Episode Overview

If your personal brand is all kind of left to chance then you’ll enjoy this week's guest. Today I’m speaking with author Alex Brueckmann about how to be much more strategic in your personal branding.

Alex's website : https://www.brueckmann.ca/

Automatic Audio Transcription

Please note : This is an automatically generated transcription.  There are typos and the system may pick words or whole phrases up incorrectly.  

Welcome to Amplify the Personal Brand Entrepreneur Show today. On the show, Bob is speaking with Alex Brueckmann.

No became my before dancers to many things about two years ago when I started many business because I had learned that saying yes to everything just because it there is killing yourself and everyone around you.

Hile and welcome back to Amplify The Personal Brand Entrepreneur Podcast. I'm Bob Gentle. And every Monday I'm joined by amazing people who share what makes their business work. If you're new, then take a second to subscribe through your player up. And while you're listening, join our Facebook community. Just visit Amplify Me FM Insiders and you'll be taken right. Hi there and welcome to Amplify The Personal Brand Entrepreneurial. My name is Pop Gentle and every week and joy by incredible people who share what makes their business work.

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So head over to Amplify Me Agency. Forward a road map. I grab a copy of my brand new Personal brand business Blueprint. Everything you need to start, scale or just fix your expert business yours for free as a gift from me. So let's get into it this week. I am thrilled to welcome Alex Brookman the show. Alex, why don't you start by telling us a little bit about who you are, where you are on the kind of work you do?

Thanks for having me on your great show, Bob. Let me introduce myself. I live in Canada. Originally. I'm from Germany, so love broke me over to beautiful British Columbia, where I live with my spouse and our 18 month old son in beautiful Maple Ridge, 30 kilometres outside of Vancouver. And yeah, what I do. I've been in the strategy realm for kind of 15 years now. I've worked with global brands and companies consulting with them on their business strategy. I'm also an entrepreneur, so I built and scale businesses in Germany and now here in Canada.

And I'm all about helping other entrepreneurs building strong companies that are rooted in a unique purpose with a bullet proof strategy so that they combine working on profit and on purpose. If that makes sense.

That makes perfect sense. And what I would like to talk to you about today. It's something I think everybody is going to identify with you and I'm going to engage in a little bit of fantasy because what I want to talk about is building a time machine. Now I'll qualify this. We all go into business because we have a vision because we have a dream and it's so quickly lost, we get into a hamster wheel and then the vision is gone. Vision is a bit of a luxury when you go to have your face against this grindstone.

And I think one of the beauties of strategy is it really sits in the interface between a dream and reality. If you don't have a strategy, I think the way I often describe it to clients is you need a dream and so many people forget about the dream. You need the dream, then you need the strategy, then you need some projects and then you need some tasks and then you need to go to work and so many people the other start just with the tasks they become.

Would you call it become a Workman essentially, or they get stuck in the vision and they never actually execute on anything. So let's talk about what does it take to make dreams come true? How can we build a time machine?

Alex, I very much like how you frame it. A vision is a dream and it is a very concrete dream is if you translate this into an entrepreneur world, a vision should be something that you wrote down, something that you are very clear about. What is it that you want to achieve with your business in the next day? Maybe 15 months, maybe three years, maybe even five. The time frame doesn't really matter. It's totally linked to your personal reality. But you should write down this stream in a concrete way, and when we specified, it should include the state of your business some years down the road.

When it comes to what do clients say about you? What are the services and products you sell? What do your employees say about the company? What is the geographical footprint of your business? All these things can be written down, and of course, especially valuable is everything around the client. What is the unique value that you deliver? How do you sustain this unique value, etc. Etc. So this dream is your first step and where many entrepreneurs fail and you put it so nicely with this grindstone is to pursue this dream in a structured way so that it actually works and that they make their dream come true.

And this is where strategy comes into play. If you take a look around, you will realise that the term strategy is being used all over the place in so different meanings that it's often just a bus word. And let's translate this bus word into our conversation here. When we talk about strategy, what we really mean is a plan to execute on your dream right to reach your dreams. And this is nothing but a plan, just like jumping into your car, typing into the GPS system, a destination where I've never been before.

That's your dream. And then you start driving towards this destination. And along the way, things happen, right. First of all, you need to decide. Do you take the highway? Do you take smaller roads? Do you want to have ferries to cross Rivers or not? All these things? So that's two decisions in the beginning, before you actually start driving. But on the way, things can happen in your strategy helps to navigate those unknown territories and bring you eventually to your dream, to your final destination.

The difference between strategy and tactics.

Absolutely. Tactics are at least two steps further down. So if we talk about a hierarchy here, you start with your vision, you design your strategy, which is basically your handful of priorities that you focus on in order to reach the vision. And in those priorities, you probably find smaller projects, smaller topics, and those smaller projects you break down into tasks. And that's what you actually do. That's how you break down strategy and move it into action. You cannot execute on a strategy. And what you can do is you can put it into action by breaking it down into tasks, milestones and work toward those milestones.

That's what you do. That's how you translate strategy into operations and into action.

Something that I find quite often is a bit of a deviation, because what I want to talk about is strategy. And I know that you have some particular processes and frameworks around that which I want to get into. And maybe this does come into it. But something that I find happens very often because I work with all kinds of business owners, much like YouTube, but in a different area is they have a vision. There is a strategy, but they get bogged down in the busy work, so they're executing on things that are important.

I'm going to use the example of a consultancy in the average consultancy. You have clients, client work needs to get done and you need to work with the clients, work on the clients stuff. The problem is it can become all consuming, and there are the things that you work on in your business to help you stay still. The client work, they don't really move your business forward. They just feed the beast, like totally. And then there's the work that will move you forward. But for some reason, people never find or make the time for how do you reconcile that with your clients?

I guess that's probably a good place to go.

I think the main reason why this happens is it's twofold. First of all, busy work can feel very fulfilling. At the end of the day, you feel like you've accomplished a lot. You've crossed a lot of items off your to do list, and that makes you feel good. And also the busy work. It's typically the operational work that was there in the beginning. That's maybe the reason why you started your business in the first place, right? Because you were passionate about this particular type of client work that you do.

But as you grow and build a business, there is more to it than just the operation. There is this strategic element to it, and this is your task. As a company owner. No one else will do this for you. So you need to say goodbye to a certain degree to what you loved in the first place. Why you start the business in the first place and need to understand and embrace your additional roles that you need to play as a company on and as an entrepreneur life is full of sweet and shiny objects.

Right? Entrepreneurs constantly spot new business opportunities and see the potential for improvements here and there and want to pursue as many ideas as possible. And again, they might be it in the busy space. They might be rooted in those topics that you laughed and why you found you found your business in the first place. Imagine your default idea or your default answer to any idea or opportunity or offering that comes your way would be yes. As an entrepreneur, how long would it take before you overburden yourself completely and those around you, by the way?

So if you say yes to every opportunity or every idea that comes away, you will always be busy. You will always so busy that you don't find the time to take a step back and look at your business from a perspective that allows you to spot those tasks you should focus on as an entrepreneur versus those that other people around you should focus on. But when we talk about strategy, it is a lot about saying no instead of saying yes. Strategy is about saying no to hack a lot of potential great ideas and promising opportunities.

And this is so difficult because we love great ideas.

And I think really this touches on another area of your work, which is leadership. It's self leadership, taking responsibility. But it's also about giving other people permission to say no. And this is really important. I think when you grow a team, they need to be given permission to say no, I guess absolutely. In order to be effective. And they need to see you saying no in order to do that.

No became my default dancer to many things about two years ago, when I started my new business because I learned I had learned that saying yes to everything just because it's there is killing yourself and everyone around you. This is where company owners, which typically entrepreneurs, we typically have a lot of energy, but there are also people working for us that as kind of a nine to five job. And I don't mean this in any negative way, but they have chosen a different path for them. Their job is to provide the money that they need in order to pay the bills and also to have a good time.

But it's not that they work 15, 16 hours a day as we entrepreneurs sometimes do, because it fires us up and we love it. So if you give permission to your team to say no, they feel free to say yes to the things that matter, and not just yet by default. If you do that consistently and help your people understand the characteristics of something they can say no to and something that they can say that they can say yes to. What you actually do is you help them focus on prioritise, and as a result, the work that is getting done is of much higher quality because they focus on their time on those tasks and topics that truly matter.

I've worked in a company where success became our enemy. We were so successful that we constantly hired new people because the work was just overburdening for everyone. And it was really hard for us to say no to the shiny objects around the corner, meaning those RFQs and RF piece that were coming our way and new clients and new leads that wanted to understand how we work and potentially hire us for their strategy or leadership development projects. I saw personally what it did to me. I saw what it did to the people around me, and that is the reason why I say, as an entrepreneur, you should say no by default and be very, very intentional about the things you say yes to.

Yeah. I think that's the key is being intentional about what you say yes to an understanding that what you say yes to doesn't have to be the same as what everybody else says yes to that motivates, you should really come into this as well. Let's say I've been building my business through luck and just being a nice guy and being kind of good at what I do. I've now decided, okay, I want to move away from just winging it because it kind of worked so far. I want to be strategic.

How do we bridge that gap? I know that's an area you work on. So you're my God.

Well, let me put it that way. Being strategic is a skill like every other skill. You can learn this skill. So one of the most powerful habits that I've seen in business is to constantly grow your strategic acumen, your ability to think and act strategically. Now, what does that actually mean? Typically, everyday business is not a strategy, but operation, as you said it. If I want to stop winging it and be intentional about the growth of my company, I need to understand strategy. So instead of just being in the weed, day in and day out, producing and delivering goods and services, deal with satisfied or maybe also not so satisfied customers, improving your operations and so on.

There are different skills and tasks needed for strategy work than for the operation. First of all, you need to understand what strategy is, how it works. There are tools, thought processes, certain questions that you need to answer, and those are very, very different tools and skills and questions than you would typically use your day to day when I work with my clients and help them answer those questions very often they are like, this is a really interesting question. I wonder why I never asked myself this question and they struggle answering it because it's like a muscle that you need to train first.

So when you train your operations muscle day in, day out and you never train your strategic thinking muscle, guess what the moment you use it the first time you will be very sore the next day. It's like that. It's just like that. It's a muscle that needs training. The good thing is that muscle build very quickly. If you once get into strategic thinking, asking questions about your business from a strategic perspective and a more mid and long term perspective rather than just a short term perspective, those questions will never leave your head again.

Once you're in there, you can ask those questions on a constant basis, for example, especially larger corporations that I work with. They revised their strategy at least once a year and ask some critical questions like is this still ballot? Are the assumptions that our strategy is based on? Are the still valid what has changed in our business, in our organisation and in the economy around us that triggers some adjustments here and there or should trigger them. So you don't need a full blown MBA or a strategy course that takes you two years to accomplish.

Instead, you should just start with a hands on intentional strategy course that helps you understand which pieces of this beast of strategy are important for you, your reality where you are right now so that you can use those tools, those questions on your terms, to refine your business and to build this strategic acumen step by step.

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Now all you have to do is figure out how you want to spend those spare 5 hours. I think what's really interesting there is I can see it in a large Corporation perspective, but I can also see it in the very small business perspective that in many respects it's going to be harder for the small business owner to be strategic because it requires an elevated perspective. It requires you to step out of the everyday, and that requires a certain momentum because people are naturally inclined to step away from the business and make time for something that isn't necessarily revenue generating.

And your analogy of the muscle that really was something that painted a really nice picture for me, because if you want to get healthy, if you want to get fit in, is really what we're talking about. Becoming healthy and strong requires to be strategically led in exactly the same way as a business. Being healthy, it requires discipline, but it also needs routine because these things don't happen unless you're intentional about them. But actually much like fitness. If you do establish a modest amount of discipline. If you do establish basic routine that you do something short, even for once a week, you very quickly see the benefits.

It's like a very interesting perspective.

It's like habits in your life, right? There are healthy habits in your life, like Practising, playing a musical instrument or physically exercising. If you have this as a habit, it's healthy. There are harmful habits, like over consumption of social media, for example, or bench watching your favourite streaming side all day, not getting enough sleep. Those are harmful habits. And then they are really dangerous habits like drinking too much smoking, doing drugs, eating junk food all the time. They do something with you. And the same is true for your business.

If you're an entrepreneur, you need to understand which habits, our healthy habits for your business and which ones are harmful and maybe even dangerous habits. The most dangerous habit in business is to neglect the need for mid and longer term planning and strategic thinking. If you only focus on the here and now on the fast gratification, on feeding the the instant gratification monkey and on boasting your ego and God knows what I mean. There have been large corporations that went out of business because of that brands that dropped into oblivion like Nokia, companies that disappeared, like Lehman Brothers, for example, if you cheque your health or the health of your organisation regularly and you established this healthy habit of stepping away from your operations for a few hours every other month, maybe and taking a look like just like, imagine you drive on that road that we discussed earlier, right?

You're in your car. And from time to time you just stop the car, you jump into a helicopter, you fly up a couple of hundred metres and you take a look at the bigger picture. You will then see, am I still roughly on the right way? Am I driving in the right direction? I have. I lost it completely.

And you know what's interesting with what you're describing there is we're used to seeing what we see. We kind of understand it at the moment. You have to try and explain it to somebody else. That's when you start thinking about it, a new yet. And I think that's why having somebody like you or me available to help you talk about these things will allow you to see what you possibly didn't see before. And that's really, really important.

I totally agree.

So questions are important, and I think you've been doing this. You really focus on the strategy space a lot. And I'm curious to know this is putting you on the spot a little bit. And I apologise to take away the question if this doesn't work. So what are some foundation questions that you always pull out of your pocket that, you know this is going to help them think about things in ways they possibly hadn't before.

So this is going to be a mini math class. Some of the first questions that I take my clients through are actually not strategic questions. They have questions to help them understand the heat now because this is what they know and it eases them into the strategy think the strategic thinking. So some of the first questions I would ask them are around the strength of their organisation today, and they would come up with a hell lot of a long list of strength. And then I would challenge them to take away those that are not unique at every other organisation can also claim they have a strength.

So you boil it down to maybe two, if you're lucky, three unique strengths that only you as an organisation, as an entrepreneur possess. We use those strengths later to build a strategy around those strengths. That's the first step, understanding your strength. And then I help them understand the changes that their environment will see in the coming years and the changes that they expect to happen also internally, their organisation. So beat if they expect to grow, it means probably onboarding more people, establishing more solid processes. You name it, right.

So we understand the ecosystem first. And once we've done that, we boil it down to. What does that mean for me now, as an entrepreneur, as a leader in a company, as a small business owner, whatever you are, you need to first understand the ecosystem and then the trends that you feel or the development that you feel in the next two to three years will come your way. And based on that, the playing field kind of that we mapped out. We then start to talk about vision.

We write down very, very concretely what your business will look like. And this is this can get very creative and sometimes out of the box, which is totally fine. And it needs to be a stretch. If your vision is not a stretch, you should think again, your vision should be a dream coming true, something that motivates you day in and day out to work toward and something that will also motivate the people around you that work with you on achieving this vision. As I said, this can be a bit crazy because in the next step, you would then actually break this crazy dream down into Measurable Increments.

So you will understand how you can work towards the key elements in your vision. Now let's make this concrete. If you say, let's say you're a company or a small company and entrepreneur a few hundred thousand pounds, euros, dollars, whatever turn over a year. And you want to double this in the next two to three years. There are things that need to happen to achieve this. You cannot just wait two to three years and be like, okay, we said two years ago that we want to double our revenue.

Did we actually achieve that? That's not strategic. That's just no, it doesn't work like that. You need to establish a plan and a way in order to grow your revenue over time. And no matter how crazy your ideas are, did you write down in your vision? You will make them manageable by making them measurable. And you can measure the most crazy idea if you dare to. So it's possible to put nearly behind. Every idea is possible to put a KPI key performance indicator that helps you measure whether you're successful or not and whether you're moving towards this grant goal or not.

And once you've done those steps, writing down your vision, understanding how to measure that you're getting there, then we actually talk about, OK, what is our strategy to reaching this now to move those key performance indicators into the right direction. And this is where it becomes very, very difficult for many companies and entrepreneurs alike. Because now we're back at this point that we already discussed, we need to prioritise brutally saying no to things. We need to say yes to those things and we to identify them first, those things, those priorities that drive us towards this vision.

And those are what I call strategic projects. Or you can call them strategic work streams or pills, whatever you want to call them. Those are the handful of priorities that you will focus on day in and day out. And within those priorities, you will identify smaller projects, larger projects that need to happen. So let's take an example. Based on what we said, we want to double our revenue. So most likely one of your key work streams here, our strategic pillars will be something along the lines of lead generation or sales or marketing those buckets you would typically find in one of those work streams because they influence each other so heavily.

You want to put them into a strategic workstream, and then you go into those buckets and something might be along the lines of you need to increase your reach, meaning people need to know that you exist as the company that they know about your services. So how can you do that? The same is true for sales. Are our sales process is strong enough. How do we qualify leads. How do we find new clients? So you break your business into manageable and measurable increments. And you understand how they link, how they how they depend on each other, how they support each other, and then you improve them step by step, one by one and everything else that is not in those buckets.

It's not being taken care of. This is really your your gold standard for prioritisation and for filling your day to day with those tasks that are the most important ones because, you know they will bring you to your vision. This is how you design your strategy in the first place. So you know, by focusing on those priorities, there is no better way than this to reaching the vision. That's why you do it that way. Does that make sense?

It makes perfect sense. And you really very quickly start to understand the importance of rejecting those things that aren't moving you towards these goals that you're really clearly identified. And that's really the key here is being intentional about what you're doing and where you're going and not leaving it the chance. I think what you described there right there. That's how you build a time machine. That's how you accomplish great things. And I think you certainly reinvigorated my own enthusiasm for strategy. And most great, saying no, saying no, no, no is probably the most important thing that you couldn't have.

So I'm going to have to go on. It's very, very simple.

All times an entrepreneur, you only have the same amount of time as everyone else. And if you spend your time on things that don't matter, you will not be able to build a great business, to find fulfilment in your life, to find more freedom in your life, to live a more fulfilled life and work. One thing is for sure. In our days, today money is abundant. If you want money, you will find it. There's enough money out there. The markets are flooded with money. So if you need money to invest, you will find it.

If you spend a dollar kind of unintentionally, you find another one. But if you spend a minute or an hour a day, a week, a month unintentionally, this time will never come back. Therefore, intent being intentional about what you do about your strategy, about your priorities is absolute key.

I think that is a fantastic way to bring things to an end. I could ask more questions, but if people really want to achieve their dreams, I think what you just summed up is probably where I would want people to focus. So I'm going to park things right there. This is an episode. I think I want a lot of people to listen to twice, so let's not pack too much into it. And I think I would like to have you back again. I look at some point with all this conversation because I know you have a book coming out at some point soon, and we probably want to talk about that some time.

But if people want to move forward with you, if they want to connect with you, how would you like them to do that?

There is tonnes of free resources on my website. Go to Alex. The Strategist dot com cheque out free intentional strategy to get there are checklist for your organisational health on there. There is tonnes of free articles there Ven even if you don't want to work with me which is totally fine. Go cheque out those resources. They will help you get your head around the topic of strategy. They are very down to Earth. They will help you immediately to see and dissect the issues in your organisation right now.

Whether you're an entrepreneur or a small business owner or whether you're a leader in a larger organisation, they will help you to make the business and your life better.

I didn't know you had that domain. Not awesome. It's so cool. Alex, I need to ask you one question that I forgot to ask my guest last week and that's one thing you do now that you wish you'd started.

Five years ago, I spent way more time with my family than I did five years ago. I have an 18 month old son and seeing him grow up, it's really hard to say, but the pandemic was kind of a blessing in disguise because I was travelling like 60 70% of this has completely shifted when my son was born. The pandemic hit. It forced me to stay home and I see him grow up. So I would never do this differently again if I had known the pleasures of how great it is to be around family all the time and to see, to build a happier marriage, to build better relationships, how fulfilling this can be.

I would have started to focus on that many years ago.

I Echo that entirely. I have had a very, very brief. I think I've worked in a traditional job for about four years as an adult where I had to go out, away from home to work. I would never do it any other way than to work from home. It's just the best. I was very grateful to be able to see my kids grow up other. They're both adults now, I think. Yeah, it's the best.


I would wish that for anybody. Alex Brookman, you have been an awesome guest. I've really enjoyed myself. Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to speaking to you again soon.

Thank you. But it's been an honour to be guests on a great show.

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