This is my B.R.A.N.D. Story (Part 1)
STORY OF MY LOVE AFFAIRS
This is one of many stories I have been telling for as long as I have been in the U.S. and navigating the country's immigration system from an international student to an immigrant worker to now, a permanent resident (ie. green card holder). Watch this introduction video before continuing below.
THE FULLER STORY ...
Shortly after I graduated from college in early 2000, I found my first love. I had a good feeling. She is committed and I am committed. We can build a life together! We even have a ring (aka green card application) being customized at the shop.
However, she got very sick during the global financial crisis of 2007 & 2008. I wasn't by her side when she told the news to many of our mutual friends behind closed doors. We got to say our goodbyes when I spent the last few days watching her drift away.
As I tried to pick up the pieces of my life, another person came into the picture. I have known her for many years prior to my first marriage and our evolving relationship felt like a rebound. A whirlwind of activities followed as my new and exciting life with my second love started to take shape.
With new documents proofing our relationship in hand, I returned to my home country to visit my aging parents. And like always, I would go to the U.S. Embassy in Singapore to apply for a re-entry permit in my passport.
"You cannot return to the U.S. and need to reapply after a year," an immigration officer told me at the embassy. I stared at the stone-faced officer as the hopes of returning to my life in the U.S. greyed out like the memory wall of an evicted Big Brother houseguest. No ifs-and-or-buts.
One month turned to three as I kept in touch with my second love, explaining the ordeal and assuring her that I will find my way back home to her. After some legal services and congressional activities, I got approved to re-enter the U.S.!
However, she has been cheating on me; or at least that's how I felt. Two weeks before my return, she told me on the phone that I am not coming back to a job. I was in shock. I pleaded for an answer, for more time, or at least, for us to talk about it after I return to the U.S.
The moment I set foot on U.S. soil, I called her. I needed answers to the growing list of questions flooding my mind during the 20+ hours of transcontinental flight between Singapore and the U.S.
"I don't want to talk about it," was all I can remember her saying. It hurts man. After almost being robbed of a chance to return to my home in the U.S., I was faced with another possibility of uprooting my life.
While licking my wounds, I quickly jumped back into the dating scene. Yes, I was desperate and I was not ready to give up on love. Third time's the charm, some say, and my third love couldn't have come at a better time.
I wanted to say that I got wiser. We both agreed on a verbal equivalent of a prenup and started a mutually beneficial relationship. Granted like in any relationship, we have our ups and downs, but it was a blast! I have forgotten about our agreement... until the ring showed up four years later.
If you remember, the "ring" was the green card application from my first employer. If you have not gone through the process, you may not understand the complexity but this approved green card is legit. Okay, now back to the love story.
The ring became the white elephant in the room. For several months, it kept asking me, “Vincent, is this your time to move on, or is this third love your happily-ever-after?"
Well, I wrote a letter to my third love saying, "It's time, my dear. I treasure our relationship, like all the ones I have had. But I am ready to get on the road on my own. I have not given up on love, just ending this one... to find myself.”
15 years 3 relationships
In case you have not already figured out, the love affairs are really three employee-employer relationships during the first 15 years spent in the U.S. between graduating from college to starting my own business.
This is not a story of love affairs at work. It’s my love story in relation to work in the U.S. as an immigrant. And like any human relationship, hearts will be broken as much as lifted up when your legal status as an immigrant is at the mercy of your employers. But I know that I am not defeated as long as I still have breath in my lungs and passion in my heart.
B: MY BUSINESS FOR EXISTENCE
I value these character-shaping careers as they have caused me to ask myself "What is my ultimate business in life? ".
Yes, getting the U.S. Permanent Residency status was my goal, which explains why I kept trying to remain in the system as a legal immigrant through employment.
Becoming a green card holder is a mission that kept me focus on a short-term goal between 2000 and 2013. It became a means to my ultimate desire to maintain the friendships I have formed and deepen a handful of those beyond pleasantries.
Losing my first job did not take away the rich relationships I have built with people at and outside of work. Being replaced at my second job did not take away my skills and ability to continue pursuing the career I wanted elsewhere. And leaving my third job is not an act of sticking-it-to-the-man but a desire to step out of my comfort zone, challenge myself, and take care of the people I love.
Those times were hard; mentally and emotionally. But my Savior Jesus has put specific friends in my life to keep me on track with His ultimate plan for me. I want to nurture those relationships so that I can continue to be inspired by them while discovering more about the Author and Perfecter of my faith. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
This is just one of many stories I tell. This is part of my B.R.A.N.D. story.
If you are a business owner seeking to make your brand more memorable, it starts with you and your personal brand story. The B.R.A.N.D. System is created as a self-directed tool for you to uncover five key components of your personal brand, which will start you on the journey towards mastering your business brand.
Conquer & Endure (Part 1)Read Now
FROM CLUBS TO CLEATS
Ryan Ellis is a friend I got to know in college when I decided to complete my senior year on the campus of Oklahoma City University. Shortly after we graduated, Ryan got more involved in marathons and triathlons and started excelling in endurance sports.
As a former All-American Collegiate golfer, Ryan combined his competitive spirit with his newfound love in nutrition and coaching, and Conquer Training was born.
FAST FORWARD 10 YEARS
We have both come a long way since; from my approach to brand design to Ryan's philosophy in running a business. When I was interviewing him for my upcoming book "The One Game Changer to Boost your Business", we walked down memory lane about corporate logo since we had worked on the ones for Conquer Training.
"No," Ryan answered matter-of-factly when I asked him if every company needs a logo. "The only person that really cares about a logo is the business owner."
This is not to discredit the work of professional logo designers ('cause I am one of them) but more of a reminder to business owners that we shouldn't get too hung up on needing a swoosh or some golden arches.
"It (logo) is cool but it doesn't generate revenue," Ryan Ellis
"Understanding the difference between branding and marketing was challenging at first," Ryan admitted but is now able to make the distinction.
While Conquer Training and Ellis Endurance Lab are promoted (ie. marketing) differently because of the variations in products, services, and customers, Ryan's brand as an expert in the endurance community carries across his two businesses.
IS IT AN EXPENSIVE HOBBY?
Ryan is always about living a healthy and active lifestyle, which allows him to resonate with his customers; whether they come to him wanting to break a personal record at the next Ironman (eg. a desired condition) or with a road bike that is not providing the most comfortable ride (eg. a pain point). Ryan's interest and knowledge in endurance sports are thus, part of his personal and business brands.
That's an important place to start when considering starting a business. Are you passionate about the industry you are going to be in? Are you interested in it enough to continue learning and growing in your knowledge about it?
Consider the 'N's in the B.R.A.N.D. System and ask yourself these two questions:
Defining your personal B.R.A.N.D.: What are you NATURALLY good at?
Developing your business B.R.A.N.D.: What is your NICHE in the market?
Understanding your brand will make the difference between a profitable business and an expensive hobby.
Stay tuned for Part 2 as we dive deeper into the other aspects of Ryan's B.R.A.N.D..
Traders of the Seas (Part 1)Read Now
One might wonder why a grocery store has a nautical theme even though seafood is not her primary product. Between the ringing of ship bells and employees known as crew members, mates, and captains, Trader Joe's seafaring culture can be traced back to her founder Joe Coulombe (1939 - 2020).
While Trader Joe's has always been tight-lipped about her business model, you can easily find wave upon wave of information from her school of avid fans in the digital ocean.
In this B.R.A.N.D. Freeze moment, I would like to first tap into the personal brand of Joe Coulombe to gain insights into the making of a memorable brand.
You don’t have to be a celebrity
The goal of defining one's personal brand is not always about creating a celebrity-persona like that of Richard Branson (Virgin Group), Elon Musk (Tesla), Ellen DeGeneres, or Martha Stewart.
As a founder/owner, you don't have to be the face of your company, but you have to be the spirit behind its culture. Your physical presence is limited by time and space, but a brand-centric culture will last for generations.
Tracing his career back to 1958 when Coulombe was tasked by his then-employer Rexall Drugs to launch a chain of convenience stores to compete with 7-Eleven, we saw the maiden voyage of this trader on the culinary seas.
A: SWEAT IT & READ IT
Coulombe was said to have worked without pay at Pronto Markets, the new chain he helped started, so that he can learn the business. When 7-Eleven became too big to compete against, Rexall’s decision to liquidate the stores opened the door for Coulombe to buy out the business which he renamed Trader Joe’s in 1967.
If you have an end in sight, there is no other way around hard work to get there. It doesn't matter if your goal is short- or long-term, big or small; have a goal. Coulombe did not want to compete with the bigger giants in the convenience store business and knew he had to be different.
From his interview with Perfect Business, it was also clear that Coulombe’s business savviness came from a lot of reading.
He read about the anticipated launch of Boeing 747 and figured that cheaper international air travel will wet the appetite of people for food from different parts of the world. Trader Joe's, to this day, is known for her selection of food from all over the globe.
Inspired by an article on Biosphere in the Scientific American along with subscription to multiple whole food related publications, Coulombe also steered Trader Joe's towards the natural and organic food route.
After Coulombe's retirement in 1989, he remained the voice of Trader Joe's in a LA radio show "Food and Wine Minute''. Listeners would join him on his visits to the world's wine regions with interesting insights into food. Subscribe or pick up a copy of the Fearless Flyer and you will get a taste of his legacy.
As for the maritime theme, Joe drew his inspiration for Trader Joe’s unique look-&-feel from Frederick O'Brien's White Shadows in the South Seas and the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland.
As a founder and leader of your business, you are ultimately responsible for weaving the fabric of the human organization you are establishing. How are you achieving that? How tightly woven is your personal B.R.A.N.D. to the business B.R.A.N.D.?
Big Bird from Sesame Street was invited to orbit the earth onboard NASA’s Challenger in 1986 when the mission went horribly wrong and claimed the lives of seven passengers.
Caroll Spinney, the man underneath the yellow feathery costume, has made Big Bird quite a celebrity when NASA invited him on that mission to get children interested in space.
D: What DRIVES you to excel?
Dillon James, a spiritual cowboy and a country Post Malone as Katy calls him, is chasing his singing dream and wanting to turn his life around after battling drug and alcohol addiction. “I love him like I almost lost him... and I am not letting go,“ Dillion’s mom Lindy talked about her prodigal son. Dillion in the same segment revealed his motivation, “I want to be your son. I want to be your brother.”
Just Sam, a New York City subway performer, is wanting to show her grandma that someone from the projects can also have their dreams come true. She was very emotional during her first audition in front of the judges and asked to “do the train thing” to get comfortable. During Hollywood Week, she brought out her ‘lucky’ tip box which later received cash from the three judges. “I came out here to have fun and I made some money doing what I do everyday,” Just Sam tearfully said after that performance.
While many may dismiss all these sob stories as scripted and intended to increase viewership, that's not the purpose of this post. The goal is for you to examine the driving force behind everything you do in life and in business.
Identifying what drives you involves digging deep into what you value. Our core values are personal code of conduct and when aligned with that of your business, you will find greater fulfillment. It will guide your hiring process, excite your team, inspire marketing decisions, and ultimately form a solid foundation for your brand.
Other than that, I love a good story and I like a good cry. Judge me.
Review the components of this B.R.A.N.D. Freeze.