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Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine

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Embracing Excellence
www.exeleonmagazine.com
TIONAL
TRANSFORMA
Steven L.
Blue
SharonBrand:
Creating
Magicwith
Brands
IN - ...
Copyright © Exeleon Media LLC. All rights reserved. The design, images, and content in this issue should not be reproduced...
C O N T E N T S
STEVEN L. BLUE
12
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Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine

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Exeleon is a leading Business Magazine that aims to stand out by recognizing new, emerging, and established businesses and entrepreneurs. Subscribe and read this issue of Exeleon Magazine's Transformational Leaders featuring Steven L. Blue of Miller Ingenuity as the Cover.

Exeleon is a leading Business Magazine that aims to stand out by recognizing new, emerging, and established businesses and entrepreneurs. Subscribe and read this issue of Exeleon Magazine's Transformational Leaders featuring Steven L. Blue of Miller Ingenuity as the Cover.

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Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine

  1. 1. Embracing Excellence www.exeleonmagazine.com TIONAL TRANSFORMA Steven L. Blue SharonBrand: Creating Magicwith Brands IN - FOCUS L E A D I N G C H A N G E A N D B U S I N E S S T R A N S F O R M A T I O N Interview withJordan Cullen IN - FOCUS LEADERS OF THE YEAR FOUNDER OF CULLEN JEWELLERY
  2. 2. Copyright © Exeleon Media LLC. All rights reserved. The design, images, and content in this issue should not be reproduced in any manner or by any means, i.e. mechanical, electronic, recording, photocopying, or otherwise, without any permission from Exeleon Media. For any advertising related information, please contact info@exeleonmagazine.com. Submissions as well as contributions to the magazine are welcome. Take a moment and let us know about our magazine; whether it be about the design or a possible mistake, we would appreciate any feedback from your end. You can reach out to daryl@exeleonmagazine.com. 600 N Broad St 5 Middletown, DE 19709, United States +1 (302) – 569 – 9387 Editor-in-Chief – Art Director – Managing Editor - Creative Director – Contributing Editors – Content Curator – Daryl Yeung (Story-Tailor) Naomi Lam (Design Ninja) Matt Reis (Wordster) Adam Waring (Grafista) Ian O'Shea, Matt Hale, & John Riggs (Three Musketeers) Cathy G. (Explorer) Sales Josh Wilder (Cultivator) Mike Jackson (Marketeer) Katherine Price (Sustainer) Richard Dann (Facilitator) Project Manager – Marketing Manager – Senior BDM – BDM – Embracing Excellence
  3. 3. C O N T E N T S STEVEN L. BLUE 12
  4. 4. C O N T E N T S SHARON BRAND 38
  5. 5. C O N T E N T S VALENTINO DANCHEV 50
  6. 6. 12 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  7. 7. Steven L. Blue CEO of Miller Ingenuity Leading Change and Business Transformation WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 13 C O V E R S T O R Y
  8. 8. Transformational leaders are those that focus on innovative possibilities in the future. They use their skillset to make their best predictions about the changes in the world around them and strategically position their talent, time, and tactics. Steven L. Blue is one such transformative leader who is helping show businesses the way to be innovative powerhouses. Steven is the President and CEO of Miller Ingenuity—a global supplier of high-technology systems that protect assets, preserve the environment, and save lives. Steven is also an internationally recognized business transformation expert. His inspiring keynote speeches have helped many C-suite executives to maximize their company's Innovational Potential® and double or even quadruple their company's growth. Moreover, Steven is also a published author of ive books, including a best seller. Steven mentions, “Years ago, recognizing that our legacy products were nearing end-of-life, I launched an ambitious initiative to move the company into the high- tech world.” He did this successfully with the introduction of his lagship safety product, ZoneGuard. And it worked, because “ZoneGuard is the best product on the market,” he points out. There's a lot of truth in transformational leaders playing different roles — part magician, part salesman, and part cheerleader. As an advocate of meaningful innovation, he feels “Once bets are placed, and resources are allocated to meet an uncertain future, communication is key.” Steven believes that it is integral that all stakeholders must be convinced to prepare for an unpredictable future rather than always hoping for the best. “This starts with the Board of Directors and goes all the way to the bottom T 14 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  9. 9. of the organization.” He also mentions that transformational leaders need to be very transparent. “I often hold all- employee meetings to keep everyone informed. My approach is to tell people everything you can. Bone honest, whether the news is good or bad,” he shares. Additionally, Steven strongly feels that when truth is withheld or people are treated like they aren't smart enough to understand, they will resent you and never know when you are telling the truth. “You can't build a team with mistrust,” he says. BALANCING SUCCESS AND FAILURE Steven's early years were a blend of experiences and lessons. He recalls one of his biggest takeaways in life was from a trade show that he started in Mexico. Despite being an amateur, he was analytical and introspective to igure the pulse of the trade show business. “I knew what I didn't like about the one that existed in Mexico at the time. I believed I could do better,” he says. Then, he started off on his audacious journey by risking a signi icant amount of money. Soon, his fears almost turned into reality when he thought nearly everything went wrong. “I remember the night before the show opened. I was scared to absolute death because even then I did not know how it would turn I’ve had a lot of successes in my career, but if I count them all up, I have had more failures. You can’t hit a home run if you don’t swing at the ball. ‘‘ WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 15 C O V E R S T O R Y
  10. 10. Innovation by the Numbers 16 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  11. 11. rail-focused patents 240+ railway companies and customers served 975 years in the industry 75 countries served 125 average time saved per day in workplace productivity 30-120 minutes C O V E R S T O R Y WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 17
  12. 12. If you want big jobs, you have to solve big problems. If you do, that will get you noticed. ‘‘ 18 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  13. 13. C O V E R S T O R Y out,” he remembers. That taught him one very valuable lesson: If you aren't scared to death, you didn't dream big enough. To his surprise, the show turned out to be a spectacular success and that led him to his second lesson: Success begets success until it doesn't. Coming off the Mexico success, Steven started a television broadcast company and launched the inaugural broadcast from Havana, Cuba. In those days, and even now, it was not easy for a U.S. citizen to go to Cuba, let alone broadcast an event. So, he hired a camera crew out of Mexico City to ilm the event. Soon, he was able to secure a license to go to Cuba from the U.S. Department of Commerce, which was not easy. “I sunk a lot of money and time into it. It was a complete and absolute failure. Lesson learned. Never let success fool you into thinking everything you do will be successful, because it won't,” he says. Additionally, he also feels that you should never let one failure deter you from trying again. Or trying something else. “I've had a lot of successes in my career, but if I count them all up, I have had more failures. You can't hit a home run if you don't swing at the ball,” he shares. FUSING INNOVATION WITH POTENTIAL Steven believes that every organization has the “potential” to innovate, but many of them do not. According to him, the CEO must do three things to unlock innovation potential. Firstly, make innovation a priority by providing resources and time for people to innovate. He thinks that corporate platitudes won't do it when they are near the end of the month, and employees are tempted to focus on shipments at the expense of innovation. “In many companies, employees don't view innovation as the “real job.” They get around to it if and when they have the time. The CEO has to make innovation a job requirement,” he strongly urges. Secondly, train people how to innovate. Innovation is a skill and a process that can be learned. “In my case, I hired the ex-chief creative of icer of the QVC network to teach every employee this skill. And not just white-collar employees, factory employees too,” he adds. Thirdly, the CEO has to make innovation an all-employee requirement, not just the R&D department. Steven spent tons of money on creating what he calls “a Google-like campus in the middle of the factory.” His employees call it the “Creation Station.” Employees are free to ideate in the space any time they want. “I am often asked if Creation Station was worth the investment. Absolutely, a million little innovations and a few big ones have come out of that space,” he shares. LEADING AN INGENIOUS LIFE As the CEO of Miller Ingenuity, Steven focuses on strategy — big decisions such as major investments in technology and capital — and Board leadership. Speaking of Boards, he inds himself fortunate enough to have a terri ic Board and shareholders. He says, “Over the years they have been very supportive. All CEOs need a good Board that will challenge and sharpen their ideas.” Being an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, executive, transformation expert, and author, his day-to-day life seems like a perennial yet graceful juggling act. “I phase in and out of my many roles throughout the day. I have an intuitive sense of knowing when I need to focus on a particular aspect of Miller Ingenuity and when I need to focus on other parts of my business life,” he says. One minute he might be in a business review meeting with his senior leadership team and the next he is responding to a request to comment on something in the news by a major news outlet. He usually reserves “on the airplane” time to write blogs or his next book. Recently, he was in Los Angeles accepting an Expy® Award from the National Association of Experts, Writers, and Speakers for a keynote speech he delivered at Carnegie Hall earlier this year. He also had the privilege to speak at the Harvard Law School and the United Nations, to name just a few. Steven truly feels that people are of essence to any organization. “If you have good people, as I do, they can do it better than I ever could. As the saying goes, give them the freedom and resources they need and then get out of the way.” Invariably, he takes pride in his talented team to bring out the best WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 19
  14. 14. in him. “My senior leadership team manages the day-to-day affairs of the company. I give them the freedom and lexibility to run their own shows.” Everyone who works at Miller Ingenuity breathes the ideology of “family irst.” He says, “I personally believe it is important that employees put their families irst and I give them the time and freedom to do that.” Amidst all his daily work, Steven makes sure to prioritize his me time. “I work out every day to relieve stress and keep in shape. I meditate often. And yes, I put my family irst,” he shares. When quizzed about the one thing that he would do differently if he were to start again, he feels he would have taken more chances with his career. “Don't misunderstand me, I took plenty of chances,” he clari ies. In his journey, Steven moved his family around often and took on some nasty, unlikely to succeed assignments, all for the sake of advancing his career. “I wish I would have done more, although my wife probably doesn't,” he remarks candidly. THE SECRET TO SUCCESS Steven's recommendation for young and aspiring leaders is to go for the really hard assignments that nobody else wants. He says, “These tasks tend to be complex, intractable problems in the business that nobody else can or will solve. Do enough of these and you'll become known as an indispensable problem solver.” However, Steven suggests not stopping at only solving small problems. “That will only get you little advancements. If you want big jobs, you have to solve big problems. If you do, that will get you noticed.” Infact, he built his entire early career this way. A bonus towards his rapid career progression was spending time with people across departments. This helped him to learn how things worked from the bottom up. FORGING AHEAD FOR GREATER SUCCESS Miller Ingenuity just celebrated its th 75 anniversary, something very few companies can claim. A big reason behind this can be C O V E R S T O R Y 20 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  15. 15. attributed to the culture that Steven has built from scratch. “I know culture gets thrown around a lot as some squishy, feel-good concept. But here, it lives and breathes, and it is the number one reason for our success,” he shares. He also has a team of absolutely dedicated and superbly talented employees. “I would match them against any team on the planet. We not only survived the pandemic but came out of it with a stronger balance sheet than before,” he adds. Through 75 years, he and his team have survived half-a-dozen recessions and a pandemic. They achieved this feat because of their ability to continuously adapt and transform themselves. In ten years, Steven sees Miller Ingenuity transforming itself from mostly low technology hardware products to high technology software and information services. On a personal front, he is proud and humbled of the growth, progress, and achievements the people on his team have made since he became CEO 24 years ago. “Each and every one of them has made me incredibly proud,” he concludes. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 21
  16. 16. We Embrace Excellence! Exeleon Magazine features some of the leading players in business and shares their journey of excellence to inspire aspiring leaders across the globe. SUBSCRIBE
  17. 17. www.exeleonmagazine.com
  18. 18. Diversity And Inclusion, Or Beauty But Not The Beast Written By: Dr. Thomas J. Bussen The industrialist Andrew Carnegie once said, "Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives. It is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.” True, perhaps, but not always so. Teams can also lead otherwise productive individuals to wither and burn, to crack, break, and shatter. What distinguishes Carnegie's hopeful team's outcomes from the dreary and painful? To be sure, teamwork is a complex, multi-faceted phenomenon, and so explanations for team outcomes bely a singular explanation. And yet, in an ever more global world, the diversity of teams – or its lack thereof – is a vital predictor of team success. Does then diversity improve team performance, or does it harm team performance? Somewhat unfortunately, “yes” seems the best answer. Before exploring the ways in which diversity may both harm and help a team, a brief excursion to consider exactly what is meant by diversity is useful. 24 EXELEON MAGAZINE EXPERT OPINIONS
  19. 19. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 25
  20. 20. UT Austin's David Harrison and colleagues conceptualize diversity at the surface level and at the deep level. Surface level diversity is that diversity which is quickly and readily apparent. This is the diversity of the young and the wizened coming coming together, the accents of different ethnicities, the visible manifestations of gender or race. By contrast, deep level diversity is rather sneakier – a team may exhibit very little surface level diversity but may over time come to recognize its differences across various psycho-social spectrums. You are an extrovert; I an introvert. His values differ from her values, her behaviors are at odds with his. These deep level differences may be invisible during early interactions, but the longer a team works together, the more familiar each becomes of the others' little peccadillos. THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORDS OF DIVERSITY At irst glance it may appear that surface level differences ought to cause teams the biggest headaches. And indeed, they do. In the absence of signi icant deep level differences, however, the timeline is brief. Imagine that you and I come together with a kaleidoscope of surface level differences – differences in age, gender, nationality, religion, perhaps even different roles and responsibilities in the organization. The similarity-attraction theory holds that initially, we may not much take to one another. This theory proposes that we humans tend to prefer that which is similar, and to disdain that which is different (lest we judge our species too harshly, suf ice it to say that this preference has evolutionary roots, roots which arguably serve us less with each globalizing day). But then imagine that as it happens, our surface levels differences mask deep level similarities. We both are big St. Louis Cardinals baseball fans; we support the same national politicians; our sense of morality overlaps; and heck, we both love cruise ships despite their icky reputation. Before long, the two of us are getting along splendidly, having long ago intuited that those surface level differences matter little amidst similarities that go EXPERT OPINIONS 26 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  21. 21. more to our senses of identity. What really matters, therefore, are those surface level differences. Take the reverse situation. Initially two teammates seem to have much in common at the surface level. Similarity attraction bias acts to magnetically attract the two, and all assume a friendship or at least collegial relationship is fast budding. But as deep level difference after deep level difference rises to the surface, the relationship begins to fray. The research offers us this, therefore: surface level differences initially disrupt team harmony, but over time matters less and less. By contrast, deep level differences initially matter little, but disrupt team harmony more over time. The takeaway may appear obvious: to avoid deep level differences. Alas, such a takeaway would ignore a vital strand of research. That while deep level differences do indeed tend to harm teams, they also tend to improve team outcomes much more than does surface level diversity. All of that deep level diversity allows team members to learn from one another, to better explore decision making paradigms, and to exchange a greater quantity and quality of information. In and of itself, for instance, differences in team members' ages or ethnicities offer little; but when those differences in age and ethnicity lead to dramatically juxtaposing life experiences, or when other deep level differences do so, now the team has a rather more diverse set of opinions and ideas to view decisions from all perspectives. The problem is that deep level differences may prevent the sort of communication needed to leverage such learning opportunities. Similarly, surface level differences may prevent team members from learning enough about one another to recognize that despite their surface level differences, and perhaps despite deep level differences, they also have deep level similarities. The challenge for teams, therefore, is to avoid the potential con licts arising from diversity, and to thereby gain access to the goldmine that is a WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 27 EXPERT OPINIONS
  22. 22. deeply diverse team. The Similarity- Attraction Bias offers insights as to how, exactly, we can do this. WEAPONIZING THE SIMILARITY- ATTRACTION BIAS I spoke to Doug Mattheus, the senior marketing executive at telecommunications company Cell C until 2019, and now an independent consultant and professor at Nelson Mandela University. He explained to me that while working for Firestone Tire in post-Apartheid South Africa, during the heady days surrounding Nelson Mandela's election to President, Firestone provided diversity training to its employees. Mattheus explains that a psychologist divided the group into partners based on surface level differences: this man with that woman, that white South African with that black South African, and so forth. Then, the trainer asked the partners to converse and aim to discover what characteristics they held in common. While all of the partners engaged in the activity, Mattheus recalls two individuals in particular. These two individuals were over lowing with surface level differences: one male and one female, one a white and one a black South African, one a senior organizational member and the other a low- level worker. But now both were crying. 30-odd years later, Mattheus felt the goosebumps rising as he tells the story. It turned out that the partnered professionals were each the parent of a developmentally disabled child. Did their surface level differences matter in the face of this realization? Of course not. They now shared something, something deep, that far exceeded the import of such surface levels characteristics. This is the similarity-attraction bias at work for us. Far from allowing the bias to manipulate us into a place of separation, that psychologist working for Cell C leveraged the bias by helping trainees to identify similarities that would prove more important than differences. The psychologist Jonathan Haidt, similarly, advised that surface level differences may be “drowned in a sea of similarities.” He was correct, in part. We ought indeed to highlight similarities, though to “drown” our differences may not quite hit the mark. Rather, we ought to highlight similarities, but use the similarity-attraction bias to create the space for embracing differences, too. Only then do we facilitate a working relationship that is based on mutual attraction, while also learning and bene iting from each other's differences. While Mattheus' story is powerful, it is admittedly anecdotal. As researchers like to say, it has an n of 1 - a sample size of just one person, hardly suf icient to generalize at large. Psychologist Jerry Burger tested this proposition, however, and his indings are perhaps even more provocative. In the study, research participants complete a psychological survey, which they are made to believe is the focus of the study. The real study, however, came later – as participants were exiting the study, another would-be study participant working undercover for the researchers asked if the participant would be willing to read his 8-page essay, providing one page of feedback within 24 hours. Somewhat surprisingly, 48% agreed. This represented the control group. A second group of participants were subjected to the same procedure, but during the purported psychological study were told that they shared a Type-E ingerprint with another research participant. This is not surprising, they were told; approximately 80% of the population has Type-E ingerprints. Leaving the research study later, lo and behold their ingerprint twin comes approaching – asking as before whether the participant would review his eight-page paper and return the notes 28 EXELEON MAGAZINE EXPERT OPINIONS
  23. 23. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 29
  24. 24. Jordan Cullen I N T E R V I E W W I T H FOUNDER | CULLEN JEWELLERY What according to you makes one an innovative leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership? Innovative leaders are not afraid to challenge the status quo and break new ground. They also have profound humility, which allows them to empathize with others and understand their needs. This combination of qualities enables innovative leaders to motivate teams and create lasting change. In my own leadership, I strive to create an environment where people feel comfortable taking risks and thinking outside the box. I also work hard to cultivate humility to continue learning from those around me. By creating a space for innovation, I encourage others to push boundaries and ind new ways of doing things. Ultimately, it is this spirit of innovation that will help us achieve our goals and make a positive impact on the world. What was the idea behind Cullen Jewellery.? What was the pain point that you wanted to address? The idea behind Cullen Jewellery came when I was looking for engagement rings for my iancé in 2018 but did not ind any reputable companies that offered premium lab-grown gemstones. I wanted either a moissanite or lab-grown diamond IN – FOCUS 32 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  25. 25. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 33
  26. 26. ring as I sought to avoid mined diamonds, given their catastrophic social costs. The process of mining for diamonds generally requires a lot of water and electricity, which can put a strain on local resources. In addition, the mines themselves can produce large amounts of waste and pollution and cause the displacement of communities and natural habitats. Furthermore, the workers who mine for diamonds often do so in dangerous conditions and are paid a pitiful amount. Knowing all this, I was determined to get engaged with a ring that embodied my values. The companies that did offer lab-grown gemstones were either unaffordable, sold mined diamonds as well in a sign of their opportunism, or greenwashed their product range with unsubstantiated claims. I decided I wanted to do things differently, and I have been rewarded by a loyal customer base that appreciates Cullen Jewellery's product range and values. Beyond using only lab-grown gemstones and our social initiative angles, Cullen Jewellery also has a commitment to reducing waste by using recycled precious metals and not mass-producing jewellery. How does the brand stand out? What measures are taken to ensure optimal quality in your jewelry products? Our brand stands out because of our commitment to technology, ethics, and quality. Cullen Jewellery is digital- irst, so while we have a showroom, we underscore digital channels and social media. In fact, our new state-of-the-art website was just launched to popular acclaim. Additionally, every piece of ine jewellery on our website is handcrafted by our skilled artisans using only the inest eco-friendly materials. We take great care to ensure that each piece meets our high standards for craftsmanship and design. We likewise offer a lifetime warranty on our ine jewellery products, so our customers can be con ident that their purchase will last a lifetime. Furthermore, our quality commitment is increasingly important as an abundance of inexperienced jewellery companies are attempting to enter the market — at the expense of the standards and quality the customers should be able to expect. They insist on cutting corners, unlike us, as we genuinely care about our customers and upholding a positive legacy. For example, when it comes to moissanite, we only use branded stones and reputable suppliers because there is signi icant 34 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  27. 27. variance and no centralized authority to uphold the standards in the industry. We also emphasize research and development, which means we constantly test our gold alloys to ensure the best durability and longevity. Put this in contrast to many of our competitors, who might instead focus on diminishing the ring's thickness over time — no optical difference, but a serious one on longevity. As the Founder, what role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company? As the Founder of my company, I play an important role in its day-to- day proceedings. I am responsible for providing supportive leadership and strategic direction, so the company remains on track to achieve its goals. In addition, I am responsible for maintaining a close relationship with our clients and partners and ensuring that they are satis ied with our products and services. Additionally, I work closely with our team of experts to ensure that our products are of the highest quality and meet the needs of our customers. By playing an active role in my company's day-to- day operations, I can provide the supportive leadership and strategic direction that are essential for its success. Looking at your journey, what would you have done differently if you were to start again? With hindsight, I would have hired quali ied people to help me with the business sooner. Unfortunately, I made the misstep of thinking I could do everything myself, so I left a lot of growth and company improvement on the table. With help from quali ied team members, I would have avoided some of the oversights I had in the early days of the business. In addition, I would have been able to focus on more critical tasks, such as marketing and product development. As it stands, I am proud of what I have achieved, but if I were to start again with the sweet bene it of hindsight, I would make sure to build a strong team from the outset. What would be your advice for young and emerging entrepreneurs trying to build a successful startup? When it comes to building a successful startup, focus is key. Trying to tackle too many problems at a time will only lead to scattered resources and a lack of progress. Instead, identify one speci ic area you want to focus on and put all your efforts into that, allowing you to differentiate yourself against larger and more experienced WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 35
  28. 28. competitors. Then, once you have made signi icant headway in one area, you can start branching into other areas. Another piece of advice for young entrepreneurs is to always be learning. The business world is constantly changing, so it's important to always be on the lookout for new opportunities and ways to improve your business. Finally, what does the future look like for Cullen Jewellery? On a personal front, where do you see yourself standing in the coming years? The future looks very bright for Cullen Jewellery. In the coming years, we plan to continue operating sustainably while also achieving steady linear growth. We are constantly working to improve the customer experience, and we are con ident that our products will be popular with couples looking for ethical and premium moissanite and lab- grown diamond engagement rings. On a personal front, I see myself leading the company and helping it grow in a sustainable and responsible manner. I will not necessarily make all the decisions but just ensure that the best decisions are being made for the customer. I see myself continuing to surround myself with the right people and reinforcing that our goals are beyond inancial. In that regard, we intend to continue supporting local and international charities and communities that are dear to our hearts. Our ultimate aim is to make a positive impact on the world, one gemstone at a time. IN – FOCUS 36 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  29. 29. Brand Sharon CREATING MAGIC WITH BRANDS What according to you makes one a powerful woman? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership? A powerful human to me is recognizing your strengths, and your weaknesses and letting vulnerability come through in your professional life. As the leader of a small business, knowing when to ask for help is uneasy, but so necessary and important. This is something I implemented in Brand's Media Group's company values, one of them being: Help one another. I think that the more we put our guard down, the more we can lead in peace and with dignity. What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the fashion and marketing space? I've found that both Communication and Fashion are two spaces that inally reunite a way of expressing yourself — publicly and personally. What I wear on a day to day is a choice I make and what I decide to showcase on Instagram to an audience too. After studying both ields for my bachelor's and master's degrees, I decided to combine both these passions of mine to help small businesses in the fashion world lead the way and increase their community online. What led you to start Brand's Media Group? What was the pain point you wanted to address through this platform? Brand's Media Group is a space that IN – FOCUS 38 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  30. 30. FOUNDER BRAND’S MEDIA GROUP WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 39
  31. 31. reunited small to medium-sized businesses in the Fashion, Lifestyle and Beauty world. We help business owners stay true to whom they are, using their voice and brand identity, to create magic. Whether it is a product, a public igure, or other agencies, our creativity is limitless and being able to enhance their visibility, brand awareness and their products are the ultimate goals. When it comes to marketing and branding, what is the approach followed by you and your team to ensure optimal client satisfaction? Understanding whom you are speaking to is one of the biggest important marketing and branding factors. Ask yourself: who is my audience, who will be reading my post, who will share this post, and who will want more? Strategy and branding come together. Each color, font, typography, content creation and template we are creating the need to speak for itself and tell a story. My team and I reunited mostly once a week, aside from our day-to-day meetings, to discuss strategy for each of our clients. What would be your advice for aspiring female entrepreneurs struggling to take that leap of faith? I think that we women have a very strong gut feeling and instinct that shouldn't be ignored. If you feel something deep inside of you, listen to it. Even if it scares you, even if it the idea of it seems crazy. Whatever seems uncomfortable will be the best decision you have taken. I can IN – FOCUS 40 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  32. 32. proudly say I don't regret anything in life because I have taken that leap of faith and dived right into what sounded or seemed scary at the time. The only really frightening thing in life is not doing what you are meant to be doing. Trust the process. Looking back at your journey, what would you have done different when starting out? I wouldn't have changed anything from how I started because I went in being a business owner completely naıv ̈ e and with no idea that 3 years later, I wouldn't be doing social media work myself but managing an entire business. What I suggest though, is to read books on entrepreneurship (Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull is a great one) and just be more aware of all the challenges that will come your way. It's not always easy and it takes a strong mindset to continue. You will have ups and downs but what matters is looking at it in the long term. What does the future look like for Brand's Media Group? What are you most excited about? I'm so excited to grow our team and ind more inspiring, talented, and motivated women who want to work in this industry and leave something behind. Social Media sounds like such a broad topic but the difference we make for our clients who really truly need us is so special. We also have a podcast launching in 2023 which is our next big, exciting project. One Book Entrepreneurs must read: The Making of a Manager by Julie Zhuo One Productivity Tool that everyone should use: Slack One Mobile App that you use the most: Instagram… guilty! One Movie / Show that you would recommend: Gilmore Girls — so you don't forget to have your big cup of coffee in the morning One Quote that describes you: One life, just one. Why are we not running – like we are on ire – towards our wildest dream? IN – FOCUS WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 41
  33. 33. IN – FOCUS 44 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  34. 34. have a photo on my desk of a Ibright-eyed, eight-year-old me. That little girl was so full of hope and determination to make a difference. She wanted to change the world. Somewhere along the way, someone made her believe she was too small and insigni icant to make a difference, so she set that dream aside. My irst love in life was fashion. The glitz and glamour I saw in fashion magazines were very different from my hand-me-down, small-town, Missouri life. I always wondered what it would be like to walk into a store, buy whatever I wanted, and never worry about how much it cost. That very idea seemed outside the realm of any possibility I knew. I was taught very young that you have to work for everything you want in life. I got a job in retail at age 15 and never looked back. I managed to turn my love of shopping into a full-time career. I had the pleasure of helping others ind love and joy through the clothes they wear every day as a corporate retail fashion buyer for companies like Zappos.com, Dillard's, and The Home Shopping Network. My career as a corporate retail buyer allowed me to live out my childhood dreams of attending fashion shows, traveling the world, and working with brands that had previously only been within my reach in the pages of fashion magazines. I was living out my dreams, but those dreams came crashing down quickly with the onset of the pandemic. The pandemic was my wake-up call. I realized I wasn't that same little girl anymore. Over the course of my career, I got married and had two beautiful children. My job required me to travel frequently, which meant I missed out on irst birthdays, picture days, and far too many other important events to count. If you were to ask my children, “Where does mommy work?” They would almost always reply, “New York,” even though we live in Las Vegas, Nevada. Prior to the pandemic, I did my best to separate home and work. I made it a point to be eKndnes Caue Story – Written By Mandy Cordia WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 45
  35. 35. present with my family, and my kids rarely saw me working. The pandemic changed that; they saw mommy working all day, pulling all-nighters, and working on the weekends to keep from drowning in the workload. I was one of the “lucky” ones who got to keep my job in retail when many were laid off or furloughed. My job was already demanding, but now I was taking on the work of 3 other people. Whenever I received a phone call from an Account Executive to tell me they had been laid off, I secretly wished I could trade them places. The workload was becoming more than I could handle, and it wasn't long before I crash-landed in burnout. My breaking point was a day I will never forget. I was at home frantically working to meet a last-minute deadline. I heard my 3-year-old son playing in his room, and something he said caught my attention. I got up and peeked around the corner to watch. My son had set up his stuffed animals around his table. He made a computer out of paper and pretended to work just as he saw me do every day. After a few moments, he turned to his stuffed animals and yelled at them to be quiet. He said, “I'm on an important call and need to inish my work.” I cried. My heart was broken. This was not the example I wanted to set for my children, and I knew something had to change. I didn't know what that change looked like, so I started with therapy. Little did I know then that those therapy secessions IN – FOCUS 46 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  36. 36. would change everything. One of the most signi icant discoveries was that I had been neglecting my passion for giving back. Before having children, I volunteered my time to several charitable organizations. Life had become so busy that I no longer had time to volunteer. We were still in the middle of the pandemic, so volunteering in person wasn't an option. Plus, I couldn't bring myself to take a lunch break away from my computer, let alone enjoy helping others, all while knowing the work is piling up (don't worry, this was also addressed in therapy). As a mom, I felt like every time I turned around, I needed to buy another gift for a birthday, housewarming, or wedding. I started to buy gifts for my friends and family that supported charitable organizations as my way of giving back. The gifts became conversation starters about important issues and a way to learn about different nonpro its. However, it often took a lot of work to uncover and learn about the nonpro it bene iting from my purchase, and the giveback was often vague. As a product person, I didn't always love the selection offered. There had to be a better way. I decided that my many years of retail experience, coupled with my love of helping others, put me in a unique position to tackle the problem head-on. I launched my business, The Kindness Cause, in March of 2022 with three main goals: (1) make giving back easy when life is busy by incorporating giving into the things we do every day, like buying gifts for our friends and family; (2) provide transparency around funds donated with purchase and transparency around the charitable organization bene iting from the sale; and (3) create a platform to educate, bring awareness, and raise funds to support the incredible work of smaller, regional nonpro it organizations. Getting to merge my love of fashion, advocacy, and philanthropy is an added bonus. The causes and issues that I am passionate about is an extensive list. However, my initial nonpro it partnerships for The Kindness Cause focus on human rights, women empowerment, the LGBTQIA+ community, children, cancer, and environmental issues. It was vital for me to launch with the right partners. I utilize Charity Navigator, GuideStar, and tax returns to vet and hand-select the organizations for partnership. Once I partner with a nonpro it organization, I create and curate merchandise around their mission for a “Cause Collection.” These collections are speci ic to one nonpro it organization, and the merchandise is only available for purchase for a period of 60-days. In every product description on the website, I state how much we donate to charity with purchase, along with the nonpro it organization bene iting from the purchase. The Kindness Cause also features a great assortment of merchandise themed around kindness and WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 47 IN – FOCUS
  37. 37. positive af irmations that are sold throughout the year in our “Kindness Collection.” Like the Cause Collections, every purchase donates to a charitable nonpro it organization, and we transparently share how much we donate and the organization bene iting from the sale. So far, I've had the distinct honor to partner with, bring awareness, and raise funds for some incredible charitable nonpro it organizations, including but not limited to: Ÿ Birmingham, Alabama, nonpro it GASP, whose mission is to advance healthy air & environmental justice in the greater-Birmingham area through education, advocacy, and collaboration. Ÿ St. Louis, Missouri nonpro it, Zugunruhe Experience believes that to understand the world, you must see the world and that education through travel has the power to be the most in luential factor in inspiring a life illed with meaning. They provide opportunities to travel for underserved youth to discover their limitless potential. Ÿ Las Vegas, Nevada nonpro it, The Remissonaries, positively impacts women ighting breast cancer by providing comfort during and after chemotherapy treatment with their comfort crates. Ÿ Westlake Village, California nonpro it, My Stuff Bags Foundation provides new belongings, comfort, and hope to thousands of children each year rescued from abuse, neglect, abandonment, and homelessness across the United States. The new belongings address the immediate physical and emotional needs of rescued children and help support the agencies caring for them. I've discovered that life only gets busier. When we have the inancial means to give, we often do not have the time. When we have time to give, we often do not have the inancial means to give. How we give back evolves over time. It doesn't matter how we give; it just matters that we do. One of my favorite quotes is by Mother Teresa. She said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Every day when I sit down at my desk to start my day, I see that photo of 8-year-old me and smile. I no longer feel small and insigni icant. That photo is my daily reminder of the beautifully broken journey I've taken to ind my voice, my worth, and to be here doing what I love today. The work I do makes a meaningful difference daily, and the best part is I'm just getting started. I know that 8-year- old me would be so proud. IN – FOCUS 48 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  38. 38. Top Three Ways Subscription- Based Travel and Consumer Models Can Help Your Brand in 2022 The coronavirus pandemic has forever transformed the strategies brands communicate with their audiences and customers across the globe. COVID has impacted businesses across all industries, but those under the hospitality and travel industries bore the brunt of the pandemic. According to the United States Travel Association, travel spending went down by roughly 42% during the irst year of the pandemic, causing losses of roughly $500 billion. Hotels across the globe saw a steep decline in occupancy, with some even declaring foreclosure due to the effects of the pandemic. Many immediately had to scramble to adapt to the new normal for their businesses to survive, trying out new strategies and plans to strengthen their businesses. One effective strategy that can help brands transform the way they do business this 2022 is by adopting a subscription-based travel and consumer model. With that, here are three ways such models can supercharge brand performance. ACCURATELY PREDICT BRAND REVENUE Subscription-based consumer models work at a ixed price. Customers are well-aware of how much they have to spend each month when they subscribe to a brand to get their product or service. Brands, on the other hand, can predict how much revenue they would make in a given month. Businesses can calculate their monthly revenue based on their offered subscription tiers and the number of subsibers they have. IN – FOCUS 50 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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  40. 40. A subscription-based consumer model better assures inancial stability for a business. By accurately predicting brand revenue, brands can make better business decisions, while organization leaders can focus on other areas of their business. Businesses also have a better idea of how much they can reinvest into the business and strategize accordingly. CONSISTENTLY PROVIDE CUSTOMERS WITH VALUE Today's consumers are all about value. They want to connect and patronize brands that consistently offer value to them and make them feel like they are valued. Subscription-based consumer models, by nature, are designed to provide customers with consistent value over a period of time. Because of this, subscription-based consumer models help signi icantly enhance the customer experience. This also strengthens the relationship between the brand and its customers, which makes it more likely to go long-term. If a customer is able to see the value a brand provides to them, they are more likely to continually purchase from and support that brand. PROVIDE CUSTOMERS WITH MORE AFFORDABLE OPTIONS Consumer-based subscription models typically offer different tiers, and businesses can charge their customers on a weekly, monthly, or annual basis. This allows consumers to choose the type of service they would want to purchase and control how much they spend for it. Standard business models often charge higher because purchases to their brand tend to be one-off, which means they would look for ways to maximize their pro its. This can deter new customers from purchasing from them. It's often less expensive and more lexible in which customers would be more drawn to purchase from brands that use such models because they view them as valuable and affordable. Additionally, consumers are more likely to continually engage with brands that they do not have to pay large amounts to. Businesses, particularly those in the travel and hospitality industries, should strongly consider adopting a subscription-based consumer model. This can ensure regular income for a business as well as secure its longevity. Kaloyan Valentinov Danchev's latest book, “My Gift to The World”, discusses 24 key inventions and ideas that are meant to combat some of the world's most pressing issues. Danchev is the founder and president of a luxury travel irm, Fidelis Marketing Group. IN – FOCUS 52 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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  42. 42. VLADIMER BOTSVADZE Marketing Consultant, Professor, Mentor, Speaker and Trainer 56 EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS
  43. 43. Global Marketing Thought Leader hen we talk about Wtransformational leaders, few names stand out as much as Vladimer Botsvadze. A globally renowned, multi-award- winning, digital transformation and social media in luencer, Vladimer has been at the forefront of business excellence for years. His list of awards and accomplishments have positioned him as a pioneer across the globe. In an Exclusive Interview with Exeleon Magazine, Vladimer shares his ideas and beliefs that have propelled him to be the recognized leader that he is today. What according to you makes for a transformative leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership? I believe a transformative leader lives in the future, writes short, fast blogs, and tweets to people to keep them updated, shows total dedication to improving the product and is obsessed with every detail, builds an in luential pro ile and recognizes the power of media engagement. A transformative leader builds a personal brand and masters social media, also fosters a spirit of partnership and creates partnerships at all levels to build and distribute his ideas. I've shaped my name into one of the biggest personal brands and transformed the marketing industry. I'm widely recognized for my visionary leadership and trailblazing innovation. As a keynote speaker, I've WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 57 IN – FOCUS
  44. 44. spoken for high-pro ile clients. As an extensively experienced marketing leader, I've led a number of top businesses to success. I've capitalized on my status to support start-ups and consult them on strategies to maximize their success. I've left my mark on technology and I'm considered a marketing icon to many. I've been committed to inspiring business executives with my impressive career success and utilized my natural entrepreneurialism to become a self-made in luencer. Established globally as a marketing thought leader, I've changed the face of global marketing with my presence and contribution. A natural-born entrepreneur, that's why I've earned the trust of top executives, events, think tanks, and speakers' bureaus. Vladimer Botsvadze is one of the biggest names in global marketing. Having spearheaded one of the biggest personal brands, I've continued to show the same results in other ventures. Surpassing all major competitors, continually focusing on self- education, and reinventing myself, I've become a dominant global authority on digital transformation. Continually named on the prestigious Thinkers360 list of thought leaders, I've been ranked as the No. 1 Global Marketing Thought Leader by Thinkers360, a testament to my supreme success. As a motivational igure, I've gone from 0 followers to 130,000 followers in 6 years by consistently working 16 hours a day. I inspire audiences to think outside the box and set new standards for maximizing their online success. Talk to us about your growing up years. What prompted your interest and subsequently your foray into the marketing space? I have built a powerful online presence through social media channels and I'm proud to be hugely followed. I have shared my marketing and entrepreneurial knowledge through tweets, blog posts, YouTube videos, interviews, and keynote speeches. I have jumped into the conversations and built the relationships with the world's most powerful people on Twitter. The best way is to deliver results and my results always speak for themselves. When I started getting exposure, I used my long- term marketing plan to become successful in many areas. I have always believed in creating my path rather than following the crowd. I enjoy marching to a different drummer and following my passion. I share positive stories and inspirational talks with my audiences. My personal brand is one of the most sought-after and fastest- growing personal brands worldwide. Being a mentor, serial entrepreneur, professor, industry expert, keynote speaker, in luencer, trainer, to name a few, how do you ensure work-life balance? Hobbies are a fun way to decompress from the day. I give myself a break and get away from my work. I take time to enjoy my accomplishments in a way that is meaningful to me. The right schedule helps me bring a sense of control to my life. As a result, I keep the boundary between working and non-working hours. I always explore new ways to exercise, go out for a run, and sometimes search for home workout videos on YouTube. It's imperative to stay social and connected. I catch up over to-go coffee in a park rather than sitting in a busy café. More and more brands are shifting focus on storytelling as an effective marketing strategy? Do you think storytelling is a powerful medium? Storytelling is the best way for marketers to deliver their messages. A good story has the power to enchant an audience and leave a lasting impression. Our brains not only process visuals faster, but they retain and transmit much more information when it's delivered visually. 90% of the information transmitted to the brain is visual. Visuals are processed 60,000X faster in brain than text. 90% of all human communication is non- verbal. 83% of human learning is visual. We remember 80% of what we see/do. Customers are more likely to recommend brands with whom they have an emotional connection. People will remember a story up to 22X more than they will a list of facts and igures. Brand storytelling throughout a content strategy can increase the value of service or product by more than 20%. Having worked with some of the largest companies as well as some of the most promising startups, what are the biggest challenges businesses are facing today? Top brands and startups need to 58 EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS
  45. 45. create content consistently at scale across 8-10 social media networks to win in the long term. Marketing teams need to make capital out of Twitter to connect with consumers. Brands should never circle the wagons because they must come to grips with their consumers online and answer every kind of question. When brands run podcasts, they stand a chance of taking their success to the next level. I take a dim view of of line marketing and digital marketing is the backbone of success for corporations. ROI of social media is trillions of dollars at scale and we transitioned from a TV society to a primary mobile society. Everything is changing faster than what managers think. Startups that become unicorns are those startups that have a strong social media presence. As a result, they ride the crest of a wave. It goes without saying, marketing teams should take a step back, rethink their marketing strategies, and become as regular as clockwork across top social media platforms. In business different strokes for different folks, some people think social media is not worth a dime and they waste their money on TV, radio, billboards, and print magazines, and getting nothing in return, and such brands experience a catch-22 situation, whereas future-focused brands prepare the ground by going into overdrive on social media. In my experience, social media is worth its weight in gold and it has always stood me in good stead. From winning multiple global accolades to building a world- class reputation and expertise. What has been the journey like for you? WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 59 IN – FOCUS
  46. 46. I'm an in luential marketing igure and I've created a robust following on social media where my content reaches millions of people worldwide. One of the most outstanding aspects of my work is the ability to simplify some of the most complex digital transformations on the market. I'm paving the way for other marketers to follow in my footsteps. One of my earliest prominent moves was building my Twitter from scratch. I've worked hard on educating audiences online in order to ensure success for future generations. My resume has led me to appear on a plethora of radio shows and podcasts including Irish Tech News, The Business Power Hour, Thought Leader Magazine, Building My Legacy, The Next 100 Days, Take The Lead, Engati CX, etc. Known as one of the world's leading marketing thought leaders, I spend an incredible amount of time touring the world as a speaker. With many successful projects to my name, I've been called upon to talk at Digital Talk Forum, Asia Retail Summit, AI Conversational Summit, Global Marketing Summit, etc. Staying many steps ahead of the competition, I deliver a wealth of tips to apply to marketing growth. My insights leave audiences full of ideas to take the next steps in becoming an international success. My leadership spans decades, sectors, and countries. I provide actionable insights obtained from over 15 years of spearheading one of the fastest-growing personal brands. From humble beginnings when I started building my personal brand in a coffee shop, my captivating story resonates with a wide audience. Looking at the journey, what would you have done differently if you were to start again? I truly take pride in my journey and I have achieved everything to the best of my ability. My career has been in the fast lane and my No. 1 Global Marketing Thought Leader ranking is the jewel in the crown. It's always a race against time during my weekdays because I've so many ongoing projects. My talks strike the right note because my expertise is at the cutting edge. I'm an omnivorous reader and a good book holds a house of gold. My success journey has taken a turn for the better when I started tweeting actively. I've come a long way for my success. I have a way with storytelling and content creation, and nowadays I possess a gold mine of information, as a result, I'm frequently invited to the world's best events and podcasts. I seize the day, having lots of get-up-and-go, being a mover and shaker, doing my level best, and having many irons in the ire. Time is on my side when I'm passionate about what I do. From the vantage point of the present, I've always ired on all cylinders and disrupted every industry I entered. Social media has paved the way for my exponential growth. On a shoestring budget, I've spearheaded one of the fastest-growing personal brands. I'm grateful for small mercies and the sky is the limit. Finally what does the future look like for you? What projects are you excited about to be associated with? I'm a people-focused catalyst for accelerated success. Brands want rock-solid results, proof over promise, and greater ROI, and I deliver more than expected. From New York to Sydney, I'm a global audience favorite. I turn the marketing managers of today into the global marketing leaders of 60 EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS
  47. 47. tomorrow. My audiences always feel inspired to use my practical strategies to improve their results and keeping up with changes in technology development is the best way for brands to stay competitive. I've provided unrivaled contributions to the technology ecosystem. I utilize my expertise at the helm of my personal brand to inspire audiences on how to build brands with drive and passion. From keynote talks to ireside chats, I'm a motivational speaker who inspires everyone with my practical marketing strategies. My presentations act as a powerful catalyst for digital transformation. I drive companies forward to help them become number one in their industries. I'm one of the most booked marketing speakers around the world and my average satisfaction rating is 97%. When looking for a speaker with the best expertise in the top-level technology, I'm the perfect choice for corporate events. WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 61
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