Today's Reading

INTRODUCTION

Be Better.

Coming out of a divorce and dealing with a job that did nothing for me other than provide a paycheck, I knew I wanted my life to be better. The question keeping me awake at night was "Is this all there is?" I had hit rock bottom personally and professionally.

As a child of an alcoholic father, I entered my twenties and thirties already broken. I thought I had done all the right things: college degree, good job, marriage. In reality, I was clueless about what it meant to be better, but I knew I had to make major changes.

My initial focus was on my physical health. I committed to healthier eating and regular exercise. I began meditating and journaling to strengthen my body, mind, and spirit. As my physical and mental health improved, I focused on my career and realized I wanted to launch a business with the concept of "being better" rooted throughout the entire organization. The success of this strategy led me to write this book.

I'm confident that, like me, you're looking for something better for yourself and your business. Being a business owner is not for the faint of heart. At a minimum, it takes a person with a firm resolve, the ability to persevere and pivot during challenging times, the humility to admit mistakes, and empathy for the people around them. Self-reflection should come long before setting pen to paper for a business plan. Understanding who you are is critical to being a leader who seeks to align purpose with profit.

When I set out cross-country from New York to California to launch Branded Group, Be Better became my singular purpose. I realized that, as a CEO, I must lead by example so that my team would also be motivated and inspired to do the same.

This simple phrase has been the bedrock of my company culture, driving us to go above and beyond for our clients, our colleagues, our community, and each other. It is the beacon that guides our daily business decisions and sets the course for our long-term strategy.

In addition to wanting to lead a successful business, I wanted my company to be generous and actively involved in the community. My employees needed to embrace a "socially responsible" mindset so that our collective motivation was generosity of our time, talent, and resources. My role as a CEO is to leave a legacy that has a positive impact on others, whether it's because we provided meals to the food insecure, helped build sustainable housing for those most in need, or provided tuition assistance for a future tradesperson.

Broken to Better is for business leaders who are seeking to Be Better in their company, for their employees, clients, and community. Over the course of writing this book, my team and I have experienced a global pandemic, quarantines, and what seemed like never-ending wildfires in our beautiful state of California. None of us had previously experienced these types of challenges, and our agility muscles have been stretched to the max. However, we continue to be firmly focused on our vision, purpose, and core values, which has enabled us to persevere through what seemed impossible.

Putting time and effort into your company's culture is an investment that will reap rewards for years. Creating a work environment that is welcoming, nurturing, and empowering will keep your team engaged and ready to service your clients with excellence. As you get to know your team—'really' know them—you will begin to break down the old hierarchies created around the idea of "I'm the CEO, and you're not." Of course, you are the CEO. You make all the big decisions. But at the end of the day, you are a person just as the people who work for you are also people. If you can level the playing field in their eyes so that they feel comfortable talking to you as a person, not just as a boss they're fearful of, you've created a culture of gratitude, empathy, and compassion.

During my tenure as CEO of Branded Group, I've been able to speak at industry conferences and write articles that have been published in trade magazines and digital publications. I have even launched my own podcast sharing the Be Better stories of other entrepreneurs, CEOs, and business leaders. It's been an amazing journey and one I look forward to continuing for years to come.

I have learned many lessons during the course of my entrepreneurial journey. These have come from my co-founders, my employees, and our clients and vendors, as well as a multitude of industry experts I have had the privilege to meet and interact with regularly. You will read about many of these lessons and the various teachers I've had in this book. I'm happy to share their insights so that you, my fellow entrepreneur, can take advantage of the experiences I've had and perhaps avoid some of the missteps.

This book consists of 13 principles that will inform and inspire you to Be Better in all aspects of your life—to be a better CEO, manager, employee, friend, coworker, or whatever shoes you fill. Some of the tips and best practices may seem like common sense. You may be tempted to gloss over them, but I recommend that you take it all in, as there's always something new to learn. I also hope you will check out the podcast recommendations at the end of each chapter. The guests on these shows are both informative and inspiring.

If you walk away from reading this book with only one lesson, it is to lead with emotional intelligence. Making money is a good thing, and I hope you will see how my team and I have been able to create and sustain a profitable company. However, I believe our success was achieved because of our Be Better commitment and our company culture.
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