant products to more effectively help people. My life has literally come full circle.

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

This is a tough one. I have seen and done many things and met many, many interesting people from celebrities to mad scientists. Most of those I cannot tell. I live in LA, so I will not use anyone’s name. But nothing compares to the experiences I’ve had with our current customers. Every day, I get emails and phone calls and text messages from people all over the world thanking us for helping them get their lives back. It is truly awe-inspiring and fuels me every day.

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

Currently, we are the pioneers in Quantum Biology or the application of quantum mechanics and theoretical chemistry to biological objects and problems. We are optimizing natural laws to best deliver life-enhancing biological reactions. Our patented technology dramatically improves the function of targeted molecules by increasing the kinetic energy of electron clouds while preventing it from ionizing. More simply put, we are using Quantum Theory to dramatically improve the performance of organic compounds on and in the human body.

We use custom calibrated MRI technologies to influence electron spin. By influencing the angular momentum (spin) of the electrons we dramatically increase the overall electromagnetic energy of the molecule. The resulting molecule binds more easily to other molecules without oxidizing — making it more 500% more bioavailable and 500% more bioactive.

The deft application of energy to a molecule — both in the nucleus and electron cloud — demonstrates a massive leap in magnetic resonance theory. The impact is profound and immediately applies to multiple sectors such as pain management, anti-inflammation, vitamins, supplements, nutraceuticals, anti-aging, human cognition, agriculture, food, and pharmaceuticals. In short, this will help people by finally offering them natural remedies that are as potent and predictable as current pharmaceutical solutions.

How do you think this might change the world?

The impacts of this type of technology are vast, powerful, and still being determined. However, our first goal was to solve an issue that is really close to home with me. We launched a topical pain relief and anti-inflammatory that has proven to be 5x more effective than all other competitors. This, in turn, means that we need 1/5 of the materials needed to make a product impactful. This is game-changing in every sense of the word. There are so many implications of how we might use this technology to benefit the world; not just alleviating pain, but fighting illness, better agriculture, using ingredients more efficiently and sustainably — we’re at the beginning of our journey, but think we can accomplish a lot.

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

While it may sound a little “Brave New World” to hear what we’re doing, the truth is we are maximizing the bioenergy in natural products; we are not messing around with the genetic makeup or creating Frankenproducts. We are using some of the most forward-thinking science to bring efficacy to truly ancient medicine and remedies. This would be a good episode of Black Mirror because it would have to be shot in reverse. The drawbacks already exist unhealthy people, side effects from synthetic ingredients and pharmaceuticals, environmental damage.

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

The tipping point for this breakthrough began many years ago. As a former baseball player I completely overused ibuprofen to be able to reduce my pain and stay on the field. I ended up damaging my insides and in looking for a natural alternative, discovered cannabis. When I learned about this exciting technology that would make a product even more effective, my lightbulb moment was thinking, “what if I could make a CBD cream that would be even more effective?”

I then sprained my ankle on a Sunday playing baseball and found myself having to leave my office Monday afternoon because of pain and swelling. I decided this was a good opportunity to see if polarized CBD would work. We had just gotten our first test units back from the lab earlier that day. So, I took one home with me and committed to using it every 90 minutes to see what happened. Well, less than 48 hours later I arrived at my office where there were a couple of my younger employees throwing a football around waiting for me to unlock the doors. Long story short, when the rest of the team arrived, they were as shocked as I was that I had no pain and could not only walk but that I joined the football game. The rest, as they say, was history.

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

My hope is that other companies see what we have done with CBD (and with our next product launch, Quanta Beauty, which uses the same technology to polarize key ingredients in the skincare realm and make them more effective) and reach out to us to license our technology to improve other products that can benefit people. We will be getting into supplements in the 4th quarter and are sorting through potential partners as well. We make products currently, but we are truly designed for major licensing with large product makers.

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

To this point, we have not done a whole lot to gain recognition. We have been laser-focused on research and driving profitability. However, I recently hired a publicist and we are beginning to tell our story to the public. I hope they enjoy hearing it as much as we have enjoyed creating it.

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 could spend the next 3 hours thanking people for the things they have done to help me grow along this path. I have an incredible team of people that are in the company for the right, long term, reasons. I have tremendous mentors that have been supporting me as a CEO for years. But more than anything I think I owe a spotlight to 2 special people in my life. My dad and my wife. Without them, I would not be in this position.

I have to thank my dad for forcing science down my throat since birth. Without his guidance at an early age, I would have never been able to see or take this opportunity in life. His constant support and never-ending explanations of how things work is paying off way more today than it did in college (where he was hoping I would use it).

And to my amazing wife of 15 years, Kim, no words can say what she has meant to me as a person or as a businessman. She constantly holds me to a higher standard and has always been there for me in good times and bad. Nothing makes a person braver than having the love of his family.

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

This is a great question that should be asked of more CEOs. First, the work I do currently helps people alleviate pain and in turn helps them experience joy, nothing feels better than that. I coach young baseball and football. I help young kids understand the sport they are playing, but more importantly I teach them how to play as a single unit. I enjoy helping kids learn how to build relationships and work hard, values I feel we are losing as a society. I also help out with food drives and local charities as often as I can.

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

This is the best question yet. I can probably give you 100 of these, but here are the top 5 for me:

∙ Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. Over the course of my career, I have had to fire friends and hire enemies. This makes it tough to build the same bonds that employees build. It is also tough to make new friends. When you meet new people, it can be tough to tell if they are truly being nice to you or if they are looking for a job, loan, investments, etc. In the end, it is even tough to be friends with someone that is simply an employee somewhere because they do not understand your plight. I would say 95% of my real-life friends are other business owners.

∙ Working on yourself is a must. When you start a company, you get so wrapped up in it that you take your own health and sanity for granted. 18-hour days are tough enough, but no one recognizes that most of us are still mentally working on the business even when we sleep. Eventually, we all start to morph into what we are building. Every entrepreneur in the world needs to ground themselves daily through meditation, exercise, spending time with their families, whatever they love that will bring them back to WHY they work so hard.

∙ Seek advice. This sounds simple to most, but to entrepreneurs isn’t. As a person that starts a company, most people assume you know everything. And early in your career, it is hard to ask for advice. Don’t let the shame of not knowing cost you your business. Build a rapport with seasoned experts and ask them for as much advice as they will give.

∙ Learn to control your emotions. This is crucial for entrepreneurs to learn. Never let your highs get too high or your lows get too low. They will both happen, be prepared. Every person you encounter will be watching how you react, and learning to control those same emotions that helped you start the business will be critical to your long term success.

∙ Trust and delegate. Nothing has helped me more than learning to delegate. There are only so many hours in the day and every one of them needs to be optimized. Learn to bring in people you trust that know what they are doing and let them run. Nothing will change your life more than this.

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. 🙂

If I had the chance to spawn a movement it would absolutely be to something to help humans begin to think for themselves again. Far too many people live in a bubble and trust only what they see, hear or read blindly without thinking it through. It is sad to see an entire species become slaves to devices and news that have no fact check regulations. We are divided by our opinions, yet completely blind to the truth. Free your mind and the rest will follow.

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

This is an easy one, my favorite quote ever is “only those who can see the invisible can achieve the impossible.” This quote impacts me every day of my life. This is relevant to me in many ways. My company focuses on the invisible, subatomic particles, to achieve the impossible, better performing materials without the use of chemicals or cellular penetration. And I am a constant seeker of the truth which is invisible to most.

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 🙂

Quantum is not only for computing. The same types of theories and mechanics can be used to improve human health and not just human communication. Take a percentage of your investments in Quantum and put them into the Quantum Biology field for expanded research and new products that will impact the health of humans all across the planet.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I can be found on

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/EricRice25

Twitter https://twitter.com/ea_rice?lang=en

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericrice25

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


The Future Is Now: “The application of quantum mechanics to biological objects” With Quanta CEO… 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: “AI That Detects If People Are Wearing Masks or Social Distancing Properly” With

The Future Is Now: “AI That Detects If People Are Wearing Masks or Social Distancing Properly” With Lars Nordenlund of Cognize

…The platform delivers live and predictive situational awareness of individuals and crowds using multi-sensor technology to detect when people are less than six feet apart, congregating in groups, running a fever or not wearing masks. It’s a technology that is based on the innovation of self-driving cars, a highly advanced autonomous solution combining video, thermal, voice and biometric sensors with optimized hardware, software and AI.

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

Lars Nordenlund, CEO of Cognize, is a global top-management executive with more than 20 years of CEO, VP and strategic leadership experience from leading technology enterprise companies like Microsoft and Canon, as well as start-ups and mid-stage pre-IPO organizations with global growth ambitions in the United States and Europe — all with special emphasis within the technology, AI, IoT, enterprise software, cloud video, SaaS and media advertising sectors.

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

I am driven by what’s next. Technology has always inspired me since it can open new worlds and opportunities that have never been broadly accessible to us. I’m highly interested in how computer science is exponentially accelerating innovation. At an early stage of my professional career I had the opportunity to lead a corporate strategy management consulting practice in PricewaterhouseCoopers for technology and media companies, which spurred an interest and affinity for the tech industry. In 2002, I was spearheading a practice in Northern Europe for technology companies, and one of the clients we worked with went through an IPO global merger and was eventually acquired by Microsoft. They asked me to join in establishing the Dynamics Business Solutions division, which brought me to Microsoft HQ in Seattle. That is when the start of almost two decades of a professional life in the technology industry emerged.

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

Cognize enabled me to be able to ideate, incubate and bring a passion and big idea to fruition. I was able to develop a company into a full-blown business to solve some massive problems in this world with the wonders of cognitive computing. Essentially, applying technology to optimize and create better businesses and a safer and healthier public life. I appreciate this opportunity to make a difference in this world and a contribution to help us do better.

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

We have built an AI cognitive learning platform that can understand patterns of behavior in physical spaces, for both people and situations of relevance to mitigate risk, improve health and expand customer experience. Our mission is to innovate and explore the wonders of cognitive learning to better realities. Accepting the fact that improving your reality starts with fully observing it, gives us the ability to prevent undesired events, while concurrently improving experiences using cognitive awareness solutions.

Cognize recently launched the new People, Health and Safety platform, supporting compliance with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) COVID-19 guideline requirements for social distancing, mask screening and body temperature checks. The platform delivers live and predictive situational awareness of individuals and crowds using multi-sensor technology to detect when people are less than six feet apart, congregating in groups, running a fever or not wearing masks. It’s a technology that is based on the innovation of self-driving cars, a highly advanced autonomous solution combining video, thermal, voice and biometric sensors with optimized hardware, software and AI.

How do you think this might change the world?

It is our mission to better reality by observing and immediately improving situations of a critical nature. Right now, our priority is to provide a solution to support companies and institutions in getting people back to work faster and as safely as possible. As many of us face challenges on how to pivot and address critical business and health concerns, so we have applied our technology to meet and automate COVID-19 compliance requirements, including: social distancing, mask detection and body temperature and heart rate check.

The Cognize situational awareness platform reduces risk and ensures compliance with CDC guidelines by integrating multi-sensor fusion data with cognitive learning to provide critical context and recommendations. The fully automated sensors eliminate the need for manually monitoring and provide real-time alerts with images that can be routed for proper action.

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

Cognitive situational awareness is an evolution of co-existence with technology, taking advantage of AI and cognitive learning to improve how things are done, and at the same time being highly respectful of data integrity and personal interference.

Multi-sensor systems can understand very complex situations that the human mind cannot keep up with or maintain attention to — including small details and patterns of behavior that can help us predict and resolve issues before they become larger public health and safety threats. Just like the first industrial revolution in 1775 to the IT, internet and AI revolutions, humans have shown their ability to adapt to advancements in technology to ultimately lead to safer, healthier and better lives. At the same time evolution helped us adapt new technology inventions to the human values and ethics, instead of letting the technology take over.

Private data integrity is a top priority. At the same time, we realize that the exposure of data and behavior in businesses such as routine surveillance, is already happening in public places as well as online by platforms like Facebook and Google. However, the benefits of such technologies far outweigh the threats they may present.

We treat data with extremely high degree of sensitivity and privacy. For instance, we do not store personal data related to names or individuals, and sensitive data never leaves the site. All Cognize solutions adhere to data privacy regulations, are GDPR compliant and can be customized for specific business and industry needs.

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

I realized that everything I had been working with in my past professional life was based on what had already happened. It was all based on historic data and a forensic approach. From there, I started to explore the wonders of cognitive computing and autonomous sensor technologies with a more proactive approach versus reactive in situational awareness. We could use available technology to do live “here and now,” and predictive systems could indicate “what’s next” and prevent situations before they occur, optimizing experiences and streamlining functions and staff. This was the goal and mission that led to our breakthrough.

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

We are aiming at establishing strategic partner adoption for specific industries and verticals of relevance to work alongside us to learn, improve, optimize and innovate. We will lead customer driven innovation one industry at a time, such as retail environments, education and university campuses, entertainment venues, hospitality, healthcare, smart safe cities and critical infrastructure.

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

We have used online media and blogs early on to discuss the convergence of technology from autonomous cars to physical spaces. We have also leveraged press opportunities to build awareness and develop an online presence within the industry. Additionally, we have implemented a successful ambassador program that engages advocates to evangelize our solutions. We are truly devoted to spreading the knowledge of such technologies for the betterment of society.

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 have a group of trusted advisors and mentors that I look to. I am a believer in having multiple mentors that you can go to for different perspectives. These are people that I have worked with and built trust in over time. Cognize has a strong advisory team for the same reason.

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

By creating Cognize, I feel I am set up to do good in this world. Our technologies are aimed at changing the world in a positive way, creating improved realities to make the world a better and safer place.

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

  1. Lead by Core Values. Trust, integrity and honesty are imperative to successful relationships and businesses. Ensure that your leadership is transparent, truthful and operates on a high-level of integrity. I’ve had situations where people haven’t been upfront or have omitted partial truths about a position or a company at least a couple of times. Once I was lured to a high level CEO position, moved my family out of the country, and the company quickly ended up on the edge of bankruptcy and sold off. I have also hired and engaged people that I thought had shared values and later came to learn their values did not actually align with what they expressed early on, which led to a disappointing, unhealthy environment that I did not want in my workplace.
  2. Don’t compromise on hiring the best team. If you are scaling an organization in a fast-growing company, it is tempting to recruit a talented person who doesn’t quite fit. Don’t do it. If someone doesn’t feel right or doesn’t fit your value set keep looking until you find the perfect fit. A short-term solution at the expense of long-term objectives can do more harm than good. It’s critical to engage in a high degree of vetting and to develop networks that allow for fostering connections prior to hiring. When I haven’t done that with executive teams I’ve hired, I’ve seen a shift from an individual I saw as being open and accommodating to one that turned out to be toxic and greedy. Hire carefully.
  3. Advisors make a difference. Build a diverse group of trustworthy mentors and respected friends. I’ve done this over time, and these are the people I go to in critical times for different perspectives and subject matter expertise. I also look to my established advisors and mentors for referrals and to help evangelize our mission and spread the word about how we can make a difference in this world
  4. Have a plan to prevent and respond to litigious actions. I am a big believer in visionary leadership, core team competencies and strong strategy execution in sustainable deployment and delivery. A company can do its best for its customers and employees and implement a high degree of responsible leadership, but it will most likely encounter a situation where they need to respond legally. I hired an executive in the past that changed drastically — like day and night. Ego and greed can change people’s behaviors and impair the success of the overall team and company. You have to be prepared to mitigate that risk and take action to protect yourself and the company in such situations.
  5. See into the future. It’s fair to say it’s hard to predict the future despite attempts to correlate historic events with future results. Looking backwards gives you some indication of potential future outcomes, but for a business I still think the best way to prepare for the future is to create it yourself and drive breakthrough innovation to shape the future in your own scenario planning. The power of this approach is the discipline that forces us to explore uncharted territory. You must bypass market uncertainty, believe in yourself more than a perceived reality, and try to manage your own cognitive biases –which often foil these attempts to take the long view

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. 🙂

Cognize is a data science and technology company that enables institutions and companies to revolutionize their health and safety situations and improve customer and patient experiences. Using AI cognitive technology and IoT to observe, predict and act on everything that happens in their environments is the next big thing.

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

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” ― Steve Jobs

Cognize is built on the vision to make a difference and imagine how things can be better. I left a corporate world to start a new company ground up because that’s my passion and my intuition tells me this will be a game changer.

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 🙂

Our company is seeded to a fast track trajectory of business growth to global leadership in a $78 billion market opportunity in intelligent systems by 2022.

We have addressed a key problem for enterprises in entertainment, hospitality, healthcare institutions and other industries experiencing a major problem with handling complex customer or staff situations, because of the fact that the human attention span is very low, and the brain has limited capabilities to detect critical situations.

At Cognize, we combine bleeding edge AI technologies with multi-sensor fusion as the backbone of our platform — video, thermal, radar, audio, heart rate, environmental sensors and biometrics detection, plus more. And if the infrastructure is the backbone, the brain is artificial intelligence. Cognize is the first and only situational awareness platform to integrate sensor data with a cognitive learning engine to absorb and analyze vast amounts of data — including live and historic data — with human-like thinking to mitigate risk and even predict critical events. We deliver relevant situations in real-time and predictive observations 24/7/365 to provide meaningful patterns of behavior using the OODA situational awareness model, with an ability to see, analyze and understand the world around you in context of what you are trying to do.

We’re Cognize, and we help companies engineer better realities that improve their safety and customer experience and drive growth using the power of cognitive learning.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: Cognize Inc.

Twitter: lnordenlund

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


The Future Is Now: “AI That Detects If People Are Wearing Masks or Social Distancing Properly” With was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become

Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

…be intentional about managing your energy. This includes basic stuff, like committing to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night — even setting a bedtime for yourself, if that helps. But it also means building breaks into your day so that you aren’t working for several uninterrupted hours without resting your brain. Set aside 10–15 minutes every couple hours to stand up and stretch, do some jumping jacks, take a walk outside, or listen to something that relaxes and focuses you. You’ll notice you feel less tired at the end of each day.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Glazer.

Robert is the founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners, a global partner marketing agency and the recipient of numerous industry and company culture awards. He is the author of the inspirational newsletter Friday Forward, author the Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestseller, Elevate, and of the international bestselling book, Performance Partnerships. He is a sought-after speaker by companies and organizations around the world and is the host of The Elevate Podcast. His new book, Friday Forward, publishes September 1, 2020.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

I’m founder and CEO of Acceleration Partners and an entrepreneur, author, podcast host and speaker. But, like a lot of entrepreneurs it took me a while to get to where I am today. I didn’t start my first business until after I turned 30, and before that I was a bit of a job-hopper. I worked at a few different organizations where the leadership was demotivational and uninspiring, and at a point I even had a friend joke that I was becoming close to “unemployable.”

But in 2007 I tapped into my entrepreneurial passion and started two businesses, one of which became Acceleration Partners. We’re a premier global partner marketing agency, focused on helping leading brands build and refine their marketing partnerships. We’re a 100 percent remote team of over 170 people in eight countries.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

In 2015 I started sending an email to my team at Acceleration Partners. At that point there were about 40 of us. I was motivated by the fact that I was just starting a morning routine with daily meditation, reading and writing, but I couldn’t find things to read that were inspirational, but also thought-provoking and challenging. Some of the books we were given were a bit too, “rainbows and unicorns” for me. So I started writing the about the stories I would want to read — real-world examples that were uplifting, but that pushed readers to improve themselves.

I sent these emails every Friday, and I figured employees were skimming them, or even ignoring them completely. But, to my surprise, team members started telling me they looked forward to the notes each week, and were sending them to friends and family. After sharing the email with a few CEOs I knew, and getting similar feedback from them, I decided to call the email Friday Forward and open it to the public.

Today, Friday Forward is read by over 200,000 people in more than 60 countries worldwide. Every week I get replies from readers, most of whom I’ve never met, sharing how that Friday’s post impacted them. That feedback is what I find most rewarding — the idea that each of us can make an impact on people beyond our own companies or social circles by spreading positivity and pushing each other to improve. Writing Friday Forward has also helped me immensely — I’ve become a better writer and a deeper thinker, simply because I’ve had to be in order to deliver a new post each week. I think each of us can do more to impact others in a positive way, and I’m glad Friday Forward has given me a chance to do that.

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

One of my favorite stories about our company comes from our annual in-person company retreat, which we call AP Summit. We have employees all over the world at this point, and once per year we bring everybody to one place for three days of learning, sharing and teambuilding. Because it’s only three days a year, we really work to foster deep connections between employees — from in-depth sharing, to unique teambuilding experiences, to some really emotional, vulnerable keynote speakers.

We took it to another level with our most recent AP Summit last November. We brought in a brilliant coach, Philip McKernan, who runs an amazing program called One Last Talk. In One Last Talk, which Philip has done around the world, people come together to hear speakers give the speech they would give it were their last day on Earth. And these speeches, not surprisingly, focus on the speakers’ deepest truths, deeper than even standard vulnerability-focused keynotes. We decided to try this at AP Summit, and we had Philip coach four volunteers to give their One Last Talk to the entire company.

At our summit, four of our team members gave deeply personal, courageous speeches to our entire company. What they shared gave a lot of clarity about who the speakers were at their core, and how they showed up for work each day. And even though it was an emotionally intense experience — there were a lot of tears — our team members embraced the speakers fully, even lining up to congratulate them after the talks were over.

But more importantly, those talks inspired our team to be deeper and more open in their sharing, both at the summit and beyond it. Even people who had worked together for years, without having a deep discussion, were suddenly connecting vulnerably with each other. It says a lot about the psychologically safe, accepting, supportive culture our team has creating that the One Last Talk program not only succeeded at our summit, but pushed the whole team to give more of themselves at 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? Can you share a story?

I was lucky to have a great mentor in my first job out of college, Arun Gupta. Arun supported me and pushed me to grow simultaneously. He also taught me a vital lesson about expectation setting. One day he sat me down and told me that I was always setting aggressive deadlines for myself and then missing them. He advised me: instead of promising I would have something done by Monday, then having it ready Tuesday, I should promise to complete something by Wednesday, and have it ready Tuesday. It was an important lesson I have carried through my career.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think resilience is basically built on two things — building the physical and mental strength to withstand adversity, and consciously managing our emotional reactions to challenging situations. Physical resilience relates to our physical fitness, of course, but it also includes how we manage our energy and respond to adversity.

Many of us respond to stress with a fight-or-flight response, which is a survival instinct that we used to need to protect us from real danger. It’s not healthy for somebody to have a fight-or-flight response that is evolutionarily designed to save our lives get triggered when we have 50 emails first thing in the morning. We need to learn to manage our energy, build breaks into our day, prioritize sleep, and start our day on offense with a productive morning routine.

Emotionally, resilience requires training ourselves to productively respond to challenging situations. For example, if two people get into an argument in the morning, an emotionally resilient person is able to process that challenging situation and move on with their day, while a less resilient person would let that negative experience wreck the rest of their day — they’re snippy with people, they have trouble focusing, and the whole day is lost. In addition to building physical resilience by improving diet, exercising and managing our stress, we need to train ourselves to manage emotional hardship without getting derailed.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

I have a lot of examples from my personal life, but I want to share one that’s more broadly known that is especially useful. In his book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about a concept called the Stockdale Paradox, named after James Stockdale, a naval officer who endured seven years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. Stockdale, reflecting on his experience in an interview with Collins, essentially said that he was able to persevere because of a carefully calibrated mindset: he was honest about the brutal reality of his situations, that he would likely be imprisoned for years, but we never abandoned hope that he would eventually be freed.

This is perhaps my favorite example of resilience, and it’s really instructive to people leading teams through adversity. Resilience is about accepting the challenge in front of us, acknowledging the difficulties we face — both to ourselves and the people we lead — while also maintaining the belief that we will succeed eventually.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

A lot of the things we do at Acceleration Partners were considered impossible, or at least unadvisable, when we first started. When we launched, affiliate marketing was considered more of a niche channel, and we were told there was no chance of building a global, large-scale affiliate agency. Over a decade later, we’re the largest agency in our industry and operate in eight countries.

We were also told that it wouldn’t be possible to run a completely remote workplace, especially with talent spread all over the country, or the world. There were still a lot of misconceptions about working from home — that employees would be less productive or motivated at a home office. Today, a lot of companies, including ones as big as Twitter, know that remote work can actually improve an organization’s performance, not hamper.

These two things were they core of our aspirations when building Acceleration Partners, and we’ve helped change the perception on both affiliate marketing and remote work. We weren’t out to prove other people wrong, we wanted to prove ourselves right.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

In 2009, I totally maxed myself out and reached a clear breaking point. I had placed myself under an excessive amount of stress and hadn’t yet started the capacity building journey I discuss in my book, Elevate. My wife and I were briefly living with my parents while building a new house, we had just had our third child, and I was running two businesses during a historic recession. I was barely sleeping and compensating for that by drinking a ton of coffee every morning. It was unsustainable.

Things came to a head one morning when I noticed my heart was racing and my arm was tingling. After a while, I began struggling to stand and called my wife to come home from work, convinced I was having a heart attack. Once the paramedics arrived to take me to the hospital I started feeling better, and despite fearing the worst, after two days of testing in the hospital I discovered that I’d had a massive panic attack, triggered by a magnesium deficiency that led to an elevated heartrate. Otherwise, I was totally healthy.

This was an inflection point in my personal journey — I think of it as a warning shot that compelled me to prioritize my health while I still had the chance. I started committing to regular yoga, began running for the first time in my life and watching my diet. I think that experience, while harrowing in the moment, was crucial to getting me where I am today.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When I was 10 years old, I was on an Amtrak train with my mom and siblings coming home from visiting my grandparents. The train stopped to change engines in Stamford, Connecticut, and I went to watch them change the engine. When I tried to return to my family, I realized the train had split and I was on a separate train from them, going in a different direction. I ended up spending a few hours in the station with the Amtrak operations team and then taking the next train by myself to Boston.

Despite being in a scary and difficult situation at a young age, I learned how to solve problems for myself, to depend on my own abilities to overcome adversity, and to not panic even in a situation where it would have been very understandable. I have always been independent, and that experience gave me the confidence to continue to choose that path.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • First, be proactive about your health, because diet and exercise have an enormous impact on how you respond to adversity. A person who eats healthy, goes for a jog before work every morning and avoids junk will probably be better under pressure than somebody who has low stamina and is constantly overtired and stressed.
  • Second, be intentional about managing your energy. This includes basic stuff, like committing to getting at least eight hours of sleep a night — even setting a bedtime for yourself, if that helps. But it also means building breaks into your day so that you aren’t working for several uninterrupted hours without resting your brain. Set aside 10–15 minutes every couple hours to stand up and stretch, do some jumping jacks, take a walk outside, or listen to something that relaxes and focuses you. You’ll notice you feel less tired at the end of each day.
  • Third, don’t be afraid to put yourself first. The analogy I love for this is, on an airplane, the flight crew always tells passengers to put on their own oxygen mask before helping others, for everybody’s safety. We should do this in life as well. It’s important to help others, and to even go above and beyond for the most important people in life — but you can’t do that at the expense of your own health. The people in your life deserve the best version of you, so it’s ok to take care of your self first by saying no to some commitments that you can’t take on, giving yourself breaks from time to time, and asking for space when you need it.
  • Fourth, become comfortable with discomfort. Essentially, we need to accept that difficult situations are a part of life — we will constantly find ourselves in situations that are a bit scary or uncertain, and it’s important to be able to confront them calmly, rather than panicking. To do this, I would recommend embracing challenging situations when you can — sign up for a fitness challenge that seems difficult, go to a networking event you’d normally be too shy to attend, or take a trip to a country that speaks a different language from yours. By immersing yourself in challenging situations on your own terms, you’ll be better able to confront that type of uncertainty when it crops up in life.
  • Five, surround yourself with people who help you get better. If you spend most of your time with people who have a victim mentality, blame others for their problems and pity themselves whenever adversity strikes, that will rub off on you in some way, no matter what your own mindset is. Instead, surround yourself with people who encourage you to stand tall against adversity, constantly improve, and help others do the same. You’ll notice a difference.

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 the success of Friday Forward proves that each of us has an opportunity to put something into the world that lifts people up and motivates them to get better, and it’s needed now more than ever. A big part of my motivation to turn Friday Forward into a book is I want to call others to action on this specific point: think about one thing you can do to inspire the people around you. That can be reaching out to somebody and offer to brainstorm goals with them, be somebody’s accountability partner if they’re chasing an achievement, or even do what I did with Friday Forward and share positive stories with the people around you. Every one of us as a network — our team at work, our family or our social circle — and if we all commit to helping each other grow and lead others, we can create a lasting impact. My goal with Friday Forward is to positively impact one million people worldwide.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I’m a huge fan of Tim Ferriss. I think he’s an archetype and thought-leader in many of the areas I love to learn and write about, especially because he’s constantly pushing himself to learn, grow and challenge the odds. Perhaps most importantly, he never gets complacent, despite having achieved a lot at a young age; he surrounds himself with a challenge network of people who push him to get better, and he’s committed to pushing his audience to improve in the same way.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

First, sign up for Friday Forward to get a weekly dose of inspiration in your inbox each Friday. You can also subscribe to my LinkedIn Series, which is the largest newsletter on the platform with over 250,000 subscribers. I’m also on:

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Robert Glazer of Acceleration Partners: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andrew Meadows of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a

Andrew Meadows of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Encourage your team. Build their confidence. Remind them that they wouldn’t be in their role with their level of responsibility if you didn’t believe they could do it. We’ve all faced difficult times, and it’s our ability to overcome challenges that help us grow our careers.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrew Meadows, Senior Vice President at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings.

With 80% of Ubiquity’s employees working remotely across the country prior to the pandemic, Andrew has two decades of experience managing a remote workforce. Andrew is a passionate advocate for retirement savers and the small business community. Headquartered in San Francisco, the team at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings conceptualized a flat-fee retirement plan model for small businesses in 1999 and has been serving this market ever since.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Andrew! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

My love affair with the retirement savings industry started over 19 years ago. Through my first job experience, I worked with such an amazing team and learned about the industry and small businesses by working on all types of plans with Transamerica, BB&T Bank, Manulife and MassMutual.

I quickly fell in love with the rules, and exceptions to those rules, of saving for retirement. I loved working with our clients by creating retirement plan solutions that fit their particular needs.

I entered the industry with the simple mission of helping people retire. My goal was to make retirement savings simpler to understand. I wanted to become an advocate for small businesses and make retirement plans more accessible, so everyone has the opportunity to save for retirement.

For the past 16 years, I’ve held multiple roles at Ubiquity Retirement + Savings (formerly The Online 401(k)). I started in service and implementations which grew into supporting our advisors and payroll partners. There’s so much value in being a provider by having the ability to link everything together. After my time in business development, I looked more inward to Quality Assurance within our client experience which led to eventually leading that team through some incredible highs and not so incredible lows. For the past four years, I’ve taken my love for retirement and our company to lead our Human Resources initiatives by infusing our unique company culture with our already innovative brand.

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

In 2012, our Founder and CEO Chad Parks approached me and said, “I’d like to film a documentary about the looming retirement crisis in our country. Would you like to go on a 7-week road trip to talk to people across the country about their experiences saving for retirement?” I jumped at the opportunity to create an adventure learning about one of my passions.

We did just that. We created a feature-length documentary about real people who are struggling to save and retirees who are barely making ends meet. Our work can be found here: Broken Eggs: The Looming Retirement Crisis in America.

Creating that film was the most amazing experience. It was the perfect mix of my passions — film production and retirement savings.

With Broken Eggs, we wanted to inspire a dialogue for change in the retirement savings industry. Our country needs to start thinking about the pension crisis and the insolvency of Social Security. In recognizing these issues, we can then start restructuring how we think about and plan for retirement.

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 my second role at The Online 401(k), I was a member of our Partnerships team. There were two of us at the time, one of us focusing on advisors while the other worked with our payroll partners. Every quarter, we’d run webinars to help the lead generation efforts of our partners. Our most popular one focused on competing with the big institutions to which our small business partners lost business. We had a friendly competition to see which of us could get more payroll companies or advisors to attend the webinar. I worked extra hard making phone calls and creating email campaigns to ensure we had the most participants ever. I certainly won that quarter with almost 500 attendees. I was thrilled.

That next day, our COO called me into her office. I was expecting a huge congratulations. However, I was wrong. You see, our webinar provider charged a hefty fee for webinars exceeding the 100-attendee mark. As it turned out, that one webinar cost us thousands of dollars from my nonexistent budget. That was my first lesson on the bigger part of the business world outside of my role. What could be a win for one team could also result in a challenge for another. There’s always a cost to running a business, and it’s important to weigh all potential outcomes.

What advice would you give to other managers to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

  1. Nurture a level of empathy. Recognize when your employees are overwhelmed. Let them know that you understand what it feels like to be in charge of projects or tasks that are seemingly worrisome or creeping out of your control. Share your experience from when you were in their shoes.
  2. Be transparent. Explain why their job is important and why they’ve been entrusted to perform it successfully. For leaders, it is important to let employees know that you have dealt with similar situations. Sharing those challenges or mistakes help you grow as a team and an organization. As managers and leaders, we have an obligation to provide our employees help and guidance.
  3. Encourage your team. Build their confidence. Remind them that they wouldn’t be in their role with their level of responsibility if you didn’t believe they could do it. We’ve all faced difficult times, and it’s our ability to overcome challenges that help us grow our careers.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

The last 10 years have been transformative. While I have managed a few remote employees over the course of my 20-year career, I’ve gained substantially more experience over the last 10 years. In 2010, we opened our first office outside of our headquarters in San Francisco. After we found that the technology supported our vision for more remote work, we started hiring more employees in other areas of the country and offered the flexibility to work remotely. This benefit allowed us to leverage talent across the country rather than being limited to a specific geographic region. I’m very confident when I say we have some of the most innovative minds in retirement located all over the United States.

We continued to respond to the changing times and have developed policies to understand what works best for our company and employees. We’ve always had a clear focus on our mission and values to help support our decisions. One motto we’ve really leaned into is “freedom with accountability.” Our success in maintaining a remote workforce has much to do with portable benefits and creating specific policies on what it means for us to work remotely.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. Create simple rules around working remotely. Having rules that are straightforward and transparent allow us to work together under the same expectations. They also reinforce other values around collaboration and work/life balance. Here are the ones we created:
  2. Be available.
  3. Overcommunicate.
  4. Get the job done.
  5. Reporting is a big part of quality assurance. Make sure you’re using technology that enables you to report on how effective, efficient and productive your teams are. Each company and role is different on how success is measured and having reports that reflect the goals of that role and team will be paramount in helping people know what success looks like.
  6. Maintain constant communication and transparency. Articulating what success looks like from a leadership perspective is expected and can help encourage transparency from your employees. Additionally, provide your employees with multiple places to share and be heard. We use instant messaging, message boards and “virtual break rooms” to create community when we’re not face-to-face. Virtual break rooms are spontaneous meetings that mimic casual conversation at the water cooler. Imagine walking into the break room and seeing a few colleagues chatting; instead, the conversation is being held in an online chat room. Having these online meeting places gives you an opportunity to jump right in and connect.
  7. Establish and maintain company rituals. Every Tuesday morning, for example, we have an all hands meeting we call “Vital Factors.” It’s intended to celebrate all the areas where we’re excelling and provide important announcements each week. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, this ritual provides a casual, regular place for our employees to connect and hear from all areas of the business, especially executive leadership.
  8. Check in with everyone. When we talk about community, it’s important to check in from time to time. The key to being seen isn’t just putting yourself out there, but also to be reached out to just to say hi. Our value of “cultivate joy” is centered around seeing each other and providing an opportunity to connect, laugh and express compassion. Never discount the importance of a quick “Hello, how are you?”

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

  1. When creating rules or new policies, lean into your company values and mission statement. They’re there to help reinforce where the organization is going while ensuring you’re using common language.
  2. Make the most of every system you use. For every system that utilizes any input, there is always an output that you can discern. This could be as simple as reporting on tickets or phone systems all the way to more robust reporting that helps understand usage. By understanding the activities of your community, you can impact more thoughtful change.
  3. Communication is vital, especially from leadership. When appropriate, encourage leaders to speak up and give frank updates, even when the news isn’t celebratory. All employees want to know what’s going on at the company level and how their roles impact the business.
  4. Company rituals can be as simple as serving donuts for breakfast on Fridays to closing the “office” early after the big quarterly meeting. See what people are connecting over and do more of it or utilize these strategies in different ways.
  5. In a company of 100 people, it’s challenging for one person or team to reach out to everyone. Empower all leaders to feel a connection to your company’s community and ensure that they are equipped to do just that on the company’s behalf. This could be through a direct message or even through kudos sent out individually, on community boards or at company meetings.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

  1. Be frank. Create a culture where frank, honest communication is the norm.
  2. Allow freedom with accountability. Give employees the freedom to work from home in a way that makes them successful in completing their responsibilities.
  3. Play toward people’s strengths. Consider every employee to be a subject matter expert — because they are. Every employee is an expert in certain areas. Allow each employee to flex their strengths.
  4. Give feedback that allows for immediate action. When an employee is not succeeding, give feedback quickly and regularly. This allows you to gauge improvement and work toward goals together.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Ubiquity as an organization has held a couple of book clubs. We read Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, authored by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler and Stephen R. Covey, which was about how to have those types of conversations effectively.

Here are some tips for conveying constructive feedback over email:

  1. Be concise. For example, “Hi Joe, I needed this project completed in 2 weeks. It took you 3.5 weeks. Please help me understand the delay. We can’t function efficiently if projects are completed in this manner. Keep up the good work on account X. Let’s continue to work together on time management.
  2. Acknowledge their good work and recognize that they are humans who struggle and make mistakes. State the facts without emotion and avoid emotionally-charged words. The person might feel disappointed, but their emotions are less likely to spin out of control when you communicate in a factual manner and provide critical feedback. We can often avoid harsh conversations by creating realistic expectations at the outset. As a leader, you might be frustrated, but ultimately you get more accomplished by maintaining a level head and finding ways to help your team be successful.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

  1. Find ways to share in some fun remotely. We have a sales team that previously worked in the same office together. They would share funny stories in the office about their work experiences to appreciate certain aspects of their jobs. When they transitioned to a remote work environment, this shared time was hard to replicate because there was no longer a common place to gather. While they didn’t have morning chats by the coffee pot anymore, people started to find other ways to build camaraderie. When someone made a sale, they began a tradition of sending a congratulatory, funny cat picture in the team group chat.
  2. Avoid micromanagement. If you didn’t look over your employees’ shoulders when you were in the office, don’t be a micromanager from afar. Working from home right now is a family affair. Children are home from school and day care. Spouses are adjusting to working from home as well. It is important as leaders to be accountable. When small obstacles do arise, communicate appropriately and be flexible. At Ubiquity, our three rules for working remotely are: ‘Be available. Overcommunicate. Get your job done.’
  3. Maintain regular communication without micromanaging. Hopefully, your team has tools in place to report productivity without intrusive communication. For example, ongoing group chats are helpful places to check in as it’s often easier to jump into a running conversation.
  4. Use an employee engagement tool that automates feedback and check ins. Through that review process, we have a set agenda for every one-on-one to streamline progress checkpoints and goal setting. We use a system where employees are able to give each other virtual high-fives, share your mood with your manager each week and even talk about workload. Knowing how each person feels about themselves and their role is key in helping overcome otherwise unseen obstacles.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

  1. Empower people to have a voice. How are you creating those opportunities for your employees’ voices to be heard? Create an environment where all members of the team feel comfortable voicing their thoughts and opinions.
  2. It is healthy to acknowledge our strengths and weaknesses. This acknowledgement recognizes that we are humans. Give people an opportunity to vent. Allowing them to do so will clear the way for them to do their job effectively. When people speak up, validate them so they don’t feel alone.

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. 🙂

As family, friends, and communities, we don’t talk enough about finance especially in communities who are struggling. It’s important to talk about our finances. People often ask me to look at their 401(k) plans or talk through a budget — that’s great! We should be using each other as resources to share our financial knowledge. Tap parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc. There are so many people around you who are capable and eager to help you learn about managing your finances.

Too often, people feel like they are not saving or investing enough. If I could inspire one movement, I would take the taboo away from finance, so people would feel comfortable learning from each other and asking questions about matters they don’t understand.

The financial industry uses so much jargon. We need to start talking in regular language, so the average person can understand.

When people think of retirement, they tend to think of older people at the end of their lives. When I think about retirement, I think about young people, the people who have the greatest ability to influence their futures. We need to talk with them about saving and give them the tools they need to succeed.

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

“Daring leadership is ultimately about serving other people, not ourselves. That’s why we choose courage.” — Brene Brown

I’ve always worked in the service industry, and it’s helped me be the leader that I am. While I have been empowered to make decisions about my career, I always filter through those decisions understanding how it will be of service and value to others. That service has helped me become quite brave. If I’m doing it for myself, it feels very self-serving; if I’m doing it for others, I’m helping others who need my support.

Thank you for these great insights!


Andrew Meadows of Ubiquity Retirement + Savings: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kyle Rand of Rendever: 5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic

We have been studying loneliness for more than four years. We have led studies, partnered with experts, are regularly asked to speak at events and contribute to cross-industry whitepapers. Perhaps most importantly, we have conversations with caregivers on the front lines — working with one of the most vulnerable populations to loneliness — every day of the week. While the quantitative data is important, the qualitative insights we glean from the staff members who witness the effects of loneliness firsthand while interacting with seniors are what help us maximize the impact of our platform, and hold us accountable to maintaining the customer-centric nature of everything we do.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kyle Rand, Cofounder & CEO of Rendever.

Kyle grew up volunteering in a senior living community, and went on to study cognitive decline in the aging population. His neuroscience research was largely focused on the link between functional structural changes in the brain that happen as you age, and the associated deficits in economic-based decision making. He also studied neuroprosthetics and has been published for his work linking reward-based behavior coding with motor area activation in monkeys. Since joining the tech world, he has led the development of a niche research-based social network, created a crowdfunding platform for ecological conservation, and architected a grassroots initiative focused on increasing healthcare access in populations-in-need, which was eventually recognized by the Obama administration. After having a negative personal experience moving his grandmother into a senior living community, he realized the severe impact of social isolation on seniors, and cofounded Rendever to use new virtual reality technology to build communities and increase resident engagement through the power of shared experiences.

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?

Older adults have had a very special place in my heart for as long as I can remember. As a kid, my friends and I would spend every summer volunteering and scooping ice cream at a local senior living community. I remember the feeling when the residents’ faces lit up if we knew exactly what they wanted (rum raisin with chocolate sprinkles was a favorite combo!). It was profound to learn how such a simple act of kindness could be so impactful.

I then went to Duke and did a dual program in cognitive neuroscience and biomedical engineering, and worked in two laboratories focused on quite different topics. Part of my research was focused on studying the effects of social sensory inputs on motor activation in monkeys (the laboratory was behind the Walk Again project so all of our research was building towards functional exoskeletons!), and the other part focused on studying cognitive decline in the aging population. We were particularly interested in decision-making processes, and studying the correlation between structural changes in the brain and the deficits in sound decision-making that occur as humans age. The day-to-day ended up being many hours of sitting with older adults and walking them through these cognitive experiments.

As I was wrapping up at school, my grandmother was diagnosed with cancer, which triggered a pretty tough decision-making process for our whole family (especially my parents and their siblings). Ultimately, my family helped her move into a senior living community to ensure the highest quality of care and support. While she had incredible medical care, it was harder to notice from afar that she began to feel the immense weight of social isolation that is all too common among seniors.

Her cancer progressed aggressively and she experienced rapid cognitive decline. It was absolutely heartbreaking for our family. While I would not wish this experience on anyone, seeing the powerful impact of combining rapid disease progression and cognitive decline with social isolation firsthand motivated me to spend my time and energy searching for, and eventually building, a better solution.

Around this time, virtual reality (VR) was emerging as a promising technology. I joined a few other people that were interested in exploring the use of VR with seniors, and we quickly built a prototype of today’s Rendever platform and initiated research with the MIT AgeLab and Benchmark Senior Living. The results showed that within only two weeks of using Rendever daily, residents reported a statistically significant increase in multiple social health measures, including feelings of trust, and a statistically significant decrease in depression scores.

Between the promising results of our initial research and the pure joy we were witnessing as older adults simply tested the technology, we knew that there was magic here. Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to building a platform that brings those magical moments to seniors every day, improving their quality of life and facilitating healthy relationship building, all through the power of shared experiences and human connection.

Can you share the most interesting/eye-opening story that happened to you since you started your career?

This is a tough one to share, but I think it highlights the importance of being able to take a step back and remember the “why” behind everything. It was early on in our progress towards commercializing Rendever, and we had just signed our first large contract to rollout the platform to an entire family of communities. To support this process, I attended in-person grand opening ceremonies of a couple of the buildings, including a stunning location on Cape Cod.

Allow me to set the scene. It was a lovely summer day, and I was driving down the mid-cape highway with my windows fully rolled down, car full to the brim with VR hardware. Beyond looking forward to a wonderful event, it was my first time visiting the cape in the summer, so I was generally excited. Plus, this contract was a significant inflection point during the challenge of early commercialization, so I was in a pretty amazing mood. Or so I had thought.

Our deployment process was not fully ready yet, so most of the devices were only partially set up, and I was driving as fast as possible knowing I had to demonstrate the platform to a large cohort of important guests about an hour after I arrived. As I was nearing the tail end of the cape, I had my first ever panic attack. It was an awful turn of events, to say the least.

In that moment, I pulled over, got out of the car and reminded myself of what mattered. I looked at photos from recent demonstrations that we had done, focusing on the pure joy we could evoke by bringing someone back to their childhood home for the first time in decades. I watched a video of a woman — who had been recently diagnosed with dementia and was struggling to find happiness — totally light up and laugh as puppies started running around her field of view. I focused on the way the rest of the room started to tear up while hearing her voice fill with happiness for the first time in months. I called my cofounder and listened to him share the sudden technical breakthroughs he had made in a particularly challenging component of our infrastructure. I took a step back and reminded myself of the mission we were on and the impact for which we are striving.

Three years later, this has become a core component of the day-to-day operations at this company. When the pressure is on to constantly evolve and show up in an ever-shifting landscape, it is unsurprisingly easy to overextend yourself and, in doing so, suddenly lose sight of the mission you are on, regardless of the circumstances. To this day, whenever I speak about our team, I end with the acknowledgement that we wake up every morning eager to change the world. That mindset is what carries us through everything.

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?

Ah, this is a fun one. When we were first starting to create our own 360° video experiences, there was quite a steep learning curve. The camera is literally recording everything in the environment, so any misstep gets caught on film. As you can imagine, there were all sorts of bloopers.

Pretty early on, I took a trip to Europe and did a few on-location shots in Portugal, Spain and Ireland. In a lot of instances, we had to get pretty creative with how we got access to the more interesting locations. However, in Ireland, I was given the opportunity to get a full behind-the-scenes tour of the famous Guinness Factory. It was very last minute (I found out the night before), and was our first time working with such a big brand.

At that point, I had completely filled our external hard drives, and the transfer time from the camera I had used to my laptop would have taken a full day. So first thing in the morning, I ran to buy fresh memory cards, and since the camera we were using required 6 matching memory cards, I had to coordinate between two stores and found myself running up and down the street to make sure the quantities would work.

I inevitably showed up with the most windblown hair you could imagine, slightly out of breath — not my typical calm, cool and collected self, quickly forcing composure as I waited for the head of marketing to start the private tour. It was a blast! I got to learn the art of the pour, admire some of the hidden gems of the factory and even got to stand behind the counter at the rooftop Gravity Bar and help serve some happily inebriated patrons.

While I showed up as a whirlwind, I left feeling like a rock star and super excited to see the footage. The problem? The whirlwind had already taken its toll. As I mentioned, perhaps the most important thing to account for in 360° videography is the fact that it’s 360°. While I was quite accustomed to finding good hiding places in nature and more closed-off environments, it was a different ballgame in a very public space while including somebody else in the mix who had never filmed in 360°.

This was a new challenge and amidst giving instructions and making sure he was comfortable representing his own brand well, I forgot to hide from the camera to get out of the 360° shot. So I showed up in our virtual Guinness Factory Tour (a few times). Looking back, I was so focused on appearing buttoned up, that I didn’t allow myself a moment to take a step back and say “Do you mind if we restart this shot?” in order to obtain the absolute best content. Lesson definitely learned.

Biggest takeaways? First, we must always be prepared for the unexpected! You never know when an amazing opportunity is going to show up at your doorstep, and it is far better to be over prepared than to have to scramble unexpectedly. Second, do not be afraid to take control of a situation by asking for a minute to think through things. If I had taken an extra moment in each location, I would have not only saved myself some stress, but also would have come across as far more professional and experienced.

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

One of our main focuses at the moment is evolving our product to fit the changing needs of our industry. COVID-19 has obviously had a huge impact on the way senior living communities operate and offer engaging activities for their residents. We are working to not just maintain the life enrichment options at communities, but enhance them as we all start to understand what the ‘new normal’ looks like.

For example, our platform has traditionally been used with a group of people in one shared physical space. Each participant sits down (usually in a circle or semicircle), puts on a VR headset, and is immersed in a synchronized 360° experience. Because they are physically close, they can talk about what they are seeing, experiences they have had that are relevant, how they may be feeling about the scene or activity. Watching people open up and organically start sharing with one another is something that never gets old.

Amidst this pandemic, it is critical that we keep our seniors safe and healthy — and that requires physical distance (which, hey, VR is a great tool for). We immediately incorporated two-way voice communication into our platform. By enabling the microphones built into the hardware (headsets and control tablet), each participant could hear both the experience — imagine the waves on a beach — and the joyful reactions of other participants. This way, each participant could be in their own rooms and still experience the group dynamic during the session.

We also launched Rendever Live, which allows all of our customers to tune in for a session that is run by experts on our team. During this time of crisis, the staff and caregivers that we work with are more overwhelmed and overburdened than ever before. By offering sessions several times a week, we are able to give these amazing folks a few minutes to rest, while also building a deeper sense of community between the Rendever communities around the world.

Most recently, we created The Connection Corner, which is a virtual living room that allows residents to come together and spend loosely structured time, whether chatting about their day or engaging in meaningful conversations about life. Staff are able to customize avatars for each resident, and conversation prompts are available to engage the group. This simple concept is incredibly important amongst this pandemic because older adults have been forbidden from spending physical time with their friends and peers. If they do not happen to live next door to a friend, chances are high they have not seen them since early March. With The Connection Corner, they can visit virtually — which we believe is the next best thing to real, physical connection at any time and especially during the heightened safety necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

We have been studying loneliness for more than four years. We have led studies, partnered with experts, are regularly asked to speak at events and contribute to cross-industry whitepapers. Perhaps most importantly, we have conversations with caregivers on the front lines — working with one of the most vulnerable populations to loneliness — every day of the week. While the quantitative data is important, the qualitative insights we glean from the staff members who witness the effects of loneliness firsthand while interacting with seniors are what help us maximize the impact of our platform, and hold us accountable to maintaining the customer-centric nature of everything we do.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, 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?

Of course! The mental health consequences of loneliness, like depression and anxiety, are probably quite obvious. However, as we all know, mental illnesses are hard to measure. You cannot take an x-ray to measure anxiety. So for the sake of this discussion, I will focus on the ways prolonged loneliness can attribute to physical conditions.

  1. 1. High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease: Studies show that lonely people have consistently elevated levels of cortisol, which is a stress hormone that contributes to issues like chronic high blood pressure, hypertension and heart disease. Believe it or not, the CDC reports that loneliness is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke. (CDC)
  2. Premature cognitive decline: According to the CDC, social isolation is associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. One hypothesis is that feelings of loneliness “may be considered a manifestation of the deteriorating social skills that are seen as part of the personality change accompanying the process of dementia.” (CDC, Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry)
  3. Increased fall risk: An increase in fall risk is consistently associated with higher levels of social isolation. The two issues are closely intertwined: Lonely people are less likely to ask for help when they need it, and sometimes put themselves at risk when going about daily life. Conversely, if they worry about their fragility or risk of falling, they may decline invitations to social events — which contributes to increased feelings of loneliness and isolation. All in all, a recent meta-analysis found that prolonged loneliness has proven to correlate with a 30% increase in mortality. It is technically classified as an epidemic and, quite notably, studies have found social isolation to be as detrimental to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. This is a health crisis that absolutely must be taken seriously and addressed.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

  1. While we primarily work with the older adult population, no one is immune to social isolation and loneliness. As the world becomes more digital, human interaction is required less and less, and in the midst of this COVID-19 pandemic, we have all experienced firsthand how this can impact our mental health.
  2. The current state of the world is putting us all in a position where our access to community has become limited, which is the exact basis of human loneliness. What we see as a result is a vicious cycle in which mental health problems can start to set in and prevent people from finding and accessing the tools and levels of human interaction they need in order to feel better. We have evolved to become highly social creatures, and removing access to society can be tumultuous for any of us.
  3. A lot of research has been done to show our growing dependence on digital forms of connection (e.g. social media), but these are often fueled by dopaminergic responses (e.g. the quick rush of validation from receiving a like on an Instagram post) rather than the oxytocin that drives most real human relationships. It is important to constantly be recognizing the difference between these two experiences, and understand why we must be seeking genuine interpersonal connection that extends beyond the digital screen in order to prevent loneliness and depression.
  4. There is not a magic bullet solution, but what gives me hope is the level of attention this issue is starting to get within mainstream media. The first step to solving any problem is recognizing and articulating the issue, and I believe we as a society are well on our way to doing that — and we’re happy to be a part of leading this conversation!

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.

It’s true. People are more connected than ever. But there is a big difference between being connected and feeling connected. While it takes seconds to call someone on the other side of the world, it can take years to build trust and a meaningful relationship. I think it is dangerous to equate access to fulfilment.

Social media has changed the game. When we scroll through Instagram, we see images of gourmet meals, luxurious beach views and picture perfect lives. What we do not see is the reality behind those images — a 2nd degree burn from the hot oven, the trash littered along the beach, the stress and anxiety of taking and editing the perfect photograph. There is a lot of research around the effect that social media has had on our society — especially young people today.

The internet has opened up access to information in general. There is no need to think strategically or debate trivia anymore when everyone’s first instinct is to google the answer. It’s a double-edged sword because the democratization of information, education, etc., is incredibly important, but at the same time, it also prevents people from having thoughtful conversations, using logic and learning how to develop interpersonal skills.

Finally, I think we have become overstimulated, inundated and overwhelmed through the modern internet. There is so much of so much available online that it can be difficult to know where to look or who to trust. For example, whenever a family member is diagnosed with any sort of medical problem, I immediately go online and start my research. I can’t imagine anyone googling ‘cancer’ and not becoming overwhelmed.

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.

In the beginning, we laid out our core hypothesis that would eventually serve as the basis of everything we do and every decision we make: the foundation of human connection is shared, positive experience. By doing things with others, we build moments that spark conversation, giving us a chance to learn about one another and become increasingly invested in the relationship. For us, the solution to the loneliness epidemic lies in first creating opportunities for these shared experiences, and then motivating individuals to attend by realizing the power of them (which sometimes requires a bit of courage). Along that same line of thinking, any well-structured group activity can help solve the loneliness epidemic. Here are a few examples:

  1. Volunteerism: Pick a cause you care about and go volunteer! Whether you are teaching computer classes at the local senior center or serving at a food kitchen, volunteering is a great way to connect with people that have similar values and passions.
  2. Groups, clubs, sports, music, etc.: Websites like meetup.com have something for everyone! Search for all of your hobbies and find some extracurricular activities, and commit to keeping yourself engaged and connected.
  3. Join a gym or workout group: What better way to improve mood than a surge of endorphins and new friendship? The added benefit of accountability will help build stronger connections with new acquaintances.
  4. Commit to communication: It is not only important to build new relationships, but also maintain and strengthen relationships. For my New Year’s resolution a few years ago, I committed to calling an old friend once a week. Each week I would think about people I have not caught up with in a while and then give them a call while commuting home from work. It was an amazing exercise and something I still practice today.
  5. Journaling and notes of affirmation: For me, loneliness can be an isolating cycle. If I am lonely and sad, I am less likely to reach out to my support system to ask for help. I find that journaling helps me clear my mind and leaving positive notes around my space are helpful to remind me that the lonely times will pass (and they will pass more quickly if I call a friend or relative!).
  6. Find Experiences & Use Technology: Seek out virtual experiences to participate in with friends and family — staying connected by exploring the world in VR can be a great way to learn and stay in touch, especially during times where physical distancing is required.

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?

I recently had a conversation with someone in my inner circle where we took the time to identify our own superpowers and how we want to use them. During that conversation, I realized that, more than anything else, I identify most closely with the power and practice of empathy. To me, intentional empathy relies on a combination of some of the most empowering interpersonal skills — open communication, active reflection, tailored support, ascertained presence — and research is finding a bidirectional relationship between the experience of empathy and the release of oxytocin (which has an entirely different array of benefits that are definitely worth reading about).

All around, empathy is incredibly impactful… both in the moment, and through inspiring the development of more altruistic behavioral tendencies longer-term. If we take a step back and really look at many of the world’s problems, they boil down to a lack of many of these skills and a withholding of proactive understanding, both solvable through the practice of empathy. I would love to create a movement focused on inspiring the incorporation of this practice in active daily life, and always believe the best way to do so is through leading by example.

Clearly, I see the challenges created throughout the aging process as a huge opportunity to practice empathy, and through this, connect with an incredibly important and often overlooked demographic. The stigma around aging is just heartbreaking, and I believe we have the opportunity to restore respect and admiration of older adults. When we look at other cultures around the world, there is much more intergenerational living; elders are revered in family structures and their wisdom is highly valued. In our country, older adults are too often neglected, disrespected and frankly ignored. As a society, we need to remember: people do not lose value as they get older! I would never want to see that happen to a loved one and I definitely do not want that to happen to me in the future. The aging process can be a beautiful thing, but the world seems to be more focused on reducing wrinkles and covering grey hair than enabling our older relatives to learn, grow and enjoy life alongside of us.

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 U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? (They potentially will tag this person).

There are honestly dozens of people I would love to have a private meal with, so this is a tough question. With where the world is right now, and where I am in my own life, I would have to say that I would — hands down — love to have breakfast with Melinda Gates.

First of all, we are both Duke grads, which automatically makes us potential best friends. More importantly, she is a definite hero of mine. The work she leads across the Gates Foundation is marvelous, and the alignment of her personal life with her professional career is nothing short of admirable. She is someone who I believe found a form of her calling early on in life, and proactively evolved that into living one of the most fulfilling lives imaginable through her global humanitarian and philanthropic work.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram — we hope you’ll follow and join us on this journey!


Kyle Rand of Rendever: 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.

Author Dr Penny Pullan: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Be kind. This applies to yourself as much as to your staff! I think that founders are often really tough on themselves, working very long hours with few breaks. It seems that there is too much at stake, but in reality, you do your best work when refreshed and able to think clearly.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Penny Pullan.

Dr Penny Pullan is an expert in virtual and hybrid working, with nineteen years’ experience of both. The author of ‘Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best Out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams’, Penny is a director of MakingProjectsWork.co.uk. Penny helps companies and individuals to become better virtual leaders. Her book is available here.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Thank you for inviting me!

As a child, I lived all over the world and became familiar with diverse cultures on three different continents. On returning to England for secondary schooling, I kept in touch with my best friend Susan through handwritten letters. There was no Facebook or Instagram then!

I met my husband on the Cambridge University mainframe computer, called Phoenix, when we were both graduate students. We did meet in person a few weeks later! It seems that a lot of my early experiences were really helpful for the work I do now — helping people to be effective in virtual and hybrid teams.

After finishing my PhD, I moved across to industry, working in consulting, pharma and then joined Mars Inc for ten years before founding my own consultancy Making Projects Work Ltd over a decade ago.

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

I was invited to run my first ever global programme of change, which was really exciting! My bags were packed, my tickets were ready and I was set to fly to New York. There I was due to spend two weeks at the kick-off meeting for the programme, with all the key people from around the world. Everyone was flying in. What could possibly go wrong?

The date on my ticket was 13th September 2001. Two days before, the 9/11 tragedy happened. We were all grounded! None of us could fly for three months, yet the programme had to go ahead. We had conference call technology and chat, but could only see each other if we managed to book out the video conferencing suite, which was usually booked solid by senior managers.

Despite all of these problems, it worked. This was my introduction to virtual leadership and, luckily for our programme, I took to it. I tapped deep into my knowledge of group dynamics and facilitation, and adapted things for this new environment. Perhaps the experience of writing to Susan for more than a decade and also getting to know my now-husband virtually helped?

Soon I was helping others to work and lead virtually within Mars Inc. When I left to start my own consultancy, I found that there were many other multinational companies who also needed support with virtual leadership.

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 one of my very first conference calls, everything was going well. We had a particularly tricky action to get done and, to my delight, someone said: ‘I’ll take that one!’ We had a big group and I didn’t know everyone’s voices. In my relief that the action had been taken, I forgot to find out who had been speaking at the time. After the meeting, I had no idea who had offered. I waited, hoping that they would do the action. No-one did and it was even trickier to get someone do take it up in the next meeting!

As a result of this, I always ask people to state their name at the start of everything they say in audio conference calls. This simple step means that I can never be in that tricky situation again!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Be kind. This applies to yourself as much as to your staff! I think that founders are often really tough on themselves, working very long hours with few breaks. It seems that there is too much at stake, but in reality, you do your best work when refreshed and able to think clearly.

Agree work packages with people, agree how they will report progress and get out of the way, unless they request support the employee. This works beautifully virtually, just as it does in the office!

Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I was catapulted into leading a virtual team by 9/11, so it is coming up to 19 years that I’ve been working with virtual and hybrid teams. It seems to be perfectly placed to help out those for whom March 2020 was their first experience of going virtual and those who will be returning to a hybrid experience, with some in the office and some virtual. I’ve had the luxury of time to think through all of this over many years and to find out what really works across industries. A couple of years ago, I pulled all of this thinking and experience together into my book: ‘Virtual Leadership: Practical Strategies for Getting the Best Out of Virtual Work and Virtual Teams’ which has become a bestseller in the pandemic. Readers can get a copy at www.koganpage.com

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what some of the main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

There are so many challenges! I’ve already focused on a few, so I’ll add these five:

Lack of clear sight of each other

You can’t see team members by glancing over in their direction. If they appear at all, it’s in meetings where each person is in a little box, which can get very small indeed if there are large numbers of people. The nuances and dynamics of conversation often get lost. If people are quiet in a meeting, they tend to appear even less. They could be drifting off to sleep. Or nodding in agreement. Or waving their fists at the screen. You just don’t know. Conflict is hard to detect and hard to fix.

The fix

Don’t just rely on team meetings to keep in touch with each person. Arrange one-to-one meetings where you can really tap into each person’s thoughts and feelings. This is how you can pick up conflict and then work to manage it, as well as keeping a good relationship going when you can’t meet up in person.

Your sensory input is limited

As humans, we are designed to perceive our world with five senses. In remote teams, we have at most two senses in meetings, sight and sound, and sometimes only one. It’s very easy to be distracted by things around you that you can touch, or taste, or smell.

The fix

One way of bringing the team tangibly into each person’s workspace is to create a physical team map. To create one, place a headshot of each person in your team (with permission of course) into a diagram and print it out in colour. You can even laminate it to make it sturdier.

To bring in the senses of taste, touch and smell, why not arrange a postal delivery of some goodies to everyone in your team for a team event? You could even adjust the contents to suit each person’s preferences, as one team did and everyone felt really cared for. Cocktails and nibbles for team drinks perhaps?

It’s so easy to get things muddled!

People crave clarity, but this is even harder to provide for virtual teams. Because of this, it takes longer to prepare for a remote team meeting than for an in-person meeting, to make sure you provide this clarity. It’s easy to get the wrong end of the stick.

The fix

Be very, very clear. You probably need to be even clearer than you think you need to be! When preparing for meetings, make sure that these questions have clear answers, and start your meeting going through each one:

  • What is the purpose of the meeting?
  • What are the objectives of the meeting?
  • What is the time plan?
  • Who is doing what?
  • How will we work together and what are our ‘ground rules’?
  • What will happen next?

Most virtual meetings are very, very tedious!

People disengage and then look at their email or even social media instead of concentrating and focusing on the team meeting. An example which happens all the time is a team member, when asked a question, coming back with: “Could you just repeat the question?” It’s a clear indication that they were not paying attention! With long days of video meetings, you’re even more likely to lose people’s attention.

The fix

There are many ways to engage people in virtual meetings. My Virtual Leadership book covers ten of them, but we don’t have enough space to go into these in detail. Instead, let’s take three:

  • Tell stories and use a narrative style to hook people in and keep them listening.
  • Remove most of the words from any slides you use and instead use simple visuals. It’s even better if you can draw live in the virtual session!
  • Use good video so that people can see each other’s faces.

If people are working long days of video meetings, they won’t be engaged, so consider how to shift work from constant video meetings to a smaller number of meetings combined with effective, asynchronous work, using collaboration tools to share work done.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Definitely don’t do this by email! (See the next answer.) You need a certain level of richness in communication so that you are picking up as much as you can of the vocal tone, facial expressions and body language of your team member, and they yours. Try the phone instead if that suits them or join a one-to-one video call.

Don’t use the ‘good thing, bad thing, good thing’ sandwich. People then tend to get worried if you ever give praise! Here are two alternatives: 1. Ask them what they think and listen well. It may be that they are already aware of the issue and trying to work on it. 2. Always ask: “What went well?” Then, instead of asking: “What went wrong?”, try a question that looks forward, such as: “What do you wish would happen next time?” Listen hard and then give your own perspective.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

One word: don’t! If this is feedback that might be difficult to hear, don’t do it by email. It’s not rich enough as a feedback mechanism. You have no control over how your employee will read e-mail or what colour or nuance they will read into it. Instead, pick up the phone or jump on a video call. Either of these will be far richer than an e-mail.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

In many ways, you are in a good position if you are used to one another before starting to work virtually. This means that you go into virtual working with good relationships, rapport, common ground and trust. This is a great foundation.

One obstacle that I noticed early on was that many teams thought that virtual working meant being on live video meetings almost all day. Some people were on video calls from 8am to 8pm, and that’s just not productive. It helps to work out your team norms together — how you’ll communicate with each other, taking into account each person’s preferences. This will consider too how you’ll mix synchronous meetings (live ones, at the same time) with asynchronous working (when you work together at different times, using collaboration tools).

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Everyone in the team should step up to develop their own virtual leadership — yes, it’s not just needed by the designated team leader! This means that everyone will be looking out for the rest of the team and helping them to deliver the best that they can. What a supportive way to work together, virtual, but not distant!

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

My movement would be that leaders become facilitators of their teams, even after the pandemic — doing what it takes to make it easy for team members to do the best job that they can. This taps into ideas from servant leadership and it works really well virtually, as well as when people are together.

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

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you’ve never been in bed with a mosquito” (African proverb) It’s very easy to assume that there is nothing that you can do to change things and that the system in place is too powerful to change. But, if you have ever been in bed with a mosquito, you’ll know that something very small can make something very big get up and jump around, and go a bit crazy!

Let’s all work to make a difference, however small we might feel we are.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/pennypullan/

Twitter: twitter.com/pennypullan

Email: penny @ makingprojectswork.co.uk

Website: www.makingprojectswork.co.uk


Author Dr Penny Pullan: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nick Platt of LO:LA: How to Create a Trusted and Believable Brand

Be generous with everything, always. Your perspective. Your product. Your whole self. Showing the world, you are worth sharing is important, an open and inclusive perspective.

As a part of my series about “How to Create a Trusted and Believable Brand”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Nick Platt.

As the CEO and Chief Creative Officer of LO:LA, Nick Platt is carrying out a lifelong ambition to not only re-imagine advertising creative that resonates but is also “Made with Love.” With a career spanning two continents and three decades, Nick Platt creates magic in the moments that matter.

Prior to founding LO:LA Nick was Executive Creative Director at RAPP, responsible for all creative output produced in the agency’s Los Angeles office, including creative campaigns for clients such as Toyota, Nescafe, Bank of America, Flemings, Roy’s, and Mattel as well as pro bono work for the Special Olympics and Stand Up to Cancer, among many others. His particular focus was on delivering creative solutions that are simple, relevant and original. He also worked in that role for the past 14 years, 6 years of which he spent in RAPP’s London office, where he was responsible for managing accounts including NSPCC, Apple, Sony, Barclays Bank, and CRUK. During his 30 years of experience in advertising and direct marketing, he has worked at a range of prominent agencies, including Saatchi & Saatchi, Proximity, and TBWAGGT, among others. He has won numerous industry awards, including the Grand Prix at the New York Festivals, Gold at the ECHOs, D&AD, John Caples, DMAs and London International Advertising Awards.

Nick is proudly a big agency ex-pat determined to prove that independent creative shops can be nimble, fast and cost-efficient without sacrificing quality. He’s making outstanding advertising available.

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

Creativity was always something that was part of my life, I always loved art and problem solving, it was something that just fascinated me. As a creative this was always who I was, what I did and what I wanted to do. To then have taken the step to manifest that by creating my own agency is, to me, the best expression of my life-long passion for creative problem solving.

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?

I almost went to prison for believing whole heartily in something that was an opinion-changing idea. I learned in real time the power of great ideas and the responsibility to deliver them in the right context. Connecting with people in a relevant way is the ultimate goal of everything we are striving for at LO:LA.

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

Made with love is our mantra, I know anyone can say that, but we really try to live by it. It’s embedded into our framework for what we develop and share with our clients and enables is to provide them with the best solutions. And once we are all invested in this philosophy, processes and outcomes become clearer.

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

Everything is exciting! But right now, the process of helping our clients stay meaningful to their customers is our focus. Context has changed, yet people haven’t. The imperative to remain real and helpful is driving all our thinking.

We have just finished a film for one of our clients that wants to acknowledge the power of the enforced loneliness of COVID-19, how it can be a time of great renewal, and understanding that what we do next as people and brands will shape our collective futures, coming out from this we can be stronger.

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?

To us that is simple, there should be no difference as they are irrevocably linked. But it must start with the brand. The brand story must be on point in order for product marketing to happen. A brand is a promise kept, while advertising is how that promise is expressed. Finding the place of alignment of where the truth of your brand and the most important thing a customer feels is what we look for. Once you have achieved this, the simple and quantifiable things like aesthetics, tone and performance become easy and measurable. Our goal is to help everyone come together to express the idea in a more cohesive and aligned way. Too many times there isn’t a sense of common purpose or focus on a mutually understood outcome. It is the brand idea that ties it all together. When brand marketing is true and right, the product marketing is then simple. Nike has been brilliant at making product ads and brand ads one in the same.

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?

I believe history speaks for itself. When you look at the brands who were rigorous at putting the brand idea first, then you see how many became successful, how many thrived. Any business that has a desire to create efficiencies and believes in a strong and singular brand will win. We refer to this notion as the new ‘ROI’ or ‘RETURN ON IDEAS’. As marketers we are tasked with helping brands become profitable and remembered, we think this becomes paramount in how they behave to drive success.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand?

Be authentic

This isn’t so much an example as an observation of the times we find ourselves in. Right now, in the time of the pandemic, the whole idea of “in this together’ and “we have your back” can be received as empty statements and may come back to bite a brand, unless that brand fulfills on those promises.

Be singular

Say one thing well, say it often, and don’t deviate. Staying true to your brand voice and tone are crucial. And in times of uncertainty, there is a human urge to make different choices, chase or do things that might be different to how you would normally. We urge brands to have the discipline to hold true to who they are, this is key to remaining relevant in the minds of customers. Your brand idea should be a guiding light in good times and even more so in challenging times.

Be humble

Never brag. Simple rule, but if observed, it will help your brand become more empathetic and respected. We always try to advise our clients against shouting loudly about their product when offering a softer, yet more empathic approach, can be much more effective.

Be generous

Be generous with everything, always. Your perspective. Your product. Your whole self. Showing the world, you are worth sharing is important, an open and inclusive perspective.

Be invitational

If generosity becomes a brand mantra, then it is only natural to be welcoming and inclusive. And we feel this is an important step in creating harmony and loyalty with customers. Participation is key in helping the future of a brand, to make it something that is co-created and opening new and undiscovered innovation for the brand.

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?

There are many brands that have done (and are currently doing) a great job of authenticity, being who they are, making their brand believed and wanted right now. The shift and pivot from COVID has produced some interesting examples of this. Clorox, already the go-to authority on cleanliness, has deepened that notion by partnering with other brands who have a point to prove and a customer base to reassure.

Personally, I love those brands that have truly put their money where their mouth is. Brands like REI will always resonant with me for their ambition to celebrate ‘the outdoors’, to cherish it above all. Articulating that by actions like closing on Black Friday (because of their fundamental belief ‘That being in nature is more important’) is such a wonderful and powerful articulation of their brand idea, and it resonated with 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 success is the ultimate success, crafting a position and tone that connects time and time again. Every brand message is an advert and every avert is a brand message- the point is simple, they are inextricably linked, one needs the other.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media is crucial in the success of a brand today. The discipline needed is to master continuity in messaging and staying true to the brand.

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

Breathe. I wish I could say the job wasn’t everything but taking the time to look around and appreciate what is around you is important, life has so much more to offer.

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. 🙂

Make everything with LOVE. Make this your single rule and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.

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

The quote that I really like is “A rising tide floats every boat”. If we all think in this way, to look to help each other, then it can create opportunities and produce benefits for many and in ways we haven’t even thought of yet.

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. 🙂

Hamdi Ulukaya- Founder of Chobani. I found his Ted Talk truly inspiring.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

· Instagram: @lo_la_creative

· Facebook: @TheLOLAAgency

· LinkedIn: LO:LA (London : Los Angeles)


Nick Platt of LO:LA: How to Create a Trusted and Believable 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: “How TV buyers and sellers can connect” With Xandr SVP Christina Beaumier

Being on the bleeding edge means that sometimes you get wounded. For me, learning how to observe my mistakes and learn from them has been an acquired skill versus internalizing them and telling myself stories about how I’m no good. My mistakes and failures are what led me here and I’m grateful for them — even though they may have been painful in the moment.

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

Whether as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso West Africa, as a mom managing the operations of her young, busy family, or as SVP of product at Xandr, Christina Beaumier carries out her mission with purpose and bravery, navigating a path to solutions to the toughest problems. She is an energizing leader who has catalyzed transformation in the dynamic industry of digital video and television advertising for the last ten years at large companies such as AT&T, Google and WPP.

Her combined studies across continents and industries have made her into one of the most fluent translators in ad tech: “Within ad tech, nothing is a silo! There’s always a business development angle, a client angle, a technology angle, a media angle, a product angle… so being able to speak different languages and relate to different stakeholders is a powerful tool to help bridge gaps and bring people together.”

Christina now brings her encyclopedic experience and comprehensive understanding of the industry to her role as SVP Product, TV Platform at Xandr. She considers this to be the perfect place to bring everything together: the rigor of analytics and the stories of brands, finally translated into a message that people care to hear. The future at AT&T is exciting and not without uncertainty, but Christina finds herself comfortable in imbalance. She believes that the essence of business and life is a commitment to always correcting those imbalances, and finding the best way forward.

She is a recognized industry thought leader and was awarded NYC Television Week’s 40 under 40 award in 2018 and the Changing the Game Award by SheRunsIt in 2016.

Christina has an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management. She lives with her husband and their two young children in Brooklyn, NY.

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 never expected to end up in ad tech! When I was in my late twenties starting an MBA program, I literally still had dirt in the creases of my feet after living in a West African village for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. My experience in the Peace Corps was humbling, heart breaking and at times, frustrating. One of my biggest takeaways was how to drive transformation amid a complex blend of cultures and power structures. Simply setting up a grassroots educational program about malaria prevention required rounds of discussions with local religious leaders, educational leaders, government leaders, traditional leaders like the village chief, and health care officials. Ensuring each group had an opportunity to understand, influence, show support and acceptance of the effort was critical for the overall program success. It is unexpected how much this experience has influenced how I now go about driving transformation in the context of television advertising today.

I ended up in ad tech by chance after the 2008–09 recession. I had lived through the Lehman Brothers implosion as a new Associate in 2008 and then layoffs in 2009 at a marketing consulting company, so I was looking for something that was growing and would be resilient even in the midst of the economic contraction. I knew nothing about ad tech but I was very impressed by the bright, inspiring people I met who were focused on solving really tough technical and business challenges. I was also excited by the strong growth the industry was experiencing. In the early 2010s the advertising technology space was exploding with new technical and data driven innovation. VC dollars were flowing in to fund point solutions that were soon acquired and integrated into larger technology stacks. I was able to quickly become a niche expert in digital audience-based advertising and after a few years started to wonder about the next frontier of television and what it would take to bring innovation to this space.

That is the beginning of the latest chapter of my story, and how I came to be where I am now, which is leading the development of a transformative platform that connects buyers and sellers of TV advertising to more seamlessly transact through data and technology. TV content is no longer only delivered via a cable subscription on a set top box, but rather is now consumable in lots of different formats and screens. However, the way that TV advertising is valued, measured and executed has not kept pace with this changing consumer behavior and new expectations of media. Attempts to leverage digital advertising toolsets to disrupt TV advertising have largely failed. The last six years of my career have been focused on trying to crack this nut and bring innovation that will work for the TV advertising space and help it evolve over time to the new world we are living in. Doing this has meant needing to understand the different groups of influence — the marketers, the TV buyers, the TV sellers, the digital buyers, the data and measurement companies, the technical context, and most importantly the consumers. My team and I have come to understand that while technology innovation has helped define the path forward, technological challenges are the easiest ones to address. We have very talented engineers and can build great software! The business challenges are the biggest nut to crack and that takes a lot of understanding, inventing new ways of doing business and getting different stakeholders comfortable with new models.

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

Coming back to work as a new mom has been my most “interesting” career story. The first time I came back after 3 months of leave — I was already grateful for that time since friends and family members had even less time before needing to go back to work full time. I took to heart what I had read about attachment parenting, the importance of breastfeeding for at least one year (if not longer), along with the internalized pressure to “Lean In” at work after coming back so I would not be bucketed into what has been commonly referred to as the “mommy track”. My expectations of myself were sky high. So when I returned and my blessed little baby didn’t sleep at night, I was going on 3–5 hours of broken sleep, was running to pump breastmilk every 3 hours — it was a tough reality. I was back traveling, at times internationally, with my infant and mother in tow so I could continue to breastfeed — all on my dime. It’s upsetting to me that new parents in the workplace still suffer through these stresses and demands, all while keeping up their professional demeanor. My own experience changed my perspective on the reality of how hard it is to make the transition. As I moved up in seniority, I not only started to notice that my peer set was predominantly male, but that many were able to live in a household where one partner stayed home. It was a very demoralizing realization and one that mobilized me into action.

Since that moment, I have been focused on advocating for women in the workplace. I am the executive sponsor of my company’s Women’s Network, where an important effort we focus on is influencing how our company considers policies and support for new parents. We have had a lot of success that I’m proud of.

And we are having a new reckoning in the post-COVID reality. Full-time working mothers often shoulder the emotional labor of managing the home along with their work responsibilities and do so by standing up elaborate outsourcing systems where possible and budget permitting — grocery delivery, childcare, extracurricular classes, cleaning services, etc. With COVID, these systems all came crashing down and many working mothers are still in crisis — and this crisis is even more severe for lower income or single parent families. In fact, now would be a good time to call your friend or family member who is a single mom and see if you can help in any way!

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

In addition to what is mentioned above… we are building a two-sided marketplace where TV buyers and sellers connect. The trick with two-sided marketplaces is that it has to create value for multiple constituents, sometimes with their own revenue interests. Navigating and solving for this value exchange can at times feel like walking on the bleeding edge. What one side desires may be off the table for the other side, and vice versa with guidelines and restrictions in place to protect business rules. If this were easy, the collective industry would have already figured it out! So a lot of what our product team does is figure out how to build bridges that address the unique needs of buyers and sellers, and create value on each side not just for today, but also that will be relevant in the future as the media landscape continues to evolve.

How do you think this might change the world?

My hope is that our platform will help make the content experience even better for consumers. The promise is to connect the viewer with compelling and relevant brand stories that are shared at the right moment and in the right context, to ultimately improve the experience. In doing so, I believe this will allow advertisers to measure the results that demonstrate the value of the TV advertising they are purchasing. Ultimately this should translate back into favorable economic terms for the TV content owners that supports further investment into their amazing, professionally produced content. So we are going for a win for consumers, for advertisers and for content owners.

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

Anyone working in the advertising space knows the value and importance of meeting and exceeding privacy standards, particularly when it comes to targeted advertising. Consumer data is not for compromise — and I feel fortunate to work for a company that thinks about privacy by design and embeds that ethos into everything we do. In terms of drawbacks, I really view our technology developments as innovative. But any time you’re innovating, it’s not always easy to change the status quo, or the way a business has been conducted for decades. So I would say, rather than a drawback — I see it as a challenge, consideration and opportunity.

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

When building a two-sided platform for advanced television, there are technical challenges and there are business challenges. The transformation of the TV advertising business had not been held back by technical challenges alone — the bigger issues are business related. On the business side, one of the key needs is for scale. If it is a marketplace with only one seller, it’s not really a marketplace, it’s a portal. So as a technology, we needed to get critical mass in a few key steps. The tipping point for this technology platform came when Xandr acquired a technology startup out of Boston called clypd, which is a data-driven linear ad platform. In one step, we gained an existing book of business with some of the most major content owners, deep and necessary integrations into linear technology stacks and a team of talent focused on solving the same problem. Immediately after the deal closed, we got to work on integrating the technology and six months later, we announced the new product line with a set of partners that represented a critical mass of sellers.

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

We need to be solving an unmet need that is a priority for our customers and do so better than alternative solutions. For advertisers this means giving them insights they have never had in a platform that will allow them to connect with valuable audiences and navigate TV and video advertising campaigns faster and more efficiently than they can today. For sellers, this means giving them tools to be able to package and sell their valuable TV advertising space in a way that gives them control and maintains their relationships with their advertiser customers. And we have to do so at scale.

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

I was fortunate to partner with many different teams to build toward this launch, including groups like technology and engineering, strategy, legal, marketing and communications. We all cross-collaborated to work with the necessary stakeholders across our platform partner companies, many of which are large corporations in and of themselves, to bring this launch to life. I defer to our PR team on the publicity efforts, but we garnered a significant number of impressions and coverage in publications like the Wall Street Journal and Reuters around the story of our platform launch. We continued to tell the story about our platform innovation through multimedia content like podcasts and ongoing thought leadership.

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 feel very fortunate to have Helen Appleby as an executive coach! She is focused on women leaders and helps me understand my blind spots. She has helped me find my leadership style in a way that is true to my authentic self. She also opened my eyes to the necessity of “putting my own oxygen mask” first so that I can be available to help others. For me, this means prioritizing my own mental and physical health and well being through sleep and meditation, creating, communicating and sticking to boundaries and also, brutally prioritizing my investment of energy.

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

I think it goes back to my past experience in the Peace Corps and advocating for women through initiatives like the Women’s Network. It’s also how I approach my day-to-day work life, and how I balance my professional persona with my personal — being a mom. I think having a diverse background and trying new experiences, whether you’re uniquely qualified for them or not — on paper — make you a more empathetic leader.

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

  1. Create boundaries for when you are working and when you are not — then stick to them unapologetically. Recognize that long hours have diminishing returns of value — timebox your work when you are most productive.
  2. Acknowledge that there are more demands on your time than there is time available. Have a strategy for managing your calendar — it is not first-come, first serve. Wishing for ‘more time in the day’ is futile. If your calendar is insane you need work on these three skills: 1) Delegate more 2) Deprioritize and push it out to a later date 3) Say ‘no’ and don’t do it because it is not a priority.
  3. Align yourself close to a company’s core strategic purpose, value prop and generation of that value for the company.
  4. It’s not enough to be an ally — you need to be actively dismantling internalized and unconscious bias and holding yourself and others accountable.
  5. Create value to the customer. There are a lot of great ideas and things we could do and problems to solve for. It is important to really understand what your core customers’ unmet needs are and how you can generate value while delighting the customer.

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. 🙂

Inspiring people to have a daily gratitude practice. A practice of gratitude is free, accessible, uncomplicated and is proven to increase mental health, well being and happiness.

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

“Grace means that all your mistakes now serve a purpose instead of serving shame” — Brené Brown

Being on the bleeding edge means that sometimes you get wounded. For me, learning how to observe my mistakes and learn from them has been an acquired skill versus internalizing them and telling myself stories about how I’m no good. My mistakes and failures are what led me here and I’m grateful for them — even though they may have been painful in the moment.

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 🙂

That’s a tough one! I would argue that what we have built at Xandr, formerly AT&T advertising and analytics, was a bit like pitching a new business plan and startup to one of the largest, most prolific telecommunications companies in the world with more than 143 years of experience, as it embraced the vision of becoming a modern media company. So it’s hard for me to top that!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find me on LinkedIn or on Twitter @cboomerang.

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


The Future Is Now: “How TV buyers and sellers can connect” With Xandr SVP Christina Beaumier was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Denise Richardson: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More…

Author Denise Richardson: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Believe in yourself — You are the author of your destiny and achieving your potential. Others can help you but the grit to make things happen is our responsibility. Self-belief is the ability to live our dreams on our terms and not live our fears on the terms of others.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Denise Richardson.

It took Denise twenty years to share the story of her harrowing childhood in her new memoir, Cruel. Despite her beginnings, Denise has had successful careers as a nurse, a police officer, and an international business executive.

Denise now works as an international personal success coach, a public speaker and a mentor to women who have experienced similar circumstances to her own. She is a an expert in removing fear and building confidence, writes on personal development and runs workshops for those who seek purpose, confidence, self-belief and the knowledge that they have more to gain from life.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My adult life has been blessed; I have been lucky enough to work within three professions, which has enabled me to meet culturally diverse and interesting people. I am an optimist who has learnt always to look for the positives in life.

I was raised in an impoverished single-parent family, with a mother that was an alcoholic and abusive. At fourteen, the Police removed me from my home, and I became ‘a ward of court’ for my protection. Shortly afterwards, my mother passed away, and I spent the remainder of my childhood in children’s homes and foster care. I was determined to make a difference not only in my life but also in the lives of others.

Getting a vocation that helped others became very important to me, so I started my journey by qualifying as a nurse, while at the same time in the evenings, studying for business qualifications at the local college.

Three years after qualifying as a Nurse, I trained and became a Police Officer. Back then, the Police force was not as diverse and progressive as it is now and so I resigned after two years.

With the business qualifications I had gained, I secured a position as a business manager for a recruitment business that recruited nurses. Recruitment became my long-term career and one that spanned over two decades.

During that time, I was privileged to live and work internationally, in diverse cultures; including, Australia, Malaysia, the Middle East and the USA during my tenure as a Managing Director.

I left the recruitment industry in 2019 and moved to Mexico. There, I spent a year writing my memoir, which subsequently was published. I now run a consultancy business with the purpose to inspire and help women develop, build confidence and achieve their aspirations.

I undertake public speaking engagements, and I am active in supporting charities that assist the homeless and abused children and women.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There are so many stories to share, but one that changed my life and shaped my career was when I became the Managing Director for ManpowerGroup in Malaysia. It was a business that needed turning around. I was 35 years old and took on a 3-year assignment to transform the business.

The first six months were the most challenging of my career. I was the only expat, on a leadership board comprising of local Malaysians who had been in the business for almost ten years. All of them were my seniors in age, and I had taken over from the incumbent who was a Bumiputera (Malays and Oran Asil or indigenous peoples of Malaysia/Southeast Asia) who remained in the business and on the board.

The role was my first position in a non-western business environment. I had to build credibility quickly, both internally and externally. Culturally, being a woman and not a local Malay, added to the challenge. Still, back then as now, I relish challenges.

After three years, the business had tripled and was highly profitable. During my tenure as the Managing Director, I feel proud that I retained all my direct reports and members of the board.

There were two big take-aways for me from the whole experience.

Firstly, when undertaking business in another country, you need to learn and respect the people and their culture and understand the correct business etiquette.

Secondly, it is teamwork. As a leader, you need to be humble and recognise others strengths and qualities. I surrounded myself with people who had the skills I didn’t, and this meant I needed to repress anything ego-driven when it came to leading the team: especially problem-solving and decision-making.

Malaysia was a challenging training ground, and it enriched my skillset for more demanding assignments when I was called upon to manage several countries in the Middle East and China.

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

My brand is all about authenticity. Throughout my career, I’ve lived and breathed the lessons I learned at an early age. Those lessons offer insights and skills that are highly relatable and useful when I lead, coach, guide and support people facing challenges inside and outside of work.

Being authentic offers to those I help, a fair amount of empathy, straight talking, pragmatism, practical skills, personal experience and honesty.

An example was when I was asked to coach a senior female leader in a large corporate organisation. The CEO of the organisation explained the challenges the leader was facing and explained that either she became better at her job or he would have to let her go from the business. He also wanted to know if, during the course of our coaching discussions, she expressed anything negative about him or the organisation. Additionally, he said, “You have two weeks to fix her or she is out.”

I offered some feedback to the CEO regarding his approach for the lady’s development and declined the coaching opportunity.

I believe I could have helped the female leader but I would not betray her trust in me as an independent person trying to help her.

None of us is 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 not have achieved the success I have if it had not been for so many mentors. One mentor in particular that I respected was my direct line manager — Manton. He was firm but fair and he genuinely cared about his team as individuals

It is funny how people come in and out of your life, but ten years on, I still remember him, even though we have had no contact. He taught me one of my biggest lessons in business, and that was how to develop a strategy and how to translate it into an executable business plan.

In my first year writing a business plan, he returned it for amendments so many times. His focus was to ensure my business plan was robust, actionable and measurable.

Although at the time, I didn’t appreciate the midnight emails, with very short deadlines for amendments, I quickly respected why he was so firm; especially when I started to put the plan into action.

Even now, I still follow his structure on every strategic plan I write.

We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

For me, resilience is about having the mental fortitude to cope with challenging situations. When you really want to achieve success, or you have a goal in your life, that you genuinely believe in, nothing will stand in your way — you will stop at nothing.

Resilient people have an infectious drive; they are so passionate about the end goal that they find solutions to any problem that may arise until they achieve it.

I believe the characteristics of resilient people are:

  • They often have robust emotional intelligence traits.
  • They can assess challenging situations in a logical way, without attaching subjectivity and emotion.
  • They possess a high degree of self-awareness and self-governance.
  • They possess strong problem-solving skills.
  • They are socially astute and not afraid to ask for help.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Malala Yousafzai — After being shot in 2012, she didn’t become a victim; her resilience led her to become a prominent activist for girls and women’s rights to education. As the youngest Nobel Prize recipient and the founder of the Malala Fund. Malala encompasses resilience and how you can turn a negative situation to something for the greater good. I’m sure she still has a lot of great things she will do with her life.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

You will always come across naysayers during your journey in life. A few people told me I was crazy moving to Australia, and kept saying I would be back in 6-months.

I was still in my late twenties, had a really good job and at the age of 21 had already purchased my own home. I knew it was the right decision, even though I didn’t know anyone in Australia. I sold my house, all my belongings and moved with just a suitcase and myself, to the other side of the world. Other people thought that I was taking a huge risk, and I think most of my friends didn’t believe I would go through with it.

It ended up being a great decision and really launched my corporate career, culminating in becoming an international business executive and board member.

I believe if you have aspirations, you need to take risks to not only to develop and learn but also, to achieve your dreams and goals.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Yes. My most painful setback was when I purchased a restaurant and event centre on the Sunshine Coast of Australia. It was substantial in size, and I used all of my savings to buy it. I employed 40 people; the restaurant had 80 covers and the function room catered for over 300 people.

Over the year that I made the acquisition, the Australian dollar was very strong, and tourists didn’t come in their usual numbers and worse still, Australians were making the most of travelling overseas with such a strong currency.

Within 18 months, I was bankrupt. I lost all my life savings and had to rebuild and go back to the corporate world. It was a requirement to spend three years, sending 50% of my corporate salary back to Australia during the bankruptcy term. It was personally a significant setback on my finances and my ambitions at the time. I was delighted the day that my bankruptcy term ended but proud that I kept fully to the terms and obligations of the bankruptcy.

I learnt a great deal during this time and mainly about my inner resolve, capacity to generate solutions and the true value of remaining optimistic and positive.

I also learned from this experience that to succeed in life, you have to take risks, learn from failures and fully respect life lessons as they present themselves to you, without becoming bitter or cynical.

Which experiences of growing up contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

By the time I was 13, I had attended 14 schools, lived in 12 different homes and been homeless three times. I had the responsibility of looking after the home and my mother before I was a teenager. So I learnt to build resilience from an early age.

My mother was one of my naysayers, who always said I would amount to nothing and probably be pregnant before I left school. When I sat in the children’s home after she passed away, I made a decision that no matter how hard it got, what setbacks came my way, I would break out of the family cycle and do something with my life.

I have always looked back with gratitude for the lessons I learnt early on. If I hadn’t had these experiences, I would not have been so motivated to achieve as much as I have in my life and I would not be in the privileged position I am now to help others build their resilience.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Overcome negative belief patterns — Negative beliefs are so destructive, you will never become resilient while you listen to your negative beliefs.

Many belief systems, especially negative ones, are formed at an early age. Nick Vujicic exemplifies how, at an early age, he decided to reject the negative belief systems he and others formed about him being born with no arms and legs. Bullied at school, Nick rose above the negative belief systems associated with his condition and is living a life without limits.

2. Obtain a sense of purpose — when you develop a sense of purpose you will be inspired to take action. Develop goals around your purpose and take incremental steps. Always celebrate small wins.

My desire to write my memoir had its genesis when I was in my late thirties. It remained I my subconscious until I decided the time was right. I set a breakthrough goal to make it happen and underpinned it with the purpose not only to write the book but have it as a platform to help others. Writing was sometimes an emotional and intellectual challenge but after completing each chapter, there was a sense of moving one step closer to the book being published. Purpose creates progress.

3. Believe in yourself — You are the author of your destiny and achieving your potential. Others can help you but the grit to make things happen is our responsibility. Self-belief is the ability to live our dreams on our terms and not live our fears on the terms of others.

When I finally left foster care at eighteen, I was on my own. I set myself a goal that I would buy my own apartment within two years. I had an abiding belief system in my abilities to work hard, seek opportunities and overcome obstacles. The more I believed in myself, the closer I came to my dream of owning my own home. Almost to the day, two years after I left the children’s home; I bought my first apartment.

4. Embrace mindfulness — Being mindful offers a way to gain control of chaotic thoughts and emotions. It offers a way of grounding you in the present so that you can bring perspective to your life and its challenges.

I meditate daily. It allows me to bring focus to a single thing and quiets the diverse thoughts and emotions that accumulate over the day. No matter how challenging the day, meditating provides time for the whole of me to find calm, peace and a sense of being grounded.

5. Test your perception — A perception that distorts reality, invites self-doubt, fear and limits choices.

Everyone knows the report from John (Jack) Swigert, the Command Module Pilot of Apollo 13, when he said, “Houston we have a problem.” This one report caused the astronauts and scores of engineers on earth to solve a variety of challenging problems to ensure the astronauts returned to earth safely.

To be successful, they needed to focus on solving the problems and not on their emotions — which included fear. As each challenge arose, their resilience grew because they focused on the real size of the problem and didn’t allow emotions to magnify it. Reality testing is an important element of developing resilience because it focuses on solutions, problem solving and identifying options.

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 have a dream to build ‘Confidence Academies’ — confidence affects most people; no one is 100% confident and free from some sort of fear. Can you imagine if we spent more time developing people to fully believe that they could achieve, anything they put their mind to? Imagine how different our world could be.

Mental health would be significantly improved; there would be reduced self-esteem issues; there would be less tolerance to violence and abuse, and all forms of relationships would be enhanced. There would be more innovation, as people would put their dreams into action. From a socio-economic viewpoint, the benefits are endless.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why?

I didn’t hesitate with this one, Michelle Obama. She is a role model for women, she is inspiring, compassionate, intellectual, and genuinely cares for people.

She embodies everything I’m passionate about — removing poverty, educating women, improving children’s development, and an emphasis on health and wellness.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Website:- www.fearlessoutcomes.com

Facebook:- https://www.facebook.com/pg/fearlessoutcomes/

Podcast:- https://www.fearlessoutcomes.com/podcast

Cruel: One Child’s Story To Survive by Denise Richardson is published by New Horizon Publishing, priced £7.95. See more at https://www.fearlessoutcomes.com/


Author Denise Richardson: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become

Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Resilience is NOT about bouncing back. There is no such thing as going “back” for humans. Whatever has happened in our life is “done.” You can’t enter the same river twice. The river (and life) have moved on. Resilience is the ability to grow THROUGH challenge and the opportunity to become smarter, wiser, and/or stronger. At the end of the day, resilience is energy management.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Eileen McDargh.

Eileen McDargh is the CEO of The Resiliency Group. She is an internationally recognized keynote speaker, master facilitator, and award-winning author with expertise in resiliency and leadership. The British research firm of Global Gurus International ranks her in the top five of the 30 Communication masters worldwide. Her articles have appeared in countless publications and two of her books have been awarded national recognition, including the Ben Franklin Gold Award. Her seventh book, Burnout to Breakthrough: Building Resilience to Refuel, Recharge, and Reclaim What Matters, releases in August 2020.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Although I was born in Colorado, I grew up in Georgia and Florida. I was always the “runt” of the litter (I have a twin brother) and never really “fit in” with most of my class. However, by the time I got to college, I stepped into leadership roles on campus and graduated as the Outstanding Woman in Leadership at the University of Florida. I taught everything from pre-school to adults at a rural school at the Florida/Georgia border (a role that was by happenstance rather than design). Once I left education, I became the Director of Marketing at Amelia Island Plantation. A divorce prompted my move to Los Angeles and subsequent positions as a communications coordinator for a publicly-traded company. Following that was a stint in a public relations agency where I handled primarily the multinational companies. I HATED IT!

I had just remarried a wonderful man and adopted his 3 children. Nonetheless, and with my husband’s ok, I left with no idea what I was going to do. However, I knew what I did NOT want. In short order, I began my communications consulting firm. That was 40 years ago. Along the way, I’ve addressed groups as large as 15,000, facilitated senior executive retreats, spoken on 5 of the 7 continents, written 7 books, and rejoiced in my amazing family.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

There have been so many lessons! I’ve learned how NOT to lead by witnessing horrid “leadership,” and the best leadership by witnessing great leaders. I also learned, early in my consulting practice, that straight-up conversation MUST precede any agreements.

Case in point: a meeting planner from a prestigious hotel called and asked if I could address a national group that was coming to Palm Desert. I said I could AND also what my fee would be. In a subsequent conversation with the hotel’s client, I discovered that the hotel had quoted double my rate. To say I was dumbfounded would be an understatement. Caught flat-footed, I mumbled something to the hotel’s client and then called the meeting planner. “Eileen,” said the planner in a haughty voice, “We always double the fee of outside vendors.” From that day forward, I vowed NO one would say what I was worth except me. Honesty and transparency are huge values for me.

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

I can only tell you what clients have told us. Not sure there’s a “story” per say, but we have been told we are easy to work with and fun in the sandbox. Laughter is the shortest distance between people. My aim is not to have a “client” but to create friends. Some “clients” have been with me, on and off, for over 20 years.

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?

As I mentioned in my first answer, I never quite seemed to fit in. When we moved to south Florida and I started high school, I was tremendously intimidated because it became quite evident that my family came from the “other side” of the tracks. We didn’t have the money or the country club membership that many seemed to have. Then, sophomore year, Sister John Margaret (a Franciscan nun from Joliet, Illinois) was my world history teacher. She told me at the start of the year that I was to stay after school. I was terrified that I had done something wrong. However, it turned out that she was going to start a debate team and wanted me on it. (You never said “no” to a nun!) She not only got me into debate, but also into other speech competitions. She encouraged, guided, and believed in me. In short — although she was there only ONE year, her belief in me sparked a belief in myself. What a joy, decades later, to find her at the Illinois motherhouse and thank her for that belief. Her one year changed my life and led me to the work I do today!

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is NOT about bouncing back. There is no such thing as going “back” for humans. Whatever has happened in our life is “done.” You can’t enter the same river twice. The river (and life) have moved on. Resilience is the ability to grow THROUGH challenge and the opportunity to become smarter, wiser, and/or stronger. At the end of the day, resilience is energy management.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Mom was one of three women in medical school in the 1930s. She was one of the 1076 Women’s Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) who flew in WWII. In each of these roles, Mom had to keep a strong spirit and resolve because these were not roles women played. In fact, the WASP were disbanded shortly before the war was over and women were NOT allowed back into the cockpits of military planes for 30 years! Mom never lost her love of flying or her love of being of service. She started a women’s auxiliary for a volunteer fire department and was probably the most successful PTA president at my school, using her creativity to craft a never-before-held carnival to raise money for the school.

Her motto was, “I’ll find a way.” When she received a divorce notice after 20 plus years of marriage (and NO alimony), Mom was determined to find a way and went back to work. She managed to finally buy a duplex, continue to volunteer, and then went through cancer. Independent, strong willed, with a ready laugh, Mom is and was my greatest role model.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

There is a prayer we said as kids that had one line I have always remembered: “Forgive me for the things I have done and for the things I failed to do.” The last part of that line has always stuck me as the most important. When I left my paying job (in a new marriage with a new family and no house for us to live in and little money in the bank), people thought I was nuts. Although people didn’t verbalize their disapproval, I saw the glances and the raised eyebrows. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Ignorance can be a bonus. I started small. We watched every penny. I accepted small assignments. I learned how to use a computer. And I taught continuing education classes at the local college. Teaching was one thing I did know and I could use the college to also test-market content and branding.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I can’t think of any one setback. There were always losses — whether a piece of work, a precious friend, etc. — but somehow, after the grieving, we got up and went on. I think the hardest time was after caring for my mother for the last six years of her life — that loss was the greatest setback. WHY? Because I had put my business on auto-pilot and I was a lousy pilot. Starting again was difficult and different. Yet, each phase of life offers us new vistas and windows.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

This is a hard one. As I think about it, growing up in South Florida, we experienced a series of hurricanes. Thanks to an amazing mother, we were always prepared “in the event of.” In short, she had us plan ahead “in case,” but then we lived in THE NOW. Mom could make playing cards by candlelight, cooking on a Bunson burner stove, or playing word games into an adventure. We were never scared, despite the howling winds and the trees that went down. At the time I would not have called this a sign of resiliency, but in retrospect, I think Mom was teaching us.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Listen to the voices in your head. Everytime you say “I have to,” stop and say “I choose to.” When I find myself complaining, worrying, moving in circles, I know I need to stop and ask myself, “What are you CHOOSING right now?” There is always a choice. I often forget that I have control.
  2. Search for the “What else can I do?” My friend Jesse moved to Berkely and tried to buy a house. Housing in California is out of sight. She made her very best offer but another couple had not only outbid her, but offered even MORE than the asking price. Undeterred, Jesse kept thinking, “What else could I do.” She realized she had gold coins in her bank deposit box that could be offered. She realized she knew the chief of police in the town where the young family who were selling the house would be moving and she could make an introduction. Lastly, she told the young couple that since the house she hoped to buy had been the one where their two children were born, she’d allow them to come stay there for one weekend a year while she moved out — keeping memories fresh. She got the house!
  3. Practice intelligent optimism. This is the ability to reframe an event to see the upside versus the downside. For example: the current mandate to “shelter in place” can be framed not as a “prison,” but as an opportunity to learn what the family can do together — games, puzzles, meals. It’s an opportunity to do everything from cleaning the garage to discovering (or re-discovering) an art. I’m having virtual happy hours with friends whom I haven’t seen in years. In short, there is a definite upside to this downside.
  4. Do at least one thing you’ve never done each month. It stretches your mind. It allows you to see that there is always more you can learn. It can revitalize your energy and imagination. AND, it will keep you young.
  5. Exercise. Because resilience is energy management, it is imperative that we boost our physical energy. I’ve realized that running in the morning — before the rest of the world is up — gives me a sense of calm, well-being, and strength. My brain works better. Whatever form of exercise you select, try it for at least 30 minutes. But make it aerobic, of any intensity. Your stress levels will be reduced and you’ll face the world in a much better frame of mind.

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. 🙂

Resilience is energy management. Energy comes from the connections we make in what we think, feel, and do. Poor or bad connections drain our energy. Here is what I would want to start: A movement to create conversations that matter and connections that count with ALL people so that we design a world that works for all.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Well, I suspect the person has to be living. Michelle Obama would be my choice. Her story fascinates me: real, vulnerable, focused, and fun.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/eileenmcdargh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/macdarling

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Professional-Speaker-Eileen-McDargh-CSP-CPAE/405748766188727

Newsletter Sign-Up: https://www.eileenmcdargh.com/subscribe

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Eileen McDargh of The Resiliency Group: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Abigail Rich of Twisted R Ranch: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

You and only you are the author of your life’s story. Only you can know what values, morals and ethics define who you are. Don’t get caught up in the rat race of life and forget who you are and what you believe in. IF you believe in something the stand for it, even if you stand alone.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Miss Abigail Rich

In June of 2019, we had the pleasure of interviewing Miss Rich about her career as a model, actress and author. But not only does Miss Abigail do all of this but, she also owns and operates the 168,000 acre Twisted R Ranch, where she breeds, raises and trains award winning show Cattle.

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

It is an honor to visit with y’all again. I am sure y’all know I was born and raised in the great state of Texas. Which means I am a country girl through and through. I loves animal and I have always had a love for cows. When I was a teenager, I would skip school to go out in my neighbors pastures, spending all day brushing and feeding their cattle. I could train them to do things that no one else could so, I guess I found my true calling. I knew then that I wanted to someday have my own ranch and raise cattle and to put them in shows. I love my career as a International Model and it has been very good to me. I have modeled with some of the world best brands, like Victoria’s Secret, Playboy International, L’oreal, Ford motors and many more but, spending time with cows has always been my happy place.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

In 2015 I was assaulted and it hit me really hard. To this day, I still have nightmares about it. The assault left me in a very dark depressed state of mind eventually leading the to a point when I attempted to take my own life. It was then that I was reminded of my love to cows and my dream of being a cattle rancher. At that point I realized it was time for me to chase my dream or it would never become my reality.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Honestly, from my Mama. She had a real heart to heart talk with me and reminded me that I am a Texan. We have grit in our blood and we don’t give up, no matter what. She told me that I am not alone and as horrible as what happened to is; she will be with me every step. It was a tough for me to try to stay focused and to move forward as what happened will never go away. My Mama reminded me of the times when I was in my teens, and would get upset and go spend times with the neighbors cattle. It always made my day better. She asked me what I wanted to do in the future when I was done being a Professional Model. I told her that I wanted to find happiness again, to stop crying. The next day my Mama, my little sister Amy Jo, my 2 big brothers Michael & Brian and my Cousin came home with 2 purebred registered Angus for me to start a new chapter in my life, my drive to find my happiness.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

With a new chapter of my life starting; I started working with my new babies who I named Faith & Atlas. I wanted to see if I could train them to do things to a level that has never been done. I was successful beyond my wildest expectations and found that if I stayed focused on my dreams and goals the pain that I suffered was not the forefront of my thoughts. Yes, the hurt is still there and the nightmares that will never go away but, I have learned to stay focused on the task at hand and strive for my dreams to come true.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1) Reach out to your family, your Mama, Daddy, Brothers, Sister who ever you are close to. Get a different perspective on how to move forward.

2) Get yourself together. Find your dream and make it come true. Try not to focus on the bad things in life. No matter where you live in this great big world, there will always be bad. You have to concentrate on the good.

3) STAY FOCUSED!!!!!! Keep your eye on where you are trying to go. Believe in yourself and you will be amazed at the results that you can achieve.

4) Don’t look at failure as a setback or a struggle. There is an upside to failure, as it can (if you let it) motivate you to redouble your efforts or try a different approach.

5) You and only you are the author of your life’s story. Only you can know what values, morals and ethics define who you are. Don’t get caught up in the rat race of life and forget who you are and what you believe in. IF you believe in something the stand for it, even if you stand alone.

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 you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

My Mama is that person for me. Without her, I would not be here and I would have never found happiness. She has always been there for me and while she can’t take the pain of what happened away, she can and does point me in the direction to find my happiness. My herd has grown and I have over 100 trained, show cows that I have shown all over the United States and Canada always taking the award for the top category. My cows are now also booked to be in several movies to be filmed.

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

I have added inspirational speaking to the list of things that I do. I have talked to audiences of 10 to over 400 people. I share the good, bad and the ugly parts of life and always remind others that IF I can get through what I went through then they can get through their dark times too.

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

In 2016, I completed writing my life story and it was published the same year. The title is Invisibly Broken and it sold over 60,000 copies in the first month worldwide. Now my life story has been written into a short film and a screenplay for a feature film. Stay tuned there is so much more coming.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Remember, these folks who go to work for you each and every day have good days and bad days. They have dreams and ambitions. They are part of your team, your work family, treat them as you would want to be treated if the shoes were reversed. Show them that they matter and that you care.

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. 🙂

In the business world, Government decisions or just neighbor relations it is common to look at new ideas or programs and say or think is it legal? I do not believe in looking at it that way, because something that may be legal to do still may not be the right thing to do. I offer this idea; Look at new ideas, or decisions and before you make that decision decide if it is the right thing to do. Put on the other person’s shoes, try to see their viewpoints.

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

Don’t get caught up in the rat race of life and forget who you are and what you believe in. IF you believe in something then stand by for it, even if you stand alone.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GlamModelAbby Twitter for my Ranch: https://twitter.com/Twisted_R_Ranch

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/glammodelabby/ Instagram for my ranch: https://www.instagram.com/twisted_r_ranch/

My ranch webpage: https://twistedrranch.com/

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


Abigail Rich of Twisted R Ranch: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes Of The COVID Crisis: How Carolyn Parent and LiveSafe are offering health screening tools to…

Heroes Of The Covid Crisis: How Carolyn Parent and LiveSafe are offering health screening tools to help people work safely during the pandemic

I struggled with this my entire career as I put work, family, friends ahead of prioritizing my health. I am a big list maker and putting myself on the list has always been a challenge. It was only when I truly accepted that to be the best worker, mother, wife, friend, that I needed to be healthy that I could actually make that a priority. I wish I learned that earlier.

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

Carolyn Parent has spent more than 20 years in the digital, mobile, and technology industries as an entrepreneur and sales leader. As CEO and President of LiveSafe, Carolyn is responsible for guiding the strategic direction of the mobile safety and risk company. Since joining LiveSafe in 2015, Carolyn has scaled every aspect of the company, growing the company from just 12 employees to 50 and increasing annual revenues 10X. In 2019, LiveSafe was ranked 176 in North America on the Deloitte Fast 500 list. Carolyn serves on the Boards of the Northern Virginia Technology Council (NVTC), ShopAdvisor, ZippSlip and GO Virginia Council. A member of The Leadership Foundry, Carolyn was recognized in 2016 by WIT with the Corporate Small Market Sector award. In 2019, Carolyn was an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Mid-Atlantic winner, and a third time Washingtonian Tech Titan. Carolyn is a graduate of Villanova University.

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 story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My grandfather was a salesman, my father started in sales then had a career as a sales manager and then executive and CEO. I grew up sitting around the dinner table discussing deals, management philosophies and business plans. While most kids talked about sports and school, I had an early education in business and was lucky to be mentored daily by my family. We moved eight times growing up for my father’s career as he led different organizations and were so lucky to be exposed to so many brilliant businesspeople who shared their skills and experience with us. My brother started out in sales and became a CEO. My grandmother said we were vaccinated with a phonograph needle as we all love to talk and we loved working with people, so I guess you could say that my path was formed by my family and the work they did.

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

When I was an account executive for a large software company managing a few Fortune 500 accounts, our user conference was having a keynote with Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, as the speaker. At that time my company was the third largest software company and Microsoft was the number one. I came up with the idea to have a brief meeting with Bill Gates, my client and our CEO 15 minutes before he went on stage to address the crowd. Even though there were many tiers of management between me and the CEO, I approached his office and pitched it. What I learned was that CEOs love being with clients and welcome the chance to help. He agreed, the meeting was set and at a very young age I was in a room with two of the most powerful people in the software industry, a few other executives and my client. That meeting resulted in a large sale for us as my client got to hear directly from the top software leaders, where their companies were going and how they saw an opportunity to help support their big customers. Bringing the right people together to engage sincerely in supporting each other’s needs is 90% of the process to success. I learned that early and it has really had an impact on how I approach business and relationships. Having the courage to propose an idea (take advantage of an opportunity — like them all being in the same location) and ask for help — even from the highest levels in your organization — showed me what was possible. I took that lesson forward in many aspects of my life: be bold, innovative, ask for help and engage others sincerely.

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 have been fortunate to have many amazing people who have helped me: female executives that have led the way in mentoring and sponsoring me, teachers who helped me find my passion for the written word, managers who taught me business skills and investors who supported me with financial backing and counsel. The greatest influence by far has been my parents. I was lucky to be born into a family that raised me to believe that I could achieve anything I set my mind to. My father’s leadership in how he worked with his teams, supporting his businesses and his family, had a profound impact on me. My mother’s career and compassion had a major influence on how I worked and lived. I was very lucky. One of my favorite quotes by Edsel Ford, “My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could ever give, he believed in me,” holds true for me. Growing up with that kind of belief instilled in me — a courage to try and be my very best.

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

I am so fortunate to work for a mission-based company that is trying to make the world a safer place. I hold that very close to my heart since a huge part of my life is work. So to be able to come in every day to a growth-based tech company who is focused on preventing bad things from happening and helping people is my true definition of goodness. I love that our team works to help people and companies reduce risk and harm and be safe. I am passionate about women and technology and support several groups in getting young females who are interested in STEM aligned with programs and mentors to help get them on great tech career tracks. We are an equestrian family and support therapeutic equine programs for people with physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. The healing power of horses is an amazing thing to watch and very powerful.

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

Never underestimate the impact you can have on others.

I had a young man I worked with contact me four years after I left a company. He asked to take me to lunch to thank me. He had been in our IT dept and asked for some advice from me as I was on the executive team. He shared his interest in clients and in technology and I got him an opportunity in our pre-sales support team. He leveraged that in the coming years to a sales role and then senior account manager role where he had tripled his income, managed huge clients and loved his work. He thanked me and said our meeting and my help changed his life and his family’s. Never underestimate the value or impact you can have on others even if it is not readily obvious in the moment.

Believe others who see your worth.

When I was nominated for Women of the Year for Women in Technology and for Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year, I didn’t invite my family to the ceremony. I told them, it’s my first year, I am not going to win, it takes several years and nominations and I am just humbled and honored to be included. When I won, the first thing I said when I accepted my award was — my mother is going to kill me though she’s not here :). I was shocked and truly humbled that I won, yet no one else was. The other nominees, my team, my family, friends, peers — everyone thought it was well deserved. Sometimes you are your own worst critic and need to believe in what others see in you.

Fearlessness makes many people threatened, don’t resent that, make it work for you.

Often in my career as I have reached out to do new and disruptive things peers have given direct or indirect feedback that I should just stay in my lane, keep heads down and don’t “do new.” This was particularly true in the early part of my career. I got great advice that I should not resent that, but appreciate that everyone had a different perspective and as I built and challenged myself to grow new initiatives I should always keep in mind how they could benefit everyone — even if early on not everyone wanted to take the risk. Many of the things I created got deployed company wide and peers and clients benefited. Just because some don’t want to take the risk early on in a journey with you doesn’t mean the result shouldn’t help the entire team. Make your focus to do good for all and trust the recognition and reward will find its way to you as a result.

Your personal health and well-being is important and deserves to be a priority.

I struggled with this my entire career as I put work, family, friends ahead of prioritizing my health. I am a big list maker and putting myself on the list has always been a challenge. It was only when I truly accepted that to be the best worker, mother, wife, friend, that I needed to be healthy that I could actually make that a priority. I wish I learned that earlier.

Get yourself a great tribe of female leaders that will be true friends and give you honest advice.

I never could have imagined how important my tribe, all of whom I met in my professional career, were going to be in helping, supporting and guiding me in my business and personal life. Finding people who are genuinely happy for your success, give you frank and honest feedback and support you when you fail is one of life’s greatest gifts and a critical necessity to your success and happiness.

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 inspire a movement called Give Back — Everyone is a Mentor. Starting from 1st grade having every person give back an hour a week to a person 1–2 years behind them. Every single person has experiences that can be shared and the idea that everyone helps at least one person one hour a week — talking, listening. Often people think of mentors with decades of experience ahead of them but if we instill early on that everyone has something to share or help throughout their life then we could bring a culture of giving, kindness, help and engagement. Senior citizens could help, professionals, families, college kids, teenagers — everyone in society has something to give and support especially to those a few years behind them and I believe the best feeling for yourself comes when you are helping someone else — even if it’s just listening to them.

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

Run a good race. My father always said Run a good race, meaning give it your very best and be satisfied with that. In business the success is not always immediate, and the challenges are daily so it is easy to get discouraged or overly critical of yourself or your progress. Every night I ask myself if I gave it the best I had — regardless of the outcome and have come to learn to get more comfortable with that. As we deal with the challenges in the economy, the pandemic, the social unrest it is easy to become overwhelmed and stressed and that doesn’t help. When those pressures and thoughts appear, anchoring back to — are we executing on our plan, are we adapting and supporting our team and our clients, are we doing everything we can — are we running a good race — helps ground me and keep me focused on the work and the execution. It’s a simple quote but we are all dealing with not just surviving but thriving and that is a long-term marathon game and keeping centered on doing our best daily helps keep me focused on the right things.

Can you tell us about the technological breakthroughs that LiveSafe is working on? How do you think that will help people, especially amidst this pandemic?

LiveSafe is the first company to focus exclusively on employee sourced information for the prevention of incidents and harm. Our technology enables companies and universities to get data and insight from their employees and students that doesn’t exist anywhere else and leverage that data through communications channels and AI to predict upcoming risks and harm empowering the safety, HR, and risk teams to prevent those things before they hurt the people and the business. The react and respond model is an old model. PREVENTION changes the equation and keeps people safe. Your people know where the potential risk, exposure, and threats are that threaten the safety and wellbeing of your organization and our technology is purpose built to uncover that information, engage your employees, and make that information actionable to help keep everyone safe and avoid costly incidents.

The pandemic is not an immediate crisis like a hurricane or active shooter. It is a long, steady, stream of employee engagement and communication over months and quarters. Preventing exposure, preventing spread, reducing your risk and liability require an employee communication engagement platform like LiveSafe to get insights from your people and share information with them around the constantly changing health conditions of the pandemic. We started with updating hundreds of our client apps with CDC information and then their own company policies. Today, we are offering powerful health screening tools to get people back to work safely and efficiently. We now can offer health check-ins or embedded health attestation surveys, both of which produce observable and verifiable results that show if somebody is healthy enough to come to work each day.

Our platform is purpose built for addressing this type of pandemic challenge, as today’s workforce is more spread out and daily insights on the health and well-being of your people can be difficult to ascertain. The risks posed by a highly contagious disease as people come back to the office demand the need for an employee engagement platform like ours.

How do you think the WorkSafe app might make a positive change?

We built our mobile safety and employee communication platform six years ago on this premise — People are good, given the right tools and ease of use, they will do the right thing, share information, and ask for help for the protection of themselves and the benefit of others they work with. We can empower that information and use it to communicate back out to help the entire organization be safe and avoid harm. That has proven to be true, with 4 million people on the platform, including Fortune 50 companies down to organizations with 100 people, all using it to communicate for the purpose of improving safety and security, and preventing bad things from happening.

COVID 19 can currently only be stopped by people taking action — social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks, quarantining if exposed. Our platform is designed for people taking action, sharing information and receiving information from their companies. It is purpose-built for this type of pandemic challenge.

By people doing daily health attestation surveys before they leave their house to come to work and getting a green check or red x from the platform, we are reducing exposure in lobbies and offices with at risk employees. Our technology is actively helping to prevent exposure to COVID-19. By employees using our app/web to communicate overcrowding in elevators, need for hand sanitizers in the office, unsafe conditions, mental health concerns — companies can proactively address situations before they become problems — mitigating risk and spread. As new information becomes available about quarantines, exposure, policies, companies can easily update and share that with employees via the platform, keeping everyone on the same page and informed in a highly dynamic environment. This is a perfect example of leveraging your best asset — your people — to mitigate your risk. We empower the entire workforce via their phone or computer to keep the community safe.

What led you and your company to develop WorkSafe? Can you tell us that story?

Our clients have been using our LiveSafe platform for employee engagement to mitigate risk around security, facilities, mental health, insider threat, and safety issues for six years. When the pandemic hit, we listened carefully to our customers who needed the platform to be updated with pandemic information. We realized immediately that was an urgent need for self-attestation health surveys. Some of our largest clients — the biggest hospitals, financial institutions, insurance companies, and logistics companies in the nation had employees in offices, in the field and they needed a way to get them back to work safely.

Since our LiveSafe platform is purpose built for prevention, employee engagement and risk intelligence, we quickly configured a module on our LiveSafe platform exclusively for COVID-19 and called it WorkSafe. We brought it to market in a few weeks and it was immediately deployed by some of our largest clients who had critical workers in the field. We then saw a big need for companies of all sizes to get their workers back to work safely, so we launched an ecommerce site so organizations could quickly get access to WorkSafe. To support main street America, we offered a free small business package (for one location) to help the restaurants and retailers who are vital to our communities and need help. We believe we all have a critical role to play in getting our country and our economy back to work as safely as possible.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about? Is employee privacy an issue?

Our platform was built six years ago, mobile first, privacy first. We have been supporting financial institutions, stock exchanges, healthcare companies, public utility and energy companies and some of the most sophisticated global companies around the world for quite some time and are compliant with privacy and security regulations. We offer anonymous reporting by the employee in the platform and we never track or store location data. The control of what information is shared is controlled by the individual employee. We believe that a safe, private environment for people to engage in sharing safety information is critical and have designed our solutions from the ground up with those principles. That is the reason we have the highest engagement rate in the industry.

In your opinion, what does the future of workplace safety look like post-coronavirus?

While we all hope for more available testing and a vaccine as soon as possible, the workforce will be forever changed. On a positive note, the pandemic has ushered in a wave of human engagement, people being more situationally aware and conscious of their actions and those of others to keep the workplace safe. Masks, cleaning stations, temperature checks, distanced desks and more attention to office hygiene will continue. I think the days of open office space and the majority of the workforce being in office will be shifted to more of a hybrid design, and remote work will become more of the norm for businesses that can support it.

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

Articles like this one certainly help :) — thank you. Our best growth has come for customer referrals. The concept of crowd sourced (employee sourced) safety data to prevent incidents — not the traditional emergency notification model of react and respond to a crisis — has been our mission and our clients and partners have helped us lead this new category. To get widespread adoption, C-suite executives, HR and Risk Professionals need to engage in leading their organizations with support from their Security teams to make employee engagement and communication around safety a priority. We are seeing more of this occur as the pandemic has put employee safety as a top priority. Knowing how to effectively engage your workforce, gain their trust in sharing information, supporting them in their safety concerns is our exclusive focus. The time is now, as the pandemic has made employee engagement imperative to conducting business and to business continuity. Ease of use in the app/web, the right content at the right time, and predictive analytics highlighting risk — all of these things we specialize in are purpose built to help with the challenges the pandemic brings to businesses and campuses.

Our new Connect collaboration solution available in July will enable our clients to communicate around COVID-19 and other safety issues externally with their peers outside of their company and this will help bring more people into the LiveSafe/WorkSafe community.

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

Our clients have been tremendous in sharing the work that they are doing. Our podcasts with major industry leaders in SHRM and IACLEA and our recent whitepapers on Back to Work, Back to School Safety have helped publicize the impact on the work we are doing to help in the pandemic.

Our Prevention Podcast series has been a very powerful promotional tool for us. It’s now in its third season and has had more than 15,000 listeners because we talk to industry experts and professionals about the work being done on the front lines of risk intelligence and safety incident prevention. The podcast is now actually driving leads into our sales pipeline. Likewise, we do not do anything on the thought leadership front that can’t be used at least 3 times — either as a podcast, a video, a white paper, a case study, or a social media advertising campaign. This enables us to achieve message saturation in the market.

Some very well-known VCs and the biggest names in business read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

The traditional model of reacting and responding to a crisis or incident is no longer viable. We have changed the equation to prevent these things from occurring by delivering a risk intelligence platform focused on employee intelligence, early warning indicators, and actionable data to reduce risk and harm to your business.

Innovators like Fred Smith, Barry Dillar, Dave Duffield, and Steve Case saw the value in our unique approach and invested in disrupting the market by democratizing employee-sourced safety information to help bring safer environments where we work, live and play. LiveSafe is the first technology company to focus on prevention, the best at employee engagement, and the only company delivering actionable risk intelligence that is human-sourced and AI delivered for preventing incidents, reducing liability and saving organizations money. Clients include major financial institutions, insurance companies, utilities, property management companies, universities and government. The largest security firms in the industry and compliance organizations have partnered with LiveSafe. Our new WorkSafe product is purpose built for supporting clients’ employee engagement to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personal Accounts

Twitter: @CarolynJParent

LinkedIn: Carolyn J Parent

LiveSafe Accounts

Twitter: @livesafe

LinkedIn: LiveSafe

Facebook: /LiveSafePlatform

Instagram: @livesafe


Heroes Of The COVID Crisis: How Carolyn Parent and LiveSafe are offering health screening tools to… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Taylor of Family Promise Assists Homeless Families to Return

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Taylor of Family Promise Assists Homeless Families to Return to Self-Sufficiency

What keeps me going is my faith in God and the calling to do His work. He has blessed me beyond measure. It is the least I can do to dedicate my life to serving those less fortunate in the world in gratitude for the blessings He has generously given me.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Ted Taylor, Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Phoenix, an Arizona nonprofit that rescues primarily first-time homeless families from the streets and provides emergency shelter and basic needs in a sixty-day program designed to assist their return to self-sufficiency. Having rescued over 1,300 families since his call to serve in 2010, Ted continues to believe that his greatest blessing has been to have over 350 kids per year in this program, as he and his wife Debbie were not blessed with children themselves.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background, and how you grew up?

I grew up in Globe, Arizona. Phoenix was the big city, once a year trip. My father worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs and my mother was a nurse. I grew up raising 4-H animals and building forts out in the sticks. I married my high school sweetheart, Debbie, after graduating from the University of Arizona. I worked in the cotton business, as a merchant for 15 years, followed by building a company producing dog grooming tables for professional groomers. After I sold that company, I helped struggling companies to improve their businesses and ended up leading a technology company focused on employee health systems.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

While in the cotton business, I was moved to south Texas to work in the cotton sample rooms with mostly migrant and prison labor. I fell in love with my fellow workers and made a permanent connection to those less fortunate in the world. Years later, having volunteered for three years with Family Promise, my Pastor, who happened to be the Chairman of the Board at Family Promise, came to me to say the Executive Director was stepping down and that I should apply. With my wife’s support, and a feeling I was being called, I applied and was accepted. That was my first real exposure to helping families who become homeless, and that decision made all the difference.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

I can speak to homelessness in families, but not the complexity of homelessness and single adults. What has happened in families is that in-tact families have declined from 70% in 1960 to less than 50% today. As a result, 84% of homeless families are single mothers with young children. Unfortunately, the cards are stacked against these moms, with childcare, schools and business problems escalating when a child is sick. Likewise, for every 100 units of extremely low-income housing needed in the Phoenix Metro Area, only 30 are available on any given day. As a result, families are doubling up at an alarming rate, estimated at nearly 65% of school age homeless children. The housing crisis is getting worse in Maricopa county, with little prospect of adding additional affordable housing in the near future. Exacerbating this problem, families from out-of-state are flocking to Arizona, without money, in hopes of finding employment and affordable housing. I do not see any long-term solutions in place to fix these problems. We continue to believe that policy initiatives aimed at building multi-family housing capacity are the future of housing solutions for lower income families. Unfortunately, that takes real political courage, and the support of voters, which is difficult to come by these days.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

Every family we encounter has a different story for how they arrived at our doorstep. For many, it is the lack of affordable housing. One in four renters spends more than half their income on housing. If a catastrophic event happens, such as a health emergency or losing a job, this puts an immediate stress on the family for making choices for how they spend their money. Many families in these kinds of situations must often make the choice between putting food on the table for their children or paying the rent. When resources for basic needs are challenged, families will often choose to ensure their children are fed before paying rent.

Family Promise of Greater Phoenix focuses specifically on serving families experiencing homelessness. For families that suddenly find themselves homeless, they may not have a network of friends or family who may have the room to appropriately house all family members. There are also not enough permanent shelter facilities to temporarily shelter families while they experience homelessness, which is why we have relied on our community-based model to shelter families as we work to find them a permanent housing solution.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

The challenge to find affordable housing is everywhere, no matter the size or location of a city or town. If a family is challenged to find affordable housing in one city, they will likely experience the same challenge in any nearby city. To be frank, there just is not enough affordable housing. For every 100 units of extremely low-income housing needed in Arizona, only 30 units are actually available. Therefore, the problem is getting worse every year.

A family may also lack the resources to identify areas where there may be more affordable housing options, or to attempt to move to another city or town.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

We are all brothers and sisters in the grand scheme of things. I have learned that few people are exempt from catastrophic challenges. I believe our highest purpose is to serve our fellow man. Therefore, treating people with dignity is my first answer. For example, a conversation may go like this: “Hi, my name is Ted. May I ask your name? Well, John, I have a care bag in my car and would be happy to give it to you. Would that be of help John? In the kit are snack bars, hygiene items, gel sanitizer, daily essentials, and phone numbers for professional help, including Family Promise.” I have learned that people asking for help need more help than short-term money. Providers are their best connection. They know how to connect people to the services they really need. That is my suggestion.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

I would suggest you carry referral cards with you. We have them at Family Promise. If you will email me, I will be happy to send some to you. My email is: director@familypromiseAZ.org. Please indicate the general area of need, i.e. shelter, domestic violence, suicide prevention, housing assistance, food, etc.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

Instead of building shelters, we build community. The key to our community is the volunteers at 52 host congregations — both Churches and Synagogues all over the Valley — who provide bedrooms and a hot “family-style” meal every night. They do it a week at a time, creating a feeling of family, then handing off to the next group of congregations.

The power of that network is beyond words. Our children heal from homelessness through the love of congregations. They stay healthier because they have balanced meals, shelter, and an engaged community. I always like to say that if you want to heal parents from homelessness, just heal their children. That is exactly what our congregations do. In 20 years of existence, we have rescued over 1,300 families from homelessness.

Our objective is to rescue families quickly before the devastating effects of homelessness create a downward spiral of poverty, reliance on shelters, accompanied by academic/health problems and ultimately foster care for the children. In our Emergency Shelter, we focus on resolving the family’s immediate crisis, followed by providing food, safe shelter, clothing, daycare, schools, employment, and social services. Within 30 days the family has generally stabilized, and a parent is employed. We continue to give encouragement and case management while they transition from homelessness to self-sufficiency within 60 days of arrival.

We are also the first homeless shelter in Arizona to provide an on-site pet sanctuary, allowing children going through the crisis of homelessness to keep their furry friend, an important point of stability for kids whose life is in turmoil.

At Family Promise, we know that the story does not end once the family graduates from emergency shelter into housing. To meet this need, we operate a Graduate Program focused on building a support community among our graduates under the guidance of our aftercare specialist. The program includes continued counseling and life-skills programs such as cash management. With frequent contact, newly independent families have a resource to help them navigate the bumps in the road to self-sufficiency, as well as celebrate their successes and achievements.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Homeless families are more at-risk during crises and pandemics than other populations as housing instability limits access to hygiene. Families facing homelessness are not always able to secure basic needs such as cleaning products and sanitizers. Additionally, the stress of housing instability and lack of access to nutrition and wellness make families more susceptible to disease. The coronavirus pandemic has caused millions to lose their jobs, which puts them at higher risk for housing insecurity as well.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, we relied on a network of volunteer churches and synagogues to shelter and feed the families we serve while assisted these families on their journey back to self-sufficiency. As mentioned earlier, we have had to suspend our community-based model, to protect our volunteers and families from a potential spread of the virus.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

When I first became the Executive Director of Family Promise of Greater Phoenix nearly 10 years ago, I was asked by the only other staff member how I defined a family. I knew how I felt, but felt it was important to reach out to the national office to understand their position. When I called the national office the next day, the CEO, Claas Ehlers, answered the phone. His answer inspires me to this day, as it is the true heart of Family Promise… “We define a family as who the children see as their parent(s), who also have legal custody.” I have learned that this is the heart of Family Promise, welcoming all families, regardless of composition, to love them back to health and self-sufficiency.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

At Family Promise it is often heard: ‘this is our first time being in this situation.’ If the family is lucky, they have friends and family that can help them out until they can get back on their feet.

Berger and Elida, their two children, and their two dogs, did not have anyone to turn to when they were evicted from their home. They went on the internet and looked up shelters that also take pets and found Family Promise. The two dogs were certified therapy pets for Elida, who relied on them to help her with PTSD. Words could not describe how grateful this family was for being able to keep the entire family intact.

Berger is extremely outgoing and introduced his family to everyone they met at the shelter. The two kids Jonathon (13) and Hope (11) quickly bonded with Snowball, Family Promise’s therapy cat. Elida made sure that the children maintained their school attendance, as Jonathon and Hope were excelling academically and in their extracurricular activities of band and theater. Berger began looking for employment immediately.

Berger soon had the opportunity to apply for and secure a job with Burns Pest Control, because of the company’s connection with Family Promise. Berger had to pass the state certification test. He failed the first two attempts and had one remaining opportunity. Berger’s trainer spent extra time reviewing the information with him and on his third attempt, Berger passed with flying colors! This meant Berger could have his own route and was well on his way to making a very sustainable living.

A little-known fact about Berger is that he is an honorably discharged veteran. Berger did not share his veteran status with people, because he felt there were many veterans in greater need of assistance. But because Berger was a veteran, he and his family qualified for rapid re-housing through Supportive Services for Veteran Families.

Sixty-three days after they came into the program, Berger, Elida, Jonathon, Hope, and their two dogs moved into their own apartment. There is no doubt that the family would be able to sustain themselves and continue to thrive.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

  1. Through individual state policies, require multi-family housing developers to provide 5% of their units for low income families
  2. Begin addressing the root causes of the breakup of the family unit.
  3. Embrace the role public schools play as collaborative partners in helping families in need. They are the true front-line workers with families at-risk of homelessness.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  1. Family reunification incentives, rewarding families that stay together.
  2. Redefine homelessness for families, nationally, to include families who are doubled up (H.R. 2001)
  3. Federal legislation to incentivize the development of affordable housing across the United States.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

What keeps me going is my faith in God and the calling to do His work. He has blessed me beyond measure. It is the least I can do to dedicate my life to serving those less fortunate in the world in gratitude for the blessings He has generously given me.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

I trust in God’s timing, mercy, and grace. Yes, it will be solved, but not likely on our timing. Our only value is in looking out for our fellow man with the characteristics He calls us to exhibit: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Human struggle is hard.

Mike was covered in tattoos and crying as he entered the Family Promise shelter behind his wife and two children. It startled me, so I asked what was going on. He said they were tears of joy, as it was the first time he had been allowed to be in shelter with his family. Most shelters separate the women and kids from the men, but not Family Promise.

You will take it home with you.

Exiting families who choose to fight or use drugs while in the Family Promise program is incredibly painful. The children do not understand, and their fear is totally honest. It is very difficult to get out of your mind. Unfortunately, it is a part of this work.

Everyone is fighting a mighty battle.

Mike, mentioned above, was an amazing husband and father. Within weeks he had three jobs, savings in place, and was headed toward self-sufficiency. Then, one day, he came in drunk. I have never been able to get that picture out of my mind. It was out-of-character for Mike. He was so kind, hard-working, loving to his family. It just broke my heart. The next day, as I spoke with Mike about his choices, I realized that he had been told all his life that he would amount to nothing. This success was just too much to overcome his own self-image. Years later, I encountered Mike on the streets. He had lost his family, was poisoned in alcohol, and lost forever. My heart still breaks.

Walk beside them. It is the only way.

It was job interview time for one of our dads. He had no nice clothing, but the interview was within the hour. He was dressed for failure. I always have a set of nicer clothes in the office, just in case I have an unexpected meeting or interview with the media. That day, I realized the real purpose of those clothes. He was exactly my size. It changed him, inside and out. I drove him to the interview. I remember him walking to the interview office door, from my car, like a proud father. The joy was pure, and I knew all was right at that moment. Yes, he got the job.

The poor can teach you faith

I was air-lifted out of a canyon 8 years ago. It was quite a journey of pain, uncertainty, and fear. After returning to work, a client in our office came up to give me a hug and said, “You know the Lord had a purpose for you in that Canyon.” She was right. I just did not realize his messenger would also be a client.

You are a person of enormous 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 talk about embracing the beauty of our brothers and sisters to the south, and how together we could change the world.

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

Zig Ziglar: “You can get everything you want out of life, if you will just help enough other people get what they want out of life.” I started learning this principle in sales training, but later recognized the life principle in it, which has changed everything.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Mike Pence — His faith.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me on Facebook and LinkedIn:

https://www.facebook.com/ted.taylor.3133/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ted-taylor-a9991a12/

Visit our website at FamilyPromiseAZ.org or follow us on social media on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Ted Taylor of Family Promise Assists Homeless Families to Return was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Len Summa of Data Age Business Systems: Five Things You Need to do to Build a Trusted and Valued…

Len Summa of Data Age Business Systems: Five Things You Need to do to Build a Trusted and Valued Brand

Hire the right people that fit your brand vision. PEOPLE POWER is very important because most companies are in the people business.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Len Summa. Len Summa joined the Data Age Business Systems, Inc. team in 2012 and currently serves as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Before becoming Data Age Business Systems’ CEO, Len was Chief Operations Officer (COO) for four years. He has 27 years of experience in executive software solution sales and operational management for both early stage and well-established firms. Prior to his Data Age service, he was the General Manager of global sales and operations at Persystent Software, an industry-leading enterprise recovery software. Len has also served as the Director of North American SMB sales and operations at Learn.com, the preeminent software firm in the learning management space. He has a vast business and entrepreneurial background and was the co-founder of Lou Ferrigno/Fitness Showrooms, a highly successful retail and wholesale chain located throughout the Northeastern United States.

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 started my path as an athlete who went pretty far in his college career. Once my athletic dream came to a stop, I became an entrepreneur and opened up my own successful business. As a business owner, I was forced to invest in technology and became fascinated with what it can do and how it quickly became my most trusted employee. As the times changed, I saw the power technology was delivering not only to the world but to businesses. I sold my businesses and decided to jump into the technology space full time. I was fortunate to connect with some very successful software application companies over my career, which spanned several different markets.

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?

Early on in my technology career, I had the chance to go to my first trade show (Comdex). Mind you, this show was being held in San Francisco in the heart of the hi-tech boom. I am working the floor as a very junior Inside Sales Director and a prospective client walked up to me and asked me about my value proposition. There weren’t any smart phones at the time to Google value proposition and I literally did not know what he was asking, even though in my entrepreneurial life I would deliver a value proposition 50 times a day. I decided to go for it and wing it…and that did not go well at all. My lesson learned was to be prepared and never be afraid to ask a question. When you are honest, how can the question be wrong to ask?

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

To start, Data Age Business Systems has been leading the way in our space since 1988. Data Age has consistently evolved as a business and how we approach business over the years. The changing landscapes is something our company embraces and actually drives in our industry. Products that evolve are a given, but the one constant with Data Age is our people and their true commitment to world-class customer service. We employ a customer centric model and we personalize every interaction with our customers and prospective customers.

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

We are always working on new projects for inside and outside our industry, for our customers, and our staff. Security and accessibility are two very important things for our customers and we will be able to satisfy both in a one stop shop. Also, expanding on our easy-to-use marketing and customer communication tools will help our customers modernize their businesses.

Okay 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 our core focus and is why we have led the way for over 30 years in our space. A brand is a trusted result that your customers come to expect every time they use your products, engage with your service teams, and work with anyone associated with your company. This would also include selected partners. The brand for us is our people — how they are trained, how they are hired, and how they deliver the consistency that our customers need. Piggybacking off this customer centric model that we live by, our advertising is mostly content marketing. We want to get our products visibility, but we do it within the context of educational deliverables. Everyone is searching these days. SEO, if done right, will get people to your doorstep. How we get them in and part of our family is by truly educating them with high quality content. Our one-stop shop approach is providing ubiquity for us in the market place as the go-to vendor for products and education.

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 today’s business climate, no matter how large or small your organization is, marketing is what I call an important hat that is needed to wear and focus on. Like I stated, everyone is searching and getting themselves educated in their own way before they even engage your sales team. For the most part, most vendors or businesses have similar products and services, so how you differentiate yourself in the marketplace is the real secret sauce. I also feel that you build this from the inside out. Your people, your culture, and your commitment to the customers has to be embedded into every fiber of your business. Your marketing team should have two customers…your external clients and your internal staff. I can’t see any successful business flourishing in today’s markets where marketing is not fully embraced in every area of the business.

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. Hire the right people that fit your brand vision. PEOPLE POWER is very important because most companies are in the people business.
  2. Commitment to training your people to ensure they deliver to the brand promise every time. Make training a basic step in your day-to-day process and never settle for a good performance as we know good is the enemy of great.
  3. Practice, encourage, and demand consistent and clear communications. Internal communications as well as open and honest communications with your customers is key.
  4. Have an open door policy of bi-directional communications with your customers. They use your products and work with your people. They will tell you what is right and where improvements are needed. I feel for us this has been the key to staying at the top of the industry for 30 years.
  5. DON’T FALL VICTIM TO THE FOLLOWING SEVEN DEADLY WORDS AND PRACTICES…WE HAVE ALWAYS DONE IT THAT WAY. This could be both a brand and company killer.

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?

I am a very big fan of Geico and Southwest Airlines. What impresses me is their ability to market their products in a manner that makes you look forward to seeing their next market piece. I don’t know their financials, but I can say this — not many people stray away from watching, reading, or hearing what they have to say. They get a real thumbs up regarding the outcome to their deliverables. They are constantly setting the bar high with new and fresh takes. Geico has actually become an entertainment brand and is very impressive. How do you replicate this? Listen to what your customers are saying and track what is working and what is not. Take a chance and go past your comfort zone.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

The role that social media plays is a top priority for us and it should be a top priority for a business. The statistics centering around social media are staggering and they are only growing. I would go as far to say that even very small companies need to invest in adding a resource to this department. Social media will allow you to deliver on every front. You can advertise products, drive quality educational content, and share your company values through your people. We get the most likes and engagement when we deliver the feel good stories of our team and bring our office to our customers via our videos featuring our team. Social media has garnered us many business opportunities that we would never engage with through the standard marketing outlets. Social media is a very cost effective way to secure customer/prospect engagement.

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

I am not a burnout victim, but I came very close. You have to remember why you are doing what you do. For me, my family is why I do what I do. It can become very gripping when you are in the game and driven to win. Taking a step back is tough, but it can provide great clarity for yourself and can be good for your business efforts. Don’t forget yourself in all of this. Know that it is okay to work to live and not live to work.

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 be the influencer on real communication. Healthy debate with no blame would be the goal. Dialogue on how to work together better, connect together better and respect one another no matter what the circumstances may be. So many people have great ideas and thoughts. Many are afraid to speak their minds. At one point in my career, I was that person. Seeing or hearing someone like myself who used to be a really quiet introvert be able to achieve goals and dreams could inspire those people who feel out of place or inspire them to speak up.

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

You will never hit a homerun if you don’t swing the bat. This quote got me out of my bed one spring morning as my soon-to-be business partner rang my doorbell to go get our business license to open up a startup in a Long Island flea market. I almost did not answer that doorbell. Where would I be if I did not ring him in? It would have been so easy to have gone right back to bed and figured it all out another day.

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. 🙂

New England Patriot Head Coach Bill Belichik.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am very active on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Data Age Business Systems YouTube Channel.


Len Summa of Data Age Business Systems: Five Things You Need to do to Build a Trusted and Valued… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Arnaldo de Lisio of Catalyst Advisors: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become…

Arnaldo de Lisio of Catalyst Advisors: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

When my hair loss was only partial, it caused some insecurity about my look, but when I realized all of my hair was gone, I felt wonderful. I thought, “I’ve won the battle with this disease.” Today I’m very comfortable with my look. I’m no longer embarrassed. I think I felt a great sense of healing the minute I became completely bald. It gave me an incredible strength.

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

Arnaldo De Lisio is a partner at Catalyst Advisors, a recognized executive recruiting firm specialized in the life sciences sector. He is based in the firm’s London office. Prior to joining Catalyst Advisors, Arnaldo was a managing partner of a global life sciences recruiting firm headquartered in the United Kingdom, where he conducted board, CEO, and other C-level recruitment engagements for clients in Europe and North America. As a managing partner, he was part of the executive team that developed the firm’s strategy and led its growth. Arnaldo has deep experience working with companies in highly innovative areas of medicine, including immuno-oncology, oncology, and rare diseases. Earlier, Arnaldo was a start-up entrepreneur in Italy and a management consultant at Simon-Kucher & Partners in Germany, where he advised biopharma and pharmaceutical companies on pricing and reimbursement strategies. He holds a Global Executive M.B.A. from the Hult International Business School and a Master’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Molise in Italy.

The development of resilience requires challenge. It’s not typical to see setbacks as gains, but when put in the perspective of increasing the ability to bounce back from adversity even stronger than before, it fosters an appreciation for that mindset. It’s the philosophy embraced by Catalyst Advisors partner Arnaldo De Lisio, and he believes it’s what has fueled his success as an entrepreneur and his overall growth as an individual.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

I’m Italian, from Campobasso, a small city in Southern Italy. I’ve been living in the UK for 15 years. I am a Partner at Catalyst Advisors, an executive recruitment firm entirely focused on the biotech and pharmaceutical sectors. Our firm is made up of top performers in our sector. We value collaboration, integrity, quality, and continuous development.

Outside of work, family, sports, and the outdoors are my passions. I live a frugal, family-centered life, together with my wife Taranjeet and our daughters, Jasmine and Sofia. They, along with extended family and friends, are what matter the most to me.

Sports and spirituality are at the core of my well-being; I was raised Roman-Catholic and found in my wife, who is Sikh, a life partner who shares with me the belief that our daughters can be raised to appreciate and value the teachings of both religions.

What are the top three factors you would attribute to your success?

Growth mindset. Genuine desire to build relationships. Openness to opportunities. I’ve always felt that when an opportunity has come my way, I’ve taken it. I’ve taken the risk, taken the gamble. For example, as a student I had multiple opportunities to study abroad, and I jumped at every chance. I lived and studied abroad in Germany and the United States. My focus has always been building relationships, no matter where I am or what the circumstances. On one occasion as a young adult, I had a car accident and needed money to repay the damage, and the chance came about for me to earn some money by going and picking apples near the Italian Dolomite mountains. It ended up being more than just a way to earn money, it became one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I made lifelong friends and enjoyed nature.

What makes your company stand out from the crowd?

The laser sharp focus on the quality of our work. Our relentless execution and long-term relationship-building attitudes are also key. The extra care we take with the business executives we engage with and the honest advice we share are the things that separate us from the competition.

How has your company continued to thrive in the face of rapid change and disruption in your industry?

We play to our strengths, focusing on what we do best — being honest and competent advisors to our clients. To enable transformational recruitment for organizations, in a changing landscape, requires going the extra mile, to create comfort for the clients making decisions. Right now, companies are tasked with recruiting top executives without having met them face-to-face. It’s a critical challenge, a paradigm shift. We’re bringing our ability to orchestrate the process. We are using our life sciences sector knowledge and the deep relationships that we’ve cultivated with individuals to help companies pivot their traditional recruiting practices to fit the new norm. We already go above and beyond most firms, as a matter of course, making sure no stone is left unturned in the process. This gives us an ability to provide added assurance about a potential candidate before making the recommendation. And our work doesn’t stop at signing the deal; embarking on the new course, transitioning…our work continues, to ensure that the incomer fits well for the client and the organization benefits. That’s our commitment.

According to a recent KPMG study, resilience is the underlying trait of most successful businesses. How would you define “resilience?”

The surface definition is the ability to bounce back from any setback. It can be a small or a major one. Going deeper I would say it’s the ability to see setbacks in context over the long term and understand that they make you stronger.

When you think of tenacity and endurance, what person comes to mind? (Can you explain why you chose that person?)

A major source of inspiration for me is professional tennis player, Rafael Nadal. Not only is he one of the greatest tennis champions, but he is also a great example of tenacity and endurance, coming back from major injuries that might have ended most careers — and not just coming back, but coming back more flexible, stronger, and better overall, with a different game, a new strategy and an entirely fresh outlook to address the changing game.

Was there ever a time that someone told you was impossible, but you did it anyway? (Can you share the story with us?)

A few years ago, I was a director in a firm and had two young daughters, and my wife also had a full-time job, yet I felt the strong pull to do an executive MBA program. A full two-year program. With so much on our plate, my wife was against it, and many said that it would be impossible. But I knew it was achievable, so I did it. It started an incredible new chapter of my life and career; I felt stronger afterwards. Through the interaction and teamwork with bright classmates, I learned so much about leadership, emotional intelligence and so many other valuable lessons including how my resilience is key to my success.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? (Can you share that story with us?)

In 2009, my wife and I suffered the loss of our first child, a boy, who was born prematurely while we were in Italy during the Christmas holiday. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever endured, not only because of my personal suffering, but because I was the closest to see my wife’s pain. We had the support of family, we had our respective faiths and decided to spend three weeks in India (where she is from) afterwards and had an incredibly spiritual experience.

Within a few months of losing our son, my alopecia areata, which I have had since childhood, went to alopecia universalis, and I lost all of my hair.

When my hair loss was only partial, it caused some insecurity about my look, but when I realized all of my hair was gone, I felt wonderful. I thought, “I’ve won the battle with this disease.” Today I’m very comfortable with my look. I’m no longer embarrassed. I think I felt a great sense of healing the minute I became completely bald. It gave me an incredible strength.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? (Can you share a story?)

Alopecia certainly gave me the experiences and coping mechanisms that have helped me become who I am today. I remember just crying in front of the mirror as a child and telling myself, “One day, it will get better.” It made me who I am today and has been a driver in my resilience. Being uncomfortable with your looks moves you to take different strategies. For me, it made me more extroverted, pointed me towards music and sports. I played table tennis competitively beginning at about 12 years old. Sports was an incredible source of learning. It teaches you the importance of deliberate practice and the fun of enjoying practice and seeking improvement, not perfection. It also teaches you the value of competition but that it’s not always about winning. I was privileged to have these experiences and extremely supportive parents, and a large, loving family. I had a wonderful childhood. There were personal hardships, but I was privileged in many ways.

What strategies do you use to strengthen your resilience? (Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. Please share a story or an example for each)

I have a morning ritual. For me it’s important to start the day right, very early, before my family wakes up. Having two hours of peace where I can pray, meditate, do muscular awakening and stretching, and exercise. Having that non-negotiable appointment with myself determines the rest of the day and I feel like I’ve already taken some important steps to tackle the day’s climb. I’ve also learned to trust and respect myself. I’ve had coaches and mentors throughout the years provide consistent feedback that I’m hard on myself. I believe that it helps for a while, but now I believe loving myself more, understanding myself, and allowing myself to start over if I make a mistake and knowing I can have a better day tomorrow is important. The other thing I’ve learned about resilience is that having a supportive partner by your side can be so helpful. When pressures are intense from outside, having someone that I can talk to immediately makes me feel better.

Because being physically active is core to who I am, training for triathlons has been a great discovery as well and an illustration of adaptation. If your muscles are sore from one pursuit, you can go to another, while still moving forward with your practice and progress, and then go back. Running one day, swimming the next.

How can leaders create a more resilient workforce?

In my field, in my own team, I start by ensuring that I am resilient myself, that I’ve done my homework, know my purpose and see clearly where I’m headed. Another commitment has been to find talented people who have got the right set of behaviors, including eagerness to grow and develop. If they are open to mentorship, I think we can build a solid organization together. My commitment to those who work with me, if they trust me as a mentor, is to challenge them to figure out their role and purpose in their own career path. The goal is to help them be well grounded, not only in business but across all dimensions so they can be strong performers, strong executors, and bring a greater level of energy that results in increased resiliency.

Extensive research suggests that people who have a clear purpose in their lives are more likely to persevere during difficult times. What are your goals?

I feel like a mountaineer that has climbed 4,000-meter peaks, and now I’m looking at 8,000 meters ones. There’s more to achieve. My goals were to succeed as an entrepreneur and achieve security for my family, but I also have a desire to continuously develop to build something that doesn’t exist yet and make a contribution to the society. To make sure our firm operates at the highest levels in executive recruitment within life sciences, my goal is to attract outstanding leaders to our clients’ organizations. The same goes for our team, I want to develop leaders that can be impactful. It’s important to attract peers who challenge us. That’s how we’ll grow. Not just building for the sake of scale, but to increase quality and raise the game.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

I grew up Roman Catholic, specifically influenced by the Franciscan order and the values of that community, which include a focus on humility. There is one song with a verse that says, “Every simple man carries within himself a dream; with love and humility, he will be able to build it.” Every time I’ve felt low, at rock bottom — I’ve remembered this verse, started to sing the first two lines of this song and immediately regained my strength. Nothing could bring me down.

Thank you so much, that was very interesting! How can our readers get in touch with you?

You can learn more about me at catalystadvisorslp.com, or connect with me on LinkedIn.


Arnaldo de Lisio of Catalyst Advisors: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Monica Eaton-Cardone: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

Chargeback issuances are going to increase. Unfortunately, card-not-present transactions are always at a higher risk for chargebacks. Thus, expanding the use of card-not-present options like online ordering will result in more chargeback filings. This could be especially troubling for traditionally brick-and-mortar brands, who have limited experience with chargebacks.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Monica Eaton-Cardone.

As an acclaimed entrepreneur, speaker, and author, Monica Eaton-Cardone is widely recognized as a thought leader in the FinTech industry and a champion of women in technology. She established her entrepreneurial credentials upon selling her first business at the age of 19. When a subsequent eCommerce venture was plagued by revenue-leeching chargebacks and fraud, Eaton-Cardone rose to the challenge by developing a robust solution that combined human insight and Agile technology. Today, her innovations are used by thousands of companies worldwide, cementing her reputation as one of the payment industry’s foremost experts in risk management, chargeback mitigation, and fraud prevention. Monica Eaton-Cardone is honored to be the recipient of various industry awards. Her own expertise, as well as the services provided by her companies, have been recognized as outstanding by her peers and other industry leaders. Visit www.monicaec.com.

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

Of course, thanks for having me!

It’s an interesting story, because when I first started out, I never intended to build a career in the payments industry. I was formerly an eCommerce merchant. While the business did well at first, we eventually started to see more and more trouble with chargebacks. Our chargeback issuances were going up month after month, and we were in danger of breaching the chargeback thresholds established by Visa and Mastercard.

I looked everywhere for a solution, spending tons of money and time in the process, but no solution provider offered what I really needed, which was to simply make these chargebacks go away. Eventually, I said: “You know what? I’ll find an answer and solve this problem myself.” I learned everything there was to know about chargebacks and payments and developed a strategy to stop them based on what I’d learned. Over time, we proved to be so successful that other merchants and banks started coming to us asking for help with their own problems! That was when I realized that this wasn’t an isolated issue; chargebacks were a problem for merchants everywhere.

I started Chargebacks911 in 2012 as a consulting operation, thinking it would be something I could do on the side. The demand for our services grew so rapidly, though, that Chargebacks911 became my main focus. Since 2012, we’ve expanded into an international brand with 350 employees in North America, Europe, and Asia.

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

I was starting out at my first job, which was as a warehouse assistant at an interior design company. I was young and inexperienced, and I definitely had a lot to learn, but I really wanted to prove myself.

When I applied for the job, I actually lied about my credentials, and said that I had a degree in design. I managed to keep up the façade for a few months, but the owner, a man named Blair Rigby, eventually found out. I was called to the office, and fully expected to be fired on the spot; instead, Blair explained to me that, while he didn’t appreciate that I lied, he did respect my work ethic, and let me stay on the job.

That was a real revelation for me. Not just about being straightforward and honest with people, but also that, your ability, skill, and work ethic will ultimately matter far more than any paper qualification.

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

Strange as it sounds, the lesson might be to never overlook maintaining your facilities. When we first started the company, we were operating out of a small office space in Clearwater. Our accountant was working through the weekend because she had some crucial tax work we needed to get done before Monday, and I stopped by the office to see if I could lend a hand.

Unfortunately, the air conditioner had gone out, and if you’ve ever experienced summer in Florida with no AC…it’s not fun. So, I walked into the office and was greeted by our accountant shouting, “Stop walking! Don’t move! Please stay where you are and do not come any further!” I was alarmed at first, but then I burst out laughing when I learned that she had stripped down to her underwear to try and deal with the heat! We still laugh about this even now.

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

We’re always working to expand on what we do now at Chargebacks911. The eCommerce space is fast-moving. Industry regulations, practices, technologies, and sales channels can change quickly, and we need to be able to respond fast.

Most recently, in response to the COVID-19 crisis, we moved to make the client onboarding process much easier and faster. We’re also working to streamline our client portal. We have a few other projects underway that I can’t really discuss much at the moment, but we’re very excited about them and expect that they’ll be a real sea change in how the industry manages disputes.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

A lot of people have talked about “work-life balance” in recent years. Personally, I think it’s less important to have a balance, and instead, to have a harmony between what you love and what you spend your time doing.

It’s easy to simply recommend that people find a job doing what they love. The reality, though, is that even in jobs we enjoy, we spend a lot of time doing things we don’t want to do, and that’s where the burn out can start to build. So, instead of saying “okay, I’ll push through the day, then I’m immediately checked out as soon as 5 o’clock hits,” I think it’s better to find a way of making your work life mesh with your personal life.

Emphasize the things that fuel your passion for your work, while also incorporating your personal passions into your office life.

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, Blair Rigby, played an important role. He taught me how important it was to let people learn from their mistakes, rather than punish them.

I was a freshman in college at the time, and I made a lot of mistakes on the job. If Blair hadn’t been so understanding, if he’d responded to those mistakes by chastising or firing me, it probably would have impressed on me the idea that I should not take so many chances in the future. Instead, he allowed his employees to use their mistakes as learning opportunities.

I’ve tried to foster that same approach in the culture of Chargebacks911. It’s not the end of the world if something doesn’t work out; we learn what went wrong, then adjust and move on, resolved to do better next time. This ultimately encourages innovation and creative problem solving.

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

We try to use Chargebacks911’s success as an opportunity to make a meaningful impact, especially in our local community. First, we’ve organized and funded the ‘Paid for Grades’ program since 2013, which awards cash prizes to participating students as a reward for their academic performance. The cash is an incentive that attracts students to the program, but over the course of the semester, most discover that improving their grades is a reward in itself. We’ve managed to help hundreds of students in Tampa Bay improve their school performance, while also helping them discover aptitudes and abilities they didn’t know they had, gaining confidence in the process.

In addition, we also have our ‘Take Charge for Charity’ program, which is our own weekly charity challenge. We make a donation every week to a different organization; typically, it’s a group helping our neighbors in Tampa Bay who are most in-need. Lately, we’ve been making donations to support COVID-19 relief efforts.

This is a key component of what we do at Chargebacks911. While I love helping merchants protect and grow their businesses, I see our efforts like Paid for Grades and Take Charge for Charity as the true end product of what we do. I really believe that we should judge every business based on how it improves the world, and I want Chargebacks911 to be a great name in that regard.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

1. eCommerce is going to see a significant bump in sales. Already, eCommerce sales are up significantly since March. With millions of people stuck at home for months and unable to visit brick-and-mortar stores, those who hadn’t yet embraced online shopping are doing so now.

2. Hybrid shopping channels like in-store pickup, curbside pickup, and mobile checkout are gaining in popularity. People are trying to avoid unnecessary contact wherever possible. Not only do these options minimize contact, they’re also faster and more convenient, so it’s a no-brainer.

3. Chargeback issuances are going to increase. Unfortunately, card-not-present transactions are always at a higher risk for chargebacks. Thus, expanding the use of card-not-present options like online ordering will result in more chargeback filings. This could be especially troubling for traditionally brick-and-mortar brands, who have limited experience with chargebacks.

4. More emphasis on mobile wallets. Tools like Apple Pay and Samsung Pay appeal to that contactless sensibility in the same way as in-store pickup and mobile checkout. Plus, mobile payment apps typically have two-factor authentication built in; you have to unlock the device, then provide a secondary form of identification to authorize payment. This could prevent fraud and protect merchants from chargebacks.

5. More emphasis on in-store experience. As we saw with the reopening of Toys R Us in late 2019, they recognized that the old model of stocking stores with mound of products was not feasible anymore. Instead, they scaled back their product offerings, and emphasized creating a more fun, interactive store experience to draw customers. I think the retailers that thrive in the coming years will be the ones who go with that experiential commerce model, while leveraging technology to simplify the sales process.

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’ve always been a big advocate of getting more women involved in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). There’s a substantial gender imbalance in these fields, particularly here in the US. As of 2019, women only occupied a little over a quarter of these jobs. That may change soon, as more than 50% of people under age 29 who hold a degree in a STEM field are women.

Women also have high turnover rates in these fields, though. Many who go into STEM will ultimately leave after a few years. I believe that the primary problem is that we don’t have the same networks in place to learn and promote ourselves that our male counterparts have.

It’s important for women in STEM fields to speak out on this issue and take a proactive stance to serve as a role model and a mentor for the next generation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter (@Monica_Eaton), as well as on LinkedIn, and on my own personal blog: http://monicaec.com/. I contribute regular guest content to a number of sites including Forbes, PaymentsSource, and other outlets focused on payments, finance, and business leadership. Following me on social is a great way to keep tabs on everything I publish!

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thanks, it was great to speak with you today!


Author Monica Eaton-Cardone: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lauren Decker of The Co-Co: “5 Things We Can Each Do To Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic”

Cultivating Curiosity: Be committed to constantly learning. We are dedicated not only to creating a collaborative co-working community but one that embraces co-learning with thought leadership events addressing pressing social justice issues, women in the workplace, entrepreneurship, wellness and creativity. In our commitment to co-learning, we are celebrating each stage in the journey of life and career and acknowledging that we all have something to learn from one another and the world around us.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lauren Decker a Co-Founder of The Co-Co. Prior to joining this start-up team, Lauren led marketing and communications initiatives in the for-profit and non-profit sectors. She is committed to connecting people and building momentum for mission-driven brands.

A graduate of Georgetown University, Lauren started her career in marketing roles at Atlantic Media Company, Time Inc., and Kraft Foods. After earning her MBA from Columbia Business School, Lauren transitioned to the philanthropic sector serving as Director of Strategic Partnerships at Cristo Rey in East Harlem and then Head of Community Investment for Barclays’ Americas region. Lauren joined the founding team of The Co-Co while building a new network local to NJ as an independent non-profit consultant. She serves as a Board Member for Summit Downtown Inc. and an Advisory Board member for EcoSpaces Education in Newark. She lives in Summit with her husband and two children.

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?

I am a Co-Founder and CMO at The Co-Co, a women-focused co-working and co-learning community, gathering virtually and soon back at our physical location in the suburbs of NYC. It is our mission to support our members, wherever they are on the journey of life and career.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked to build momentum for mission-driven brands. When I moved to the suburbs from NYC, I went through many transitions in my life and career. Over four years time, I was a working mother to one child commuting to a full-time job in corporate philanthropy at Barclays. I was a stay at home mom to 2 young children. I was an independent non-profit consultant building a new network local to NJ, and then a Co-Founder in a women-led start-up. I knew my story was not unusual. The NYC suburbs are a hub of ambitious women who’ve made all sorts of zigs and zags in their lives and careers to build families and jobs that live up to their dreams for the future and for themselves.

I was inspired to launch The Co-Co to help others navigate the many transitions in balancing life and career. I wanted them to feel supported and encouraged on their own journey, so that they could pursue their ambitions and passions alongside other bright, brilliant, fun women who’ve got their back.

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

My step into entrepreneurship began with a meeting with my now Co-founders. At the time, my two children were in preschool. I was building a new network local to NJ as an aspiring independent consultant, and I was feeling pretty lonely working from my home office in my attic. I missed “showing up” somewhere and the creativity of being part of a team.

On January 18, 2018, a year (to the week!) before we opened the doors of our small business, The Co-Co, I wrote a thank you email to Christine Gilfillan, Co-Co Advisory Board Member and President of the MCJ Amelior Foundation. I thanked her for our conversation and an invitation to a “listening event” about the then-idea of a women’s-focused co-working space, writing “Thank you for the invitation to the event in Summit next week. I look forward to learning more about this idea, and I would be happy to be helpful as your efforts take shape. I see potential for this model for mothers of young children — as a professional space when “working from home” on occasion, as an alternative to renting an office, and an outlet for community and networking for women at all stages of motherhood and career.”

This chance meeting, one of many sometimes dispiriting ones in the early days of a new path, opened a door for a new chapter in my career. It also opened up the possibility of a business whose mission “to support members wherever they are in the journey of life and career” has served so many others as they looked to make changes big and small.

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?

As I explored the possibility of launching The Co-Co with my Co-Founders, I viewed this work as one of my “projects” as an independent consultant. I had begun to arrange my personal life assuming the flexibility of a consultant, and I made some big mistakes. In the fall of 2018, The Co-Co went from a project to a start-up. Meanwhile, I had committed to being the President of the board for my children’s pre-school. I had also scaled back on childcare as I was anticipating working while I had both children in pre-school for the first time. I soon learned that launching a business was an all-in affair. Yes, I had more flexibility than the 9–5, but setting boundaries was on me. I wasn’t so great at that.

I was inspired to launch The Co-Co because I wanted to be a part of the movement to support women wherever they are on the journey of life and career. As I became an entrepreneur, I found it challenging to manage my own boundaries between work and family life. I struggled with this privately in the first six months in business, and then I realized the support I was seeking was IN The Co-Co community. I sought out the advice of a Co-Co member, friend, and Executive Coach, Deb Munies, who had similarly transitioned from corporate life to entrepreneurship and motherhood in the suburbs. Together, we launched a member-exclusive group called Suburban Parenthood: Balancing Work and Family. The response to this idea from members was immediate. The group has become one of our most engaged communities within The Co-Co, and one of my favorite parts of the business. and it has become a support for me and for our community one of our most engaged groups. I learned that if I am feeling something, I am not alone in it, and to cultivate support and support others, I needed to show my own vulnerability.

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

Yes, we are working toward launching a new virtual speaker series celebrating women’s leadership, especially given the challenges of recent months. Across the series, we will be learning from the life experience of interviewees, asking “What does extraordinary leadership look like? and “How do we take action to support an inclusive future?”

Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?

In our first year in business, The Co-Co became the go-to place for women to take on transitions, opportunities, and new challenges with the encouragement of others who truly “saw them.” Transitions are not easy, and we wanted The Co-Co to be a place for support and inspiration — whether starting out as an entrepreneur after a corporate career, looking for a network of local working moms, or seeking to return to the workforce.

Technology has afforded us the opportunity to work in ways that were not possible even a decade ago. This has increased our ability to have flexibility in our careers, so we can build businesses and lives that live up to our dreams for our families and our selves. This shift in the way work is possible has downsides though — loneliness, isolation, lack of connections, and camaraderie. The work-from-home experience of recent months has shown these downsides on a larger scale.

Especially in the suburbs, where many women have sought flexibility through solopreneurship or work-from-home arrangements, there is a thirst for community, connection, and collaboration. People are more than the work they do in isolation. They want to feel like they are part of a team, that others are committed to their success, and that their work matters. At The Co-Co, we are here to celebrate the wins and to offer support on the hard days. We are showing up for our members, and they are showing up for each other. Through community, we are sustaining one another and growing momentum in whatever we are working on.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, 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?

The COVID quarantine experience shed light on the limits and isolation of working from home. Prior to this collective work-from-home experience, our members joined The Co-Co after trying it on their own from home. For many, fulfillment in work, and life, is gained not just from the work itself, but in the feeling of belonging from being a part of something. Dr. Vivek Murthy, a physician and former Surgeon General of the United States, identifies three dimensions of loneliness:

  1. Intimate or emotional loneliness: the longing for a close confidant or intimate partner, someone with whom you share a deep mutual bond of affection and trust.
  2. Relational or social loneliness: the yearning for quality friendships and social companionship and support, and
  3. Collective loneliness: the hunger for a network or a community of people who share your sense of purpose and interests.

He purports that “these three dimensions together reflect the full range of high quality social connections that humans need in order to thrive. The lack of relationships in any of these dimensions can make us feel lonely.”

The Co-Co provides opportunities for both “social companionship” and “a community of people who share your sense of purpose.” The latter, a community with shared interests, is lacking among remote workers. At one time, work was inherently social. Working remotely diminishes the opportunities for connection, creativity, inspiration, camaraderie, and fun gained by bouncing ideas off colleagues, building real relationships in the workplace, and feeling a sense of belonging. Our members have shared that in the absence of these elements of work, they are less productive, more distracted, and less satisfied at home. They are craving not only meaningful work but also outlets for learning and fun that are not available when working from home alone. One member shared, “The space is comfortable, relaxed and professional, and I have met amazing women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders there who share a common desire to collaborate with and learn from peers.” The Co-Co buoys its members from loneliness by providing that network of people who share a sense of purpose.

On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?

Loneliness is harming our communities and society when we fail to reach out to others and lose sight of the fact that we are all more alike than we are different. It is at the heart of our mission to welcome everyone, wherever they are on the journey of life and career, exactly who they are and how they are at this moment.

Since founding The Co-Co, we’ve brought people together to learn, engage in depthful conversations, and take action on pressing social issues. The women (and men!) in our community are focused not only on lifting up fellow members but also on serving their families and communities. The current pandemic reminds us that we are truly interconnected. Amanda Block, a Co-Co member and Founder of GRACE, a local food pantry, recently participated in a Co-Co virtual Social Impact Panel on “Hunger in the Time of the Pandemic. She reflected that “food insecurity can happen to any household in any community, all it takes is a divorce, a gap in employment, a large home repair, or a medical emergency… There is no shame in needing help.” By “showing up” in community and learning together, we can best understand the issues and the people experiencing great need at this particular point in their own journeys. We can realize our shared humanity as we take action to support others.

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.

Many people are experiencing loneliness today for three reasons:

  1. Connection: Remote work limits the opportunity for social connection. When I transitioned from corporate life to experimenting with independent consulting, I realized that I wanted to do mission-driven work, close to home, with flexibility, but I didn’t want to do it alone. I had learned that “showing up” somewhere and being a part of a team added meaning, relevance, purpose, and fun to my work. Our members, many of whom had been working on their own, have had similar experiences, and The Co-Co community is a breath of fresh air. One member reflected, “the primary reason I joined The Co-Co was to make friends where I live. Certainly there are so many other benefits, like co-working, business connection and learning, but… friendship was at the top of the list. Both because I saw a gap in my life for more in-person friend time here and because… friendship is a massively powerful and critical thread to both fulfillment and success however you define both.
  2. Community: Remote work is isolating, removing individuals from a sense of community and purpose in their work. One of our members commented, “Before the Co-Co I didn’t realize I needed a community of amazing women, but it is what I missed most about having a corporate job — smart people to talk to, get to know, foster connection, and collaborate with.”
  3. Learning and Fun: Working from home limits work to the work. As human beings, we are wired to learn together and laugh along the way. One member commented upon getting involved in The Co-Co, “I am super excited to be part of The Co-Co so that I can soar with like minds.”

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. Taking action through service: Since launching, we have engaged with social impact leaders in conversations addressing educational inequity, social enterprise, women’s health and global philanthropy. In our first “virtual” social impact panel, we discussed hunger in the time of the pandemic. In response to our members’ interest in supporting the broader community, we leveraged our physical space as a “touchless” drop-site for supply drives and contributed to the statewide Pandemic Relief Fund. Even while our space has been closed in recent months, The Co-Co community has come together and taken action to support others. In service, we cannot feel lonely. In taking action, we feel comforted by our shared sense of purpose, empowered by our ability to help, and connected to others in our shared humanity.
  2. Joining a Community of Like-Minded Souls: Our members feel a great sense of belonging at The Co-Co. They are seen, heard, and valued exactly as they are in this moment. Members’ openness to collaboration and interest in forging relationships in this supportive community has led to success in whatever they are working on — effectively growing businesses, cultivating networks, and starting new friendships.
  3. Prioritizing Connection: In a WSJ article titled, “The Surprising Science Behind Friendship,” Lydia Denworth, a science journalist and author, shared her findings on the benefits of friendship for your well-being. She found that “friendship literally improves your body’s cardiovascular functioning, how your immune system works, how you sleep.” Her conclusion? “We need to make friendship a priority in our lives. I hope people will take this not as something else to add to their to-do list but as permission to go hang out with your friends.” Prioritizing connection is doing something good for your health. Our members find that “showing up” to be among friends new and old as part of The Co-Co community leaves them feeling a little lighter and a little less lonely.
  4. Cultivating Curiosity: Be committed to constantly learning. We are dedicated not only to creating a collaborative co-working community but one that embraces co-learning with thought leadership events addressing pressing social justice issues, women in the workplace, entrepreneurship, wellness and creativity. In our commitment to co-learning, we are celebrating each stage in the journey of life and career and acknowledging that we all have something to learn from one another and the world around us.
  5. Being ready to pivot: Don’t despair when things shift along the way. In recent months, we’ve taken on the uncertainty of re-imagining our business post-COVID together with our members, whose lives, jobs, businesses, childcare, and partnerships are shifting, adapting, pivoting, re-inventing, failing, despairing, celebrating, and getting right back up again. Through service, listening to one another, and building together, we will move from the current normal to a new one. No matter what our space looks like, our community will adapt, transition, grow, learn, evolve…along with every community near and far. Led by our mission to support and inspire our members wherever they are on the journey of life and career, we will do what’s needed in this moment… and what women always do — come together, take action, and create opportunity.

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. 🙂

My 7-year old daughter recently wrote a reflection on her first grade year — nearly half of it from home. Her assignment was to write a page for each letter of the alphabet. For the letter D, she wrote, “D is for different. We all are different. We do different work. We like different things. We are different.” Her view of the world inspires me, and my hope is that this generation grows up expecting and advocating for diversity and equity.

At The Co-Co, we want everyone to feel welcome exactly who they are and how they are at this moment. We all remember times in our life when we felt lonely, unsupported, judged. We’ve seen the impact of bringing diverse groups together to acknowledge our interconnectedness, support one another, and take action to address social change.

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 🙂

Tina Fey. I’ve been a fan at all stages of her career — from Saturday Night Live to 30 Rock and Bossypants…plus, she’s from the Philadelphia area, where I grew up. I shared this quote from Tina at the first gathering of our Suburban Parenthood group: “I think every working mom probably feels the same thing: You go through big chunks of time where you’re just thinking, ‘This is impossible — oh, this is impossible.’ And then you just keep going and keep going, and you sort of do the impossible.” Everyone in the group related to her reflections. We all felt less alone in our experience as working parents, validated by this woman whose authenticity, humor, and leadership we all admire.


Lauren Decker of The Co-Co: “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.

April White of Trust Relations: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

It’s tempting to feel that employees are not working if they aren’t in front of you, but give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. This will ensure you get off on the right foot and pave the road for the team to find its productive footing.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing April White.

A seasoned communications specialist and writer with both B2B and B2C experience, April is as creative as she is strategic. With over 19 years of experience representing Fortune 100 companies and their executives at leading public relations agencies including Weber Shandwick, Edelman, Spong and Rubenstein Public Relations, she is skilled at developing integrated communications programs that convey strategic messaging, compelling narratives, intangible brand attributes and subtle points of differentiation.

April has experience not only with blue chip brands including MasterCard Worldwide, Sotheby’s International Realty, MetLife International, Sealed Air Corporation, and Dannon, but also with startups including NEXT Trucking, Softomotive, Suzy, Picnic Tax and Basis Vectors. The former award-winning journalist started her own company in 2013 and coined the term “Trust Relations” in 2018, which led to the creation of the boutique communications agency Trust Relations.

April received her B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communications from Iowa State University and continued studying integrated communications at Columbia University’s master’s program in Strategic Communications in New York City.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I started out as a journalist, because I knew early on the one thing I wanted to do every day for the rest of my life was write. My first job out of college was as a reporter for The Des Moines Register in Iowa, where I grew up. But I quickly found out that if you do a good job as a journalist and report fairly on an issue, both sides of the story will dislike what you wrote — and possibly not like you. As a lifelong people pleaser, I realized within two years that I would be better off in public relations, where I could advocate for one side of a story.

I went to “the dark side” as my reporter colleagues called it, and was much happier in public relations. I made my way from Two Rivers Marketing in Des Moines to the New York City satellite office of Carmichael Lynch Spong (now Carmichael Lynch Relate), and later worked for Weber Shandwick, Edelman and Rubenstein PR in New York. My last job before I branched out on my own was as the Manager of PR & Communications at eMusic.

In 2014, I took the scary step I had dreamed of for many years and began freelancing. I moved to Los Angeles, where the cost of living was less daunting than New York City, and applied what I had learned outside the safety of a large agency or company. After years of finding my way as a solo practitioner, what began as “April White Communications” blossomed in early 2019 into a legitimate virtual agency, Trust Relations.

This coincided with me coining the term “Trust Relations,” which I believe is a more accurate reflection of what the practice is — and should be — today. I don’t believe public relations, in its traditional form, is relevant anymore. Spinning the story and staging stunts is a thing of the past. Today’s audiences are savvy, discerning and connected via countless platforms, and they quickly disregard anything that’s not based in truth and reality. You might be able to trick the public for a while, but it’s just a matter of time before the truth emerges, so it’s much better to get the core offering to be authentic and valuable, and then let that value resonate out in narrative form.

At Trust Relations, we specialize in helping brands show who they are, what they do, what core values they represent and how they make the world a better place. We dream up stories and creative activations as well as sponsorships and partnerships that not only embody and reinforce the brand’s identity, but also empower them to form meaningful connections with their target audiences.

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

I began my career as a reporter at The Des Moines Register and found myself covering a very intense story that made national news. A hospital CEO in Perry, Iowa left her 7-month-old daughter in her minivan one day, when she was distracted and running late for work. Temperatures were near 90 degrees that day and the baby died from overheating.

I had to interview her, her family and everyone she knew who would speak with me. Although exciting at moments, I found the entire process to be heartbreaking and torturous.

Covering this story made me acutely aware that, while I loved to write, being a reporter was not a great fit for someone as empathetic as me.

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?

Most of my early mistakes were not funny. But when I first moved to New York City from Iowa and was working in the satellite office of Carmichael Lynch Spong (now Carmichael Lynch Relate), I was watching a lot of “What Not to Wear” on TLC in an attempt to figure out how fashionable New Yorkers dress. I knew I had to “dress the part” in front of clients as part of the job.

One day we had clients coming into the office and I pulled out all the stops (or so I thought) and put on a pink Ann Taylor Loft skirt and black top — with pantyhose. Apparently I had not learned from Stacy London, Clinton Kelly, Tim Gunn or Heidi Klum that pantyhose were “out.” One of my sweet colleagues, who was also originally from the Midwest, pulled me aside to let me know that I shouldn’t be wearing pantyhose and needed to take them off before the client arrived. I was dumbfounded. Then what would I put on my legs? “Nothing,” she said. “Just go with bare legs.”

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Play to employees’ strengths and work with them on developing a career path that matches their personal interests, as much as possible. Yes, this could lead them to discovering that they aren’t the best fit for your organization in the long run. Or it might mean that you will need to hire someone else for the job you originally had in mind for them to grow into someday. But it also ensures that they feel empowered to contribute in a way that best features their gifts and leans into their natural interests. It also leads to loyalty among employees who feel that you have their best interest in mind — in addition to the company’s, of course — and helps prevent burnout. When employees are doing what they really love, they can work long hours without even noticing. On the other hand, if you push them into trying to be well-rounded in a way that doesn’t truly interest them, they can burn out quickly even if they are only working 40 hours per week.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

The five main challenges of managing a remote team are:

  1. Establishing a strong culture and sense of camaraderie
  2. Managing scheduling conflicts when people work in multiple time zones and/or at different times of the day
  3. Tracking employee performance and productivity
  4. Motivating employees who are more externally than internally motivated
  5. Addressing IT, technology or computer-related issues

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Establishing a strong culture and sense of camaraderie

It’s more important than ever when managing a remote team to have a clear vision for the company’s culture and values. You can’t rely on an office setting or dress code to help convey the “vibe,” so it all has to be clearly defined in writing, communicated in multiple ways, and demonstrated consistently.

We have plenty of Slack banter, phone calls and video calls that help establish that sense of camaraderie and teamwork. We also hold biweekly all-agency meetings and biweekly brainstorms that everyone is encouraged to attend, which allows us all to interface and see one another even when we may not work on the same accounts. This gives everyone a way to unite and feel like they’re part of a bigger mission.

Managing scheduling conflicts when people work in multiple time zones and/or at different times of the day

It’s ideal to have at least four to six hours during the day where everyone is actively working. When you have a team that stretches from the East to the West Coast of the United States, that tends to be 9 am PT/12 pm ET to 3 pm PT/6 pm ET.

I also ensure all company-wide meetings are scheduled for the middle of that overlapping time, at noon PT/3 pm ET.

If everyone — or at least the management team — remains available to answer occasional emails and Slack messages outside of their “normal” work hours, that helps immensely to ensure everyone can get their work done on time — even the San Francisco-based night owls.

Tracking employee performance and productivity

There are great project management tools out there like Asana, Monday and Teamwork that help you quickly keep tabs on where projects stand and who has completed which task.

These tools work especially well for larger, slower moving projects with clearly defined tasks. They are less foolproof when it comes to ongoing work with many moving parts, urgent tasks that arise during the day and need to be handled quickly, the review of others’ work, proactive work that could be done without it being assigned, and responses to client emails (or the lack thereof).

I ask junior employees who are reporting to multiple managers to Slack their top priorities for the day each morning to a channel seen by all of their managers. This helps us all know what that employee is working on for the day and also provides a platform for any manager to chime in if we need to collectively discuss and agree upon reprioritizing his or her tasks.

I also ask junior and middle management employees to send a recap every Monday morning with the accomplishments of the prior week for each account and the top priorities for the week for each account, along with any proactive or creative ideas they may have for that client to keep things moving.

Motivating employees who are more externally than internally motivated

This is more difficult to address than the challenges outlined above. The truth is, employees who are primarily motivated by being around others or the fear of a scary manager looking over their shoulder might not be a great fit for a remote team.

The amount of micromanaging required via Slack, email or video calls to simulate that kind of in-person oversight is likely too burdensome and time consuming for managers — and possibly too irritating for employees — to actually be effective.

That said, I have heard of managers who hold two all-agency check-ins every day: one first thing in the morning and another in the middle of the day, during which employees report to them what they have been doing and invite them to ask questions. If this is effective in both motivating and keeping employees, (and managers have time to do this), I applaud them for trying this approach. I personally cannot imagine doing that and would rather find and attract self-motivated employees who are always looking to outperform and overdeliver without prodding.

Addressing IT, technology or computer-related issues

When an employee’s internet is down, their power is out, their computer is having issues, or their laptop is stolen while camping, it’s not always just a simple phone call or email to IT. They have to send screenshots back and forth, wait for remote IT help, or lose a morning (or possibly days) of productivity while they attempt to follow self-help tips on tech blogs.

If employees have hot spots they can use for backup internet service and a second computer (and possibly even a generator, if they are homeowners), that is ideal. Then they can ensure that even if things go sideways, technologically speaking, they can continue working during critical hours and be on important client calls — and wait for remote IT help or at least a break in the action to fix these issues.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Keeping an open line of communication and friendly dialogue going with employees via Slack, the phone, text and video calls is key. If you can provide real-time feedback when performance blips occur, it can help prevent minor performance issues from turning into unscalable mountains — or truly uncomfortable video conference calls. This also ensures that you have the rapport necessary to have those candid conversations in real time, when necessary, and can do so while sitting on the same side of the virtual table — just as Brene Brown recommends doing, in her book “Dare to Lead,” when you’re in the same room.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

First and foremost, never write an email like that when you are upset or irritated. No matter how well you write, it will come through in your tone and the words will be stained with that sour energy even if you perfect them all and proof it 10 times. I know. I’ve done it.

Put yourself in the employee’s position and imagine how you would want to receive the feedback. If you can have empathy for him or her and maybe remember similar mistakes you made at that age, you’ll be more likely to show how much you truly care while simultaneously setting boundaries and/or explaining the blueprint of what’s expected of them. I have found that once I no longer feel frustrated with an employee, or as if I need him or her to behave or perform better to make my life easier, then I can more calmly and impersonally explain where there is a problem. Only then can I clearly outline, in a caring way, the discrepancy or incompatibility between what I know they want to achieve and their performance, or between the role they are in now and the title I know they want.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Because we began as a virtual agency and have not had to make this transition, I am less qualified to answer this question. However, I would encourage teams who have been suddenly forced into a remote workforce to be patient with each other and lead with trust.

It’s tempting to feel that employees are not working if they aren’t in front of you, but give them the benefit of the doubt until they prove otherwise. This will ensure you get off on the right foot and pave the road for the team to find its productive footing.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

To reinforce our agency’s values and culture, one of the things we do during our all-agency meeting is hold optional guided meditations at the end, for those who can (and want to) stay on.

We kick off the meeting by asking a fun personal question of an employee each time (e.g. What was your favorite band 10 years ago?), so everyone gets to know each other on a personal level a little better each time. Then I give a shout out to someone who has done an amazing job in the past two weeks and share any significant company news that provides an overview of what we have in process, as a company, and helps people feel “in the know” about the big picture.

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 idea of Trust Relations, the term I coined and after which I named our agency, comes from the idea that a company’s stories should stem from its essence — not spin. In other words, a brand that is authentically doing interesting things and making the world a better place for its target audiences will emanate that truth outward in everything it does. This makes the storytelling organic and more powerful, and ensures the company has an impact on the world around it as well as loyal customers.

Within this idea is a greater truth: If we, as individuals, become what we want the external to reflect, then we can help imprint that reality on the world around us and attract likeminded people to us. This is how individuals can truly make a difference in their families, in their communities, in their companies, in their nations, and in the world.

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

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” –Mahatma Gandhi

This quote is the underlying essence of Trust Relations, as public relations has relied on spell casting and tricking audiences into believing truths (or untruths) for far too long. As an intended replacement for public relations that I coined in 2018, Trust Relations is meant to embody the importance of this concept on a brand level. In other words, it means “brands must be the change they wish to see in the world.”

I fundamentally believe that if we don’t appreciate or endorse how someone, a community, an industry or a nation is functioning or behaving, our job is not to sit back and angrily complain. Our job is not to criticize, dehumanize, devalue or deface. Rather, our job is to change what we can: Ourselves or our circumstances. If this can extend to creating a company that attempts to fix what we see is wrong in the industry or world, fantastic. That’s what I’m trying to do with myself, and that’s also what I’m trying to do with Trust Relations.

Thank you for these great insights!


April White of Trust Relations: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

John Lloyd of Koroyd: How You Can Achieve Success By Being ‘Hungry and Humble’

I am only interested in building long term success and do so through practicing being ‘Hungry and Humble’.

Hungry — always look for new business, show partners we are proactive and demonstrate that we can elevate their businesses together. Humble — do it with integrity, dignity and take a long term view on all situations.

It can be very difficult to behave like this, especially in the face of your financial constraints and no doubt highly charged emotions which are a part of every project when starting out. However, as your business or career progresses you will see the tangible benefits.

I actually sit down with every new employee on their first morning and discuss at length the nuances of being ‘Hungry and Humble’, and how we can use it to build a better business.

I had the pleasure of interviewing John Lloyd the Founder and Managing Director of Koroyd.

In 2008 John was leading the product development team at one of the world’s most successful motorcycle helmet and apparel groups when a new technology landed across his desk. John recognized that this technology, born from an aerospace research project, had the potential to vastly improve the performance of helmets and body protection in a wide variety of applications. Twelve years on, John and his team have pioneered game-changing, advanced protective solutions in a number of markets, putting a focus on products which reduce the risk of injury and severe damage.

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

I am extremely fortunate to have grown up in a very entrepreneurial family, being exposed to international business from a young age. I was particularly close to my father who was a master businessman and skilled product developer. He had some very unique qualities which I was fortunate to benefit from, even if I did not realise it until later on in my career.

Despite being strong academically, I had very little interest in studying. The excitement and buzz of the business world all around me was overpowering and I focused all my energy and attention on carving out a career for myself under my father’s mentorship.

Amongst other interests, my family had a very strong motorcycle helmet business with global distribution channels. I worked in numerous roles within the family business, eventually finding my calling within the product development department. Whilst leading the product development team there we were approached by an aerospace engineer looking for a commercial outlet for an early stage technology which promised to revolutionise our helmets by offering a far greater level of protection through more efficient impact energy management.

Everything he claimed proved to be true and I quickly moved to co-develop it. Early iterations of our material offered a significant and even astonishing level of protection compared to existing and emerging materials.

Driven by a competitive spirit, I raced nationally in motorcycle and car racing from the age of 13 to 24 and was unfortunately exposed to the very grave consequences of accidents in those sports. Suddenly exposed to the benefits of this technology, I could see applications far beyond my family’s business and set out to find ways we could apply it. I had a strong desire to both deliver safer solutions for athletes (no doubt fuelled by my own personal losses during my years of racing) and to embark on progressing my own entrepreneurial journey.

The logical next step was to build a team and structure which would allow me to develop and fully commercialise our material, so I left our family business and started Koroyd.

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

What a question! The obvious answer is that we work with some of the leading engineers in the world to integrate our material in wide scope of segments. Each technical challenge normally has an innovative solution and the ingenuity and elegance of the solutions reached never cease to amaze me.

If I zoom out a little then I have had many adventures on my travels, including driving 4×4 buggies across the Utah dessert with a brand partner, cycling with the media in Park City, Utah and snowboarding with the product team in the Alps.

I couldn’t talk about all the fun times without a nod to the tougher times. During our initial growth phase our 36m2 office was too small for the 4 desks we had in there. Employees would come to work and have to climb into their desk, staying put for the most part as leaving their desk was a major operation. We’ve had staff working literally day and night on projects (some 46 hours straight) just to get the job done. The office didn’t smell it’s best and people were napping under their desks, but we achieved our targets — vowing never to get in that position again! All of these situations required a highly motivated team who believed in our core purpose, and of course, a good dose of humour.

Following these early days were the crucial heart-in-mouth moments, which really defined our company’s growth as we acquired our first major partners.

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

I believe established media and social media both generate content for consumption which set false expectations and behaviour and it is important to have some guiding principles which ultimately you can include in your corporate culture — even if it is not strictly ‘corporate’!

I am only interested in building long term success and do so through practicing being ‘Hungry and Humble’. Hungry — always look for new business, show partners we are proactive and demonstrate that we can elevate their businesses together. Humble — do it with integrity, dignity and take a long term view on all situations.

It can be very difficult to behave like this, especially in the face of your financial constraints and no doubt highly charged emotions which are a part of every project when starting out. However, as your business or career progresses you will see the tangible benefits.

I actually sit down with every new employee on their first morning and discuss at length the nuances of being ‘Hungry and Humble’, and how we can use it to build a better business.

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

Koroyd designs and engineers advanced impact protection for a diverse range of markets and products, from action sports equipment to industrial protection. As pioneers in protective solutions Koroyd’s core purpose is to reduce the risk of injury and severe damage.

Rather than innovating to compete, Koroyd is innovating to change the rules of the game and have been commended through the receipt of over 90 awards and distinctions and currently have 37 granted patents, 8 pending applications and 12 patent families across the world.

The journey to create a revolutionary energy absorber began in 2010. As a result of an aerospace safety research project, cylindrical seat tube structures were found to absorb the most amount of energy for a given distance. Koroyd was developed after being inspired by this research and has since become a disruptive alternative to traditional energy absorbers due to its performance advantages.

Koroyd’s welded tubes crumple instantly and consistently on impact, absorbing maximum force in a controlled manner, minimising energy transferred to the head or body. This unique behaviour helps to protect your skull, brain or body from direct and angled impacts which may reduce the risk of suffering a life-changing injury.

Koroyd is the trusted technology partner to some of the world’s most recognised brands spanning cycling, motorcycling, watersports, flight, industrial and snow sports, including Smith, Alpina, Endura, Head, Nitro and Klim to name a few, with their products used by elite athletes around the world.

Over the past decade Koroyd has been integrated into a wide variety of high-performance action sports equipment (helmets and body armour) as well as motorcycle helmets and protection for industrial workers.
Coming soon, we will see Koroyd integrated into many other products where energy absorption is key.

It is not always the big ideas which change the world. Even the smallest ideas can have huge consequences. We set out to change the world of head and body protection by optimising the materials used to absorb energy more efficiently. Whilst this sounds simple enough, we have challenged ourselves and our customers to rethink how helmets are constructed, rethink how their supply chains are structured and rethink how the end consumer approaches the safety and protection of themselves and those closest to them. In all of this change comes opportunity.

How do you think this will change the world?

We all know the world is evolving quicker than ever and in the online world everything is becoming slicker. I strongly believe that the focus is going to move towards optimising physical experiences and ensuring that nothing detracts from these valuable personal moments.

Koroyd has a host of applications with which we will be able to provide very high levels of protection in case of an accident. It is important to achieve this whilst simultaneously improving the day to day experience for our consumers. Typically better energy absorbers are either heavier or larger (or both) and non-breathable. Our material has the highest efficiency of energy absorption, whilst being lighter, smaller and more breathable. People will always put themselves at risk. It’s part of being alive. We are striving to offer people the opportunity to enjoy the sports and activities they love whilst reducing the risk of potential injury in the event of an accident.

I believe that the trend of greener transportation and micro-mobility is going to continue as more and more people choose to leave their cars at home. Better protection is an essential part of this movement and we have a responsibility to not only evolve with it, but also a capability to build products which encourage this movement by enhancing the user’s experience through lighter and more breathable products whilst affording them a higher level of protection.

All injuries have a consequence, including physical and psychological effects of the injured, increased burden on our health systems and financial implications on both a governmental and personal level. By reducing the risks of injuries, Koroyd can directly reduce these negative occurrences and significantly improve our society.

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?

The widespread adoption of helmet use amongst cyclist and skiers has led to a reduction in the amount of serious accidents which result in life affecting injuries. However anecdotally we are aware that helmets are confidence inspiring and tempt enthusiasts to practice their sports beyond their current limits, potentially exposing them to the risk of suffering a fall. Interestingly (and anecdotally again) this is particularly true for users who have historically participated in sports without helmets and make the change to wear helmets.

Koroyd equipped helmets are lighter, more breathable and in some cases smaller than those produced with traditional materials which theoretically should be a catalyst for increased adoption, however this should also be balanced with solid supporting educational materials to reduce any risk compensation behaviour.

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

When I first came into contact with Koroyd we did a deep analysis of the material’s mechanical properties compared to traditional energy absorbers.

Traditional impact attenuating foams absorb energy through the collapse of internal pores, the compression of air and the bending, buckling or fracturing of cells when compressed. This random arrangement of the internal geometry of foams means that the bead walls get closer to each other during compression, increasing the force required to continue the compression. In other terms, the material eventually hardens and transmits more force to the head.

By comparison, Koroyd is an array of extruded and thermally welded tubes which crumple instantly and consistently on impact, absorbing more force with greater reliability compared to any other helmet technology. Koroyd utilises a combination of controlled buckling and efficient packing up to achieve high volumetric energy absorption.

I was still heading the product team at our family’s motorcycle helmet manufacturing business and had the responsibility of evaluating all new technologies coming into the business. Typically these technologies tended to be variations of traditional foams that either did not work or offered minor incremental improvements over existing materials. So I had exposure to the whole market and our material “Koroyd” was outstanding in comparison to anything I had tested or developed before.

Every time I dug deeper into the engineering and intrinsic properties of our material during compression, I unlocked another level of performance. It was during this research that I learnt that foams have characteristics which are detrimental to absorbing energy and Koroyd’s controlled buckling was a gateway to managing energy absorption more effectively. Foams were at the end of their development curve and fully optimised, yet first iterations of Koroyd were already significantly outperforming them.

I had to take on the challenge of commercialising the technology.

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

Take the child seat market, which historically utilises common energy absorbing materials and is led by marketing driven innovations. Once you scratch the surface, there is a great deal of innovation in the seat design and construction but very little innovation in the raw materials themselves, however parents are acutely aware of their purchasing decisions and we see the relationship between consumers and the brands is very strong compared to other segments.

In the cycle and ski market, we see the consumer is far more informed when it comes to their protection requirements and they no longer accept that all helmets pass the same standards and are created equal.

In the child seat market It is imperative that we are able to harness the strong brand and consumer relationship to help educate parents on the performance differences of our product. We are in the middle of a paradigm shift in various helmet markets where safety is becoming the most important buying consideration. It is our job to educate and ensure parents are able to identify and choose the products which will most likely reduce the risk of suffering a life affecting injury in case of an accident.

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 great idea is nothing without great commercials — Naively when I went to market I believed brands would embrace our new, better performing technology and it would lead to widespread adoption. However we were targeting larger more established companies with clear strategies, who needed to be re-assured that changing their technology platform was risk free and commercially viable across all strands of their businesses.

In order to successfully onboard clients, we had to significantly develop our internal knowledge, capabilities and processes. Now we are an innovation powerhouse which our partner brands can leverage to elevate their product offering.

I still aim very high and get reigned in regularly by our executive team to ensure there are strong and persuasive commercial strategies supporting all our growth activities, which most importantly our target markets believe in.

2. All advice is not relevant — Once we started to get traction, I would hold sessions with people who had achieved significant success in their businesses or careers. As a younger entrepreneur I was eager to get more opinions on my approach and strategy.

Unfortunately most of the advice I received was simply not relevant for the business I was trying to build. Typically people were considering what little information they understood about Koroyd, trying to apply some of their previous experiences and ultimately the advice was not appropriate.

The key I found here was to find some of the few people who have been successful multiple times over in multiple segments, these are the people who will be able to understand the wider considerations of your business and give appropriate and invaluable advice.

3. You need “doers” on your team — Surround yourself with people who are onboard with the business you want to build, you can trust and can demonstrate their abilities to deliver it. Cut the talkers quickly, support your employees that “get things done” and watch your team to go forward with you as the business thrives.

4. In the beginning the odds are going to be stacked against you, which is alright! — There are very few overnight successes, and far fewer businesses which have an easy ride to profitability. Not everyone is going to have the same enthusiasm or vision for your ideas and there will be difficult times ahead. Prepare for it, quantify the difficult days against the successes and continue to persevere until you are more established and every challenge becomes a real opportunity.

5. Find the right fit — Sometimes it does not matter how good your product, solution or idea is. Not all companies will be able to exploit it. We wasted far too much time in the early days pursuing opportunities and developments with companies who were never going to be able to be strong commercial partners.

It is hard when you are heavily invested in a project to stand back and have a sanity check on your progress. Especially if the finish line appears to be in sight. However, you have to be brutally honest with yourself and identify when projects start to go off piste and there are cultural indicators that you are not completely aligned with potential partners.

Save your energy for the businesses and people who match your personal and business philosophies.

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

You have to be tenacious. We didn’t gain our first partner or raise an invoice in the first 24 months of incorporation; to the contrary we had many established brands explain why Koroyd could not be successful.

Transformational change takes time for the market to adopt and in the meantime you have to be able to harness any negativity to fuel your desire for success.

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 are in the very fortunate position to not currently require funding, however we are always open to new ideas and the chance to collaborate. If any VC’s are interested in our business or would like to reach out to me personally then I would be very pleased to discuss if there are any strategic opportunities together.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Personal
Instagram: @_jay_lloyd_

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/koroyd/

Business

Instagram: @koroyd
LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/koroyd/
Facebook: facebook.com/koroydcore/


John Lloyd of Koroyd: How You Can Achieve Success By Being ‘Hungry and Humble’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Olumide Gbenro of The Digital Nomad Summit: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a…

Olumide Gbenro of The Digital Nomad Summit: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

I really believe virtual communal groups such as being in a shared Facebook group with similar interests or fun training with industry experts monthly, can be an exciting way to stimulate the team energy when not together. Even something as simple as starting an “off hours” WhatsApp group so non work communication can occur. This is a powerful tool myself and my colleagues have used that’s worked phenomenally.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Olumide Gbenro.

Olumide an internationally respected businessman based in Bali Indonesia specializing in PR & Influencer Marketing. He and his team utilize social media to tell stories that attract business for his clients. His clientele includes professional athletes, Olympians, notable business executives, and entrepreneurs. He is a global entrepreneur, world traveler, polyglot, creative artist, experiential film producer, and millennial influencer. He has hosted influencer & business networking events for diverse audiences ranging from Tokyo, Japan to Los Angeles, California, and built connections with some of the most notable entrepreneurs in the world. Mr. Gbenro is the founder of The Digital Nomad Summit, a conference where hundreds of location independent entrepreneurs meet and connect each year. He also founded Globoversity an online learning and networking community platform for digital nomads.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’m an immigrant Nigerian kid who arrived in the United States to live the American dream. My parents did everything to get me the best schooling possible and I ended up graduating with both an undergraduate degree and two Masters degrees but when I had a chance to pursue a PhD I realized something else was calling me, travel. I set out 3 years ago to see the world as a couch surfer and figured things out along the way as I built my PR and marketing agency from the ground up. Today I’m blessed to have high profile clients that include olympic athletes, and celebrities.

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

Something interesting has been living in Bali, Indonesia. After working remotely with my global team from here I’ve learned how to balance a healthy lifestyle with still working at a high level. I sometimes go from talking to a high profile client to jumping into the pool at my coliving space Camp 308.

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?

Funniest mistake in the beginning was always taking calls on other people’s schedule and when I first moved to Bali I thought I had to take 2am calls with big companies. I soon realized how unhealthy this was and of course the client would see a tired look on my face and lack of enthusiasm because I was so tired, which lost me a few deals I’m sure. My lesson from this is to remember to live on your own terms and prioritize your health.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

For me I think it’s about creating deliberate spaces for work and relaxation and not letting the two clash. For example I recommend not working with your laptop in bed, perhaps do that on your home desk or coworking space away from the place you usually rest your mind and body.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve been managing my PR and marketing agency about 3 years from now, mostly getting tasks completed with a handful of contractors from around the world that I hire on platforms like Upwork and Fiverr.com. I know long ago work would get more remote and now my vision is to help other companies and entrepreneurs transition seamlessly to this.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. Time Zones: When your team is spread across South East Asia , Europe and America, time zones can be tricky for meetings. Only a few times have I had to be up late night to complete a client intake so those issues are rare.
  2. Mental Health: Not being in an office or physical communal setting can be tough for some team members. I’ve had a few mention that they wish we were together once in a while during meetings. Human interaction is still important so we will be setting aside team vacation time.
  3. Productivity: Depending on what your environment is, whether it’s a beach town or metropolitan maze, we know that productivity will vary depending on the person. Since our team is from all over the world we keep that in mind and as we will discuss later, assign work based on tasks rather than time.
  4. Interviews: This is one I don’t think people consider as much as they should, having to hire virtually is a skill that must be mastered and a video call is a powerful way to do this as I’ve done for many team members for a while.
  5. Physical Exercise: Since many are home it’s easy to forget to exercise the body. I would recommend every meeting you purposefully start with standing and stretching. To help encourage this I include reminders of wellness in newsletters or messages to the team without making it sound pushy.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

I’ve found that having task based teams is the best way to move. Instead of expecting results based on hours, expect results based on specific tasks that have been set.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

One way to go about this is to have an honest conversation with your employees and let them know you are there to support them. Share with them what they did wrong and ask them how you can help them be better teammates.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I think opening up with a question or describing a story everyone on the team can relate to will help soften the tone. Obviously no capital letters and too many exclamation marks, but when you talk in a manner that makes someone feel like a team member rather than an employee you reduce the likelihood they will perceive it as harsh.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

I think you have to let team members adjust and learn this new way of working with each other. The only suggestion I have is to always have clear expectations and roles so everyone is held accountable for what they are supposed to do regardless if they are now all remote but have an open dialogue to discuss how to optimize the situation for the betterment of the team without harming anyone.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

I really believe virtual communal groups such as being in a shared Facebook group with similar interests or fun training with industry experts monthly, can be an exciting way to stimulate the team energy when not together. Even something as simple as starting an “off hours” WhatsApp group so non work communication can occur. This is a powerful tool myself and my colleagues have used that’s worked phenomenally.

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 it would be to inspire more people to be location independent along with being remote. As we start to be able to leave the confines of work we will be able to see more of the world. I created Digital Nomad Summit because I truly desire to see people be free physically and mentally and to connect with a community that makes them happy.

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

My favorite is one I created called “Do things your future self will be proud of” which means to me I’m working to be someone that makes an impact on the world but also improves myself and continues growing as an intellectual.

Thank you for these great insights!


Olumide Gbenro of The Digital Nomad Summit: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Award Winning Athlete Robert B Foster: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become

Award Winning Athlete Robert B. Foster: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Assess your inner circle — Are the people closest to you actually deterring you or distracting you from reaching your potential? If not reaching your goals is causing you stress, lower self esteem, and effecting your confidence then you have to make a decision to distance yourself so you can focus on you. You only live once and you deserve to be the happiest and healthiest version of yourself.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert B. Foster.

Robert B. Foster has impacted countless lives with his story of going from a horrific knee injury at 34 and being told he would never run or jump again, to becoming a multiple time, and current, USATF Master’s Track and Field Champion, Obstacle Course Competitor, Transplant Games 6x Gold Medalist, to now speaking to thousands of people worldwide sharing his story of triumph against the odds. Over the last 11 years, he has used his voice to speak in schools, businesses, and organizations on subjects like finding purpose, overcoming the fear of failure, the art of perseverance, and social/emotional learning in schools. Just a few years ago, Robert was laying in the hospital very unsure of his future, and since, he has created a multiple six figure business and his influence has spread around the world. We look forward to bringing his passion to your school/organization to inspire the next generation to never give up on their dreams.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My pleasure! I’ve been a competitive athlete since I was a kid and the thrill of competition still pushes me to this day at 45! In 2009, during a track meet, I suffered a major knee injury as my patella tendon fully ruptured sending my knee cap into my thigh!

The ER doctor took one look and told me that I would never run or jump again! 😱 My world came crashing down when I heard those words as I just started my fitness business, had infant twin boys to go along with my 3 other kids and the thought of not being able to run around with them brought tears to my eyes!

Needless to say, I ignored that never and vowed to not only get back to full strength but to be stronger than ever! And I did 🙂

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting thing is that business started in my garage just as something fun to do. I was a restaurant manager, working long hours, and I wanted to get back to my athletic roots. I had a large garage and I am not the handy type of man so I converted it into a gym. I scoured Craigslist for deals on gym equipment, then placed an ad to get a few people to train, the universe then cleared a path for me as I was fired from my management job! 11 years and thousands of clients later…here we are!

The biggest lesson is that you just have to get started. It doesn’t have to be state of the art and perfect right out of the gate. Many gyms close because they get into too much debt in the beginning. Focus on solving the needs of your clients and as you grow you slowly upgrade.

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

Any gym owner will tell you that their clients are like family but our community is unlike any other. The welcoming of everyone that walks through those doors is amazing to see, the way we support each other through thick and thin, I hold my clients to the highest level of accountability to where they will reach their goals or quit, no in between, and even once a client moves on they remain part of the family.

One of the woman just recently lost her brother unexpectedly and within hours the RBF family came together with an outpouring of love and a donation to help the family. One of us hurts, we ALL hurt!

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?

Once I lost my management job things were very gray for a while. I am a 3 time college dropout so no marketing experience, no formal business training, but I had a strong vision for the impact that I could make in the fitness industry.

My father, who passed this past November, told me once to not aim to be the highest paid employee…be the one that pays the employees. ❤️ Through every day that I sat waiting for clients to come and none came, to watching the lights be turned off, to ruining my parents’ credit, but I never took my eye off of the prize. I knew that I was on to something big.

Without the support of my parents RBF Fitness would have never happened!

Where it all came together was in 2014. I applied for a scholarship to attend Fitness Business Summit in CA. To my amazement I won the scholarship and flew out to CA. That summit changed everything for me! How I viewed my own self worth, how I viewed taking care of my clients, and to create a community that is far greater than just a place for people to work out.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people? I constantly use the GPS theory with my clients, with my 5 kids, and when I do public speaking. In order for a GPS to work you a starting point and a destination. The directions that it gives you is an example of resilience. If a road is closed it reroutes you, if there is traffic and a faster route is available it finds it, and it does whatever is necessary to get you to your destination.

Resilience, to me, means: What are you willing to endure to reach your end goal? On any journey there will be setbacks, injuries, family tragedies, and whatever else life can throw at you. Resilience is your ability to power through it.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Michael Jordan! That man wanted to be a champion so badly and he wanted it in Chicago! He didn’t complain about how tough his competition was…he hit the gym and made HIMSELF tougher! He didn’t run out and join super teams to get his rings, he made the players around him become who they needed to be and internally made a dynasty with 2 separate 3 peats! He is the GOAT because of his resilience!

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Back to my knee injury where I was told that I would never run or jump again. Since then I’ve completed:

  1. Over 130 obstacle course races
  2. 5 5k races
  3. 1 half marathon
  4. 1 30 mile spartan ultra
  5. Undefeated in the high jump, discus, 200m dash, and long jump since returning to the track in 2016
  6. 6 time gold medalist in the Transplant Games of America along with a silver and bronze
  7. Broke the 100m (40–44 age group) in the 100m at the TGA in 2018
  8. Current New England Master’s Champion (indoor and outdoor) in the HJ, LJ and Discus (outdoor)
  9. I’m the coolest Dad on earth according to my kids for overcoming the odds 🙂
  10. Will be representing Team USA at the 2021 World Transplant Games in Houston
  11. I’m STILL writing this list (once Covid-19 goes away!)

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

When I was still toying with the idea of pursuing fitness I was going to take a job with the YMCA to get an idea of how group fitness classes and personal training sessions look in that setting. As I was getting a tour of the building, we ran into the PT director. I was introduced as someone that is looking to become a trainer and without missing a beat he told me “Don’t do it, there’s no money in it.”

Needless to say, I never started that job because I was looking for inspiration and it was definitely not provided to me that day. The few clients that I had at the time were getting great results and we were connecting on a deeper level that meant way more to me than merely making money. I went on to open a five thousand square foot facility that made over 6 figures for 6 consecutive years and running!

Others don’t decide my outcome, I decide it!

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I am the youngest of 7 competitive siblings! I was always referred to as someone’s little brother! That drove me insane! It pushed me to endure whatever was necessary to become Robert Foster and not so and so’s little brother! I dealt with having a small frame, a late growth spurt, constantly second guessed, to finally carving out my own path and becoming Robert Foster!

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. The Pain Assessment — This is taking a no holds barred look at where you are currently. It works for anything whether fitness, business, personal, or relationship the pain assessment is the first step in getting what you want out of life.
  2. Eliminate all excuses — Before you even start on your journey it’s imperative to write down everything that has held you back in the past! This way you can stay ahead of what life will throw you and plan for when it arrives. Think of Bunny Rabbit owning Papa Doc in the final battle of 8mile! Take out the excuses in the beginning and they can’t drag you down later on.
  3. Create clear and specific goals — Don’t just say I want to lose weight and tone up. Say I will (not want to) lose 15 pounds, gain 2 inches in my biceps/triceps, want to shrink my waist by 4 inches, run a mile in under 10 minutes, and finally get back into the clothes in my closet! The more specific/measureable the goals are, the more seriously they will be taken.
  4. Assess your inner circle — Are the people closest to you actually deterring you or distracting you from reaching your potential? If not reaching your goals is causing you stress, lower self esteem, and effecting your confidence then you have to make a decision to distance yourself so you can focus on you. You only live once and you deserve to be the happiest and healthiest version of yourself.
  5. Perseverance — The very definition of resilience! Don’t stop until you get your desired result. Period!

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 posted a photo of me jumping over a 36 inch plyo box at my gym. I added the caption: “They said he’d never run or jump again but he ignored the never” from there I started adding #ignorethenever to my FB and IG posts. I am now using this hashtag when speaking to inner city youth that have been brainwashed for generations thinking that they will never reach the heights that those in the suburban or rural areas can reach. With BLM making headlines worldwide, now is the time to inspire those teens to #ignorethenever to make Black Lives Better!

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Michael Jordan! I’d love to sit and talk with him and soak up his will to win. I’m competitive and driven to see firsthand how he operates on HIS level would be truly amazing!

How can our readers follow you on social media? www.facebook.com/robertbfoster

https://www.linkedin.com/in/robert-foster-740a9bab/ www.twitter.com/rbf_fitness www.instagram.com/robertbfoster_rbf

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Award Winning Athlete Robert B Foster: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lalanii Wilson-Jones: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

Communication is essential to every team. Team members should be able to express themselves via team meetings, emails, text messages, etc. My marketing team for my health care organization was way too lax and not getting the book of business that I felt like they should get. I implemented a daily team call which holds everyone accountable to full workdays by voicing what you did the prior day and what your commitment is to this day. By implementing this process, I’ve seen my company referrals increase tremendously.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lalanii Wilson-Jones.

Lalanii Wilson-Jones is a business powerhouse with successful imprints in the healthcare, education, beauty, and wellness sectors. With offices across the state of Texas, Lalanii Wilson-Jones has excelled as a powerful chief executive officer and executive director of more than a dozen dynamic companies. Her bachelor’s degree from Southern Methodist University and Master of Business Administration degree from Argosy University, as well as her 25+ years of experience, make her a formidable leader who is nationally recognized as a front runner in business and entrepreneurship.

Lalanii is also an accomplished author with the release of her new urban fiction novel, Sugar Mama: A Keilanii Jennings Saga, which is available on Amazon.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?

I was born a serial entrepreneur and leadership runs in my blood. I have worked since I was roughly 14 years old and no matter what I’ve done, I have always given it 110% to commit to the success of all projects. As a result, I was in a business partnership with my mother at a very young age which developed and honed my leadership and administrative skills.

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

My career has been a labyrinth of passages on my journey that have many interesting stories. One of the most interesting stories for me is self-reflecting on the journey and seeing how amazing it is to evolve. I’ve never been one to not pursue my dreams. I realized that I was in two totally different industries and yet they were similar in terms of care. I basically take care of people from birth (childcare) to death (hospice) and every stage in between (home healthcare). I thought that by going back into the medical field, I would want to give up the childcare field; however, I do not, and I have not. In addition, I never thought that I would be where I am today in terms of my professional endeavors. I continue to embark on new business opportunities, and I enjoy being a change agent who leads businesses from start-up to multi-levels of success.

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?

The funniest mistake that I ever made in my career when I first started was dismissing the gatekeeper. I arrogantly assumed that someone working with a major referral source was not a major player in the development of business relationships. I was totally wrong, and I had to apologize to the person for dismissing them and their role. The lesson that I learned from that was never judge a book by its cover, treat everyone equal and use kindness to build relationships. That will take you and your businesses far.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Most times when people quit their jobs they actually “quit their managers”. What are your thoughts on the best way to retain great talent today?

For small companies like mine, retaining talent is an art. Employees want to be valued and appreciated. It is not always the monetary value of the job. I believe in supporting my team by letting them know their value and showing appreciation frequently through purchasing meals, sponsoring company events and giving rewards. I believe in letting them know that they are valued by doing simple things like remembering and acknowledging their birthday, special events, etc. I also host a company holiday party annually for all my employees where we celebrate the holidays and our successes over the year. I typically go all-out for them because I see their commitment all year long.

How do you synchronize large teams to effectively work together?

Synchronizing large teams is difficult but is effective when communication and collaboration are proactive. Delegation and transparency are critical so that the goal can be achieved, and no one is left in the dark about the issues. I believe in team meetings, daily reporting the current status, issues, and resolutions. It takes everyone on the team to reach the goal and there is no “I” in “team”.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your personal experience, what are the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Team”. (Please share a story or example for each, Ideally an example from your experience)

  1. Communication is essential to every team. Team members should be able to express themselves via team meetings, emails, text messages, etc. My marketing team for my health care organization was way too lax and not getting the book of business that I felt like they should get. I implemented a daily team call which holds everyone accountable to full workdays by voicing what you did the prior day and what your commitment is to this day. By implementing this process, I’ve seen my company referrals increase tremendously.
  2. Collaboration is essential to best practices. The resolution must be what works for the team and not the individual. The end result works for the company. Different departments were holding onto information and not sharing the information that other departments needed for their logistic analysis. By opening documents and sharing them on a board that everyone could see in a group, the information became real and resulted in operations moving effectively toward our company goals.
  3. Buy in from everyone on the team is essential. If you are working on a project, process or system, every team member has to be on board. It’s difficult to effect change if the team does not see the vision. As the CEO, when I introduce a new business idea, I typically present it to the team so we can evaluate the thought processes and implementation requirements to make it successful. For example, I wanted to expand our service area but through evaluation, we discovered that we did not have adequate staff to work that area. As a result, we were able to recruit, restructure and build a strong team to properly penetrate and service that area.
  4. Leadership must be visible and present. A lot of leaders want to lead from a distance. However, jumping in with the team, rolling up your sleeves and doing the work with the team are critical for the vision. My presence means everything. My leadership teams sees that I am present and accountable and as a result, I have awesome team members who get the job done.
  5. “If there is no struggle, there is no progress,” Frederick Douglass. You have to work through events and situations with the vision in mind. Leadership is not always easy and for the faint. You have to have endurance and strength to lead the team towards the vision and make the tough decisions even when no one understands why you are making them.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

There is never a such thing as too much training. Invest in the training so that your employees can return on that investment through extraordinary contributions and results for your organization.

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. 🙂

As a teacher of business culture and business etiquette in my own brands, I would inspire everyone to delve into the humane side of your co-workers and not judge them by what you see. Too often, in the workplace, stereotypes and biases are formed against an individual without allowing the opportunity for that person to divulge who they are and possibly why. I love mentoring younger women and teaching them that because the value of that lesson is that you may learn something and get to know someone on a totally different level that can be advantageous for you. It goes back to never judge a book by its cover. I learned that humbleness and humility are part of the art of negotiation and when to use that strategy by watching older women and seeing how they dealt with issues. The traits come in handy!

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

“When someone shows you who they are, believe them,” as stated by Maya Angelou.

Oftentimes, we overlook unflattering qualities in people for whatever reason. We should not overlook those qualities and dismiss their behavior. They are who we see, and the behavior may come back to haunt you. Dismiss them without prejudice immediately.

Social Media

Instagram: @Lalaniij @Mogul247

Twitter: @LalaniiMogul247

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DallasCEO/


Lalanii Wilson-Jones: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Monthly online art gallery exhibitions” With art gallerist…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Monthly online art gallery exhibitions” With art gallerist Robert Berry

Too many dealers are focused on closing the sale at any cost — and they risk losing trust. I’m here to champion the artists and make a long-term positive impact on the world. The other main tipping point is that I want to be able to help my clients build reputable collections that they love, not just sell them whatever I think they should have in their collection. I want every person who purchases art to come back to me and say, “Robert, I still love that painting I got from you ten years ago. I’d never sell it, but I’m glad to see that it’s gone up in value.”

I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert Berry a New York City-based art gallerist, consultant, and advisor.

Having represented many of Manhattan’s top art galleries, and with over 15 years’ experience selling and collecting fine art, Robert launched his own gallery Robert Berry Gallery in New York City. His first show, which debuted in May 2020, Impressionable, featured nine breathtaking works of rock icons by Chicago-based artist John Ruby. His new show, which debuted in June 2020, is called Double Bluff, a series of twelve new paintings questioning the notions of unattainable beauty, desire, and identity by London artist Machiko Edmondson. Robert Berry Gallery was founded in 2014 with a focus on world-changing art, and a specialty in identifying and working collaboratively with emerging 21st century artists whose work has the ability to positively and powerfully influence society. Robert Berry Gallery works with art industry professionals, galleries, museums as well as advanced and beginning art collectors to establish award-winning collections that are both meaningful and hold long-term value. For more information, please visit www.robertberrygallery.com.

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

As founder of Robert Berry Gallery, I have a passion for art that started when I was a kid. I encountered Jackson Pollock’s famous Autumn Rhythm at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and that was the painting that changed everything for me. It was that moment when I was inspired to pursue a career in the arts. As a teenager I would walk around New York City, and put extra emphasis on visiting all the Chelsea galleries discovering new art. I realized early on in my professional career that I was very good at selling, and that the gallery business was going to be the right path for me. After 15 years of leading sales and shows at art galleries in Chelsea, SoHo, and the Lower East Side, I decided to open my own gallery to exhibit and represent the artists that I wanted to work with.

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

My first sale was 15 years ago, and the owner of the gallery pointed out how naturally the sale came to me. There are many interesting stories, but mostly it’s about the stories behind the artwork. I love learning how it’s made, the artist’s background and influences, and knowing who it would be right for. I also love getting to know collectors, their preferences and collections, so I can give them something that will be a perfect fit.

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

Honesty is the best policy! Be honest above everything else. I have collectors who have followed me for years over quite a few galleries because they like my curatorial eye, and because they trust me. With Robert Berry Gallery, I represent the artists that I truly love. I even show the collectors how they look in my own home! Second, be a good listener. Artists, collectors and organizations all have unique perspectives on art and what they want to buy. It’s imperative I listen to their hopes, fears and dreams in order to best serve them. Part of building high-quality relationships means being both honest and a good listener.

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

Hosting monthly online art gallery exhibitions, and getting rid of the expensive commercial lease side of the gallery business. I wanted to tell their stories, and also have control of the artistic vision of the gallery. I also wanted to provide better customer service, taking care of my clients, giving them personal attention, finding the right works for their budgets and collections.

People have a lot of time on their hands during COVID, and are now comfortable purchasing vintage cars, rare antiques, expensive tech products, vintage watches — and they are also getting more comfortable with discovering new artists, and acquiring artwork online. it was pure coincidence that my launch took place during this, and it has been the best thing that could have happened for my business.

How do you think this will change the world?

There are hundreds of galleries in New York City, so what I’ve decided to do with my business is to create a virtual gallery. What that means is that I’ll be running a gallery business with monthly exhibitions, connecting artists to collectors, but all of my exhibitions will be done digitally. The only limitation an artist has for their show is their own imagination.

There’s a much lower overhead of a digital gallery, the artists are able to earn more, and I am able to promote more efficiently. Historically, galleries have made a generic “art buying” experience the objective, which can mean pretentious salespeople, new buyers not getting access to work, and generally, not a fun experience.

I want to create a positive art experience for my collectors. In a digital gallery, artists can promote their visions thoroughly, more clearly, and without worrying about limitations, such as shipping expenses, production costs, and logistics.

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?

Black Mirror is actually one of my favorite shows of the last ten years… and it’s usually the loss of humanity that is the downfall to every protagonist’s tale. There are lots of companies that are selling art online, but most of them seem overly commercial, and they don’t have the artist’s career in mind. I want all of my artists to dream big, and let me help them work towards their short and long term goals. I suppose the worst that could happen is the site starts to become self-aware and start selling art for me while I go climb Mount Everest. Guess that’s not too bad actually.

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

Too many dealers are focused on closing the sale at any cost — and they risk losing trust. I’m here to champion the artists and make a long-term positive impact on the world. The other main tipping point is that I want to be able to help my clients build reputable collections that they love, not just sell them whatever I think they should have in their collection. I want every person who purchases art to come back to me and say, “Robert, I still love that painting I got from you ten years ago. I’d never sell it, but I’m glad to see that it’s gone up in value.”

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

Nearly 30% of all artwork is sold online, and with COVID-19, 100% of art is being sold online right now. The major art fairs and auctions have all been digital, claiming that record-breaking sales are still taking place. My hope is that more dealers start to see the web as a platform for artists to showcase their talent, and not just another sales tool in their arsenal. Robert Berry Gallery encourages the creativity of every artist — and an online forum offers wide-reaching possibilities a physical space does not.

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

  1. Start now! Working for myself and one on one with artists is much more pleasant. I spent time learning from others, and I’ve known for at least ten years that I wanted to be my own boss before I turned 40. I have finally met that goal at 39!
  2. Don’t wait until you’re ready, just start. I wish someone told me not to focus on making sure I was 100% ready, as if I did, I never would have been able to launch. It will never be perfect, the point is to start your vision and let it evolve and build over time.
  3. Let technology work for you. The art world is moving on from brick-and-mortar locations. I can put on better shows now that production, shipping, and logistics are no obstacle.
  4. Prioritize relationships. Clients, artists, art professionals — this is a people business above all else. Spend the time to get to know people better. Drink, laugh, and find out what drives them. Then help them on whatever their journey is.
  5. Focus on what you have now. The clients I know and have worked with over the years are more important than a “top 200 list” or any celebrity buyer. The people who already know and trust me are the ones to focus on.

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

Success is a habit, and it starts with committing to doing your best work every day. My best advice is simple: never reply angry, and always have good news when picking up the phone to call someone. I’ve also learned the power of positive thinking, and that most difficult situations are a challenge waiting for a solution. We are our own biggest critic, and don’t listen to any self-doubt. I learned from my mother that hard work will get you far, but using your intuition will get you the rest of the way there. Lastly, if something takes less than five minutes, do it now — there is no time like the present to get things done.

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 the founder of Robert Berry Gallery, a virtual gallery based in New York City focusing on emerging artists of the 21st century whose work has the ability to positively and powerfully influence society. I’m not just creating an art gallery, I’m creating a movement toward having more beauty in one’s life, whether that be a painting or sculpture, whether it’s in their home or office. People need beauty, enjoyment, and inspiration more than ever before and as we emerge from today’s global health crisis, a new emphasis has been placed on mental health and emotional wellbeing. Art is a great outlet, offering beauty, enjoyment and inspiration to all who experience it. My vision for Robert Berry Gallery is to help new and experienced collectors broaden and enrich their collections, while offering them enjoyment and value. The world of art will change more in the next five years than it has in the previous 50 years. How people collect art, and how they experience it is rapidly evolving. People are finding that by collecting art, they enrich their lives.

I started the groundwork on my company ten years ago, with the intent on working with only the artists that I personally believed in. I wanted to tell their stories, while also having control of the artistic vision of the gallery. My vision is to find the best artists in their respective mediums, and to find the right client for every work that my artists create: from abstraction, figurative, sculpture, painting, or photography, from first-time buyers to seasoned collectors. For those readers with questions on starting their own art collections, whether for home or office, I’d love to hear from you. Please reach out me at www.robertberrygallery.com; I hope my advice can help, inspire and motivate those interested in emerging art.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can find me on Instagram at www.instagram.com/robertberrygallery.com.


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Monthly online art gallery exhibitions” With art gallerist… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How people can grow their own produce year round”, With…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How people can grow their own produce year round”, With Hank Adams of Rise Gardens

Plants are amazing. Consider all they do for us: they beautify our home, clean our air, improve our mood, connect us with life and the natural world, and they provide food for our enjoyment and sustenance. Growing plants is a rewarding lifelong activity and shared experience amongst family members. Yet many people have no access to outdoor gardening, or have limited growing seasons.

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 Hank Adams, CEO & Founder of Rise Gardens.

Prior to founding Rise Gardens, Hank Adams started three previous sports technology companies, including Sportvision, which was named one of the world’s 50 Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company Magazine (#34, Fast Company, March 2010) and earned Hank a spot on Fast Company’s “Ten Most Creative People in Sports” list (June 2009). Sportvision forever altered the sports landscape with its iconic products such as the “Yellow Line” for football. Seeking a new venture that would make a lasting impact, Hank decided to focus on solutions to the broken food system, which contributes to poor health, depleted soils and environmental degradation. In addition, Hank has had a lifelong passion for gardening, starting as a boy growing strawberries in his native Colorado. Combining these interests, Rise Gardens was born.

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

After achieving success in the sports business world, I wanted my next company to make a lasting impact in the world. I decided that helping to fix the broken food system, which contributes to poor health, depleted soils and environmental degradation was a good place to start. In addition, I have had a lifelong passion for gardening, starting as a boy growing strawberries in my home state of Colorado.

As an adult, since moving to the midwest, I became frustrated that I could not grow vegetables during the winter. I was struggling in the summertime as well. We have a lot of tree coverage and a couple of local rabbits and chipmunks who are far more resourceful and determined than I am. It occured to me that hydroponics and indoor gardening could solve the problem. I tried a couple of commercial systems, but they were cheap, loud and not very productive. They were novelty growing systems, I found out, without circulating water and simple one-part nutrients, which didn’t produce very robust or tasty produce. Nor was there much variety to choose from — only herbs and greens. In some cases, they did not even use hydroponic technology, opting for time-release nutrients and still (dead) water. So I built a real system with pumps, circulating water and multi-part nutrients. It worked well, but I had to keep in the basement because it was made of PVC and purple grow lights on metal shelving. I resolved to build something that I could show off proudly. One that would grow a wide variety of nutritious plants quickly and easily in an attractive package.

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

When I was a couple of years out of undergraduate studies, I agreed to move to London with only two days’ notice to become our firm’s US representative in the UK. Having international experience gained me admission into graduate school. Graduate school gained me an internship at AOL (it was hot back then). The AOL internship led to a business that AOL funded. That business launched a long career as a tech entrepreneur. Life is a series of unpredictable, but related coincidences: work hard, be ready and take calculated risks if you want to alter your trajectory.

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

Leaders eat last.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”. Lao Tzu

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

Plants are amazing. Consider all they do for us: they beautify our home, clean our air, improve our mood, connect us with life and the natural world, and they provide food for our enjoyment and sustenance. Growing plants is a rewarding lifelong activity and shared experience amongst family members. Yet many people have no access to outdoor gardening, or have limited growing seasons.

To enable people to grow their own produce year round, Rise Gardens builds a beautiful, modular, multi-crop product that is the most innovative, productive and flexible home garden system. It is an IoT device with three custom-designed PCB’s, built-in sensors, an application to manage the system and a subscription business to keep it productive.

Rise Gardens is unique in a number of important ways. It is the only modular, consumer hydroponic system allowing gardeners to alter their output from 12 to 98 plants by adding levels and modifying configurations. Also unique is the fact that, in addition to growing the usual greens and herbs, gardeners can add components like trellises to grow vining crops such as snap peas, raised trays to grow rooted vegetables, inserts to grow microgreens, and they can leverage the larger base level to grow large fruiting and flowering plants such as tomatoes, peppers, swiss chard, kale or eggplants. And because Rise Gardens adopted sophisticated commercial growing technologies (it started life as a commercial indoor farm), it is the only consumer system to use three-part nutrients, PH management tools and sensors measuring PH, Electrical Conductivity (for nutrient density) and water levels. The lights were custom-designed to balance the ideal light spectrum for plants with more pleasing hues desired by humans. Circulating, highly-oxygenated water feeds the roots with nutrients and oxygen so the gardens are able to grow great tasting, demanding crops.

All of this sophisticated technology is run via an app connected to the IoT-enabled garden. Gardeners can manage light schedules and intensity via the app or buttons on the system (e.g. make it softer in the morning and evenings). They enter what plants they are growing and the app will guide them on what nutrients to add, alerts them to add water and guides the care and harvesting of their plants. Additional components are coming soon which will provide peristaltic pumps to auto-dose nutrients, a vacation watering system and integrated cameras to create time-lapse videos that can be sent to the gardener’s app.

All of this sophistication is housed in a beautiful design of natural wood uprights and heavy powder-coated metal cabinet and trays. The trays float in space with angles intended to echo window planter boxes. Their thin profile minimizes their weight and draws attention to the plants, which are the stars of the show. The plumbing is exposed to embrace the fact that the entire system is built around flowing water which also doubles as an invisible backup drain system in case plant roots block water egress.

How do you think this will change the world?

Our mission is to inspire people to be conscientious consumers of healthy food and to connect them to the food they eat by helping them to grow their own produce year around. If we can make people grow far more of their own food — indoors and out — then we will have a profound impact on people’s health and the health of the environment.

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?

We want this system to be complementary to outdoor gardens, not a replacement for them. If we do our job of making our systems fun and productive, we hope to make people more interested in growing their own food and thus growing indoors and out. But it is possible that people become too focused on indoor growing and ignore or reduce outdoor gardening, which would deprive species of pollination opportunities, waste our bountiful natural resources, and deprive us of some micronutrients that we may not even know we get from soil, etc.

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

Yes. About the 10th time I was ready to pick a ripe tomato and had it stolen by a chipmunk. That could suggest I am going to be a victim of the unintended consequences discussed above, but gardeners are inherently optimistic and determined. I am still growing outdoors in my garden. I am now, however, able to grow year around and reliably indoors as well.

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

Very simply, we need to make growing your food inside fun, easy and productive. If we focus on making the customer’s experience a fantastic one, then the rest of our challenges — marketing, manufacturing, scaling, building a great team, etc — can be met.

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

1 — Manufacturing is harder and more expensive than your business model predicts it will be. If I had known that, I may not have tried it with Rise Gardens (so maybe ignorance is bliss). But I would have been better prepared for the gut check of funding it until as long as I had to.

2 — If you want to be an entrepreneur, go work for an entrepreneur. Full disclosure, someone DID tell me that and it altered my focus and direction in a significant and beneficial manner. I was on the verge of going to work for a telecom company where I would have been buried five levels down doing spreadsheets. Instead, I got thrown into the fire and learned way more than I ever could have at a higher-paying, less interesting job.

3 — There is no destination in Performance Marketing. It is an endless cycle of fine tuning, discovery, close analysis and more spending. Experienced marketers know that all marketing is a continuous loop, and improvement is not linear. I entered this business with some shaky assumptions about the linear trajectory and have discovered that different groups behave differently and each have their own seasonal and market-driven realities.

4 — Fail fast. It’s a common trope these days, but it wasn’t so common back when I started and I’m still susceptible to grinding it out past when I should give up.

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

I manage as though every project is a scrum. In the early stages of a startup, every project has a million variables. I keep a lot of options open by not locking in past a couple of weeks out. I keep a very flat organization and empower everyone to contribute and make decisions. It will drive anyone looking for routine and process crazy. But it leads to a lot of creativity and It makes a small organization very powerful.

And, borrowing from the Navy Seals, “Find an excuse to win.” Everyone spends time finding excuses why they cannot succeed. I want reasons we can and will succeed.

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 🙂

Rise Gardens is an innovative indoor garden that grows a wide variety of herbs, vegetables and microgreens year around. We aim to make indoor gardens as indispensable and widely adopted as your home’s washing machine or microwave. With cutting-edge hydroponic technology guided by our app, Rise Gardens makes gardening easy, productive and fun. It is a platform for growing that allows for expansion and variety for everyone that wants to eat real food.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@risegardens on Twitter, FB and IG

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


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How people can grow their own produce year round”, With… 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: How Bill Radvak and NervGen might be on the verge of a breakthrough that can…

The Future Is Now: How Bill Radvak and NervGen might be on the verge of a breakthrough that can allow the nervous system to repair itself

For now, I intend to make a difference in the world by using my skillset and experience in continuing to build ventures similar to NervGen — ones that will have a positive impact and will also energize and captivate me. Over time, I have considered putting my efforts into more of what is considered mainstream charity and community initiatives, particularly around mental health, but for now, I am keeping it simple and building solutions that have a positive effect on the world. One area I am poking around for opportunities in is renewable energy — again. While there are historically more failures than successes, there is much to be done and many ways we can improve on how we treat the world.

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

Bill is the Executive Chairman and Co-founder of NervGen Pharma Corp., a biotech company dedicated to creating innovative solutions for the treatment of nerve damage and neurodegenerative diseases. The Company is initially focusing on developing drugs for the treatment of spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Radvak, who identifies himself as a start-up “junky”, has been at the helm of seven different entrepreneurial companies and on the board of directors of numerous others. He was the co-founder and CEO of Response Biomedical Corp., a medical device company, which he led from its inception to a 100+ employee sales and manufacturing operation. He’s an avid athlete who enjoys a variety of sports and activities, and is now focusing on both alpine and backcountry skiing while maintaining a yoga practice. Radvak received a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Mining Engineering from the University of British Columbia.

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

There really is no simple single story that explains how I arrived at doing what I do. When asked what I do, I generally respond with “I help start-ups get going”, which is quite broad and somewhat nebulous. How I went from graduating with a degree in mining engineering to co-founding and building a biotech company also isn’t a simple story. What was clear was that, even before I received my degree, working in an engineering office or any structured environment wasn’t for me.

I actually experienced a biochemical reaction, similar to claustrophobia, when I considered the prospect of existing in an engineering office day after day. Once I graduated, I was offered a position to work in a mine as a design engineer. I declined that offer and counter-offered to work in operations as a shift boss; unfortunately, they didn’t have a position available. I knew intuitively that I needed to be in a dynamic situation surrounded by people taking on new and diverse challenges.

I migrated to mineral exploration for a short period of time which presented both challenge and change, and that quickly shifted to helping build junior venture companies. Shortly thereafter, along came an opportunity to develop a novel medical diagnostic test. Our group decided to take it on and when we looked around the table to see who would fill the CEO role — I had my first appointment as the leader of Response Biomedical at the tender age of 29. This consumed much of my life for the next fifteen years.

Fast forwarding, after leading a number of ventures, I decided to move from the C-suite office and leverage my knowledge and experience in an executive chair-type role — focusing first on finding opportunities that capture and energize me, and then finding the right people to help create strategies and business plans, and secure the early rounds of financing. I am most comfortable in the very early stages of company building, which makes most business people nervous. I am excited to now apply all of that knowledge and experience and do my part in making NervGen successful.

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

A surreal experience I had was with my first start-up, Response Biomedical. We invented and commercialized an FDA-approved dipstick-type test technology that, when combined with a small instrument, would provide lab quality results in minutes at the point-of-care. While the bread-and-butter tests on the platform were for cardiac markers to help determine if there was evidence of a heart attack, we stretched the platform opportunistically wherever we were confident we had a major technical competitive edge. We created a leading test for West Nile virus, a number of biological warfare tests, as we well as a test for H5N1 influenza. In fact, I imagine if I was still leading Response Biomedical, I would have the team scrambling to try and develop a supersensitive point-of-care test for Coronavirus.

After the anthrax attacks and the biological threat from Iraq in 2003, Response Biomedical quickly created supersensitive environmental tests for anthrax, ricin and botox (botulinum toxin). The results were so superior to the competition that the United Nations biological warfare inspectors armed themselves with these tests. At the request of the UN, we visited the NY headquarters to train the inspection teams that were preparing for deployment to Iraq with the first wave of military assault troops. Remember, some of these leading global biological inspectors had been to Iraq previously and detected biological warfare agents and production facilities; everyone believed they were going to find biological weapons. It was quite an experience collaborating with these inspectors, but then to learn directly from them after their return from Iraq of their utter surprise that Saddam Hussein had destroyed these biological capabilities while at the same time was threatening and antagonizing the western world — needless to say, it was vexing times post-9/11. Being that close to this rapidly evolving, extremely dangerous, politically hypersensitive event, which had an ending that none of the inspectors expected, was a truly unique experience.

Can you tell us about the “bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that NervGen is working on? How do you think that will help people?

In layman’s terms, we are convinced that our technology does one simple, yet foundational, task — it allows the body’s nervous system to repair itself. Is it a panacea for the nervous system? That may seem farfetched, but panacea appears to be the best word to describe it. So far, our technology has shown impressive, and in some cases unprecedented, results in animal studies to date, including trauma to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, multiple sclerosis, cardiac arrythmia and stroke. We will also be conducting research and development of our technology to determine if it could generate new treatments in the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.

The platform technology underlying our lead compound, NVG-291, was developed in the laboratory of neuroscientist Dr. Jerry Silver, a renowned spinal cord injury and regenerative medicine researcher and Professor of Neurosciences at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Silver’s research focused on the glial scar, which forms at the site of a nerve injury, with the primary purpose of locking down the site of injury to stop further damage and protect the nervous system. Dr. Silver changed the foundation of the understanding of the nervous system by demonstrating that a gooey protein in this scar, called chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (“CSPG”), is the primary impediment to nerve repair as it inhibits the damaged nerves from regenerating, repairing or making new connections. Dr. Silver, together with scientists at Harvard University, then identified a key neural receptor, called protein tyrosine phosphatase sigma (“PTPσ”), that binds with the CSPG protein in the scar. The binding of this key receptor (PTPσ) with the gooey protein in the scar (CSPG) is the main reason why nerve repair was not occurring.

This PTPσ-CSPG interaction initiates a complex biological cascade which has multiple negative effects when there is nerve damage. NervGen’s compound is designed to switch off these negative, inhibitory effects of the PTPσ signalling, allowing the normal reparative mechanisms to complete the healing process. Our drug, NVG-291, binds preferentially to the PTPσ receptor, which in animal models appears to release trapped nerves and prevents new sprouting nerve axons from being trapped in the scar, allowing regrowth in previously highly inhibited areas, and allowing the formation of new synapses.

Because the glial scar with this CSPG protein is naturally increased after injury throughout the body, our technology’s mechanism of action could have effects across a broad expanse of traumatic injuries and neurodegenerative diseases.

As Dr. Silver continued his research on spinal cord injuries, a tremendous amount of data, from both internal and independent sources, has been produced which supports the original findings that NVG-291 has achieved dramatic results in preclinical models. As far as we know, no other drug or treatment has come close to the efficacy observed in the most recent independent study from the University of Cologne where at the highest dose level, approximately half the treated animals recovered almost full function after a severe spinal cord injury.

NervGen is planning to commence Phase 1 clinical trials by the end of 2020 which will include the usual safety studies on human subjects. We will follow this with Phase 2 human clinical trials in both spinal cord injury and MS patients which we hope to start in the second half of 2021.

Recently, we decided to move forward with a research and development program for Alzheimer’s disease. We made the decision to undertake this initiative after three key opinion leaders reviewed our program and advised us to move forward given 1) the novelty of our approach, 2) the multiple modes of action of our compound, and 3) the growing body of academia that supports our thesis. I recommend that you read a terrific article in Forbes.com which featured how NervGen’s compound could address treating symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

In parallel, we are stepping up our business development efforts as we believe that the technology, the upcoming clinical trial programs and the numerous applications we are pursuing presents an opportunity that should be of strong interest to prospective partners.

How do you think this might change the world?

If NervGen is successful in commercializing a drug that allows the body’s nervous system to repair itself, it is hard to conceptualize the impact on the world. I receive the queries that come through NervGen’s website so I have seen the hundreds of messages from people desperate for some help. And I am not using the word “desperate” lightly as there are no known drugs approved for nerve regeneration or remyelination.

A treatment for spinal cord injury alone would improve the lives of so many people desperate for help. Currently, a person suffering from a spinal cord injury will have their condition stabilize after a few months, after which the vast majority of patients will experience only minor or no improvement no matter how much effort is put into physiotherapy or other treatments. In one of our preclinical studies, there was a dose dependent recovery of bladder function, and at the two highest doses all animals had some type of recovery of bladder function. If we had no other benefit but bladder function recovery, that would be a tremendous victory as so many people suffering from spinal cord injuries are resigned to catheters and urine collection bags as part of their daily lives. And, the nerve area that controls bladder function is also responsible for both the bowel and sexual functions. The improvement of a patient’s quality of life would be dramatic in a number of critical ways.

Multiple sclerosis drugs have done a good job of stopping the immune system from attacking and degrading the nervous system, but they are not capable of repairing the damage created. With the remyelination and plasticity modes of action of NVG-291, we aim to help repair damage that has been done to the myelin (the protective sheath surrounding the nerve fibers) and give tremendous relief to the millions of people who are suffering.

Theoretically, if we are successful in our current programs, NervGen could potentially be successful in treating any disease that results in nerve damage, either as a result of an acute injury, or as a result of neurodegenerative disease. In addition to spinal cord injury, MS and Alzheimer’s disease, this also includes ALS, Parkinson’s, FTD, epilepsy and even traumatic brain injury. There is a lot of work to be done, but the potential impact of our technology is truly breathtaking.

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

We have looked at the impact our drug may have on the function of the scar that forms at the site of nerve damage. It is clear that although the scar that forms after an injury inhibits the repair mechanisms of the nervous system, it also plays a vital and long-term role. The scar acts as a potent barrier to protect the wound and create a wall to constrain inflammation and isolate the lesion from affecting the remaining healthy tissue. It also acts to ensure that the nerve connections remaining after the injury are preserved. NVG-291 doesn’t appear to interfere with this important natural process, but instead seems to allow the nervous system to repair itself through and around the scar.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to take on the challenge of commercializing this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

In early 2016, Codi, the daughter-in-law of our co-founder Dr. Harold Punnett, and mother to his three grandchildren, suffered a tragic accident during a site visit of the renovations being done on the family’s home. She fell into a 10-foot construction hole and the trauma to her spinal cord resulted in Codi becoming a complete T-11 paraplegic.

As reported in New Mobility magazine, Harold embarked on a neuroscience literature search as part of his effort to find any way to improve Codi’s condition. He found there were no therapeutics available to promote nerve regeneration, but he did come across the promising technology invented by Dr. Silver that had the potential to revolutionize the treatment of nerve damage. So, after a long period of research and due diligence, we created NervGen with one simple goal — to commercialize this incredible technology.

There was no singular “tipping point”, but during the extended due diligence period there were a number of standout “aha” moments that resulted in the decision to take on this crusade. One of the most emotional moments for me was when we met with half a dozen leaders of the Rick Hansen Institute, a Canadian-based not-for-profit organization that drives innovation in spinal cord injury research. Upon learning about Dr. Silver’s compound dramatically improving bladder control function in the animal studies, one wheelchair-bound gentleman at the conference table suddenly interrupted our presentation and stated in no uncertain terms that he has adapted to life in a wheelchair so he can get around and have access to what he needs, but if NervGen gave him back control of his bladder, that would be freedom for him. It was such a stunning statement and, to me, a personal recognition of my level of naivete on what people with spinal cord injury endure. That was a clear aha moment that truly impacted our deliberations on moving forward to commercialize Dr. Silver’s breakthrough science.

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

Simply put — perseverance. We have taken NervGen public, built a great management team and will continue to finance the company as needed. We will push aggressively to get the drug into clinical trials where the “rubber really hits the road” and we will find out its effect on a human body.

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

All along the way, there have been a number of people that have stepped in to participate in what may seem small, inconsequential ways, but who have greatly impacted my confidence and drive as an entrepreneur.

When I was running Response Biomedical in the 1990s and early 2000s, I was travelling to Toronto off and on for financing meetings and was introduced to a gentleman, Kevin McKenna, who offered up space in his office whenever I needed it. I took advantage of it as needed, more so that I could have the opportunity to visit with him briefly to get words of encouragement and guidance. His office became a home away from home for me. While he may have viewed it as simply lending out an office to me a few times a year, to me it represented so much more, it was a sanctuary.

When I was running another start-up, American Vanadium, and was striving to introduce industrial scale energy storage systems, I was introduced to Bob Catell, the previous Chairman of both National Grid, US and the United States Energy Association. He was held in such high regard by both the traditional oil and the renewable energy sectors, as well as general corporate America; not simply because of his professional achievements, but notably because he is one of the finest gentlemen in the world as expressed by all that have had the opportunity to spend time with him. Again, I was surprised with the generosity of the time he spent with me considering his incredible professional and community service workload. And, I was stunned and thrilled when I was able to convince him to join American Vanadium’s board of directors, even though he was being pulled in many directions and this was one of the last things he needed to spend time on. His support of me individually, and for the important energy storage initiative, was humbling.

To me, it isn’t about that one mentor or one guiding force of a person, but about a good number of people that see the spark and understand the hard road in front of an entrepreneur and who takes the time to let you know they believe you can make things happen.

How are you using your success to bring goodness to the world?

For now, I intend to make a difference in the world by using my skillset and experience in continuing to build ventures similar to NervGen — ones that will have a positive impact and will also energize and captivate me. Over time, I have considered putting my efforts into more of what is considered mainstream charity and community initiatives, particularly around mental health, but for now, I am keeping it simple and building solutions that have a positive effect on the world. One area I am poking around for opportunities in is renewable energy — again. While there are historically more failures than successes, there is much to be done and many ways we can improve on how we treat the world.

Do you have a mantra?

Theodore Roosevelt once said that “the best executive is one who has sense enough to pick good people to do what he wants done, and self-restraint enough to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” And a colleague of mine once gave me advice I never forgot and which I have often repeated to others, “start-ups are not a battle but a long war, and when building your team, ask yourself if each one will stay in the trench with you when the fighting gets bitter”. Great advice for building a start-up where it is inevitable that the times will get tough, the stress will escalate and the future can look bleak — but that’s the time when the team must dig in and support each other.

So, a mantra of mine is only work with good people.

An example of that mantra was when we were filling an R&D position at Response Biomedical. One candidate didn’t have the requisite experience. But she was such a standout person and a clear fit with our values that we created a position for her working on special projects, knowing she would be of great value. That was around 2005 — now skip to today where she has been the CEO of Response Biomedical since 2015.

Can you please give us your favorite “life lesson quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

A quote I rely on is “bad news is good news”. In start-ups, bad news is a very large part of the business. When creating and building, there are lots of mistakes to be made, wrong paths to take — let alone the saying often heard “s**t happens”. Those are givens. What is critical is how does one react, accept, inquire and course-correct. Bad news gives an opportunity to make changes and be successful. Of course, no one likes hearing bad news, but I say the phrase a lot so we don’t fear, hide, ignore or downplay bad news. One needs to face adversity quickly and honestly so it can be digested and acted upon so that positive movement can begin.

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. 🙂

NervGen is a public company (NGENF: OTCQX, NGEN: TSX.V) commercializing a potentially disruptive drug for the treatment of nerve damage and neurodegenerative diseases. This technology, licensed worldwide for all applications from Case Western Reserve University, was invented by Dr. Jerry Silver, a global expert on spinal cord research.

Our technology — possibly a panacea — allows the body’s nervous system to repair itself by limiting the endogenous inhibition of nerve repair that occurs as a result of scar formation. Over fifteen technical papers, many independent, have been peer-reviewed and published, and detail the multiple modes of action, including regeneration, remyelination, plasticity and autophagy. There is a great summary of these on our website (www.nervgen.com).

To date, our technology has shown impressive results in animal studies, including trauma to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves, multiple sclerosis, cardiac arrythmia and stroke. Our technology will also be studied to determine its possibility to generate new treatments for Alzheimer’s disease.

We have assembled a very talented management team with strong capabilities in drug development, clinical trials, partnering and finance to facilitate NervGen’s goal of addressing these huge markets that have clear unmet needs. NervGen is initially focusing on developing drugs for the treatment of spinal cord injury (~17,000 injuries per year in the U.S.) and the repair of damage from multiple sclerosis (~900,000 patients in the U.S.) while building a research program for Alzheimer’s disease (~5,800,000 patients in the US). We intend to initiate a Phase 1 clinical trial on human subjects by the end of 2020 and then initiate two Phase 2 studies in 2021 — one study in spinal cord patients, and another in patients with multiple sclerosis.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers can visit our website, www.nervgen.com, or follow us on Twitter (@NervGenC) and LinkedIn (NervGen Pharma Corp.).

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


The Future Is Now: How Bill Radvak and NervGen might be on the verge of a breakthrough that can… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Why we need to develop our ability to change how we feel”…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Why we need to develop our ability to change how we feel” With Dr. Alan Watkins

If you can’t blame things for the bad things happening, you might have to accept that you can change your life and the world around you. This might make you more scared initially or even overwhelmed. But if you have truly developed the ability to control fear or panic then these feeling would pass and you could switch to a more productive emotion such as determined.

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 Alan Watkins.

Alan qualified as a physician in 1986 having also attained a first-class degree in psychology along the way. He spent 12 years working in the National Health Service in the UK and a year in the pharmaceutical industry in the USA as part of his studies for his PhD in immunology. He worked as a GP in Australia but ended up in neuroscience research before leaving academic medicine 24 years ago.

Since 2002 Alan has been running his own company, Complete, which now works with about 100 multi-national companies in all markets and all geographies to accelerate development and reduce human suffering. In addition to being coaches and confidants to some of the world’s best CEOs and leaders he and his team of 15 coaches also work in schools helping teachers and children develop greater levels of emotional literacy. Complete also work with professional athletes and Alan personally coached many athletes and coaches prior to the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, helping the GB Squad to achieve record medal hauls.

In his spare time Alan writes books on a range of leadership issues as well as books on how to solve the world’s toughest problems. He has published seven books so far and is currently writing three more: simultaneously; one on innovation, one on change and one on truth and power. He is a sought-after international keynote speaker and his four TEDx talks have attracted over 5 million views. He has recently been appointed a Visiting Professor in Business at Kingston University, UK.

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

I spent 12 years as a medical Doctor working on the front line in the NHS but then I gave all that up 24 years ago to work with the global leaders of multi-national organizations. When people ask what is the connection? I tell them it is “human suffering”. As a consultant on the ward I only had 200 lives I could improve. Fifty on the ward and 150 or so in outpatients. As a GP I had 2,000 patients but 1,800 of them were well so I only ever saw the same 200. But when working with multi-national corporations they have up to 400,000 staff. So, if I can improve the quality of leadership so that leaders make better decisions that are more compassionate, more inclusive and more sustainable then I may be able to reduce the suffering of their workforce. If that workforce is a few hundred thousand strong and we include their families, we are immediately talking up to 1 million lives improved. If we take the businesses’ supply chain into account, it could affect the lives of 5 million people, from just one company. So, for me it was always about the reduction of human suffering at scale. The company I run works with over 100 companies now and that gives me a chance to positively impact millions of lives, reducing suffering and experiencing the joy of seeing people develop too.

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

Many years ago, I was keynoting at an education conference in Kauai. A member of the alternative education movement said we need to completely change the way we think about education. He suggested we must stop trying to pour information into children and start with their innate and insatiable curiosity. He demonstrated this by gathering 10 children in the room (unusually for most education conferences there were children present). He asked them all if they had a question. Some did, some didn’t. Then they voted on who had the most interesting question. The question that won was “do fish fart?”. That is where the lesson started. He asked them what is a fart? They discussed it was gas produced by bacteria in the gut which took us onto an exploration of biology. He then asked how do we know that the fish farted? One child said we saw the bubble appear in the water. So, we started talking about gas and liquid and got into chemistry. Someone asked how big was the fart? So, we explored how to measure the size of that bubble which took us into maths. We eventually covered nearly every subject it was hysterically funny and extremely memorable. I learnt that to help people there is no reason you can’t have fun and be radical at the same time when working to transform outcomes.

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

Joseph Campbell, a Professor of Comparative Religion, a world expert on mythology and the man widely cited as inspiring George Lucas to make Star Wars is a great hero of mine. He always suggested that human beings should “follow your bliss”. Which means find out what really matters to you and do that. He recognised that following you bliss will enable you to live a fulfilling and meaningful life. It is a principle I have passed onto my four boys. There are many other principles and philosophies but that one really helps.

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

I have often asked myself if I could only teach one of the many lessons my team teaches people what would that be? My answer is that before we learn anything else we need to develop our ability to change how we feel, on demand, wherever we are and regardless of what is happening. It is entirely possible to develop the ability to control your emotions to such an extent that you NEVER have to feel anything you don’t want to ever again.

Imagine if a child could do that. They would never need to feel anxious or scared or bullied. People who take drugs to feel better could just feel better without the drugs. Crime would drop dramatically. People who feel they are not good enough could feel confident. People who worry could feel content. People who are greedy could feel complete already. People who feel the need to be unkind to make themselves feel better could just feel better. If we take radical ownership of our emotions and develop the ability to control our response in life to any situation we become response-able human beings and the world would change forever.

How do you think this will change the world?

Response-able human beings who don’t blame each other or the government or their customers, kids, spouse or anyone for how they feel. This would change everything. People would feel empowered and in control of their lives, no more victimhood and blame.

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?

If you can’t blame things for the bad things happening, you might have to accept that you can change your life and the world around you. This might make you more scared initially or even overwhelmed. But if you have truly developed the ability to control fear or panic then these feeling would pass and you could switch to a more productive emotion such as determined.

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

I have always been a great believer in the importance of extracting value from every single experience in life. The Australians have a word for this — fossicking. It was originally used to describe the ability to find a gem in the dust of the outback.

My own developmental journey is an evolutionary process with hundreds of experiences from which I feel I have extracted value. One such moment, was when I was working with a mining company a few years ago. I visited their copper mines in Africa and Finland. Most copper mines have enormous rock crushes because only 3% of the rock is copper so it is quite an effort to extract the bit that isn’t rock. In Finland the rock was only 0.3% copper. The experience gave me a deep appreciation for the effort that human beings can go to in order to extract value from something.

I think this is a useful metaphor for life. If you are insatiably curious you can extract incredible value out of any experience and reach a ‘tipping point’ or breakthrough much earlier in life.

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

We are shortly releasing a significant upgrade to our ‘Complete App’ which is designed to change the game on mental health and enable people to understand and control their own emotions as outlined above. If people simply download the App and start using it many lives could change for the better.

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

You must first learn to appreciate in order to appreciate what you learn

Most people must hear something seven times, on average, before they remember it. Why are we so poor at learning? I have concluded that we find it difficult to appreciate our life lessons because we are not very open to learning. We are not very good at appreciating what we learn because we have not yet even learnt how to appreciate. If we don’t know how to appreciate how can we appreciate what we learn? Every day of my life I look around me and try to find small things to appreciate. There is beauty all around all of us and if we remain curious we can learn from most experiences.

If you take good care of yourself, it is much easier to take good care of others

The level of burnout in the caring profession is extremely high, and I saw it all around me. The mental health statistics suggest many people, in fact, struggle to take care of themselves. I learnt very quickly as a junior Doctor, particularly when I was working 140 hours per week, that it is vital to self-care. If I didn’t look after myself, I would become exhausted. If I burnt out, I would not be able to look after my patients. This taught me that it is not selfish to take care of yourself it is critical if you want to help others.

Live large and with a passion

I believe people have incredible untapped potential which is why I always encourage people to dream big and play big. To shrink away from the opportunities life presents you is to deny who you really are and the possibility of who you can become. Whatever you decide to do with your life do it with a passion. Develop your curiosity and try to live for the benefit of others.

When I was a junior Doctor, I worked for two consultant gynaecologists. One had taken a traditional approach to his career reached consultant status very early and had then become so bored he was having an affair with one of the nurses on the ward.

The other consultant was already married and had three children by the time he qualified. He decided to apply for a job as a GP in St Lucia. But he missed his connection so by the time he reached the West Indies, after eight days on the high seas in a banana boat out of Cardiff, they had given his job to someone else because they didn’t think he was coming.

Undaunted he became the island anaesthetist, despite having no knowledge of this area. He taught himself and after he sedated his patients, he assisted the surgeon with the operating. When the island surgeon was shot for having an elicit relationship with the governor’s daughter, he became the island surgeon and anaesthetist. His wife and three kids returned to the UK and he married a local girl bought an orange plantation and took up sailing. After ten years he decided to move and ended up running the flying doctor service for Quebec province.

Eventually he made it back to the UK and was my boss early in my career. He certainly lived large and with passion and that is what I have tried to do.

Leadership requires certainty, development requires uncertainty- know the difference

In uncertain times leaders need to reassure people by projecting certainty. “I know where we are, I know what’s happening, I know where we need to go… follow me”. This is a common leadership narrative. However, to develop as a human being you need to be in a very different space. You need to be curious, thoughtful, reflective and humbly recognise what you don’t know. Basically, development requires you to be uncertain. When I am coaching CEOs or school children, I am very aware of when I need to be certain and when I need to be humble and admit I don’t know.

Development requires discernment and differentiation.

As a Doctor we were trained to consider what is the “active ingredient” in any drug or treatment. What is the small thing that makes a big difference? I have taken this principle forward and applied it to many things in life. In business, people talk about ‘critical path analysis’. Which means when you are studying very complicated issues it is vital to identify the critical step that can change the whole system.

To develop as a human being, I am often forensically dissecting everything I experience to discover what is the most powerful thing in this experience that can make the biggest difference. Learning how to differentiate the ‘wheat from the chaff’, the ‘sizzle from the steak’ is crucial. This also applies to people. When building a team discernment is key. Many people say they can deliver to the highest quality standard, but few can. Spotting the difference between the person that can really add value and the person who may intend to but can’t is extremely important.

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

  1. Practice feeling positive emotions (not thinking) every day because it improves brain function and health.
  2. Always be curious and open to new ideas and change. Insularity is a predictor of failure.
  3. Realize that there are three dimensions to your life. There is an inner world or ‘being’ an interpersonal world of ‘relating’ and an outer world of ‘doing’. This is what we call the I/WE and IT dimensions of existence. Successful people understand this.
  4. The greatest leaders are always looking to develop in all three areas I/WE and IT, even if they don’t use these labels. They see the untapped potential in themselves, others and the world.
  5. The truly great leaders understand that to care for others ultimately takes care your yourself.

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 🙂

The world is beset by many super-complicated ‘wicked issues’. These problems seem intractable, but they are not. If you have a deep understanding beyond most observers you can step-change the future. The current narrative on mental health is about to change completely. If you want to know how and why reach out to us for a chat.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://complete-coherence.com/

https://www.completecuriosity.com/

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

https://twitter.com/AlanDWatkins

https://www.instagram.com/alanwatkins2152/

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


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Why we need to develop our ability to change how we feel”… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Leila Modarres of Infostretch: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

…whether it’s an email or a call, I try to leave room for the other person to solve the problem themselves rather than laying down the solution myself. That way, they’ve got skin in the game and they’re not being treated like some naughty kid.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Leila Modarres an Iranian immigrant who, at 32 became one of Silicon Valley’s youngest female VPs. As Chief Marketing Officer, she runs all marketing efforts for Infostretch, a digital engineering professional services company with more than 1,000 employees worldwide. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and communications serving high-growth software companies and early-stage technology companies, she has helped three startups achieve their desired exits.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

As the daughter of Iranian immigrants who fled Iran after the revolution in 1980, I was raised in Boston, where I attended elementary school and grew up hoping to make it as a top artist or performer. Of course, I felt like an outcast on occasion, being from a different background; but that wasn’t my claim to fame or why I am telling you this. I was always driven — and continue to be inspired — by female characters in the entertainment industry — such as movies or TV series. As a child, dancing and theatre were my passions. I was a performer at heart, and I’d sneak into movies like “Flashdance” — a movie where the main character “Alex” played by Jennifer Beals fascinated me — a girl with no training or education making it to top and getting accepted into a prestigious ballet academy. I danced all over the living room floor for months. My mother finally decided to do without furniture!

I was determined to make my way into a role on a screen, stage or in front of an audience. Later in my teens, I also found an appreciation for business… there was always an element of drama in business… and there still is. Inspired by shows like Dynasty and Dallas, I continued to imagine myself as an influential member of a thriving organization.

One day I saw “Working Girl” and that was it. Melanie Griffith sealed the deal for me — talk about a risk taker who rose to the top. I decided that my calling was in the land of business, where I not only needed to perform every day, but I could leverage my business acumen and help others — especially young women — grow and thrive in the business world. As I think back, I am wondering if I was just looking for ways to make thigs more difficult. Not only did I want to be a top performer, but switch to a competitive field like corporate business which was — and still is, to a great extent — a male-dominated industry.

Once I got started on this track, I had the fortune of working for many amazing organizations, such as the Harvard Business Review and Porter Novelli, where I had amazing female mentors. I also rolled up my sleeves and helped grow a number of startups that were flourishing in Silicon Valley. Regardless of where I work, I will always be driven by the need to perform and help other “Tess McGill’s” navigate their way to the top. Today my inspirational fictional characters include Tea Leoni as Madam Secretary and Julianna Margulies as the Good Wife.

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

This isn’t necessarily one incident or episode, but is a limitation that my counterparts also face. As Chief Marketing Officer, I am constantly exposed to new concepts –ours, or our customers’ — months before they are introduced to the public, sometimes longer. We serve as a proving ground for software-based innovations in healthcare and financial services, as well as AI and IoT concepts. It is so tempting to tell the world what is coming down the pike before the news is ready to spread. In a way, this eagerness helps me focus on today’s mission, today’s message. Because our responsibility to the bottom line supersedes the sizzle of page-1 news.

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?

Two new hires. One name. This may relate to question #2, as well.

Cue…a case of mistaken identity.

Here’s what happened. On my first day of a new job, little did I know that another new starter, also called Leila, was joining the company the same day…as a software engineer. They took me into the lab, introduced me to the product managers and asked me about what programs I used. All the while I was thinking that something is not quite right here. Why don’t I have a proper desk? Where are those sales / marketing people who’d interviewed me? Why are they asking me these technical questions?

Finally, once everyone realized the huge mistake, it became a running joke between the departments. I must have put on a good show as an engineer, at least for a few hours. Despite the happy ending, the incident taught me to act on red flags as soon as they appear. I was lucky in this case that it ended on a comical note, but I made a determination to myself that I would speak up quickly in future instances whenever I felt confused or out of my depth.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

My best advice would be to be very conscious about maintaining balance in their lives, now more than ever. A lot of people have done some working from home, but for most people, this period has been their first time doing so full-time. The people who are doing the best are the people who are putting in place physical and time barriers between their working lives and their home lives. That means wherever possible, they have a particular place where they go when they want to work and that they’re disciplined about when they’re working and when they’re not. The likelihood of burnout increases when there are no clear dividing lines between work and home: it all bleeds together, meaning you never really have time to re-energize and recuperate.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

It’s hard to say exactly, because it’s been an evolution, but probably around ten years. In my marketing roles, this mainly came about because I was managing various marketing specialists. My ethos has always been to work with the best people I can find and it never really mattered whether they were full-time employees in the same office or even overseas-based contractors. So long as they’re great at what they do, they add a lot of value and so long as communications and time zones don’t become unworkable, then your team can really be based anywhere.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. The personal touch. When you’re not in the same office, seeing each others’ faces and chatting about what you did over the weekend, you have to make more effort to maintain the glue that keeps a team together.
  2. Reporting. When you can’t look over to the desk to your left and ask how it’s going with some project or other, you’ve got to replicate that ability somehow. And the answer is rarely by firing off more and more emails which add to the inbox overload which most of us have to deal with.
  3. Articulating goals. When you’re constantly sitting next to or near your team, you naturally exude what you want people to achieve. But if they’re not right there, you need to make sure they understand what you want.
  4. Performance. Almost by osmosis, you know whether someone is doing well in a role when you’re sitting close by. Not so when they’re remote. You need to find some fair way of evaluating performance.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

  1. To keep the personal touch, a lot of it comes down to technology. And that’s why the likes of Slack and Zoom have seen such an upswing in demand. But beyond that it’s actually about making an effort. Even when you feel like you don’t have the time, it’s better for everyone if you can take some time to ask how people are doing and have a quick chat before getting down to business.
  2. For quick updates or check-ups, instant messaging is about the best tech we have. Bigger picture though, it’s about having a system in place for people to report on progress. It could be as simple as a Google Sheet or as sophisticated as a multi-tiered dashboard. What’s important though is making sure that reporting takes a lot less of everyone’s time versus actually doing the work — and that people actually use it!
  3. However formal or informal the goals may be, the main thing is that they are articulated clearly and frequently and you map everything back to those goals so the team is focused. Fuzzy goals are not your friends, and that’s even more true when dealing with remote teams. Everyone has to be on the same page, even if they’re thousands of miles apart.
  4. In validating performance, it really depends on the type of role. In creative roles, you just have to look at something and you instantly know whether something is good or not. That’s true whether they’re remote workers or not. In other types of roles, you do have to do it by the numbers. The numbers could be revenue, it could be customer satisfaction. Whatever it is, you need to set up the system to find and track the most meaningful metrics and make sure you’re keeping a close eye on them.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I haven’t encountered any major problems with giving constructive criticism to a remote employee in recent years. I think the main reason is that over the years I’ve developed what I’d call my Brain Trust of people that I know and who know me well, professionally. When you’ve got history and you’ve got trust established, you can be a lot more transparent without worrying that criticism might turn into a drama.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Wherever possible, I try to stay away from giving feedback over email. I do have to do it sometimes of course, but if I can I’ll schedule a quick call with them instead. I find that the honesty and context of a live conversation beats an email every time. You can overthink an email, trying to make it into the perfect argument as to why something isn’t right and should be done in another way. But after you’ve agonized over the perfect wording for it, what usually comes back is an equally agonized-over justification or deflection. So you’ve both wasted time and you’ve barely made any progress. In a live conversation, you can explain the context, explain the issue and talk it through together. But whether it’s an email or a call, I try to leave room for the other person to solve the problem themselves rather than laying down the solution myself. That way, they’ve got skin in the game and they’re not being treated like some naughty kid.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

I think a big thing is that you have to digitally re-create those watercooler moments somehow. That could be a lightly-moderated Slack channel where people can chat about things that aren’t necessarily work-related. Or it can be something more formal like a virtual celebration of some kind. We recently did that at our company, where there was a traditional holiday we celebrated remotely with our team in another country. Where possible we all brought traditional food to the virtual table, we chatted like friends and generally had a good time together. It takes effort, but it’s worth it.

Another thing I’d advise is to be careful about overloading your calendar with update calls. It was tempting, particularly at the beginning of lockdowns, to make sure you covered all your bases and put in place update chats with everyone. But eventually, you realize that you’re not leaving enough time to actually do any work. So you have to get out your virtual machete and start chopping down a lot of those formal engagements and just focus on the core “machinery” that allows you to do your job and trust that when specific issues come up, you’ll come together as you need to. I think this is possibly a lesson that we’ve mostly all learned now.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

A lot of this should come from the top and should have started well before the lockdowns began to be able to translate it to a remote set-up. I’ve worked in companies where very little thought goes into creating a healthy and empowering work culture and I’ve worked for some where it’s a core part of their values. What I’ve found each time is that it comes from the top. If a leader isn’t particularly focused on that side of business life, and they’re solely focused on the numbers for example, it’s hard to push that sort of mentality up the chain of command. So whether you’ve got it or you haven’t, that’s more than likely to still be the case when you’re working remotely.

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. 🙂

Find your network. There are some people you come across professionally who are so good at something or their brain works in such a particular way where you just have to maintain that contact and keep working with them somehow. I’m not talking about connecting on LinkedIn or even attending networking events. It’s the real-life experience of working with that person and being humble enough to know that that person brings something to the table that you don’t. I’ve been able to achieve a lot in my business life by recognizing that talent and bringing those people along for the ride. Over the years, I’ve found those people, I’ve found my network and in one way or another I continue to collaborate with them.

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

I think it’s a lot of people’s favorite, so forgive me, but it’s “Be the change that you want to see in the world” by Mahatma Gandhi. Whenever you’re annoyed with colleagues, or even the whole world, it’s a reminder that you can actually change things yourself. When you stop trying to fix the world and you look inside, you find a treasure trove of things in yourself that need to evolve, before you start denigrating or preaching to the outside world. And when you do that internal work, you can actually make the world a better place, by inspiring others.

Because “Be the change” is such a popular phrase, it’s easy to disregard it, but if you take it seriously and think about it, it is transformative. In my life, I’ve predominantly worked in male-dominated industries. I could have wasted a lot of energy moaning how something or other isn’t fair. Thankfully, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the support of great female mentors in my career — and their advice and attitudes have influenced me hugely. Now, I’m trying to be the change by mentoring young businesswomen as they start out in their careers.


Leila Modarres of Infostretch: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jeff Miller of Potentia Workforce: How Diversity Can Help Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

Diversity increases innovation. In our own company, I’ve seen how our team saw the COVID-19 crisis, identified the gaps in health data, and developed a product to address those gaps for employers — all in about six weeks.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Potentia Workforce Founder and CEO Jeff Miller.

Jeff has spent more than two decades helping businesses across the globe to optimize their workforces. Jeff began his career in business development in Boston and then Silicon Valley for a high-growth tech services company before joining the leadership team of an international IT solutions firm and taking it through a successful sale. He then spent four years running internal recruiting for Fortune 500, before reaching a long-standing goal and being named President of a global human capital organization with more than 2,000 consultants working around the world. Jeff saw first-hand how good talent management can shape the culture and bottom-line results for any company. But when he reached a crossroads and wanted to take his skills in a direction where he could serve more directly, he found inspiration within his own family — and the idea for Potentia was born.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

It’s my great pleasure. My career backstory really begins with a personal event. When our son Charlie was in first grade, he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum. It was one of those days you never forget as a parent and, while my wife Samantha and I were aware that our son had some learning differences, the diagnosis really rocked us at first. While the label gave Charlie access to some helpful resources, he was also consistently underestimated. I remember one teacher who said that Charlie might, one day, learn to fold his own laundry — meanwhile he was reading short stories at home. It didn’t align. We bounced between various public and private schools over the next several years until we established the structure and team that worked best for Charlie. We were fortunate that my wife Samantha could essentially make running that team and keeping Charlie on track a fulltime job. We know that not everyone can do that. Today, Charlie is today on track to graduate and learning to drive — he’s also a happy and very caring young man.

A little over two years ago we were at my mother’s funeral — she had suffered a long bout with Parkinson’s — and I was watching my then 16-year-old comfort my father after the service. It really hit me at that moment that I had a very capable young man on my hands, and that I needed to raise my game as a father, to get out of the year-to-year mode I had been in, and start thinking more seriously about what Charlie was likely to face as an adult. I came home and immediately started deep research project on adult autism. One of the things I learned, among many others, is that college grads on the autism spectrum are unemployed at 80%. This made no sense to me as a businessperson and was simply unacceptable as a Dad. At that point, I vowed to do something about it and the spark for Potentia was lit.

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?

I remember once, back in the Silicon Valley ’90s, we had a two-man team working on a proposal we had no business winning. We worked on it all night and realized, as the sun came up, that we had never gone home and did not have time to. We were still wearing our suits from the day before, so we just switched ties, went in and pitched, and won the account. Then we each went home and collapsed.

I think I learned that there is no substitute for hard work, that you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, and to always keep a “freshen up” bag at the office.

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

Potentia helps businesses to succeed in multiple ways — through our STARS program — where we teach employers like Chevron and Baker Hughes how to recruit and manage neurodiverse workers effectively, and through Potentia Projects — where our clients outsource IT and analytics work to us using our own spectrum talent. In either scenario, the emphasis is on a business’s bottom-line outcomes and how they deliver a competitive advantage. Our people are neurodiverse individuals who have often been overlooked, but they are simply better at certain roles. That is what makes Potentia sustainable. We’re businesspeople who are also passionate about our community, so while the mission to provide opportunities for that community to shine, it also always ties back to ROI for the client.

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

We have some really talented problem solvers on our team. They have been working on technology to help businesses return their people to worksites safely since COVID-19 broke out. It’s called Potentia Health Registry and it has some really innovative features to lower risk. There is a lot of uncertainty among both employers and their work forces around this issue. We are putting our expertise with healthcare analytics to work to be part of solving that challenge.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

Spend time thinking about why you do what you do and be able to articulate it. This will allow you to attract like-minded people who can bring their own unique talents to implement that vision. Then listen to them as, if you’re like me, they are probably smarter than you are about the various ways to achieve that vision.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

Create a culture that truly values differences and emphasizes strengths. Then remain open to where those insights might take you — including advice form those outside your organization. We’ve learned a great deal through conversations with great companies like SAP, EY, and Chase, that have invested in neurodiversity. We’ve then gone out and hired some really smart people and we’ve listened to them. They’ve helped us to shape our own vision of how we can serve and it has taken us to some unexpected places. But to us, that’s what being innovative is about.

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.)

Absolutely. Our focus is neurodiversity, including autism, OCD, ADHD, dyslexia and other differences, and the impacts can be huge.

Diversity increases innovation. In our own company, I’ve seen how our team saw the COVID-19 crisis, identified the gaps in health data, and developed a product to address those gaps for employers — all in about six weeks.

Diversity programs make for better managers. We’ve heard multiple times how the training we provide to meet neurodiverse workers where they are has helped managers to play to the strengths of all of their employees.

Diversity lowers turnover. Neurodiverse workers have exceptionally low churn rates — typically under 5% per year when in the right roles. Before joining Potentia, our CIO ran a company where he didn’t lose a key employee for over 10 years. Who wouldn’t want that track record?

The public sector likes diversity. Government contracts are often awarded to businesses that can tangibly show their diversity. We talked with one company recently who estimated they lost over $35M in government contracts because their workforce was statistically too homogeneous. That got their attention.

When you put these factors together, and then add the fact that diversity hiring often earns tax breaks, you can see where the effect on the bottom line can be very significant.

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

I believe it is our responsibility first and foremost to walk the walk. So, while we advocate for neurodiversity, we also have neurodiverse individuals at all levels of our organization — from executive and board roles to front line positions. We think that is essential.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Well, it’s not very original, but Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” quote has always resonated with me. “It is not the critic who counts…” I love that one.

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?

I’m grateful to Shawn Fry, our CIO, for paying me the highest compliment of partnering with me on this journey. I am also fortunate to be able to call him my friend.

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 think it would have to be Temple Grandin. I have read a good deal of her writing and seen the movie of her life and find her completely inspiring. I have supreme admiration for people who choose a path of purpose — especially when the path is not always clear. No doubt I would learn a lot at that meal!


Jeff Miller of Potentia Workforce: How Diversity Can Help 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.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How We Can Use AI To Inspire Better Writing”, With…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How We Can Use AI To Inspire Better Writing”, With Alessandra Torre of Authors AI

We want to be the catalyst for untold stories to bloom. Our technology will help a lot of authors turn their hobbies into a career. Their stories might be told in the form of an ebook, a paperback or an audiobook. Or it could be converted into a movie script — one of our advisors is a Hollywood filmmaker who sees the potential of connecting the film industry directly with storytellers through the use of AI. The format doesn’t matter. What matters is the story.

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 Alessandra Torre. Alessandra is a New York Times bestselling author and president of Authors A.I., a new startup that is tackling a creative challenge — how to help authors write better novels with the help of artificial intelligence that serves as an initial judgment-free editor.

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

I was that nerdy bookworm who always had a giant novel in hand. Reading was easy, but writing wasn’t something I considered until 2012, when I heard about self-publishing. Suddenly, there was a no-risk, no-rejection path to my dream goal — holding my own book in my hands. The knowledge of that possibility, and the act of writing my first book changed everything in my life in a huge and incredible way. Twenty-three books later, I met the co-founders of Authors A.I. and my life took another exciting turn.

I was recruited onto the team because of my track record as an author. But I also have a background in tech, and I suppose I have the entrepreneur gene. So it was only a matter of weeks before my two co-founders asked me to become the company’s president. It’s been a good fit.

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

Watching and participating in the film production of one of my books was a pretty intense experience. Whether it was navigating the laws on pet usage in film, or popping ice cubes into actors’ mouths to keep their breath from fogging on set, to making the transition from novel to script — all of it was fascinating and taught me a lot.

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

There’s a great African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I’ve gone fast, and now I want to go far. For a long time I’ve been a solo-preneur guided by a cool resolve, and I’ve done quite well by myself. At the same time, I’ve always had a penchant for collaboration on worthy community projects. So it’s been personally fascinating to see how those two sides mesh in my role as president of our startup. I’m trying to foster a culture of open communication, of finding common ground, of owning and learning from mistakes. If you’re not experimenting and trying new things — and yes, at times failing — then your dreams are too small.

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

Our big idea is to use artificial intelligence to help authors write better books and to help readers discover great new stories.

We’re developing the smartest developmental editor in the world — we named her Marlowe, and we already think of her as a person. She can read a manuscript and deliver sound, intelligent and honest feedback to an author in less than an hour. So that’s the first part, the super-helpful critique given to authors during the life-sucking rewrite process.

And now we’re starting phase two. The vision is to turn Marlowe into a superstar in the world of book recommendations. Our A.I. will be able to suck in tens of thousands of titles and then recommend books that will delight you based on the story elements. We think there’s magic in the stories themselves, not just in book sales data, so you’ll be able to find those diamonds in the rough.

Of course, Marlowe would ding me for that cliché!

How do you think this will change the world?

We want to be the catalyst for untold stories to bloom. Our technology will help a lot of authors turn their hobbies into a career. Their stories might be told in the form of an ebook, a paperback or an audiobook. Or it could be converted into a movie script — one of our advisors is a Hollywood filmmaker who sees the potential of connecting the film industry directly with storytellers through the use of AI. The format doesn’t matter. What matters is the story.

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?

There is a very real danger that someone will develop A.I. technology to write books using text spinner programs that reword existing novels in subtle ways to create new, plagiarized stories. We’re firmly against this kind of future. We already have knockoff jeans, watches and purses. The last thing we need is knockoff fiction. That’s one reason we founded Authors A.I. We’re getting out in front of the A.I. wave and saying, let’s use A.I. for good — to help authors during the creative process. Not for evil — to undermine authors’ careers.

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

I’ve always been thirsty for quick, unbiased and educated feedback on my manuscripts. I was an early fan of the book The Bestseller Code, and I was already familiar with co-author Matt Jockers’ ability to find successful markers in bestselling books. When I heard that his technology was being cultivated for use in the mass market, I was instantly intrigued and wanted to be a part of the team. For his part, Dr. Jockers spent three years waiting for the right opportunity to take his idea to market. So now we’re startup co-founders.

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

There’s a quote I like by Joe Kennedy, the former CEO of Pandora, who said, “It’s easier to spread fire than start it where it doesn’t exist.”

There are burning embers everywhere in the fiction world today, and we’re ready to ignite a million careers. We have a very impressive technology out of the gate in Marlowe. We decided to bootstrap, so we don’t have a big marketing budget. But I think that when you have a big idea that gets a lot of people excited, it starts to spread by word of mouth. In the fall, we’ll start looking at a capital raise. It takes money to expand into overseas markets and to build out the team to take advantage of the big opportunity in front of us.

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

I’ll share two. On the fiction front, I’ve learned a lot of lessons along the way. I’ve learned that tropes are your friend. You can be really creative within certain story frameworks. But you can’t be a total rebel and violate your readers’ expectations for what they want and need in a romance novel. If you do that, you’ve lost their trust and they’ll never read you again.

On the startup front, I wish my guardian angel had told me, “Be patient.” We were actually ready to launch in March. But then the coronavirus hit with full force. How do you prepare for something like that? We really didn’t have a roadmap for what to do, and people were starting to feel anxious. We decided it would be crazy to introduce a completely unknown brand at the height of the pandemic. We waited and put the time into making the A.I. even better. And by the time we launched on June 8, authors were still holed up but they were ready to hear our message.

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

Controlling distractions. It’s very easy to waste an entire day on the fleeting, the ephemeral. You have to learn how to focus, how to control and eliminate distractions, and how to be efficient, or you’ll never get to where you want to be.

Envision success. I believe strongly in the power of visualization. I consistently envision the future of our company, the great things it will do, and how we will achieve those 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 🙂

There’s an old saying in Silicon Valley. “Ask a VC for money and you’ll get advice. Ask for advice, and you’ll get money.” So we’d love some angel investors or early-stage VCs to help guide us on our journey.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

We’re on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. The best place to join in on our conversations and live chats is our Facebook group. And if you’re an author, I’d love to hear from you.

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

Thanks for having me!


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “How We Can Use AI To Inspire Better Writing”, With… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr John DeGarmo Is Helping To Prevent Young People From Becoming

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr. John DeGarmo Is Helping To Prevent Young People From Becoming Homeless

Perhaps the biggest misconception about children in foster care is that the children are somehow at fault. When I was much younger, I had this same false belief, that children in foster care were bad kids, and that they did something wrong.

Yet, this is so far from the truth. These are children who are the victims. These are children who are suffering. Children suffering from abuse. Neglect. Malnutrition. Even drug-related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Children rejected by those who were to love them most, their parents. When placed into a foster home, many of these children carry with them the physical and emotional scars that prevent them from accepting the love of another.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. John DeGarmo.

Dr. John DeGarmo is the founder and director of The Foster Care Institute. He is a TED Talk speaker, and conducts seminars and consult across the world on foster care, child sex trafficking, adoption, and child welfare related issues. Dr.DeGarmo is also the author of several books, including the book The Foster Care Survival Guide and Faith and Foster care. Dr. John is the parent of 6 children, including adopting three adopted from foster care, and has been a foster parent to over 60 children. He and his wife have been named the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award, the Up With People Ultimate Hero Award, and the Citizens of the Year in their hometown.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background, and how you grew up?

Thanks for asking. I never planned on being a foster parent. After the death of our first child, my wife (who is from Australia) and I moved back to the United States, whereupon I began to teach high school in a rural school setting. I noticed many students in need, many students who were coming from poor environments. I noted to my wife one evening that as we had lost our first child, perhaps we could help these children in my classroom. That led to foster parenting, to my doctorate around foster care, to opening up a residential home for youth and young men in foster care, and to dedicating my life to making the system better for all involved. To be sure, the system is a broken one, and for those who age out of the system, the majority end up homeless within a year of leaving the foster care system. I am driven to change that.’

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

A child, who I call Sydney in my TED Talk and in a few books, that was placed in our home for almost two years was placed with birth family that she had never met in another state. Tragically, she suffered incredible abuse for over five years, and was eventually abandoned. She ended up homeless at one point. Despite trying every way I could to possible help her, I was unable to. Her story haunts me each day, and I have a great deal of grief, years later. I must help others. I must not stop working. There are thousands more just like her, today.

On a few occasions, my wife and I have had as many as 11 children in our home. We realized that we could not continue to do that, yet we wanted to take our service to these children to another level. That is why we opened up the residential home for youth and young men, which we named Never Too Late.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

For one, the foster care system is in crisis. More children being placed into the foster care system, in part due to the rise of the opioid epidemic as well as the rise of domestic violence that children in our nation experience. Yet, there are not enough foster parents. Along with that, today’s agencies and caseworkers are overworked, overwhelmed, and under resourced. When a child is in a system that does not work, they suffer, as well. The statistics are grim for youth who age out of foster care. 55% will drop out of school, 65% will end up homeless, and 75% will spend time incarcerated. For many the system will repeat itself for their children. It is generational, and I have seen it time and time again with the children living in our own home. In addition, many youth who end up homeless end up victims of Human Trafficking, which I believe is America’s Ugly Secret.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

Mental illness is an issue that many in our nation simply do not understand. When one has experienced great trauma, lives are changed. Anxiety can cripple some in ways that few will understand. For the scenario you describe, of those who start off healthy yet end up homeless, the trauma, anxiety, and lack of support system, that quite simply we all need in some fashion, can quickly lead to homelessness. Recently, my wife and I had two homeless teens in our home, living with our family, as we helped to provide them the support, the stability, the resources, and the love they needed.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

For so many who are homeless, they suffer from a number of anxieties that overwhelm the; anxieties mental health challenges that they do not know how to process, and that paralyze them into inactivity. Along with this, many who are homeless do not have a support system of any kind.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

To begin with, one should not pass judgement. We do not know the specific causes that has led someone to a life of homelessness. We do not know the trauma, the anxiety, the pain that someone has experienced, and is suffering from. Along with this, we can show kindness compassion, and can ask how we can help, even in the smallest of ways.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

Perhaps give the person a gift card to a grocery store or fast food restaurant so they can purchase food. Purchase some bottles of water.

Yet, let’s look deeper. I am a firm believer that awareness equals advocacy. When we become aware of what is happening around us, in our communities, we can become stronger advocates.

Many youth who run away and end up homeless, as I noted earlier, end up victims of human trafficking.

Most prostituted youth today come from environments where they have already been sexually abused. To be sure, the majority of children in America who are exploited sexually have already endured a life of physical, sexual, or psychological abuse. Indeed, the contributor to a child entering into a life of child sex trafficking is a prior life of sexual abuse. Along with this, many of these children who have already been exposed to sexual abuse have problems with low self esteem, and do not receive the educational opportunities they deserve. Foster children often come from environments of these forms of abuse. Teens that age out of the foster care system are also more likely to end up homeless, and may choose a life style of prostitution in order to “make ends meet,” financially, so to speak. These youth are more inclined to be placed into foster homes or group homes, and are also more likely to run away. Pimps also attract foster children by targeting them in group homes, promising them gifts, a sense of belonging, and a place where they will be loved, as well as encouraging them with presents and gifts, all while grooming them for a life as a child prostitute.

We need to be aware that this is happening in our nation, and in every community. When we become aware of this, hopefully, we will become advocates.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

As director of The Foster Care Institute, I work with foster care agencies and foster parents across the nation and globe. One of our focuses is indeed on helping youth find the support and resources they so dearly need before they age out of the system, and prevent them from becoming homeless.

In addition, at Never Too Late, the residential home for youth and young men in foster care that my wife and I founded, our mission is to provide a safe, warm, comforting group home environment for young males, ages 16–21 years old, so that they may thrive physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually and begin new, stable lives filled with meaning, purpose, and joy. I have been overjoyed to see the community that we live in embrace Never Too Late and the young men that live there. Indeed, we are asked daily by people in our community how they can help the youth at Never Too Late. Again, awareness equals advocacy, and I am pleased that more people are becoming aware of the need that surrounds them.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

To be sure, the economy has been greatly affected by Covid 19, and millions of people have lost their jobs. Sadly, for some, this leads to homelessness.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

Perhaps the most uplifting story time for me has been the year we had over 20 children and young adults come through our home during the Christmas season, so many of these children who once spent part of their lives as part of our family.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

There have been several young men at Never Too late, the residential home for youth and young men, that have benefitted from my work. Yet, perhaps the one that stands out is a young girl who came to live with us at 17 years of age. Her family had been killed, and she had been adopted by three separate families, all who abused her in some way, over the course of 9 years. When she came to us, at 17, she had tremendous issues of trust, of attachment, of love, due to the level of trauma she had suffered. Make no mistake, it was a very hard time when she was with us, as she tried to sabotage the placement with our family time and time again,and tried to reject all that we gave her. A very hard time for all involved. Now she has a successful job in child welfare, has two beautiful children who are like grandchildren to my wife and I, and is very much a part of our family today. It shows me that unconditional love and never giving up does bring healing to someone who has suffered so much.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

Sure! Here are ten ways that someone can help a youth who has aged out of foster care (without being a foster parent themselves).

1. Become an after school/college tutor.

2. Donate school supplies to local foster care agencies.

3. Develop a college and scholarship fund.

4. Teach youth money skills and the importance of saving.

5. Help youth open up a bank account.

6. Donate household goods to local foster care agency.

7. Donate furniture and clothing to local foster care agency.

8. Teach youth importance of good health and hygiene.

9. Show former foster youth how to read food labels, and how to choose fresh and nutritional food.

10. Teach youth how to cook and prepare a variety of healthy meals, and the importance of a good diet.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

1) Make it easier for foster care agencies and child welfare programs to work across state borders.

2). Provide more therapeutical services for children who are in the foster care system.

3). Lower the workload for foster care case workers and hire more case workers so they have more time to support foster parents.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

Quite simply, “Sydney” does. It drives me each day. Right now, there are thousands of children and youth who are hoping and praying that someone helps them, that someone takes time to care for them. I can’t stop working.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

While I surely hope that it does, I do not believe that it will. Child abuse continues to increase in our nation. Human Trafficking is on the rise.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

1. It’s The Child’s Fault. Perhaps the biggest misconception about children in foster care is that the children are somehow at fault. When I was much younger, I had this same false belief, that children in foster care were bad kids, and that they did something wrong. Yet, this is so far from the truth. These are children who are the victims. These are children who are suffering. Children suffering from abuse. Neglect. Malnutrition. Even drug-related problems passed on from a mother’s addiction. Children rejected by those who were to love them most, their parents. When placed into a foster home, many of these children carry with them the physical and emotional scars that prevent them from accepting the love of another.

2. You Have to be a Saint. I often hear, on a weekly basis, that my wife and I are saints for caring for children in need, and opening up our homes and hearts to kids in foster care. In no way, and in no fashion am I a saint, and I believe that foster parents from all over would echo that sentiment. We are not saints. We become tired, worn down, and exhausted. We have our own frustrations and disappointments. There are times when we succeed, and there are times when we experience failures. We are not the perfect parents. We are simply trying our best to provide a home and family for a child who needs one, and help a child in need.

3. You Have to be Married. As I travel the nation, working with foster parents, I have met some wonderful single foster parents. Some are widowed, some are divorced, some never married. In fact, one of my dear friends is a single dad to several children from foster care, and he has been a wonderful example for these children, and a great foster dad.

4. Your Own Biological Children will Suffer. There have been some who have told me they were concerned that being a foster parent might in some way influence their own children in a negative fashion. They voiced concern that the children from foster care bring a negative influence to their own children. Instead, I think it is the opposite. My own children have been influenced in such positive ways from those they have lived with, have played alongside, have learned from, and have come to love. Our children have been introduced to a diversity of cultural beliefs and ways of thinking, and have come to embrace some of these differences, as well. Additionally, my children have learned the joys that are found in adoption, from the three that we have adopted from foster care, and have learned that family comes in different shapes, colors, and sizes. My own family, as a foster family, has included children from so many different ethnic identities and cultures. As a result, my own children have so much more insight into how others live and think that most their age. In short, when you care for children in foster care in your home and your family, you will be given the opportunity to show your children how to be giving, how to be considerate of others, how to share belongings and time, and how to be sensitive and understanding to the pain that others might be suffering from, and you can do so in a very real, very hands on, very relevant fashion.

5. It Hurts Too Much to Say Goodbye. It seems that the comment that is made to me the most by those who are not foster parents is this; “I could not do what you do. It would hurt too much to give the children from foster care back.” As one who has cared for over 50 children in my own home the past 15 years, as well as traveling the country speaking about the foster care system, the question is one that I hear several times a week.

My response is this; “That’s a good thing. It is supposed to hurt. Your heart is supposed to break!”

To be sure, children in foster care need stability and they need security. Yet, what they need the most is to be loved. As foster parents, we might the first adults who have ever loved the child in a healthy and unconditional fashion. Sadly, for some children, we may be the only adults who will ever love the child in this fashion, in an unconditional manner. So, when the child leaves our home and our family, our hearts should break. We should experience feelings of grief and loss. After all, we have given all of our hearts and love to a child in need.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Today’s churches and faith based organizations have a tremendous mission opportunity before them; the mission to help children in foster care. With roughly 500,000 children in foster care, the mission field is a large one. People of all faiths do not have to travel to other countries to find a mission field, when there is a mission field in every community. I would like to see each faith based organization and people of all faith create their own “foster care ministry program” or “outreach program.” There are so many ways that faith based groups can help children in foster care right where they live.

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

Winston Churchill famously said “Never surrender” We must never quit, never surrender working to help these children. There is so much more work to be done, and today, this very moment, there is a child who is hoping and perhaps praying that someone will help them.

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, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Can I name three, please?

Ashton Kutcher is working hard to bring awareness to Human Trafficking.

Kathy Ireland is an outstanding advocate for children in foster care.

President Donald Trump has done a great deal of work to end Human Trafficking in our nation.

I would like to sit down with each, or all three, and collaborate on how we can help children in crisis in our nation; children who need someone to stand up and say “I will help you.”

How can our readers follow you online?

Thanks for asking. I can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Linkdedin at Dr. John DeGarmo Foster Care Expert, and of course online at The Foster Care Institute.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr John DeGarmo Is Helping To Prevent Young People From Becoming was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lisa Jolly of Honeybunch Pure Naturals: 5 Steps You Can Take To Become More Resilient

Flex your muscles! You need to find your weaknesses so you can strengthen those areas. Listening to rap music helps too!

Take a good look at your ‘Facebook’ friends. Ask yourself, “did this person check on me when I needed them?” If they haven’t been there for you, cut them out of your life. Resilient people don’t bother investing their time in people who don’t give the same care in return.

Write lists and reflect often. Acknowledge the bad, get rid of it and move on. Channel the good and choose to focus on the positives that are in front of you.

Speak your mind! You are bound to get some haters along the way but it’s great training for when you are successful.

Talk to strangers. Learn to listen, know who you are talking to and see how they can help make you stronger.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Lisa Jolly. Hailing from Wanganui, New Zealand, Lisa has been a serial entrepreneur for over 20+ years, launching her most recent international company Honeybunch Pure Naturals in 2014. Her stroke of creative genius came right from her kitchen, when she decided to submit her handmade soap and scented bath products to Shopify’s Build a Business competition. Her high energy, hard work, and persistence caught the attention of many in the industry, accelerating Honeybunch’s jump into the world of e-commerce.

The natural product line, infused with New Zealand Manuka honey, was created because of Lisa’s desire for safe products that her whole family could use and enjoy. All Honeybunch products are created in an eco-certified facility and carefully handcrafted in New Zealand. Manuka honey lovers can immerse themselves in a variety of bath and body products including flavourful lip balms, soaps, lotions, and more.

Lisa is passionate about the natural wellbeing of humans and wildlife, she is continuously finding ways to contribute her products and her voice to causes that are dear to her heart. Lisa is excited about Honeybunch’s launch into the U.S market and is focused on sharing both her brand and her entrepreneurial story with thousands of others.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I never would have dreamed that I would become a serial entrepreneur, however here I am…straight from the college of hard knocks.

As an only child, I swore I would never have children, and then found myself as a young mother at the tender age of 24 with three children under the age of three all while managing my first business (a flower shop that flourished into a massive floral distribution chain). I vividly remember pushing my baby in a supermarket trolly while I was surrounded by the flowers I was selling at the store, one kid on my back and one sitting in the cart! I did that same run 7 days a week for about 5 years just to make ends meet. The training allowed me to better handle challenges that were thrown at me and taught me how to multitask. It was truly the start of my resilience training!

In some respect, it’s almost like I jumped on a bullet train with no ability to jump off. My children became my fuel for work, providing for them with things like private education and arming them with the tools for success was very important to me as I wasn’t as fortunate to have all those things as a child. I was thrilled when a chance encounter happened one day and someone walked into my blooming business (ironically named Blizzblooms) and made an offer to buy the business. I jumped at the opportunity, planning to be a full time mother and have some time off. But next thing I knew, I was opening a cafe (which then sold), followed by a restaurant (which also sold), another flower shop (which also sold), a manufacturing business … you get the idea. Now, years later I find myself with my lovely Honeybunch brand, which is perfect timing as my kids are now young adults and have left the nest. With all these years under my belt, I’m more determined than ever to make this brand international.

Reading back on this it all looks so easy, but the tears between the lines and dots were what I would only describe as a wooden roller coaster that didn’t go around corners well, and took ages to get to the top of each high point, only to come crashing down many times!

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Well, that’s such a loaded question for me as there’s so many to choose from. I had a chat with a guy who passed by my store each day walking to work in central Hong Kong and saw me self decorate as I lacked the funds. Little did I know that he was one of the richest men in China who thought I was an artist so ended up investing in me. I also managed to get my Honeybunch products into the amazing ABC stores in Hawaii by handing a product to a store manager while stuck in a store as a street parade went past trapping a ton of us inside. I also connected with my now USA distributor Thomas (a stranger at the time) by asking him a question in a store in Hawaii because I noticed him loading some retail shelves.

I would say that from my many experiences throughout my career, that have led to wildly unfathomable opportunities I have learned to talk to people! All of these encounters I think of happened because I took the time to not just talk, but to listen to new people I met along my journey. I enjoy listening to other people’s experiences, doing that can change your own life for the better. Always be kind and remember that resilience comes from listening to everything and everyone you can and learning from other’s experiences by taking the good and using it to help you grow.

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

Honeybunch was actually formed because of my ambition to win a competition held by Shopify. At the time, I was a little bored with the day to day of my manufacturing business and was looking for a new challenge (I also really wanted to go to Necker Island and hang out with Richard Branson!). I saw the business competition as a great opportunity to train myself on how to build a website, grow a social media presence, and focus on things related to digital marketing — all things that were way out of my usual skillset. It was quite hard for me to wrap my head around at first, since I wasn’t raised with technology! But I am very determined and knew if I took on the challenge, I would learn along the way.

I knew I had to bring something special and different to the table. For starters, I was living in New Zealand at the time and wanted to bring in a product unique to my country, and Manuka honey was just that. I had beautiful liquid gold right in my backyard that could be shared with others! I had also witnessed the demand for Manuka honey while visiting Asia working on business for my other manufacturing company, so I knew that this was a space that had opportunity. Because my personality is very fun and energetic, I wanted to infuse that into the brand to make it stand out. I thought developing products that creatively showcased the beauty of honey and flowers, would make for the perfect combination of a quirky vibe matched with amazing natural properties and benefits. Although I didn’t win Shopify’s competition, they did feature me in an article, which focused on the fact that my brand was top on their radar because it was so hard to ignore me! I take that as a win, the uplifting spirit of my brand, our ‘bee’liefs and values, caught their attention which was a clear sign that I was onto something special.

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

Absolutely, I agree. I have quite literally been a one woman brand for the majority of my business life. However, during Shopify’s business competition, I stumbled upon a group of really awesome guys that were doing great things in the entrepreneurial space. I used the learnings from my past experiences and kept reaching out to them on social media. Sure enough they would tweet support for me every now and then, giving me this sense of motivation and encouragement! Eventually, I mustered up the courage to message them and to my absolute delight, they invited me to a life changing lunch where we bonded over entrepreneurship and made plans to meet again. I had it set in my mind that I would do business with them one day. Ironically this happened on the same day that I ended up at Snoop Dogg’s house (clearly something was in the air!), so it truly was a pivotal day in my life.

One of the guys I met was Sam Rusani, I have him saved in my phone as “Sam business tall guru guy”, he has become a great friend and mentor to me. He has been an investor, a mentor, a genuine friend to me and my distant tall rock. We share a love of entrepreneurship, music, wildlife, and taking risks however his perhaps are more calculated than mine so he is able to quietly teach me strategy. He tells me I have the ‘just do it’ quality and that strategy can be learned along the way, whereas some people strategize for years and never actually do it. I am so grateful to have Sam in my life.

Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience?

Resilience to me is unrolling from a fetal position because you have lost everything, and learning to crawl, walk and stand again. Resilience is being able to tell your story proudly, while owning your shit (learned that from gangster rappers). Resilience is not only about accepting your failures, but proudly sharing them so you can possibly stop some future heartache for others who may be in a difficult situation. Resilience is not allowing others to influence your dreams. Resilience is taking the worst situation and making an effort to see the light. Resilience is the ability to speak your mind and beliefs without worrying what people will think of you.

What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Self belief is probably the biggest trait, perhaps a bit of directness without feeling the need to filter yourself and your thoughts. I would definitely say adaptability, and high energy, along with the ability to make quick firm decisions.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Martha Stewart, I mean, what an amazing resilient woman! She makes her fortune doing everyday things and sharing them with the world, she even went to jail and came out better than ever. If you can come back after being at the top of your game and deal with what she has survived publicly then she deserves a badge of resilience. I’m privately hoping she reads this so she can whip me up a Honeybunch Manuka honey recipe book. How about we call it “the resilient bunch recipes — Honeybunch recipes to boost immunity and resilience.”

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Yes. Multiple times! I guess being told by the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) that I was not a suitable candidate for grants and financial support to open a shop in Hong Kong was initially a hard hit. Sure enough those same folks showed up to my Hong Kong shop grand opening (uninvited, I might add) and were wishing me congratulations, even asking how I pulled it off! My answer? “Well you didn’t support me so I jumped on a plane, signed a shop lease in Hong Kong and here we are. Another glass of champagne?”

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

China 2015. A few months before I was to open our Hong Kong store. Long story short, I woke up at 1:00am in my hotel room to discover my eye was nearly popping out of my head! The whole night is still a blur, but I ended up in a Shanghai hospital for weeks, and after 4 operations I lost my eye sight in my left eye and a big part of my filter. It was such a life altering experience, so I took to writing and started a book called “Shangeye view”. I embraced the recovery time and used it as a window to reflect on my life. I came to the reasoning that for years, travelling was my way to see everything amazing this world has to offer and yet somehow my life had become a travelling whirlwind. I wasn’t truly taking the time to really stop and look at all the beautiful things around me. I made a vow to myself from that point on to really see everything around me and ironically I now see more with one eye than I do two! The best part of that setback was recognizing how lucky I actually was and knowing that I already had such a great life. It was what was needed to make me stronger, more grateful, and resilient.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

My top 5 steps for being more resilient are:

  1. Flex your muscles! You need to find your weaknesses so you can strengthen those areas. Listening to rap music helps too!
  2. Take a good look at your ‘Facebook’ friends. Ask yourself, “did this person check on me when I needed them?” If they haven’t been there for you, cut them out of your life. Resilient people don’t bother investing their time in people who don’t give the same care in return.
  3. Write lists and reflect often. Acknowledge the bad, get rid of it and move on. Channel the good and choose to focus on the positives that are in front of you.
  4. Speak your mind! You are bound to get some haters along the way but it’s great training for when you are successful.
  5. Talk to strangers. Learn to listen, know who you are talking to and see how they can help make you stronger.

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 try to give back wherever I can to charities I am passionate about. When money has been tight, my support has been vocal and physical, I’ve found opportunities to give back to animals who are suffering. My love for animals inspired me to create a Honeybunch gift box that has the saying “the Bees knees and koalas in trees” on the packaging. For every order, we donate $1 to help rebuild and support Australian wildlife, which is needed now due to the devastation from the terrible bush fires.

I will always care about supporting wildlife and environment related causes, but with the recent COVID-19 pandemic I recently decided we should channel our efforts into helping front line workers at hospitals. So we are sending our Manuka honey balms as a donation, and I’m proud to say that we have currently sent over 1000 lip balms directly to nurses and doctors, who can also distribute them amongst their teams. If you want to truly understand the word resilience, I would suggest interviewing one of these amazing frontline hospital workers, they are awe inspiring. Donating lip balms to protect their smiles is only a small thing but it’s something we could do directly and right away.

We are blessed that some 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Hey …. Richard Branson! I tried to go to Necker Island but didn’t make it … yet! I want to check out the wildlife with a cocktail in my hand, while feeding little animals, while pitching for an investment in Honeybunch. If Gary Vee wants to come, that would definitely work too!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Honeybunch_Naturals on Instagram

Honeybunch Naturals on Facebook

Lisa Jolly — personal blog Facebook

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Lisa Jolly of Honeybunch Pure Naturals: 5 Steps You Can Take To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lanette Jamieson of the Seed Movement: Why We Desperately Need a Consciousness of Love

Have no regrets. Take stock of your shortcomings, your stumbles and your mistakes. Acknowledge them so that you can achieve the most transformative way of experiencing your ascension toward divinity.

Ihad the pleasure to interview Lanette Jamieson. Lanette is the founder and creator of the Seed Movement. The movement serves to encourage the abandonment of old, learned and conditioned ways of seeing the world as well as to help people rid themselves of negativity and judgement so that they can create what they want to see around them. This sudden revelation came sometime after Lanette experienced crossing over to the other side on the surgical table during a heart surgery procedure. “Then suddenly energy burst around me. I was unconscious, but somehow, I felt conscious and aware. How could this be? What was happening? I saw sparks all around me and felt a sense of explosion, my being shooting upwards like a rocket ship. It was at once exciting and serene; a sense of relief overcame me.”

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

A near death experience several years ago in my twenties was one of the best things that happened to me so far in life. I laid seven minutes and thirty nine seconds without a heartbeat on an operating room table.

I not only can recall my time in this half state between life and death, but made a choice to heal down here on Earth just as I had done while in heaven and this passage created a way for me to bridge divine energy with this dimension we call the physical realm. I am here to reveal that we are all capable of experiencing this process, if we so choose.

Once ‘leaving my physical body’ happened for me, I knew my thoughts about a career serving people who wish to ascend in becoming the greatest version of themselves would be my only calling. My proprietary recipe can bring any soul to a limitless place and this method can compliment any career or life path in a seamless and borderless way.

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

Hey you! Are you afraid, confused and uncertain especially in these difficult times? I am here to tell you that all of those things disappear once you are in heaven. Actually, they don’t just disappear. They are lifted off and carried away like chocolate ice cream stains on a white t-shirt. This story is not as much about my death as it is about the idea of a global transformation. The reality that transformation in our hearts and minds even down to the very thoughts we carry, must take place until they can no longer pull us away from our true authentic selves.

Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

The biggest idea I have ever deployed for widespread adoption is LOVE. The Seed Movement was a divine download reinforced by the eight minutes I spent in the other life. During that time, the prevailing ideology — that with which I was enveloped, was love. I’m talking about the LOVE consciousness. In heaven I learned that each soul comes into its particular lifetime to live and contribute for the greater good of all humanity. Any soul can choose either an assisting role or a primary role. An assisting role helps another soul to discover its mission. A primary role looks like a compilation of previous lifetimes and lives on Earth to discover lessons not learned in previous lives. Both discovery processes involve being uncomfortable, tenacious, and patient in a variety of situations over a range of vibrations. The primary soul, however, must learn to release the lower vibrations to overcome larger obstacles, which can be extremely difficult in current times.

How do you think this will change the world?

Once we are pulled into our higher calling — conscious of love — we are able to effectuate positive change. Think of all the adversity and trauma we have suffered as a human race and all of the ingenuity that has risen from it. Shortages are met by apps and innovations that people can use to supplement physical and emotional needs. Job loss has been mitigated by the rise of entrepreneurship and job creation. Social injustice has been met with swift activism in the form of protest en masse. Assaults are documented in real time with cameras and crises are met with widespread community response. We keep vigil for those who are in grave danger. The love consciousness is derived from source. It is inextricably connected to birth and death. Only when we are tapped in can we ascend to greatness in servitude to others. This is the hallmark of the Seed movement.

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?

It is important to understand one cannot conflate love with narcissism. Nacricissm, by definition is the erotic gratification derived from admiration of one’s own physical or mental attributes — a normal condition at the infantile level of personality development. That there is a perpetual battle between good and evil, we are certain. The Chinese call this yin and yang. When negative influences sap our energies leading us into chaotic and destructive outcomes, we find there are places where forces of good appear. Such an example can be observed with Hariet Tubman’s Underground Railroad, a network designed to free the enslaved. When we model hateful, greedy behavior and we receive an awakening — often triggered by the acknowledgement of our own mortality, we are generally prone to change course. Still it is important to note that narcissists and sociopaths are exempt from this progression.

While it is true that evil and hate reign in the hearts of many, we have come to learn that it will not, for the majority of us. Think of Roberts’ poem, a simple rhyming tale read as a bedtime story. The piece takes on heavy themes — corporate greed, familial alienation, the pandemic — and somehow comes up with a happy ending. Set in an unspecified future, the poem looks back on pre-pandemic life and imagines a “great realisation” sparked by the scourge, much like how darkness works in tandem with light.

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

During this time, both the planet and people need so much healing. The Universe will show our hearts that we can share in the most loving ways of finding solutions to our daily infrastructural needs. My prediction is that we will most likely not return to old ways. A time of change is upon us. Contempt for the rot of racism and division will take on a deeper meaning than ever before. We will hold one another, standing shoulder to shoulder as allies strengthened by the fortitude of new leadership.

We can see the love movement take hold in the gripping throes of today’s protests. Such a heinous act as the killing of George Floyd from a Minneapolis police officer to the murder of Breonna Taylor, has incited a momentum for the abolishment of old power dynamics. When we connect strongly with our heart, we invite in the divine light and remember how to elevate our consciousness. It is the reason we are undeterred by bullets, beatings and gas brought on old paradigms of corruption, domination and greed that no longer serve us. Our widespread adoption, for all beings to be free from pain and suffering, has only grown in force.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why.

  1. Have no regrets. Take stock of your shortcomings, your stumbles and your mistakes. Acknowledge them so that you can achieve the most transformative way of experiencing your ascension toward divinity.
  2. Find your humility. Did you know that humility is the secret sauce espoused by today’s most powerful leaders? Leadership is not exemplified by might or by show of force, but by humility.
  3. Experience resistance. We are triggered by dissonance. We fight with that with which we do not agree. We carry internal conflict. Sit in the abundance of your divine being as you are alive today and consider your legacy for when you are called home.
  4. Live in the now. Living in the now is imperative to the growth of one’s soul. Yesterday is already gone and tomorrow is not promised. Be present with what isn’t comfortable and work daily to become grounded in this understanding.
  5. Let go of ego, control, competitiveness and intense fear based patterns so that you can raise the frequency of your DNA, which in turn activates your higher self and your higher life purpose.

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

Gratitude is an activity I practice daily. It is an integral part of deepening your understanding of others and their plight.

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

The definition of success is under constant reassessment. What does success mean in today’s world? Yale’s psychology of happiness classroom, one of the most attended courses of all time, defines success habits around eight parameters. These include setting goals (and working to achieve them), getting enough sleep, meditation, exercise, human connection, initiating kindness, expressing gratitude and savoring.

Success mindsets, often centered around finance, literacy and wellness means preparing for any eventuality. Many communities are suppressed from having the luxury of being able to plan financially for themselves, oppressed in the institutionalisation of injustice, which is why empathy remains, for me the most important success habit of all time. I want to thank my publicist at Niki Inc and Fotis Georgiodis’s for the opportunity to share this stance.

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

I am especially motivated by the modern day activists of our time who operate in the love consciousness. Malala Yousafzai, Bethenny Frankel, Muhammad Yunus, MoveOn.org and others who support the tearing down of old hierarchical structures that serve to oppress all know that there must be a centralized place where capital can be invested for the allocation of seed money for social entrepreneurship. We know that The Seed Movement will continue to effectuate global change with a million dollar investment.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Please follow us on twitter here https://twitter.com/TheSeedMovement

@theseedmovementofficial on Instagram.

Website https://theseedmovement.com/

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


Lanette Jamieson of the Seed Movement: Why We Desperately Need a Consciousness of Love was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Leena Alsulaiman of Leena Alsulaiman Fashion Consultancy: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do…

Leena Alsulaiman of Leena Alsulaiman Fashion Consultancy: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

All experiences in life are an opportunity for growth and learning. The gift here I believe is that of opportunity, an opportunity in which we learn to see beyond the surface because buried deep inside this box, deeper than the darkness itself, is a wealth of insight, compassion, and self-awareness. The person you are today has been built brick by brick from the things that you have gone through both good and bad.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Leena Alsulaiman of Leena Alsulaiman Fashion Consultancy.

Drawing from her Middle Eastern and American heritage, fashion stylist and brand consultant Leena Alsulaiman is empowering women worldwide with her newly launched consultancy.

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’ve always loved fashion, but when I was younger and growing up in the Middle East, I never had an example of how you could make a living in this industry. So alternatively for many years I took the path of the creative entrepreneur but somehow unconsciously always brought a sprinkling of styling to my roles. I love working with people, but I also love working creatively with clothing, accessories, and shoes. So for me, fashion styling is a way to bring all of that together.

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?

There are no mistakes, only lessons. And oh boy have there been quite a few lessons along the way, but one that stands out most was earlier in my career I partnered with a friend to start an event company in Dubai and the name we chose was Pow Wow Events! At the time we had no branding experience and well…we thought it was cute. Needless to say, that name was short lived because we needed to be taken seriously, and having to explain the name to every prospective client became tedious as we went along.

The lesson from that was to identify to your audience and their core values and understandings, because if you want to be taken seriously, then you need to reflect that through your branding and that all begins with the name of your business.

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 personal tipping point came back in 2015 when I decided to take my passion for styling and fashion seriously and not just view it as a hobby. To do that I jumped into retail and became fully immersed in learning the process of service and selling in a retail environment, learning the ropes as I went along.

My biggest take away from that is to get comfortable with being a beginner, being awkward, and even uncoordinated. Yes it can be a hard hit to the ego, but it’s just a stage you have to go through in order to learn and gain confidence and competence.

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

Yes! Quite a few in fact, but the latest is that on my recently launched website I have adapted my styling and consulting services and offerings to include virtual offerings. In adapting to the new retail climate as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, retail is turning its focus online and over the last few months I have been approached by clients to offer my services virtually, so I adapted and created a platform that speaks to that need.

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

As cliche as it may sound, find something you love to do and the work won’t seem as heavy. Now, when you are a business owner the hours can turn into 24/7 real quick, so drawing boundaries and having processes in place for your workflow are a must. Reading the ‘5 Second Rule’ and ‘Work it out’ by Mel Robbins have been instrumental in improving my time management and managing my boundaries. But aside for all this the most important thing is to allow yourself the space to simply rest and enjoy life.

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?

In my current business, my branding is about me, it is who I am. How I strategically market or advertise is how I build awareness of my brand.

So, through my branding I reveal who I am as a fashion stylist, what I stand for, what my values are and why you would want to work with me. Marketing/advertising is how I create awareness for my brand, and how I can find and activate new business.

To use a fashion/style analogy here: If you think of advertising as viewing my instagram style stories that brings attention to my latest offerings and insights… my branding then makes sure that those featured styles and insights align with my core values and style.

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?

While both components are important, if your branding. isn’t strong and doesn’t communicate your values and mission clearly, then no amount of advertising or marketing will get you clients that will stick around. Advertising will bring you clients, but branding is how you keep them loyal.

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

Rebranding is never an easy feat but in certain cases it can be a necessity, Some of the reasons to consider rebranding would be if your services have evolved and changed, your audience has changed, and as your business has grown you are seeing a disconnect in the optics and visual elements of your branding vs the actual services and core values.

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

Yes most definitely. In my humble opinion I don’t think that for the most part, well known and established older companies, or even fashion houses should ever do a full brand makeover, because they can undo years, sometimes even decades of history and momentum. And the cases of how rebrands have failed overshadows the successes.

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.

Due to the extensive time and money that can go into a ‘rebrand’ I prefer to go the more conservative route of a brand ‘refresh’ as a first step. This is the same thought process I use when approaching a client’s Closet Audit for example. So let’s take a step back and before taking it all to Goodwill let’s evaluate what we can alter, wear differently or even accessorize to give it a refresh.

Similarly a brand refresh can be implemented easily and cost effectively for the most part, and if a true rebrand is needed the refresh has then brought you a few steps closer. while testing out the theory of change with your client base.

Some ideas for the Refresh:

Website Refresh — Take some time to update your testimonials, press page, and update your meta tags and searchability. These are small changes that can make a big impact.

Tag Line Refresh — Revisit your copy and make sure it is aligned with your growing and evolving business and clientele.

Update/change in services — If your services have evolved and what your clients are asking for has to, so make sure that is reflected in your menu of services

Outsourcing the refresh to a new set of eyes — It’s a tale as old as time but having a second/new set of eyes can give valuable insight to a refresh or rebrand.

Imagery refresh — Maybe you currently are using stock photos for social media and your website, why not hire a brand photographer to work with you on images that truly represent your band and its messaging.

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?

I think the Brand Logo makeover at the fashion house of Gucci was a huge success. In 2016 the new creative director Alessandro Michele was able to bring back the Gucci ’80s logo back from the dead, and since then the double ‘GG ‘has become iconic in its utilization on belts and bags.

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 actively advocating for a return to vintage and the heirloom mindset. Today’s world is filled to the brim with fast fashion and there isn’t much room for vintage or items that can be passed down over generations, and that is something I would like to see come back. If you look at your closet today, most probably you will find that 90% or more are items that will not pass the test of time nor will they be items that you could pass down to your children and grandchildren and I think that’s causing a huge missing link from our stories and histories within our families and generations.

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

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness.

It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift. — Mary Jane Oliver

All experiences in life are an opportunity for growth and learning. The gift here I believe is that of opportunity, an opportunity in which we learn to see beyond the surface because buried deep inside this box, deeper than the darkness itself, is a wealth of insight, compassion, and self-awareness. The person you are today has been built brick by brick from the things that you have gone through both good and bad.

How can our readers follow you online?

You can find me online at www.leenaalsulaiman.com

And on social media on Instagram @leena.alsiulaiman

Pinterest: LeenaAlsulaiman

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.

Thank you so much I appreciate the opportunity, it’s been fun!


Leena Alsulaiman of Leena Alsulaiman Fashion Consultancy: Brand Makeovers; 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.

Jim Misener of 50,000feet: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your…

Jim Misener of 50,000feet: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

As the sum of an organization’s relationship with its audience, brand is critical to providing the foundation for any initiative. For most companies, brand is the largest intangible asset and contributor to shareholder value, which is a typical measure of the value for public and most private companies. Simply put, brand is a critical component to not only your business but also to its overall worth.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Misener. Jim Misener is the President at 50,000feet, overseeing the strategic direction of the creative consultancy as well as business development and client services. With leadership and experience across financial services, consumer electronics, automotive, retail and luxury, Jim works closely with many of 50,000feet’s clients.

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?

From as early as I can remember, I have been really curious and excited about learning and thought that ideas can be expressed in beautiful ways. Throughout my childhood, I used to collect Braun clocks. Looking back on what a peculiar interest that must have seemed to everyone, I would like to think that somehow I must have seen — without knowing it — the brilliance of Dieter Rams.

Great ideas move you. Great design speaks to you. I guess that I was destined to work in a profession where every decision you make regarding the design of an experience can really have an impact and make a difference. Design determines how ideas live in the world so design is incredibly important.

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?

I’m sure that there were too many to count. I can say that I feel like I have always learned from every project that I have taken on and have tried to tackle. I think that it’s the adrenaline rush from the challenge and the endorphin rush from the achievement that is the draw for most of us in a creative field. Creativity offers many rewards, and a wonderful sense of accomplishment — of creation — is among them.

Although an experience in terms of a single mistake doesn’t rise to the top, I think that most of my failures throughout my career might be tied to failing to learn how to harness a team early enough in the process of tackling certain challenges or to create an impact on a greater scale. Leadership and team building are so important in any walk of life — and especially if your goal is to create meaningful and lasting change of any kind. It’s a mistake not to employ and to learn from the talents of others. You get to better solutions faster than by going it alone.

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?

I think that this question brings up an important discussion: how we should look at success. As the adage says, if you love what you do, you never work a day in your life. For me, there is so much truth in that. I see success as a journey that continues throughout your life. There are points that we term failures and others that we call achievements, and both are important steps along the path. I believe success is about meaningful engagement in what you set out to do. Sometimes, that means curious and undirected exploration. Other times, that takes shape in decisive and swift action. To succeed is to land upon an idea of yourself in your life’s work. It is also about coming to an understanding and acceptance of that decision which makes you happy.

For me personally, I have had the great opportunity to follow many of my professional interests and to learn from each of them. Early on, I worked for global management consultancies — an experience to which I think that I owe a certain amount of my success and which was likely a tipping point for me in my professional career. I learned the tremendous value of bringing organizations and teams together around a vision and purpose and how knowledge is the core of driving growth. I also gained an understanding of staying committed to life-long learning. To be successful, you need to stay committed to educating yourself on new ideas, new approaches and new skills. If you’re always learning, then you’re always challenged and growing. When you’re always growing, you tend to be happier and more engaged. Happiness can be the best motivation and rocket fuel to launch and sustain your career. It’s a philosophy that continues to shape my career.

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

At 50,000feet, I have the great fortune of working with an incredible team and incredible clients. We work with some of the world’s most respected brands and others who are rising in the ranks by disrupting their categories. Each day presents more challenges than I can solve and more opportunities than I can pursue. If I’m ever frustrated, it’s because I feel that I can’t do everything that I would like. I have come to embrace that feeling and not get overwhelmed by it.

Currently, our team is working closely with clients across a range of industries, all of whom are focused on the health of their employees and customers while also adapting their businesses to the realities of the pandemic. Our work with them has ranged from adapting messaging that is relevant and resonates with their audiences in a radically and rapidly-change world to working with some who are rethinking their entire business model. No matter the degree of change, it’s exciting to work with businesses who are open to undergoing transformation at every scale; and it’s incredibly rewarding to help lead those efforts.

In terms of making a difference, I think that our work helps our clients achieve their goals and to solve the problems that lie before them. As a member of an independent creative agency, I have found great purpose and meaning in helping to sustain a company that provides for our team. Our job is about more than providing a livelihood. It’s also about providing a healthy environment and creating the circumstances for each of us to grow both personally and professionally.

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

Listen to yourself. Our priorities and obligations within both our personal and our professional lives vary, and we need to remember to check in with where we’re at. It’s great to be ambitious, but we need to take time to rest, decompress and daydream. We should remember to hold the reins loose enough to be open to change and to grow and in ways which we may not have imagined.

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?

In a sentence, brand marketing focuses on delivering on the emotional needs of an audience while product marketing focuses on delivering on their functional requirements.

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?

As the sum of an organization’s relationship with its audience, brand is critical to providing the foundation for any initiative. For most companies, brand is the largest intangible asset and contributor to shareholder value, which is a typical measure of the value for public and most private companies. Simply put, brand is a critical component to not only your business but also to its overall worth.

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

As socioeconomic conditions and cultural perspectives evolve and change, brands need to keep in step to remain relevant. Rebranding offers a process by which marketers can evaluate, develop and implement brand programs in a systematic and measurable way. Rebranding provides an opportunity to make a brand more compelling and more respected for its employees, suppliers, business partners, customers, consumers and community.

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

Despite its many rewards, rebranding always poses the risk of forfeiting some degree of brand equity during the process. Whether measured in awareness, engagement or loyalty, rebranding efforts can disrupt what can be a fairly subtle, finely tuned balance between a brand and its various audiences. Rebranding should be considered and undertaken carefully. While the most respected brands will have the strongest foundations on which to build, they also have the most to lose. Conversely, the brands that have the most to gain may have the weakest foundational elements in place to support the effort required.

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.

While every rebranding effort should be undertaken by first considering the specific objectives of an organization and the specific competitive position of the brand, the following five strategies, or principles, are good to keep in mind.

  1. Be authentic. Every brand must speak in as authentic a voice as possible. That doesn’t necessarily mean being confessional, an apologist or pleasing everyone. Rather, it means expressing your unique perspective in a way that resonates from your vision, is true to your heritage and supports your core underlying value proposition. Younger generations are demanding this behavior from brands; and therefore, so many well-established and fledgling brands are doing this really well today.
  2. Move fast. A remarkably recent addition to brand management is speed. Customers and consumers around the world have come to expect immediate responsiveness from brands, and the speed at which they are able to respond and adapt has become a trait by which brands are measured. While most technology brands have borne the weight of this expectation from their beginning, nearly every brand today is subject to the same set of customer expectations, whether across B2B or B2C markets.
  3. Be accessible. Brands need to be where their customers and consumers want them to be. Period. Brands need to be adept at expressing their point of view and delivering on customer expectations across channels, platforms and media. Having a strategy to embed your brand within a larger experience and to distribute it across a wider range of networks and platforms while still being able to maintain your brand positioning is becoming increasingly important as we begin to turn to more platform-based experiences. Being truly omni-channel requires brands to be able to be more flexible and adaptable than ever before.
  4. Keep it simple. As customers and consumers are presented with an increasing number of choices, brands that are able to convey their value proposition and competitive advantage will win. Keeping it simple means creating brand experiences that make interactions easy, intuitive and even fun. The best brands anticipate the needs and desires of their customers and deliver on them before they are requested or require action. Reading the future for any brand starts by reading the minds of its customers.
  5. Be invaluable. Perhaps the greatest truth and merit of all, brand development should begin by understanding and then delivering upon a brand’s unique promise. By answering what value — or invaluable — product, service or experience a brand promises, branding efforts can focus on making the brand experience more focused on delivering it. The brand promise should serve as a North Star for all branding efforts.

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?

Uber has done a tremendous job of positioning a service of which many of us would never have dreamed and making it a simple, mainstay of everyday life. As one of the fastest growing brands in the world, Uber seems to conceive of rebranding as a continuous process, akin to its business and product development. An industry and brand pioneer, Uber has seamlessly evolved its brand experience to incorporate insight from its customers in order to offer a greater range of products and services. Its value proposition is clear and concise. It keeps a revolutionary technological innovation easy to understand and easy to use.

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.

Although I don’t consider myself a person of influence, I think that I would advocate for a movement of believing in yourself. Too many of us create barriers and make rules for ourselves that prevent us from living up to our greatest potential and perhaps being the happiest that we can be. Fear has its place in reminding and motivating us although it can also hinder us from being true to who we are and becoming all that we can be.

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

I have three, long-time favorite quotations that I seem to have come back to throughout my life. I still find power medicine in them.

“Eighty percent of life is showing up.” (Woody Allen); “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn); and “You must do the thing you think that you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt).

For me, they somehow all work together — reminding us to believe in ourselves, in what we can achieve and in what good we can do. Chasing and making ideas, creating, disrupting and doing things differently all involve covering new ground and can be scary. To be great, you have to believe in possibility and opportunity — and yourself.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m most prolific, engaged and reliable on LinkedIn. You can find me there.

About 50,000feet

With offices in Chicago and New York, 50,000feet is an independent global creative consultancy that develops integrated experiences for the world’s most respected brands. From brand identity systems, marketing communications and advertising to all facets of interactive, 50,000feet uses strategy, design and technology to help brands connect more deeply with their customers.


Jim Misener of 50,000feet: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.