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Embracing Excellence
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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
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
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Embracing Excellence
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
C O N T E N T S
STEVEN L. BLUE
12
C O N T E N T S
SHARON BRAND
38
C O N T E N T S
VALENTINO DANCHEV
50
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
12 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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
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
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
Innovation
by the
Numbers
16 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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
If you want big jobs,
you have to solve big
problems. If you do,
that will get you
noticed.
‘‘
18 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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
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
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
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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
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 25
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
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
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
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 29
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
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
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 33
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
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
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
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
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
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38 EXELEON MAGAZINE
FOUNDER
BRAND’S MEDIA GROUP
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 39
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
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
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
IN – FOCUS
44 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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
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
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46 EXELEON MAGAZINE
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
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
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
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.
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50 EXELEON MAGAZINE
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 51
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.
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52 EXELEON MAGAZINE
WWW.EXELEONMAGAZINE.COM 53
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
VLADIMER
BOTSVADZE
Marketing Consultant, Professor,
Mentor, Speaker and Trainer
56 EXELEON MAGAZINE
IN – FOCUS
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
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
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?
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IN – FOCUS
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
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
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine
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Steven L. Blue | Transformational Leaders | Exeleon Magazine

  • 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
  • 4. 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
  • 6. C O N T E N T S STEVEN L. BLUE 12
  • 7. C O N T E N T S SHARON BRAND 38
  • 8. C O N T E N T S VALENTINO DANCHEV 50
  • 13. 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
  • 14. 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
  • 15. 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
  • 17. 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
  • 18. If you want big jobs, you have to solve big problems. If you do, that will get you noticed. ‘‘ 18 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  • 19. 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
  • 20. 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
  • 21. 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
  • 22. 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
  • 24. 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
  • 26. 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
  • 27. 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
  • 28. 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
  • 32. 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
  • 34. 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
  • 35. 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
  • 36. 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
  • 38. 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
  • 40. 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
  • 41. 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
  • 44. IN – FOCUS 44 EXELEON MAGAZINE
  • 45. 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
  • 46. 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
  • 47. 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
  • 48. 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
  • 50. 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
  • 52. 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
  • 56. VLADIMER BOTSVADZE Marketing Consultant, Professor, Mentor, Speaker and Trainer 56 EXELEON MAGAZINE IN – FOCUS
  • 57. 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
  • 58. 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
  • 59. 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
  • 60. 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
  • 61. 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