Leadership Development

You Are Not A Brand

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

You are not a brand. You may be the face of your brand, and it may even bear your name, but the fact of the matter is that you yourself are not a brand. You are a multi-faceted human being and, in the words of Walt Whitman, you "contain multitudes."

You can build a brand that reflects your values and is infused with your personality and worldview, without allowing it to dictate how you behave, limit what you say, or define how you look at every second of every day. Being authentic doesn’t mean laying all your cards face up on the table. It also doesn’t require you throw “pearls to swine” and allow anyone and everyone access to every part of your life. Plus, if you want to scale or build a brand that will exist long after you’re gone, it will need to represent something bigger than yourself.

You can create multiple brands – completely separate from one another – with different target markets, different business strategies, different visual identities, different product categories, and set up specific branding for each of them that may not reflect your personality at all. There are zillions of companies like this that are very successful.

Others don’t get to define you, you get to define yourself. People may label you or assign motives, but at the end of the day, your actions and thoughts are your responsibility. This is why you are not a brand, no matter how popular or mainstream the term “personal branding” continues to be.

Brands can be shaped by us, but are ultimately defined by others. We, as humans, can be shaped by others, but ultimately we are defined by ourselves.

The original version of this post was published January 2014

13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

Two book tables at my local library. Some intern deserves a raise.

It’s been said that leaders are readers, but in truth, great leaders are voracious readers. Reading gives you a competitive advantage, plain and simple.

The two biggest hurdles that people tell me they deal with when it comes to reading are finding time to do so and the price tag that reading a lot can bring with it.

Let’s tackle the time issue first: if you read 20 pages a day, you’ll read around 20 books a year.

In case you think that still isn’t a doable goal, 15 minutes a day is 91 hours per year. Most people spend at least two hours a day scrolling social media – 30 days a year. An entire month! You have more time than you think.

A Splendid tip: If you want a reality check of just how much time you spend on certain apps, check out Apple’s screentime feature.

Second, you can cut down on the cost of buying books by signing up for a good, old-fashioned library card.

I have a private list on Amazon called “library” and when a book is recommended to me or I come across one I want to read, I add it to that list. Then, the next time I’m at the library, it’s easy to pull up on my phone and see the list of books I didn’t want to forget about.

While I have created the habit of always checking the library first, if they don’t have the book, I buy it. If it’s a book I want to read again, I buy it. If I know the author, I buy it. Also, almost all libraries these days have the option to download the book to an ebook app if you prefer to read books digitally.

I am a believer that the ideas contained within the pages of a book are what truly matter, and that reading a book with paper pages vs digital is simply a matter of preference. I will say though that when kids see me reading on a device, they tend to assume I’m on social media or checking email. Since the importance of reading is something that is both taught and caught, reading physical books while I’m at home is a priority for me in this season of my life. Libraries make this more doable and more affordable.

A Splendid tip: Designate a special shelf or space in your home for everyone’s library books to go. This way you aren’t digging books out from underneath your kids’ beds or searching for where you misplaced them once it’s time to turn them back in.

Below are some of my favorite books related to owning and running a business. I am sure there are several I loved that I am forgetting about at the moment. There are also many I read that are popular but that I felt “meh” about so they’re not listed here.

Also, these are mostly business books or non-fiction, but I make a point to read fiction and poetry as well. I find that well-written fiction gets my creative juices flowing in a way nothing else does. I often end a fictional story that has nothing to do with business brimming with new ideas for my company. If you’re feeling stuck, a cup of chamomile tea and a good fiction book may help you.

13 Books Every Creative Entrepreneur Should Read

1) On public speaking:
Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

(I’ve given this book as a gift so many times. It’s the best one on the subject, hands down.)

2) On entrepreneurship: The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

(One of my favorite business quotes comes from this book: “As a startup CEO, I slept like a baby. I woke up every two hours and cried.”)

3) On business strategy: Blue Ocean Strategy: How To Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant by W. Chan Kim and Reneé Mauborgne

4) On teams: The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni

5) On selling a service: You Can’t Teach Hungry: Creating the Multimillion Dollar Law Firm by John Morgan

(If you can read past the attorney-specific advice, there is plenty in here for people who sell creative and intellectual ideas rather than tangible products.)

6) On invisible affluence: The Millionaire Next Door: The Surprising Secrets of America’s Wealthy by Thomas J. Stanley and William D. Danko

7) On communication: Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson

(I also have this as an audio book and re-listen to it once a year.)

8) On business systems: The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber

9) On business management: Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman

10) On leadership: Wooden on Leadership: How to Create a Winning Organization by John Wooden

11) On getting out of your own way: The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brené Brown

12) On decision making: Left Brain, Right Stuff: How Leaders Make Winning Decisions by Phil Rosenzweig

13) On focusing your mind: 10-Minute Toughness: The Mental Training Program for Winning Before the Game Begins by Dr. Jason Selk

(I started using methods from this book several years ago while preparing for my speaking engagements and it changed everything for the better, immediately. The author has since released another book called Executive Toughness: The Mental Training Program to Increase Your Leadership Performance.)

I’d love to hear your favorite books related to business and entrepreneurship. You can share them with me on Twitter here.

Improve Your Team's Performance + Increase Your Profits

Bella Bridesmaids' annual retreat for their franchise owners

Bella Bridesmaids' annual retreat for their franchise owners

One of my favorite parts of my job is helping companies improve their team's performance and increase their profits by providing training and strategic insight to their staff during their annual retreats. 

In the wedding industry, most annual retreats often happen during the months of November - February, at the end of the year after the October rush of weddings, or in the first two months before the new year truly gets underway. Both seasons give business owners a chance to give their teams the opportunity to relax and further bond as a team, review what worked and what didn't over the past year, and set a strategic plan for the year to come.

I highly recommend making time for an annual retreat, whether you have a team or not. If you're a solopreneur, even just taking a weekend by yourself at a hotel or AirBnB 90 minutes away can help you disconnect from your familiar routine so that you can spend some focused time on setting goals and planning how you will successfully achieve them next year.

If you are looking to bring in outside expertise to your retreat, I'd love to help. I've personally trained thousands of wedding, event, tourism, and hospitality industry pros from around the world over the years and lead strategic sessions for annual retreats for multiple companies each year. 

Because it's August, people are busy finalizing details for Q4 of 2018, including their end of the year retreats. If you're interested in strategic guidance, team training, leadership development, or giving your staff a deeper dive into the topics you may have heard me speak on at a conference, you can drop me a line here. I'd love to chat with you.