Go Ahead, Make My Day!

Make It Count

Highly unusual for me to quote a Dirty Harry movie but stick with me for a minute.

I’ve got twenty something boys who are poised and ready to set the world on fire. We have been talking a lot lately about next steps and where life might take them and it’s pretty invigorating to see their thought processes and like many in their generation their intense desire to make a difference.

Then serendipitously,  I came across the Alexandra Franzen’s blog that talked about the “be a day maker movement” and I fell in love with the concept that no matter what we do, or where we do it, we can make a difference. You don’t have to donate a million dollars (but very cool if you can) or stand on the other side of the world supporting a cause, you can make a difference with a kind word, smile or just being the genius you are at your workplace.

Good brands want to make a difference everyday too. Sure, we hear and share the bad brand stories. When the talk isn’t walked, and actions don’t align with purpose we can usually see it a mile away. And a bad service story – well that can irrevocably damage a brand in this “kiss and tell” era of social media. But there are so many good brand stories. I think of how thankful I am for the many people, business and brands who make my day. So here is a shout out to the “day makers” who have recently crossed my path:

  • the stellar staff at Essential packaging who made ordering a delight. Personal touch. Check. Gained a loyal customer. Check.
  • Coutts courier. For the last 25 years whenever I need a courier I only call one company. Coutts courier. They don’t have a FB page or an app, nor do they insta everyday. They have been doing what they do, the same way for a long time. And they do it perfectly. I have even had one of their drivers call to give me an update on all the deliveries he had done for me. Living their brand….yup. Trust earned. Check.
  • Connecting good people with good people – love to do that. Good luck at Synergy, Laurel!
  • A favourite client making it in the “bigs” selling her children’s book at the NHL all star event. Witnessing success, that makes my day – check it out here: www.afanforlife.com
  • A favourite shop – Crocus and Ivy. Arriving at their store to pick up a gift I had ordered by phone that was already beautifully wrapped! Saving me time for the win!
  • Annual planning with a client – TCM Financial Studio. They are truly value based. They just “get” how to care for people and each other and have a blast doing just that. Living their brand so authentically everyday. No wonder such blazing success is finding them.

What would happen if not only did we want to find and tell the good stories, what if we also wanted our businesses and our work to be someone’s “day maker” ?

Goodness. Unleashed.

Thanks for the inspiration to all of the above and a special nod to Clint Eastwood “Go ahead, make my day”  turns out to be a wonderful way to live and to do business.

Do What You Love

Do What You Love

Do what you love and the rest will come.

This was the philosophy I grew up on. (With Valentines Day around the corner it seemed like a fitting blog to write).

My Dad was a firm believer in all things positive long before it was trendy. He could see the good in anyone and anything. He would tell you he never worked a day in his life and there was an energy about him that just made you believe that anything was possible. I soaked it up.

But I do remember a night very clearly when I owned Starstruck a clothing manufacturing company (read about it here) and I called home and the conversation went something  like this:

Me: So Dad a whole container of fabric is lost. We have some unforgiving retailers waiting on us and I don’t know how we can deliver on time. I’m loving this a whole lot Dad truely I am but when will “the rest” come? I’m worried “the rest” is lost with the fabric and there is no tracking number?

Dad: It’ll come Jano. It’ll come. Just hang in there.

I hung up the phone sort of stomping about wanting a better answer. How could he be so darn sure?

As entrepreneurs we know life isn’t always sunshine and roses. There are long exhausting days that try us in a way nothing else can. Our faith can be shaken in ourselves, in our products and in our business. And we might not be able to see it at the time but there is real magic in being shaken to the core like that. I think at the heart of the entrepreneur lies an unstoppable  faith that when we do what we love the rest really does come.

I miss my Dad everyday and his voice saying ‘It’ll come’ is as clear to me today as it was that night. And it’s advice I’m glad I’ve built my life and my business on.

Finding Your Story



When I first started to say out loud  that my new business would be called The Story co. I got some sideways glances. I would need to further explain what that would mean and then I would get a weak smile and a hesitant nod. (Note to self work on 30 second pitch) And I still get those glances, but not as often. Now all aspects of story marketing is becoming mainstay and it has become  the “go to strategy”.

There are courses, schools conferences, blogs all about strategic story telling. It’s thrilling and I could eat it up with a spoon. But there are times when I think we are taking the simple, and making it complex. Most of us were brought up on stories. We know a good story when we hear it and of course the opposite of that is also true. There are some tricks to the trade but formalizing story telling too much can remove it’s magic and perhaps misses the point.

Here is a GREAT STORY … about a company that I have enjoyed watching and supporting over the years. They have recently written THIS BOOK which of course I am going to buy. They were one of the first to jump on the “be happy, not grumpy band wagon”. Being first to market is a valued position – is that why they are such a success? They also had great designers, on trend product and you could find their merchandise where you wanted to buy it. All really, really, important ingredients to their success.  Others have done this too, but have had short runs and success has been fleeting. A t-shirt is still a t-shirt right?

So how come it works for them?  I believe it comes down to finding the power of their story and unleashing it consistently. Their  “life is good, but not always easy” philosophy  resonates.  And it has resonated for 11 years. Their story is rooted in their reality making it undeniably authentic. It also makes us want to buy their product and give their product to others. And most of all it  makes us want to cheer them on, and be part of their story. Boom. That’s the power of story.

Maybe their story strategy is well crafted –  narrative structure perfect, character development flawless, story structure supreme and the controlling idea nailed. But I think they just wanted to share their reason for being. Sell some product. Spread a message that we needed to hear. Authentically live their brand.

So please, do find your story. The one that means something to you, and to me, and be sure it’s the story that only you can tell.  Put the formula aside, let the heart and soul of your business sing and run wild – that’s where you will find your story. Then own it. Own it big.

When you find it be sure to tell us about it. We can’t resist sharing a good story.

PS I just happen to think Life is Good is a cool story no endorsements received.

Building the Story Co Brand

When you are in the business of building brands – building your own can be quite daunting. It’s a measure by which others will determine whether or not you are good at what you do – so that’s kind of scary. It’s also your very own, and you want it to be so perfectly right – yup, pile on more of the palm sweating scary. And you want it to vibrate, resonate, engage, sizzle and shine while telling your story (the one you keep a little too close to the vest). Tall order.

But … an irresistibly, expansive tall order!

One of the nicest compliments I have ever received was from a client, after presenting her with a snazzy new business name, visual identity and tagline she said “you listen on a whole different level”.

So I listened …

What could this little company of mine offer the world?

Clarity, beauty, and growth was the answer that roared out loud.

What do I believe the world needs more of?

Businesses who understand how powerful their story is. And people who know how to own their story. Combining the two? Well, that’s where the irresistibly, expansive bit comes in.

Who did I want to work with?

Difference makers.

What could only the Story co do?

Listen on a whole new level. Hear the story, and find its power. Connect the dots.

(And if you know me at all just the mention of the word dots gets my visual senses tingling. So of course dots were going to part of this wonderful adventure but I digress)

So I flushed out a business plan all the while keeping these statements near and dear. And only when the strategic process was complete did we start the visual identity and naming process.

The name the Story co and the tagline: live your story, love your brand. That came naturally.  Live+love,  hell yes I want to spend my life doing exactly that.

Story + brand – well that was me in a nutshell.

Next up …

Fonts – oh for the love of fonts!! So many, many, many beautiful fonts! The ever brilliant Kelly Hogan, Story co font wizard and design guru said “hmmm how about something that hints back to days gone by to the place where we first got the story – the newspaper. Bam! Font selected. And all encased in a circle – well you know now that I love circles. Playful, unending, inclusive, strong. Yup – needed that!

Colours –  I’ve got some really deep love for colour!  But those old newspapers were just black and white. The starkness, clarity and simple beauty reflected the brand. Wanted that.

And the finishing touch – the yellow dot. (just one – showed I am capable of some restraint). Yellow dot thinking has become our philosophy, our framework, our trademark. That little dot is the hero of your story. It is the best of you, it is what makes you stand out in a crowd,  shine like the sun, and smile silly.

And so that’s how the he Story co brand was born and each day it is a whole lot of fun to find ways to live my story, and love my brand. Always comes back to love, doesn’t it?


Getting It Right

Customer Service

Sometimes getting it right is the most natural thing to do.

When I owned Starstruck a company that manufactured a line of women’s clothing (check out the story here) we were shipping orders to 320 stores in the US and 120 in Canada. Once the order had been received we would call the store to make sure it had arrived ok, to see how it was performing and to thank them for believing in us. (I admit, it was a bit like sending our babies across the street – we had a lot of love put into those clothes and now that they were venturing off, and to check on them seemed like the most natural thing to do.)

Storeowners and department store managers at first didn’t really know what to do. They had never had a manufacturer call them before – which of course shocked us! So there we were on those first calls, me bursting with excitement checking in our babies; and the storeowner a little taken aback. A little awkward? Yup, but as time went on and we earned their trust by consistently calling them with each order. We realized that they loved having a chance to talk to us, and we loved listening to them! Quickly those who sold Starstruck became our friends and loyalties on both sides of the relationship deepened. We shared struggles and triumphs and the more they got to know us the more they enjoyed sharing our story with their customer.

We also gained insight into who their customers were and what they were looking for. From colours, designs, fabrics and price points we had a chance to learn first hand how to make the storeowner successful and their customer happy. Our line became influenced by who was buying it and the storeowners became invested in our brand – becoming the true heroes of our story. Quite honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!

I could never put a price on the value of those calls and the friendships made. As we got bigger it was more challenging to do, with the stakes higher there was nothing more vital to our success then getting direct feedback on our product and getting advice on how our next line could best meet the needs of their customer. I never got over the thrill of making those calls, and what was so natural for us to do became a key differentiating factor in the highly competitive and fickle fashion marketplace. Our brand began to be set apart. We knew we weren’t just selling clothes – we were selling love on a hanger and success in a box.

When something feels like it is  the right thing to do – even if it’s not the industry norm. (Perhaps, especially if it is not the industry norm) Try it. Trust yourself to do the right thing. You got this.

Doing good, by doing right always wins.

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