How Does Clarity Lead to Empathetic Leadership

Clarity is the third of the five pillars in my upcoming book, The Empathy Dilemma: How Success Leaders Balance Performance, People, and Personal Boundaries.

What are the Five Pillars of Effective Empathetic Leadership?

These are common traits and behaviors seen over and over again in the successful empathetic leaders I interview, speak to, and advise. Even those who truly are empathetic, but don’t label themselves as such! The 5 pillars are a result of hundreds of podcast interviews, research, and data and are common threads across all those who are empathetic and high-performing.

Let’s dig into the third one: Clarity

What Is Clarity? 

Ensuring everyone is on the exact same page through clear communication, expectations, feedback, and understanding of job roles, all of which roll up to an action- able mission statement and meaningful company values.

Why Is Clarity Important? 

Resentments build where misunderstandings thrive. One of the biggest reasons leaders and workers butt heads is lack of communication on mission, roles, and responsibilities. When people know what’s expected of them—including in emergencies and on an as-needed basis— they are less likely to become disgruntled or even feel entitled. Clarity helps people feel seen, heard, and valued; reduces the likelihood of conflict; and enables everyone to work together more effectively.

Clarity is so underrated. And woefully underused.

Sure, plenty of leaders talk a good game about its importance, but plenty more shy away from actually creating clarity when things get diplomatically dicey. 

Here are five strategies to try to be more clear. More details, examples, and tactics to try can be found in The Empathy Dilemma, so don’t forget to snag your presale copy now!

  1. Revisit Purpose and Values

Clarity on minutiae won’t mean bupkis if your teams don’t have foundational clarity on the company’s purpose and values. And neither leaders nor employees will be able to act compassionately if the shared purpose and values are confusing or vague.

  1. Clarify Roles and Expectations

How many people review their job descriptions after they’ve been hired? The number probably approaches zero, except during annual review periods. Given that, consider what you can do to ensure your team members understand and agree to their roles and responsibilities. Think beyond the job description to how you can clearly articulate the team’s rules of engagement. Have these discussions. Document them. And revisit often.

  1. Link Clarity to Accountability

You can’t hold people accountable if they’re not clear on their expectations and goals. Otherwise, what are they being held accountable to? Everyone on your team should be able to say,

“I clearly understand my contribution, I clearly understand that I’m accountable for this piece of the puzzle, and I’m accountable for how I show up every day.”

  1. Tell People Why

Leaders are busy and overwhelmed, which means they often convey what needs to be done and when but omit the reason why. Lacking a reason why, people feel disrespected or kept in the dark. This amounts to an empathy gap, and one that can be closed quickly and easily with clear explanations. They may not like the answer, but at least they understand why the ask is being made.

  1. Ask Better Questions

Little-known fact: clarity doesn’t come from having the right answer; it comes from asking the right questions. This can include knowing the right prompts when someone approaches you with a concern or problem. 

To better understand these deceptively simple strategies in detail, please check out The Empathy Dilemma for stories from leaders, and tactics to put these strategies into practice. 

These 5 pillars will transform how your team engages, performs, innovates, delivers for you and your customers.  

Enjoy special pre-sale and launch bonuses – click here now to check them out!

Check out more about the book here:

Photo Credit: David Travis, Unsplash

How Does Self-Awareness Lead to Empathy?

The book is coming! September 10 is the day that The Empathy Dilemma: How Successful Leaders Balance Performance, People, and Personal Boundaries hits shelves to help leaders dedicated to people-centered practices to get the best performance possible balance the demands of the business with the needs of their people.

For the next 5 months, I’ll be devoting a monthly blog post and podcast episode on one of the 5 core pillars of EFFECTIVE empathetic leaders, outlined in the book. See, I emphasize EFFECTIVE because it’s not just about being empathetic – you have to actually perform, deliver, and get results, too. You as a leader can and must balance empathy with accountability. And today we’re going to talk about the first step to accomplish that..

This is the hurdle that gets in many a leader’s way. They think they have to CHOOSE between empathy and high performance. Compassion and ambition. Both/And, not Either/Or. Never realizing that empathy is the catalyst – when it’s actually being shown – that leads to engagement, innovation, and results.

How can leaders balance performance, people, and personal boundaries? It’s sometimes a delicate question. My new empathy book offers guidance on the healthy and productive ways leaders can deal with the unique challenges they’re facing in trying to balance it all.

What are the Five Pillars of Effective Empathetic Leadership?

These are common traits and behaviors seen over and over again in the successful empathetic leaders I interview, speak to, and advise. Even those who truly are empathetic, but don’t label themselves as such! The 5 pillars are a result of hundreds of podcast interviews, research, and data and are common threads across all those who are empathetic and high performing.

Let’s dig into the very first one: Self-Awareness.

What do I mean by self-awareness? Understanding your own strengths, blind spots, emotions, leadership style, and triggers. And helping your team members understand theirs. 

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Hang on, Maria. Isn’t it more important for me to understand my team members? Do I really have to do a bunch of woo-woo self-reflection?”

My answer: both are crucial. And self-reflection is not woo-woo; it’s a smart strategy. You need to cultivate a deep and ever-evolving understanding of your people, as well as of yourself.I t’s not about navel gazing or ego-trips, but having a very honest, clear picture of where you shine and where you fall short. 

Humility goes hand and hand with empathy so you can recognize that someone else may have a different or better perspective. And that means being real about how you show up as well so you can better connect with others. In fact, letting go of your ego and being curious enough to learn and grow is a sure sign that you are truly tapping into your empathy.

Self awareness is an important success skill for leaders because no one leads in a vacuum. 

Your style, preferences, pet peeves, needs, and strengths as a leader will influence every single interaction you have at work. And yet many leaders don’t take the time to understand themselves fully and completely. Self-awareness helps you to understand complaints and constructive feedback, know when you might need help navigating a situation, and take accountability for your actions.

So how do you become more self-aware? 

  • Request input from teammates and colleagues
  • Leverage self-assessment tools, such as the Enneagram, DISC, or Myers Briggs
  • Learn to listen deeply, 

Simple, right? Not! To better understand these strategies and become more self-aware, please check out The Empathy Dilemma for stories from leaders, and tactics to put these strategies into practice. 

These 5 pillars will transform how your team engages, performs, innovates, delivers for you and your customers.  

Enjoy special pre-sale and launch bonuses – click here now to check them out!

Check out more about the book here:

Photo Credit: Thom Holmes, Unsplash

Don’t compromise your story

Don't Compromise Your Story

Sometimes, we are so confident and passionate about the story we have to tell. We know that we can offer tremendous value, whether through our own brand story for customers or a creative story that leads to art, music, poetry or dance.

Commerce and art are similar. When the story inspires you and resonates for others, things just seem to flow.

Which is what was happening for me as I began the journey of writing The Empathy Edge in early 2017. After some fumbling, I had articulated the message in my heart (thanks to wise help from the fabulous Alexandra Franzen). I was pumped. I had a vision. People validated me with “Yes! This is the business book we need. We need to show that empathy at work and with your customers is the modern success model. Write it. Pleeeeaaaassssse!”

And then, as I pitched to literary agents, the fog rolled in again.

Thankfully, all of them made time to give me detailed feedback or talk with me. They were generous and kind. I was flattered they thought I was a great writer.

But then:

“Well, I’m just not sure where this really fits or how to position it.”

“I don’t know if this will fly to a business audience.”


“I can totally sell this book to a publisher if you change it from “empathy” to be a book about how ‘ feminine traits’ make organizations successful. Will you change it?”

What?! NO.

See, that was their agenda, not mine. They were looking for a neat slot to put me in, something easy to sell. And their publishing partners were pressuring them to find “more books about women’s topics.” (This was right in the thick of the Me Too movement). 

They told me they could sell this book. If I didn’t write the book I wanted to write.

I kindly said no. And pressed on.

See, my entire point with The Empathy Edge and this message that  “cash flow, creativity, and compassion are not mutually exclusive” is to make it gender-neutral. It’s not about male or female traits. Empathy is a HUMAN trait. 

And if I pigeonholed it as “owned” by one gender, I’d lose the opportunity to reach the very audience who, for better or worse, currently makes up the majority of business leaders. And frankly, some of my least empathetic bosses were women, so we don’t have a lock on this either, people.

Most importantly, I’d lose those male allies who were models of empathetic leadership – and who wanted this book to help bring other male colleagues along and help me change the conversation.

So, I said no. To a sweet deal. To it being easier.

The lesson: Don’t let anyone else shape your story. If it fuels you and resonates with others, stop at nothing to tell it. (TWEET THIS!)

And now you can read the book that I wanted to write.

The pre-launch sale for The Empathy Edge is going on now. Click here for details. Buy before October 22 and get some fabulous goodies, including an invite to my exclusive author Q&A, a bonus expert video series, and even, at larger quantities, a free customized workshop for your team or event.

And, when you read it, I’d love to know: Did I make the right decision?

PS: To get some fabulous bonuses, including an exclusive author Q&A webinar, bonus video training and more, pre-order your copies of The Empathy Edge right here:  

After placing your order, just submit your receipt on that page, and enjoy your goodies! Order by October 22. Thank you so much for your kind support! It means the world.

3 ways to teach your old ebook some new tricks

Today’s guest post is from Dina Eisenberg, AKA the Info Product Doctor.  Dina is all about turning your expertise into a passive income stream that will help you scale and promote your brand far and wide – how much do we love that?! Follow her @DinaEisenberg.

There’s a problem that no solo business owner or coach ever mentions: Excess ebooks.  These are the ebooks that you began but didn’t finish.  The ebooks that represent your last digital product or your work before your business pivot.  Right now, they are sitting on your hard drive waiting to be used.

Kinda like that amazingly beautiful dress you bought because, well,  it was gorgeous and you’ll need it someday (natch). I still have an adorable fuschia silk waiting in the back of my closet for my next cruise.  Never mind that I’ll look like a pink round tennis ball. It’s there to inspire me to get in better shape and dream of new travel adventures.

This post will, hopefully, be your inspiration to repurpose your under-utilized ebook content.  After all, you already spent the time creating it.  Why not put that energy to good use and make some cash from the content?

Recycle your ebook into a new online offering & gain a new income stream (Tweet this!)

What can you do with an aging ebook?  Here are three ideas How about you share your ideas in the Comments, ok?

3 Ways to Repurpose Your Old Ebook

1.Turn your ebook into social media content

Finding more valuable content to share on social media can seem like a job, can’t it?  Even using all the great curation tools like or Google Alerts which bring news to you, it still takes a lot of time to sort, compose, create an image and share.  Gosh, I’m tired just writing that.

Upcycle your ebook by using excerpts as social media posts.  Boost engagement on Google Plus.  Dab a little on your Facebook status.  Pick out a provocative question to ask in your G+ community. Quote an excerpt on Twitter with a link back to your blog.  Share a graph or chart as an infographic.

Hello. I can almost hear your eyes rolling back in your head.  No, this isn’t more work.  Quite the opposite.  Recycling saves you time, provides content and gives you a second shot at brushing up your writing.  By the way, you can find help to get all of this done for you.

2. Give your ebook a makeover

I love to get a few new clothes for spring to refresh my wardrobe and get ready for summer (yeah summer!!!)  Your ebook might do well with a makeover, too.  How about changing your ebook cover?  Their styles go in and out of fashion, too.

Upcycle your ebooks’ looks, inside and out. Most ebooks are created simply without a lot of book design, which is fine. But sometimes the wrong title or cover can impact sales.  An older book with less than stellar sales could be a blockbuster with a new look. One place I see well-intentioned authors go wrong is with  book interiors that are poorly formatted and look amateurish.

Interiors are tough, for sure, if you’re not an inDesign expert.  I’m not. I found two solutions for this.  Joel Friendlander is the book designer who created Book Design Templates  and he’s a genius!  He took what I consider the hardest part of being an independent publisher- book design- and made it dead simple.

You simply select a template.  I’m partial to Focus for non-fiction business books. Nice and clean. Purchase it.  Templates are very reasonably priced for one print-on-demand or one ebook template.  Check the Tool Time here. Try a single license and if you like it you can get a multi-license to use more templates.  You’re not limited to business.  I have my eye on a children’s book template to capture the stories my kids and I made up at bedtime when they were kids.

As for the cover, no worries.  I’ve gotten very good ebook covers on, the online work marketplace. It’s all about understanding how Fiverr works, setting your expectations correctly and being precise.  I talk more about that in my course Outsource Easier (new release soon)

3. Transform your ebook into an online course

Online learning is very hot right now and it will be for a while.  Smashwords reports that indie publishers will represent 50% of the ebook market by 2020.  As an authority, you can be part of that.  You can teach your online course on a variety of online platforms like Udemy, and Ruzuku.  Don’t have a course?  No worries.

Upcycle your ebook into a new online course offering and gain a new income stream. Your ebook was written to solve a problem or help your tribe achieve a goal. Well, that book can be turned into a self-paced  learning experience. Each chapter could become a module that you further develop to include exercises and tools.  By the way, you don’t have to be a geek.  I made my first course last year with simple tools like Powerpoint, Screenflow and Vimeo.  And whatever technical piece I couldn’t do myself, I outsourced affordably.

To be sure your course is effective and students actually learn I recommend using the ebook, Bottle your Wisdom by Dr. Kelly Edmonds.  Her book solves the problem of crafting your course.  She helps you determine what to include, how to avoid content-crammin, and ways to really engage your students for learning.

What are some other ways you’ve reused ebook ideas? Would your ebook make a good course or webinar? Please share in the Comments!

Bring it on: Why you need to ask for criticism

A guest post today from the lovely Betsy and Warren Talbot, writers, dreamers and global nomads of Married With Luggage (a business I proudly helped name). With the launch of their latest book, they shared some great advice on why and how to ask for constructive criticism and how it makes your business, brand and project shine in the long run. More on them at the end. Enjoy!

My husband Warren and I recently published our fourth book, Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Over the years we’ve learned a lot about what works – and what doesn’t – as both business and romantic partners. And one thing we know for sure:

If you can’t take constructive criticism, you won’t ever grow to your highest potential. (Tweet this!)

If we don’t pay attention to how our audience wants to receive our story, how to make it compelling and relatable to their own relationships, and using words that matter to them, then all of our experience and wisdom aren’t worth a penny of the $15.99 price tag of the book, because no one will buy it.

We asked trusted advisors, our own audience, and random strangers within our demographic to help us get this one right, and with their constructive feedback, I think we nailed it.

How We Solicited Feedback

Before we ever wrote one word, we talked about our idea with mentors and peers we trust. The feedback sent us in a direction we hadn’t considered before (memoir vs. self-help). We also dropped the idea of making this a course first. Smart friends counseled us to use the book’s popularity to create higher-priced courses later. Already, our project was off to a great start and we saved a ton of time.

If you’ve done the work of building a great network, don’t forget to use it. (Tweet this!)

The next component tested was the title. We came up with 20 variations of titles and subtitles, swapping them around until we had 5 good choices. Then we sent it out to three sets of people: casual followers on Facebook, serious followers on our email list, and total strangers in our demographic through a site called Pickfu.

The title we ended up with is not the title we would have chosen ourselves. We also discovered several words we were using that were off-putting to our market. Imagine if we had used those words out of ignorance and then wondered why no one ever bought the book?

For the book cover, we put three very different cover ideas out for a vote via email list, Facebook, and Pickfu. Again, the cover we would have chosen was not the one overwhelmingly picked by others. In fact, our favorite came in dead last.

After writing the first draft, we sent it to a professional editor for restructuring. We were too close to the project to see the gaps and overlaps, so we trusted someone else to show us the way. We then created the second draft based on this feedback.

Then the scariest part: sharing it for review. First I read the book out loud to my husband, awaiting his response to the story we scripted out months ago. Did he like it? Not always, and that was sometimes hard to take as a wife. But his feedback was invaluable in tightening up the storyline and highlighting our message of partnership.

Five people were sent second draft copies to provide detailed feedback. These five people are my trusted sources, the people who will tell me when something is not good. And boy, did they.

Finally, the book went back for professional line editing, a polish that I couldn’t do on my own. Packaging is as important as the message within, because if a reader can’t get past a crappy cover or terrible editing, they’ll never get your message.

How Feedback Helps

When I look at the finished product, I can only marvel. It is so much more than we imagined, a book that shares our experience and wisdom in a way our audience wants to hear it. And we could have never done that without asking for feedback up front and listening to what our audience needed.

We separated our egos from our work product, and the result was was a healthier self-esteem and a better product.

ABOUT BETSY AND WARREN:  Betsy Talbot and her husband Warren are the authors of Married with Luggage: What We Learned about Love by Traveling the World. Through their popular books, engaging weekly podcast, and revealing Sunday emails, they share the unconventional wisdom they’ve learned about living, working, and traveling together since 2010. Find out more about modern love and partnership at Married with Luggage. (Photo credit: Married With Luggage)

Are you asking for constructive criticism in your business? How? Where? From whom? When did such feedback save you from a major fail? Please share in the Comments below!

It’s here! 7 reasons to love Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd Edition

It’s a….book!

In what will prove to be the second most exciting Spring birth for me (our son is due in May), I’m pleased as punch to share the launch today of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, 2nd Edition (2014, Norlights Press) with all of you.

Even if you benefitted from the first edition, I invite you to check this one out in paperback or eBook format and let me know what you think.

Here are 7 juicy reasons why your brand and your business will get a boost from what’s inside:

  1. Content marketing as the new sales model: Since the first edition in 2010, content marketing has exploded on the scene and everyone is trying to figure it out. The book includes brand new sections on what content marketing is, how it benefits your business and increases your sales, and tips on what to create, how to share it, and time-savers for getting it done.
  2. Insights from your favorite excerpts: You’ll hear from Alexandra Franzen on how to weave magic with words; Sarah Von Bargen on making blogging easier and more fun; Sandy Jones-Kaminski on tips for effective networking to grow your business (even if you think you hate it); Jay Baer on effective social media; Amy Schmittauer on how to build a doable social media plan; Ann Handley, editor of Marketing Profs on content marketing tips; DJ Waldow on how to tackle email marketing to create a loyal tribe; and The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur himself, Mike Michalowicz about not just pursuing passion before profit but how to get to know your customers intimately. They share wonderful stories and generously gave their time to help you reach your business and brand goals.
  3. Fresh new case studies to inspire you: TCHO Chocolate, Blue Bottle Coffee, Happy Herbivore, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Taylor Stich and more. All examples of small businesses started with passion and purpose that create loyal fans and killer brands without multi-million dollar marketing budgets.
  4. Social media made simple: I expanded the social media “how-to’s” section in Part 3 to include how to build a plan, how to manage your time and how to create delightful content that doesn’t keep you chained to your computer 24/7.
  5. To blog or not to blog: New content talks specifically about blogging, how and why to consider it part of your mix and ideas for posts when your creative well is running dry.
  6. Launch Week bonuses: Purchase a paperback or eBook format, send the receipt to info (at) red-slice (dot) com by April 7 and get your free digital bonus swag bag of business-building resources from experts you love, including worksheets, tips and an entire book from CRAVE’s Melody Biringer! More details here.
  7. A FREE teleseminar on April 2: If you read this in time, you can still sign up for my free launch week teleseminar, 5 Clever Ways to Boost Your Brand Online. Sign up here NOW as those on the call will have a chance to win 1 of 3 free signed copies or 1 of 3 free Red Slice Brand Bootcamp digital courses ($197 value)

Feel free to Tweet the love today or find other promo posts on this handy page. I’d be honored.

Thank you for your support as this 2nd edition went from idea to reality. I really hope you enjoy it and would love to hear what you think, so let me know once you’ve finished it or feel free to post an online review. Thanks!

Brand messaging made simple: Can a six-year-old understand what you do?

Be Bold. Be Brief. Be Gone.

These words hung at the desk of a software salesperson at my last Corporate marketing director gig. Ironically, the guy was kind of a windbag but the wise words have stuck with me all these years.

Clarity and conciseness are not necessarily hallmarks of my writing. I often play with words to find just the right way of explaining a concept – and have the habit of over-explaining things to the point of confusion. A flaw of which I am very well aware and try to remedy.

In the 2nd edition of my bookBranding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget  Alexandra Franzen, communication specialist and author of 50 Ways to Say You’re Awesome, dropped some wisdom bombs about effective messaging. She and I have long collaborated on clients – and on my own brand messaging. A wizard with words, she knows just how to say something in a carefully curated yet oh-so-simple way. Where you and I may take 100 words to make our point, Alexandra can name that tune in 20 – and do it with spark and sizzle.

Here is an adapted excerpt from the book you’ll enjoy:

Many entrepreneurs, especially those with a purpose-driven business, get wrapped up in flowery language when describing their work. But Alexandra advises that the clearest way to express an idea is best.

“Think about the last time you read a blog post, heard a TED Talk or listened to a story at a dinner party that really impacted you, that made you want to do something,” she asks. “Was it long, convoluted, unnecessarily detailed? Or was it simple, clear, direct and conversational?” Alexandra adds, “Writing about the work that you do—your ‘reason for being’—is a form of storytelling. And if you want to inspire people to take action, a simple story is best.”

An exercise I play with clients is to ask them to tell me how they would describe their organization to their grandmother or their five-year-old daughter. Often, what they say is exactly what they need to communicate to adults.

Alexandra says. “If it takes you eighty-five paragraphs to explain something, you’re probably not clear on it. Particularly in the online space, people have a shorter attention span. Customers will be skimming your site, flipping around, spending just a few seconds here and there. You need to be exceptionally simple.”

Alexandra advises taking lessons from scientist, astronomer, and author Carl Sagan, or beloved children’s TV show host Mister Rogers, or English broadcaster and naturalist David Attenborough. “These people were legendary educators who had mass appeal because of their incredible skill in distilling information so that anyone from any background could understand. This is what makes them so beloved and great. Distillation is not the same as dumbing down (Tweet!). It’s about expressing the purest essence of an idea—without any unnecessary clutter.”

When crafting your messages, ditch the jargon where you can. Of course, you need to speak the language of your industry but don’t overcomplicate things. The goal is to make your target audience feel competent, not to make them feel dumb. “When crafting copy for your business,” says Alexandra, “above all, your job is to make the person reading feel competent. If they think to themselves, ‘I don’t understand the words on the screen in front of me, and now I feel dumb,’ they’ll probably click away from your website and never come back. But if they think to themselves, ‘I get this, and it sounds like precisely what I need!’ they’ll be excited to take the next step.”

Follow the lead of one of the smartest people who ever lived:

“If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert Einstein (Tweet this!)

How to hand-craft your brand experience: Brand at Work case study Taylor Stitch

Here’s a lovely little sneak peek at one of the fresh new case studies from the 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business: How to Create an Irresistible Brand on Any Budget, launching April 1, 2014! Lots of launch week goodies and a free teleseminar so make sure you’re signed up for The Juice so you don’t miss out.

Taylor Stich’s story below shows you how important it is to know what your one unique asset is and parlay that into your brand experience. Hook your brand onto the one special thing that no one else can offer (Tweet this!)

Brand at Work: Taylor Stitch

In 2009, Michael Maher, Barrett Purdum and Michael Armenta started Taylor Stitch  on a funky street in San Francisco’s Mission District. Their dream? To create rugged, refined and practical clothing for men (and now women) by hand. The company aims to modernize staple clothing pieces for men and women by delivering great quality at a reasonable price with impeccable service.

Taylor Stitch’s greatest asset is that their clothes are crafted by hand, with quality and love, and that personal attention guides every brand move. “It’s a human-run business,” says Maher. “Our main goal when we started was to offer a uniquely personal retail experience to make our customers happy.” They empower everyone in the organization to delight the customer. Items are made by hand and sent by hand. When mistakes are made, the human touch prevails. “We understand that in a hand-crafted business, mistakes will be made. A shipment might be sent to the wrong person or a loose thread makes it by quality control. On the rare occasions this happens, we are truthful and up-front with our customers. If we screw up, we’re the first to admit it and fix the problem or discount items to make that customer happy. We look at a mistake as an opportunity to create a human connection and a great customer experience.”

This emphasis on happiness and humanness impacts hiring as well as the in-store environment. “We hire people who represent the ethos of service that we ourselves believe in, so, no matter whom you encounter in the store, you get a consistent experience that lives up to the brand.” Taylor Stitch also pays attention to all five senses when it comes to customer touchpoints: the types of pictures they use, the words they write, the store’s music and scents. “We come at retail from a hospitality perspective, not just a product perspective. We believe people don’t like to shop if they are uncomfortable, so we created something much more approachable,” says Maher.

No matter how large the business grows, Taylor Stitch is committed to maintaining that comfortable “neighborhood shop” feel. Loyal customers love to tell friends and family about how the business takes extra time to care. Taylor Stitch desires regular customers but they also want to be regulars in their neighborhood.

“Our customers send us thank-you and holiday cards,” says Maher. “Sometimes they even send jams and other little gifts. It’s amazing to receive such gifts from people that buy stuff from you. One of my favorite things to do is stop people on the street whom I see wearing our clothes and thank them.”

Obviously taking the time to not just make the clothes by hand but handcraft the customer experience on a very human level pays off for Taylor Stitch. At a pop-up market a few years ago, Maher gave a pair of pants to a fellow vendor. That vendor now orders and sells pants for the store. “It’s often the simple, human things that benefit everyone,” advises Maher. “When you do good things with no expectations and don’t force it, great things are bound to happen.”

Your turn: What is your brand or businesses one special or unique asset? Everyone’s got one…what’s yours? Please share in the Comments below!


In memoriam: A man behind a brand

The trouble with taking on clients you adore is that you care for them as friends, not just business associates. This leaves you vulnerable and shocked when they are suddenly gone.

Last week, one of my favorite clients, Jack Leary, passed away without warning from a heart attack. We’re all still stunned and my prayers go out to his friends and family. As CEO of Intersource, LLC, a boutique technology consulting firm, he and I had worked together a few years ago to clarify his brand and positioning and develop break-out brand messaging. It’s one of the proudest projects I’ve had the good fortune to work on.

Jack faced a challenge common to many founders. How do you take your personal values and parlay that into a company brand that can scale and “live on” without you? We spent many hours talking through his mission and values. Jack, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy, embraced honor, integrity and teamwork in a way that would put many of today’s young, arrogant tech CEO’s to shame. These were not just words to him: they were the way he lived his life, treated his team and served his clients. With a twinkle in his eye and a straight-shooting passion for life, Jack made me believe that passion and profits really could co-exist. His success as a senior executive at many top tech companies, as well as in his own business, proved it.

We were in the midst of another project to bring his brand story to life through video. “People don’t really understand the Intersource story unless I’m delivering it in person,” he lamented. “I’d love to share it with them in a unique, interactive way that not just tells our story but screens out those who are not a good fit.” The man understood that brand is about who you are and not about pleasing everyone.

Intersource’s case study is included in my upcoming 2nd edition of Branding Basics for Small Business (due March 2014). He passed away just at press time, but his story will live on: he was so excited to be featured in the book. I’ve included it below as an inspiration to your brand and a tribute to a man I admired, one who did not at all think that spending hours discussing the nuances of the words “integrity” and “honesty” was a waste of time. To him, it was values like those that made his company. Made his brand. Made the man.

So this is my tribute to Jack Leary: that you may know who he was and what he stood for. Thank you, Jack, for crossing paths with me. The world is a sadder place with one less ethical and honorable business leader like you in it. You will be missed.

BRAND AT WORK: Intersource LLC (excerpt from Branding Basics for Small Business, 2nd edition, launching March 2014)

Technology consulting firms often appear similar, using the same meaningless jargon like “best of breed solutions” or “maximize ROI.” How can a firm with a unique approach and steadfast values stand out from the competition? Jack Leary, CEO and founder of Intersource LLC ( in Seattle, Washington knew from the start that the firm he built was different from the rest. He just needed a way to articulate that difference to his prospective target market: innovative companies looking to change, challenge the status quo and offer amazing products and services.

“In every project, we’ve delivered success based on not just what we do, but who we are: committed, experienced, honor-bound people,” says Jack. “We measure success by our level of impact…period. It’s not about overpromising, staffing sub-par resources to save money or making clients pay for things they don’t need. But I knew we were being lumped into the same old ‘staffing shops’ that simply offer interchangeable consultants who often lack the right experience.”

Jack worked with Red Slice to articulate messaging that made their brand stand out and convey the unique principles on which he founded Intersource. The result was a technology consulting firm with a voice unlike any other: frank, honest, jargon-free and – on occasion – a bit cheeky. A website visit instantly shows prospects and customers that they are dealing with a different type of firm: one where “straight talk meets straight tech” to get you where you want to go. Minimal color and “fluff’ combined with bold typography choices further demonstrate the firms commitment to an honest, courageous and unvarnished experience.

“We wanted people to know that our expert consultants don’t hide behind fancy words or trite methodologies. Doing this through approachable language and an uncluttered site helps them immediately trust us to solve their market-changing challenges efficiently, honestly and creatively”

Jack, a former lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy felt strongly about conveying the firm’s values upfront: honesty, integrity, discipline, wisdom and creative thinking. The messaging is hard for competitors to copy because it is authentic to his personal values, which are now baked into Intersource’s own brand fabric. More than just words, the values convey the very manner in which the company partners with clients. They are one of the few technology consultancies with such a Philosophy page on their website and these values inform everything from how they hire to how they speak.

Much of Intersource’s messaging is written to sound like you are talking directly to the man who started it all. No gimmicks. No facades. Just honor, integrity, results and a bit of wit. And that’s just the way Jack Leary likes it.


Got goals? 6 resources to get your butt into gear this year

Hello, 2014! How the hell are ya?!

Now that you’re emerged from your eggnog-induced haze and dusted off the last of the New Years Eve glitter (why does that stuff always seem to stick around for weeks? It’s a mystery…) you are ready to tackle the new year. Right? RIGHT?!

But what does that mean, to tackle the new year? Sounds so adversarial, as if the new year is waiting to mug you and steal your wallet.

We’ve all done the rounds of “New Year Planning:” resolutions, goal setting, visioning, action plans. I used to go into each year with a set of goals organized by topic: Fitness, Career, Writing. That worked for a while….until the year I had major health issues. And then New Year Planning became much airier and flexible, which made me happier. I started thinking about only 2-3 big goals. Things I wanted to accomplish rather than do. Last year, I went a step further and simply picked 2 themes to guide my year, and I mapped every activity to them,

As you get this year’s  goals into gear, here are 6 resources that will add some awesome sauce to your big plans. Remember, any dream starts with a single small step. (Tweet this!)

Goal: Get my book written and published, damn it! Got a book inside you yearning to burst forth and illuminate the world? A book is always more than just a book. Much more. Writing a book could direct the course of your career for the rest of your life. It could lead to infinitely important connections, multiple revenue streams, spin off products, international relations. It could start a revolution. You need a plan.  YOUR BIG BEAUTIFUL BOOK PLAN (Click on Shop when you get there) is a digital program to get tyour word into the world — where it belongs.

Goal: Simplify and declutter my physical (and mental) life. Check out The Declutter Clinic from Married With Luggage. Warren and Betsy ditched their urban corporate life, sold everything they owned and now travel the world writing books, blogging and speaking about how to live your dream. The first step? Ditch the clutter. Get practical and fun strategies to organize, store and sell your stuff, breathe easier and make room for growth – whether you want to travel the world or simply create a more open environment.

Goal: Have an awesome website, blog and (sensible) social media plan that attracts mad traffic: Run, don’t walk and hire Sarah Von Bargen for a Clever Session or a souped-up Solution Session. This woman attracts tens of thousands of blog readers each day. She’s fun. She’s practical. And she’ll show you time-saving tips and tricks to make you “awesome on the internet.” Yes, I’m biased: she’s my writing partner in crime, and I also took a session myself.

Goal: Write better emails. Articulate everything better: Alexandra Franzen, self-expression guru extraordinaire, has got you covered. Sign up for her I Heart Email course starting Jan 10. Or if you want to just generally articulate your life/business/mission/manifesto in a clearer, juicier way, take one of her Write Yourself into Motion workshops (tour schedule coming soon, but get on her email list to find out first!)

Goal: Create an irresistible brand and marketing strategy for myself, my business or my cause: Put that donut down and get your business and brand booty in shape this year with my digital self-study MOMENTUM Pro. Through fun playbooks you can do at your own pace, I’ll walk you step by step through defining your mission, your target market, your messaging and your value.  All so your marketing efforts work. 

Goal: Create goals with soul and get more of what I desire: Turn goal-setting on its ear with Danielle LaPorte’s fabulous resources for living the life you want to live. The Desire Map (Click on Shop when you get there) is an interactive experience that maps your core desired feelings first and then informs how you plan your day, year, career, holidays and life.

Photo credit:  Es.mond on Flickr

Your turn: What are you “tackling” this year? Goals, visions, themes, desires? Please share in the Comments and I’ll share any resources to help you. Hopefully, others can chime in, too!