True confession time: I am a founder of a brand experience consultancy dedicated to supporting founders and visionary brand leaders. I understand the journey to build and grow a business intimately — we even pioneered a Brand DNA Framework, which is a way of thinking about your business as a living, breathing creation that you’ve poured your heart and soul into.
The founder’s ethos is at the core of the framework.
I know this in every fiber of my being — hell, I’m the #1 proponent of the Brand DNA framework — and yet, when it came to my personal brand, which supports my greater business, I lost my connection.
I got detached from that crucial building block, which, in my case, is made up of elements that thrive in the wild, notably curiosity, creativity, and connection.
Then, life did me a favor. It handed me some classic tools of reinvention: a new baby. A scary health crisis. And a milestone birthday later this year.
And so, I reminded myself it was time to reinvigorate my own DNA by taking three intentional, strategic steps that had to do with getting back to basics — some crucial ABCs.
And after doing so, in just a couple of months, I have many significant things to show for it:
- A new President of my company
- A calendar full of “green zones” — energized space in daily work life to invent, create, and evolve
- New channels to connect with my community (including a TikTok that went from 0 to over 6,000 followers in a month, including a viral moment where I talked about why I refuse to dumb down my content 😉 and got truly vulnerable with myself and my audience)
- A redesigned website and a summer full of incredible interviews with future-forward founders on the Forward Obsessed podcast, which I co-host with my business partner, David Salinas
- A new content production studio and a team of content creators so we can easily create, deploy, and atomize audio/visual content
- A small cross-functional team focused on exploring Web3 projects (i.e., an AI-driven NFT creation app, Zeitgeist, an NFT exploration app, NFTER, and an app to help NFT newbies learn how to mint, Zero to Mint).
- A clear roadmap for my first book: The Field Guide for the Forward-Obsessed Founder
- A pro bono “Hot Seat Happy Hour” program to help support local small businesses and give back to our community
- Funded and launched Creative Wild, a paid creative apprenticeship program dedicated to creating access and opportunities for growing diversity, equity, and inclusion for young professionals looking to break into the creative industry
Most importantly, I feel creatively rejuvenated. Alive with energy to crack open new profit-generating possibilities and pathways for my clients, business, and myself. I just had to remind myself of the founder’s ABCs. Once you (re)learn them, you’ll be ready to reclaim your brain and ace your objectives.
A is for Audience
That’s because as a brand-builder, A is always for audience. What gets me out of bed in the morning — my Ikigai — is to be a force for positive change in people’s lives.
I express this by wearing a few hats: investor, advisor, and business growth consultant. If you’ve ever played in any of those roles, you know it’s easy to lose yourself in paperwork, corporate bureaucracy, and endless meetings to plan meetings.
That’s what happened to me. And frankly, it was making me miserable.
So I had to get back into the nitty-gritty of being a force for positive change by asking myself fundamental questions:
- Who am I serving?
- What problems am I solving?
- How can I help as many people as possible?
One of the most important things that sets great startups apart from mediocre ones is their ability to position and find whitespace in a category.
For forward-obsessed founders who need to explore and unlock new growth opportunities for their startups and business ventures, I advise, invest in, and develop solutions — unlike business coaches who often have never been in the trenches.
I reminded myself it was time to do that same kind of work for me — something I’ve long neglected in the same vein as the cobbler’s son not having any shoes. So, I revisited an essential exercise to reinvigorate my personal value proposition.
Very quickly, my primary audience came into focus: forward-obsessed founders. The art of the start is what gets me going. And the trick of keeping it going is where the rubber meets the road. That’s the problem I love helping founders solve, especially since it’s so easy for us to get bogged down in the day-to-day, including fundraising, attracting talent, and generating new ideas.
Believe me, I’ve been there and can empathize with how hard it is. The sleepless nights, not wanting to let your team and yourself down. I wish I had access to a coach or advisor that could have been there for me during those days.
Today I can see the bigger picture: a founder’s story is their strategy, and their experience is the expression of that story and strategy. The journey to understand what makes your brand different — better even — is the core. As is accepting that continual evolution is the only way to future-proof your business.
So, for example, if a recession or a pandemic hits, the management team quits, or whatever crisis hits, you’re not stuck if you have a forward-obsessed mindset. That ability to connect the dots creatively provides founders with the resilience, grit, and fortitude to succeed.
That’s been my playbook for success, and it’s elevated me from growing up in a lower-middle-class family to building several seven- and eight-figure businesses and achieving financial freedom.
A clear vision of my audience and exactly what I can do for them that nobody else can was a very meta adjustment. To be forward-obsessed, I had to push myself forward. And that leads me to what I needed more than anything else….
B is for Breathing Room
By “breathing room,” I don’t just mean less stuff on your calendar. I mean less soul-sucking tasks that rob you of your energy, vitality, and creativity.
This is how I came up with the Green Zone Framework to optimize your work and your life. The crux of the framework is this: 🛑 stop doing things you can do just because you can — either because it’s the thing you do competently or because you’re smart enough to figure something out that you’re not so competent at — and operate as much as possible in your “Zone of Genius” (what I call your Green Zone). That’s when you’re so inspired and engaged with the task at hand that you cross over into experimentation, innovation, and profit-driving productivity.
Essentially, it entails doing an audit of your calendar over a few months and color-coding everything on there:
Green = Things that energize you 🟢
Red = Things that drain your energy 🛑
Yellow = Neutral 🟡
Gray = Personal to-do list (this reminds me to make time for family, friends, and self-care.)
In the process, you’ll notice tasks and responsibilities you can delegate or hand over completely. And I’m not just talking about small administrative to-do’s an admin can handle. This exercise, in part, led to my decision to hire a president for my company. I call it “giving away your Legos.”
In the wake of this choice, I not only have breathing room to do more of what I love, but I also have been creating all kinds of green zones — new areas of growth and prosperity not just for myself but also for my community, my clients, and my teams alike.
C is for Connection
Next to my desk hangs a work based on Charles Eames’ famous quote: “Eventually, everything connects — people, ideas, objects. The quality of the connections is the key to quality per se.”
Yes, and the truth is, sometimes we forget how critical it is to pursue high-quality connections proactively.
I love solving problems in the same room with people. There is nothing like that creative energy that’s kindled in a dynamic, fun session. After two years of the pandemic, I realized how starved I was for that kind of interaction.
That’s when I realized it was time to focus on creating opportunities to get back on track with conversations that lead to connections. Hosting a podcast is a great way to do that. And in-person events can be good, too. So, for example, we launched a new in-person “Hot Seat” at our co-working space, District, to give back to entrepreneurs who can’t afford to hire the right agency or consultants to help them.
And even putting together an in-house studio to create content in the moment when inspiration strikes was part of that push to ignite connections. After all, the only way that people seek you out is if they know about you in the first place! So, coming soon is The Forward Obsessed Founder newsletter, where I will share ideas, tools, motivation, and inspiration with others.
All this work is out of my comfort zone in many ways as a lifelong introvert. My co-founder David, who I mentioned, is what I’d call a personality brand. He’s a naturally gifted speaker and super comfortable in front of crowds and on camera. However, I see myself as an introverted entrepreneur who has wrestled with ADHD my whole career. But my passion for helping founders as much as possible is what spurred me to challenge myself and find new ways to create connections and put myself out there as hard as it has been. It’s lonely at the top and I often feel like my intention is misunderstood by my teams at times.
I believe the most effective leaders constantly reinvent themselves. Remember, change is the only constant, so the only way to adapt and respond is to move forward.
If you’re looking to tap into a forward-obsessed mindset, shoot me a 👏 and follow me as I aim to make businesses support a more creative and curious world for everyone.