Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jenna Fagnan

Making the “People’s Margarita” and Virtual Teremana Tequila Tasting with Jenna Fagnan


Jenna Fagnan was born in a small Inuit village in Alaska.  The daughter of parents working in non-profit organizations, she grew up in Oregon and Swaziland.  Following a career as account manager at ad agency Weiden + Kennedy, handling their Nike and Coca Cola accounts, she moved to LVMH and worked in their wine and spirits division, as well as with Tag Heuer watches.

Launching a new Tequila Brand with Dwayne Johnson

In 2010 Fagnan co-founded Avion Tequila with Ken Austin.  In 2020, they launched a joint project with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who had always wanted to develop a tequila brand.  The result was Teremana tequila, a family-run business situated in the Jalisco Highlands in Mexico, producing two varieties of organically grown and chemically pure tequila for the boutique spirit market.

Fagnan made the transition to wine and spirits entrepreneurship in part because she missed working in the sector (she had helped rebrand Dom Perignon whilst at LVMH).  She wanted to seize the opportunity to try the experiment while the opportunity was there.  “If not now, then when?” she thought.

Tequila is a 16th century spirit which has recently developed fashionable cachet as a drink of celebration (as promoted in TV shows like “Entourage”).  Patron led the way as an early market leader in premium tequila, then other designer brands followed suit.

Working with Dwayne Johnson (DJ), Fagnan found a committed celebrity who really wanted to partner with Avion, and commit to working hard to personalize, perfect, and differentiate the Teremana brand.  The brand logo incorporates six of the letters from his three daughters’ names.  Uniquely, DJ insisted the bottle carry nutritional information about the liquor (including that it contains 96 calories per ½ ounce).

On Celebrity Partnership

Celebrity Partnership, says Fagnan, can only work if the celebrity is there for the right reasons.  As an entrepreneur you must be dealing directly with them, not just their manager.  They must not be looking to make a quick buck from a fast launch to which they merely lend their celebrity status.  Fagnan and McLeod tried their best to dissuade DJ, their standard strategy for ascertaining a celebrity’s investment, but he proved unflappable.

Not only does a celebrity’s values have to align with the DNA of the brand, but when this is the case, entrepreneurs should not hesitate to hand over an enhanced equity share.  The value in terms of reach and scalability will more than compensate for the reduced profit share.

A good way to access celebrities is to use LinkedIn connections and find a through-line to the individual in question.   You will initially talk to their management but if you highlight the overlap between your own enthusiasm and values with their client’s, a good manager will not want to pass up a particularly favorable or profitable opportunity.

About Teremana Tequila

Teremana Tequila contains no additives, a purity requirement DJ insisted upon, aligned with his own concerns about the food and drink he consumes.  The Blanco variety is unaged but made from mature agave.  It has a NOM designation of 1613, unique to the brand.  The Jalisco Highlands where it was made is an area once blighted by Mexican drug cartels, so it is a major bonus to be able to contribute towards economic stability in the region, and safety and security for its children.

Empowering Female Entrepreneurs

Fagnan is inspired by young entrepreneurs, by their clarity of vision and enthusiasm.  She gives back to the businesswomen she meets with advice and support, having been mentored at LVMH by a male executive with a daughter her age.  She points out that this is also a great way to keep up with current technological trends and cultural developments.

Fagnan has an ambition to bring more women into the wine and spirits sector.  Shockingly, although they constitute 60% of the consumer base, women make up less than 10% of boards within the industry.

The People’s Margarita

This cocktail is so-called because it uses Mexican ingredients and the pineapple references DJ’s part-Polynesian heritage and Hawaiian upbringing.


0.75 oz lime juice

2 oz Teramana Blanco Tequila

½ oz agave nectar

1 oz pineapple juice

Table salt


  1. Cut one lime and squeeze the juice into a shaker or large glass.  NB: 1 lime produces about 1 oz juice.
  2. Add ½ oz agave nectar.
  3. Pour in 1 oz pineapple juice.
  4. Add 2 oz Teramana Blanco.
  5. Drop in several ice cubes and shake.
  6. Moisten the rim of a highball glass by rubbing half a lime along it.
  7. Dip the highball glass into a saucer of table salt to decorate the rim.
  8. Pour out the cocktail (either strained or including ice) into the highball.


  • Shaking helps break up the agave nectar and adds a little water from the ice.
  • Always add the liquor last. If you make a mistake, you’ll only have to discard the inexpensive ingredients.
Liz Bentley Smiling Image

Unlock The Confidence You Need to Succeed in Business With Liz Bentley

Executive Coach and Consultant Liz Bentley here describes her six-step method for personal growth, leading towards that elusive seven-figure salary.  Much of what Bentley describes as holding women back is centered on the different ways in which boys and girls are brought up, the expectations put upon them, and the behaviors that are considered appropriate.

Barriers exist both within women and in society, but both can be overcome with the right mindset and approach.

Step One: See Your Truth.

The first stage is a process of self-examination.  Female executives need to investigate their upbringing and understand how it shaped their present-day expectations.  When they demonstrated their power as a child, was it celebrated or quashed?

Emotional and Mental Imprinting takes place from birth until age 10.  It is irreversible but can be understood and dealt with.  One example is the different ways in which boys and girls are treated when they have accidents – boys encouraged to dust themselves off and try again, girls over-protected and encouraged to be avoidant.  Girls are also warned against initiating relationships, which can be unhelpful when it comes to learning the sales and negotiating skills a good CEO needs.

Girls are often taught to believe their looks are their main asset and that they must work harder than boys, who are more commonly praised for innate ability.  Step one is to override these imprinted instincts.  This includes learning to be more risk-taking and never to say “the money isn’t important” out loud.

Step Two: Do the Hard Stuff First

Procrastinating, making excuses and putting off the difficult tasks in favor of the easy ones means you don’t learn by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone.  Learn to relish the big challenges and seek them out.  Delegating and ceding control to others might be necessary, taking on the things you are less good at, in order to improve.

Step Three: Say Yes to the Things that Scare You

Women can tend to overprepare.  Perhaps they believe they aren’t ready to take on challenges, whereas men tend to leap in feet first.  For instance, you may be wary of selling a software product you haven’t yet built, even though this is now an established and successful SaaS strategy.

Step Four: Say No to the Things that Don’t Advance You

Boundaries are important.  Beware of offering too much help to others when it means dropping what you’re doing.  There are two types of givers – those who are the least effective workers in a company, and those who are the most effective.  This seems paradoxical at first, but the latter type of giver actually maintains effective boundaries while supporting and promoting colleagues.

Step Five: Know you have to Fail to Succeed

In step five, Bentley advises taking a lesson from athletes, who can only improve through repeated failure.  Their failures motivate them to improve, and they become used to changing quickly and adopting new strategies to achieve eventual success.

CEOs, similarly, take big risks daily.  You need to appreciate this as a fun part of the job.

Step Six: Lean into the Feedback and Grow

By “feedback” here Bentley is not talking about formal feedback sessions from superiors within an organization, but more the general sense of the feedback we’re given by the universe.  This comes in many forms, but usually begins as a whisper, becoming a tap on the shoulder, then a slap on the back and finally, if we’re still not listening, a frying pan in the face.

Bentley stresses that it pays to develop an instinct for listening to the feedback when it’s a whisper or a tap on the shoulder.  This gives you time to stop, take stock, and pivot to a new strategy.  It involves not immediately going on the defensive, making excuses, or assigning blame to others for failings.

Learning this skill will help you lead a company very effectively, since you will tend to react ahead of the market, rather than merely being reactive to the changes that rivals are making.

Support Yourself with the Right People

Once you build trust within a team, your colleagues will challenge and second-guess you when it’s appropriate to do so.  They will not be shy about voicing concerns, but nor will they undermine you.

When giving feedback to subordinates, do so helpfully, directly, and honestly.  Take emotion and judgement off the table and demonstrate what success would look like.  Give deadlines for change but be prepared to let a team member go if they do not demonstrate a willingness or ability to improve.

You are Only Accountable to One Person

Bentley concludes by pointing out that you only have to answer to yourself, and that self-improvement should remain an ongoing process.  Another key tendency to avoid is to focus too much on things you cannot change, particularly in a crisis.  To do so is to avoiding working on those factors you can influence and change.


It is also vital to celebrate all that you have achieved to date as you progress.


Recommended Podcast: Brene Brown: https://brenebrown.com/podcasts/

Beyond Purpose: What a Business Needs to Succeed with the CEO of Sylvain, Alain Sylvain

Becoming fully invested, obsessed even, with one’s purpose is the hallmark of many successful companies.  It can also help brands to differentiate themselves in competitive marketplaces.  Sylvain enables companies to find their corporate purpose, align all their activities and departments with it, and grow.

Replacing the outmoded concept of a “mission statement”, a purpose statement must be deeply entrenched within how a brand sees itself.

Dangers of Paying Lip Service

Sylvain explains what a true purpose is NOT:

  • Arbitrary or token since it should define corporate direction.
  • Misaligned, not fitting with what the company is or does.
  • For show only – it’s not an Instagram slogan.

Misaligned or poorly thought through corporate purposes can become liabilities, since companies making this mistake are seen as cynical or hypocritical.

Four Elements of a Well-Written Purpose Statement

A company like Patagonia exhibits the degree of obsession with its purpose that Sylvain finds admirable.  It is “in business to save our home planet”, a bold and uncompromising vision.

A well-designed purpose statement has these four main components:

  1. Credo. Something greater than you, of which you seek new knowledge.
  2. Belief. Everyone must be invested in the shared purpose.
  3. Vision. An audacious, idealistic notion of the direction of travel.
  4. Contagion. The purpose must take hold with the brand’s customer base.

There are other aspects to a good purpose statement, but these are the main factors that matter.

Sylvain goes on to give four examples of companies with well-defined Purposes:

Four Great Examples of Purpose-Driven Brands

Patagonia – The poster child of purpose, even giving away some of its profits to fund ecological causes and including “hidden” slogans in the stitching of its garments.

Impossible Foods – Whose purpose is to replicate the meat experience, with wholly plant-based foodstuffs.  Their burgers are already achieving this to a remarkable degree.

Chanel – Despite its founder’s complex history (Nazi collusion), the company now is still very female-focused, remaining determined not to branch out into menswear.  It has also made a conscious decision not to follow most other prestige brands into ecommerce, favoring the high-touch, one to one, sensual experience of its stores.

Tony’s Chocolonely – The Dutch chocolatier has taken on some big high street names with a determination to source all its products ethically, while competing with huge French and Belgian brands.

One BAD example he gives is that of We Work, whose stated purpose “to help people live a full life” did not chime with their revenue and utility driven approach.  They over-inflated their own value, leading to the exodus of customers and investors.

Recently they have realigned themselves with their original aim to find employees a place to go – real human connection in a shared workplace, something that may prove popular in the post-COVID transition period.

Aligning Personal Purpose with Brand Purpose

In the discussion, it became evident that there is often a conflict between finding a match between an entrepreneur’s personal purpose, and that of their client or employer.

Sylvain views this as potentially an opportunity to be an “agent of change” within an organization, a driving force for finding a better purpose.  Where personal purpose cannot be so aligned, Sylvain believes you can derive satisfaction from developing side hustles which do.

Why Obsession Need Not be Pejorative

Although it’s a somewhat taboo notion in a world where obsession is seen as unhealthy, it need not be in Sylvain’s definition.  He says: “it needs to really carry through viscerally in every part of the organization… that’s what I mean when I say obsession relative to purpose, because purpose alone doesn’t do it.”

Obsession in this sense means that you must fully bring on board marketing, customer service, R&D, HR, and even investors.  It’s also about finding the right balance between emotional content, which can have a “long burn” effect and a more short-term rational focus on goals.  It must manage to be audacious yet practical.

Three Steps to Defining and Aligning Purpose

Sylvain outlines three steps by which his company helps brands achieve these aims.

  1. R&D Phase – You ask first what is the company’s unique insight? What is especially interesting?  This could be the founder’s own story, for instance.  It can really help when differentiating one’s brand in a crowded marketplace.
  2. Articulating a Strategy – Crafting the above into a well-worded Purpose Statement and thus positioning the brand.
  3. Implementation – the toughest stage as you figure out how to express this chosen purpose in words, practice, and design.

FinTech is an example of an industry whose products may be hard to invest with purpose because they are so hard to explain to laypersons.  Elegant, visual storytelling and video can be used to help elucidate purpose in complex industries which are not well understood.

What to do Once You Have Found your Personal Purpose

  1. Accept that being able to do so is a privilege.
  2. Assess whether it is financially viable.
  3. Don’t compromise what you consider to be essential to it.

Additional Resources:

Simon Sinek – Find Your Why: A Practical Guide to Finding Purpose for You and Your Team


Beyond Purpose: What a Business Needs to Succeed with the CEO of Sylvain, Alain Sylvain




Building A Confident Mindset with Women’s Leadership Coach Tracey Ward

In this talk, leadership coach Tracey Ward talks to Joya Dass about her seven-step process for building greater self-confidence and combating one’s internal critic.

Like many women, Ward was told by her mother “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything”.  Although well-meaning advice, this tendency, when internalized as an adult, can lead to women being afraid to assert themselves in business. Women can become conditioned to being “givers”.

Ward’s Seven Step Process for Building a Self-Confident Mindset

STEP ONE: Acknowledge your Self-Talk’s Existence

We all have this little voice inside us that is brutally self-critical and full of doubt.  Acknowledging that this voice is there and largely unhelpful can be the first step towards combating its negativity.

This is done with the help of humor, learning to laugh at the ridiculousness of the thoughts the voice throws up. Ward advises her clients to take three days to “get to know” the voice by writing down its persistent criticism on a series of Post-It Notes.

She points out that if you were to speak these thoughts aloud to a partner or a colleague, you’d either be abandoned or fired – this negativity is antisocial. If you find it difficult to identify the voice and what it’s saying, a couple of coaching sessions can help.

STEP TWO: Name Your Self Talk

To achieve separation from this negative voice, Ward advises naming it, literally.  She calls hers “Nasty Nan,” and is thereby able to notice when the antagonizing inner voice is speaking. This helps break the cycle which begins in childhood:


Self-talk replaces the conditioning we develop in childhood from our natural dependence on the voices of authority figures. Naming, recognizing, and ignoring the self-talk can break this self-destructive cycle.

STEP THREE: Filter your Thoughts

Once you recognize the self-critical voice, you can begin to divide your thoughts into the useful and less useful. Ward uses the metaphor of a knife – it’s a useful tool if used from the handle end, but destructive if you grab the blade. She even advocates marking the knives in your home in some way, so they act as visual triggers for this process. Other visual hints you might use include Post-It notes containing written reminders.

STEP FOUR: Stop Telling Yourself Stories

By this Ward means that you learn to tell the difference between fact and fiction. For instance, if you were worried about gaining weight, you might visit your doctor and get your BMI assessed – facts will then replace the fictional, negative body image you could otherwise develop.

Another part of getting to the truth is accepting that a rejection can be much better news than endless not-knowing. You can begin the process of moving on to the next opportunity.

STEP FIVE: Cease your Catastrophizing Habit

We all can slip into “imagining the worst” when something goes against our expectations.  A healthier approach is to start with the best-case scenario and work towards a realistic appraisal of what has probably occurred.

Ward gives the example of her teenage daughter being out after midnight.  The worst-case scenario is a kidnapping.  Research shows the probability of this is 1 in 100,000. The best-case scenario is that her daughter has met a respectful man with whom she’s “saving the world”.

Realistically, her daughter’s absence is probably due to a dead phone battery on a normal night out.

STEP SIX: Reframe

This is a technique for restating one’s limitations. For instance, you wouldn’t say “I can’t swim” but instead reframe it as “I can’t swim yet” or “I can’t swim at the moment.”

This is a particularly good strategy to teach teenagers, who can be prone to negative self-assessment.

Business itself can be reframed as a game, transforming even tasks you find personally difficult into challenges, with objectives, goals, and a sense of achievement.

Remember to laud your own achievements, in a subtle manner, in the minutes of meetings and through inter-departmental communications.  It is all too easy for women to fall into the habit of praising team efforts at the expense of recognizing their own individual achievements.


Ward says: “Be strong enough to stand alone, smart enough to know when you need help and brave enough to ask for it.”  It is not a sign of weakness to know when you need the assistance of others, whether they come in the form of friends, coaches, or counsellors.

It is okay to show your vulnerabilities to your children. By seeing how you deal with and recover from trauma, you are providing a good role model for them.

Additional Tips for Maintaining Confidence

Ward discusses the usefulness of role play, particularly when preparing for a situation you haven’t experienced yet. It creates a proxy experience to help you face the real thing.  Practice those activities you find personally challenging, within a safe environment.

Maintaining boundaries is vital too. However, once these have been explicitly stated, either at home or in the workplace, they must be adhered to consistently by both parties.

Finally, when demonstrating confidence at work results in a negative response from colleagues, it is okay to take colleagues aside in a private meeting and ask for feedback. You could, for instance, point out the defensive body language that developed in the room and ask for an honest answer as to why participants reacted as they did.

This must be done in a spirit of honest enquiry, and not to hold others to account.





How to Handle Feedback with Tara Mohr, Author of “Playing Big”

Tara Mohr presents valuable insights into how to “unhook” yourself from praise or criticism, and more effectively handle feedback.  This is based on a chapter in her book – “Playing Big”.

The first important realisation when receiving feedback, especially criticism, is to remember that it says more about the person giving the feedback than it does about you.  If a senior manager says, “you’re a great manager but your organizational skills could be improved”, then this statement contains a subjective opinion but no concrete facts about your performance.

However, you can choose to take it as potentially valuable information about the individual’s priorities and preferences that may lead to change.  Much will depend on the industry you’re working in, plus your race, gender, identity, and cultural background, rather than referencing any objective standard of idealized performance.

Feedback can be a projection of the person providing its belief structure.

The Three Rs

Receiving feedback is a process comprising three steps – the three R’s.

1: REFRAME – take in what’s being said and ask what it says about the preferences and assumptions of the individual providing the feedback.

2: RELEVANCE – Consider whether the feedback is relevant to your goals – i.e., is it something you need to incorporate or not? Tara points out that too many women in business tend to want to consider everyone’s feedback as equally valuable when this is frequently not the case.

3: REVISE – However, if there IS validity in what is being said, then you may want to consider revising your working methods, at least to better achieve your goals.

One of your goals may be to please a particular manager to gain promotion.  In other words, the changes you make may be instrumental towards a higher goal.


A key concept Tara discusses is “unhooking” and this applies as equally to praise as to negative feedback.  Unhooking is distancing yourself from the immediate emotional response – the “fight or flight” urge.

Criticism that hits home mirrors a belief you may hold, perhaps erroneously, about yourself.  It’s important to recognize this without becoming defensive or devastated.  Even when receiving praise, this can be about seeking confirmation about what we’d most like to believe about ourselves.

Aim to “find the match” between what is being said and why it makes you feel concerned, so that your response is no longer about the person giving feedback. Unhooking is about setting the emotional response to one side and applying intellectual curiosity.

With praise, you must ask, what hole is it filling?  This may involve looking back at lessons learned in childhood and seeing what insecurity may have developed from that stage.

Praise is not Validation

Praise is to validation as junk food is to healthy food. Validation comes from achieving your goals, not primarily from the compliments of others.  The problem with junk food is you can never have enough. Validation lies in achieving a better self-image and self-confidence.  Praise should be considered the “cherry on top” of achievement.

Defensiveness and Generous Listening

Fight or flight is often the first response of any negative feedback and it can present as defensiveness.  This is an emotional, gut response, rather than an intellectual one.  Bringing the brain back online and not presenting a knee-jerk response sometimes just takes practice.

Use the request “tell me more” to gain more insight, while buying time to cool down and take stock.  Generous listening is when you are listening for an insight into how the other person is experiencing the world. It’s a way of gathering data which you can take away and consider.

Honest curiosity beats the common responses of defensiveness or devastation every time.

The Importance of Communication

When we first meet a new person, we assess them on just two criteria:

  • How likeable / dangerous are they?
  • How competent are they?

The former axis (likeability) comes first, and instinctively. Through an evolutionary lens, this makes a lot of sense. We may once have needed to trigger our fight or flight response very quickly.  Competence assessment takes time.

When encountering a colleague for the first time, don’t worry initially about presenting a lot of evidence of competence. Instead, be engaging, ask questions and don’t try to over-compensate. You can back this up with evidence of competence later.

Remember that an assessment of likeability rarely changes over time and first impressions can last.  However, competency assessments can and do change quickly, with new evidence and examples.

Women can sometimes find themselves in a double-bind, worried that one aim works against the other (likeability versus providing proof of competence). By splitting the approach into phases, you don’t have to worry about this false dichotomy.

You also shouldn’t always aim for perfection. Perfectionism can be your enemy, stifling creativity and your ability to actually bring something perfectly good (if not perfect) to market.

Leadership Styles

Sometimes your style of leadership may simply not be right for an organizational culture and the feedback may be a trigger to move on, if making the necessary changes is unpalatable.

On the other hand, if there’s an opportunity to talk openly with senior management about leadership styles, then that approach may be worthwhile.

Customer Feedback

This is a specific type of feedback, but you can use the same approach. Don’t always assume it’s valid but do ask what it says about what your customers expect and want.

Giving Feedback

Tara gave some pointers on giving feedback as well. Key to this is “Owning the ‘I’”.  In other words, bear in mind that you are really telling the person how their work is making you feel. Don’t be under the illusion that you are providing objective truth.

This is the flipside of the protective approach you take to receiving such feedback yourself.

Transition Teams

Just as an organization undergoing significant change may have a “transition team”, you might think of yourself as being part of such a team creating change in culture and the world of work.

Like any such transition, it will proceed in fits and starts, with setbacks and gains, in the search for a more equitable and inclusive world.




Subha Barry – “How Can I Be More Inclusive?” – Making a Business Case for Diversity.

The CEO of Seramount, Subha Barry here presents the business case of diversity, offering tips and insights into how to bring greater diversity into the workplace, in a way that is beneficial to all.

Barry begins by contrasting the situation in 2021 with how it was ten years ago, when she was a senior executive at investment bank Merrill Lynch.  Then, diversity was a governmentally mandated program, with EEOC Requirements forming a basis for a lot of the DE&I work.  Much of the focus was on the market side – targeting more diverse groups of customers and clients.

In 2021 Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is a much more far-reaching project.  Following the disparities thrown up by the pandemic and by the deaths of George Floyd and other victims of violence, there has been a much greater focus on systemic racism and bias, both within organizations and processes.

An example she gives is the bias that may be exhibited by an all-male, all-white panel when interviewing employment candidates, even when there’s an explicit instruction to engage in more diverse hiring.


Barry has five key tips for helping make the business case for more entrenched DE&I work:

  1. Speak the language of business leaders. Helping leaders see that the ethnic stereotypes they may have grown up with are wrong and there are valuable untapped resources in diverse communities.
  2. Utilize big data. There’s more evidence than ever before that diverse working groups, for example, beat homogenous ones hands down in problem solving, because they bring different insights and assumptions to the table.  Diversity drives innovation, and this can be backed up with data.
  3. Minimize Staff turnover. A recent study showed that more than 50% of women of color in large organizations are waiting out the pandemic to leave their organizations for better opportunities.  This shocking degree of turnover can be mitigated by building workplaces that respect differences and build a more tolerant culture.
  4. Diversity of Perspective Drives Innovation. Building on point two above, it can be shown that the different backgrounds and experiences that diverse employees have can increase creativity and innovation.  To leverage this, employers must recognize that employees from different backgrounds may have to take time out from busy lives to make a special effort to fit into a homogenous organization.  Draining energy resources by expecting everyone to “fit in” is unwise and alienating.
  5. Diverse employees have different expectations. Appreciating this builds a more flexible workplace.  Stakeholder capitalism is the term to bear in mind, replacing a shareholder-focused approach with a more all-encompassing on, where staff, vendors, customers and even the wider environment are considered when key decisions are taken.  The largest drivers of this new culture are Gen Z / Millennial employees, who now make up 75% of the workplace.  It would be foolish to overlook their expectations.

Younger workers may multitask in a way that older managers don’t appreciate, and you should apply a principle of trust when making assumptions about what working methodologies are effective and what aren’t.

Building a Social Contract

This is a great way to allow for employees with very different backgrounds and lives, so that none are unfairly disadvantaged (i.e. single people “picking up the slack” for parents or carers).  In such a contract, each team member brings both their special requirements and willing offerings of enhanced service to the table.  This quid pro quo means that nobody feels unfairly penalized or exempted.

Remote Working

Although remote working can make diversity easier, by increasing flexibility, avoiding expensive business dinners et cetera, this should not be assumed – some may find it harder to work from home.  Also, when meetings are conducted over Zoom, egalitarian etiquette should be applied, ensuring everyone has a voice and is heard.


Finding white and other allies is a vital component of promoting workplace equity.  True allyship requires two qualities:

  • A sense of fairness and justice.
  • The courage to speak up.

Active advocacy is particularly important when the affected minority staff are not present.

Employee Resource Groups

There are three key factors to ensuring such structures within an organization work:

  1. They must have a clear sense of purpose,
  2. Comprehensive governance – good leadership, committees, financing, sponsors, term limits, mission statements et cetera.
  3. The group’s work must be well-integrated into the greater goals of the company.

The Added Value of Diverse Staffing

To help support and promote more diverse hiring and retention, it is important to:

  1. Stress beneficial difference, such as the more collaborative and empathic leadership women can bring. Organizations that leverage both empathic and “command and control” modes of leadership tend to be more successful.
  2. Emphasize that bringing “the whole person” into work is also beneficial – allowing for diverse religious and cultural practices can create a more inviting workplace, improving staff retention and fostering a culture that values difference.
  3. Recognize that differences in background can also require steeper learning curves in certain areas. Nurturing talent helps create inclusive workplaces and staff development is an intrinsic benefit.
  4. Consider outreach and Internship. These are just two examples of how you might encourage applications from employees from diverse backgrounds if you are having difficulty building a diverse candidate pool.

Finally, although diversity of thought is beneficial in any workplace, staff must fully buy into the process of championing DE&I.

Barry ends by stressing two things – the importance of finding allies as an essential component of success, as well as supporting and advocating for diverse staff on an individual level.


LadyDrinks Presents: Inspire Remote Teams and Unleash Their Best Work with Todd Henry

In this presentation, Todd Henry talks through some helpful practices for leaders as well as tips for how to motivate a team, what success in leadership looks like and how to avoid burnout.

He begins by talking through five key practices for leaders to develop.  They can be summarized under the acronym FRESH and constitute a necessary infrastructure for effective leadership:

  1. FOCUS: First clearly define the problem you’re addressing, then how to resolve it.
  2. RELATIONSHIPS: Through getting to know others, we learn more fully about ourselves.
  3. ENERGY: Remember, it’s not a limitless resource, especially when you’re doing “emotional labor” (Lewis Hyde).
  4. STIMULI: How are you managing the stimuli you receive and what are you actively seeking to inspire, educate you and make you think?
  5. HOURS: Time should not just be spent; it should be invested.

He talks about processes that streamline your leadership, such as fending off the “ping” of distracting bits and pieces of work that demand your attention but may not be urgent priorities.

How Should a Leader offer Clear Direction?

Although this will depend on the personality of the individuals in your team, it will help to clarify three things:

  • Expectation – what the end product should be.
  • Process – how the work will be carried out.
  • Timeline – when it needs to be completed.

A handy tip is not to tell staff precisely what to do, but make sure they understand what you want the outcome to be.  This way you build trust.  “Trust is the currency of creative teams”, says Todd.

Although the team begins with wide autonomy and an opportunity to try things out, experiment and work on multiple iterations, as the project moves on you will funnel down to much clearer goals, with less creative freedom.

What Does Success in Leadership Look Like?

Different projects have different risk profiles.  Entrepreneurs can be thought of as risk mitigators, rather than risk-takers.

In the early stages of a creative project, you give people permission to fail and clarify with them what will happen if they do, bearing in mind that this means you take responsibility for your team’s failures.  Mostly, you make it clear that you have their backs.

You must define what is an acceptable level of failure and what the consequences of such a failure might be.  Todd talks about an Air Academy general who asked his team to do one thing per day that could get him fired – an extreme example of extending trust!

Success is not the same as being liked.  In fact, it is preferable to maintain some boundaries and a bit of professional distance.   Good leaders inspire by example – by doing, rather than saying.

Allocating Time for Creativity

Todd talks about the importance of providing your team with time for personal growth, ideation, and development, giving the example of a CFO who mandated three hours per week for this purpose.  However, if you promise such a thing, you have to see it through – don’t “declare undeclarables” and then fail to live up to them.  Trust is earned daily and can be quickly lost.

The Fishbowl and the Well

Todd gives this metaphor – leadership is like living in a fishbowl on a firing range.  Everyone can see you and may feel free to take pot shots.  One key takeaway is that you can earn respect by admitting the mistakes you make and course correcting.

There are several ways to make life easier in the fishbowl, including making time to focus on #1.  Many leaders have a problem with this, and often overcommit and make themselves too available.

He asks that leaders make time to “replenish the well”.  In other words, to recharge your batteries and make sure you are inspired and feeling energised and creative.   Key part of this is making sure you spend time off grid – which means no checking emails and business apps when taking time off.

The concept of “meshing” is vital to achieving a better level of creativity.

The Three Work Areas

These are encapsulated in the Three Ms:

  1. Mapping (planning)
  2. Making (executing the plan)
  3. Meshing (replenishment)

Often the third part of this work cycle is overlooked, but it’s what positions you to be maximally creative.  If neglected, you’re merely being a “driver” of work rather than a creative leader.

Dealing with Cultural Barriers

Differences in culture and age can make a difference to your effective leadership style.  On the former question, Todd talks about a Proctor & Gamble executive who took up a leadership position at Google.  He found he was immensely well-liked at P&G but his style was considered threatening at Google.  The Google staff did not understand his acerbic and teasing management style.

Millennial and Gen Z workers can sometimes prove excellent at hard work and focus but may not be as good at prioritizing, particularly in areas of work where they have no interest.  It may be necessary to take more time with such staff members to explain the priorities more firmly.  If expectations are still not met, then it may be necessary to talk about the consequences of continued failure to deliver.

As a leader you can’t chase being liked and being effective at the same time.  One will always compromise the other a little.  Somewhere in between, a balance can be struck.  Remember that a team is NOT a family.

Don’t try to become your team’s friend either.  Sometimes the best indicator of a healthy team is when they socialize outside of work and don’t invite you.

Interviewing Tips

In response to a question, Todd gave some pointers on good team building when interviewing hopeful recruits.  To find out if a would-be employees’ priorities and values match your own, Todd suggested asking open questions in the form “tell me about a time when…”, thereby allowing them to tell a story that illustrates what values they hold.

Meshing and Time Management

Todd gave some tips for more effectively replenishing your well of energy and creativity:

  • Empty your email in-box and don’t use it for storage.
  • Consider using time management apps such as Omnifocus and Calendly.
  • Move less time critical emails elsewhere.
  • Adjust your self-expectations if it turns out you’re trying to do too much.
  • Always build in off-grid time.

Meshing is about self-development – improving your skills and developing yourself, finding your voice.  It may even include spending time on a creative non-work hobby.

FURTHER READING (books by Todd Henry):

“Herding Tigers: Be the Leader that Creative People Need”.

“The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice”.

“The Motivation Code: Discover the Hidden Forces that Drive Your Best Work”.


LadyDrinks Presents: The Fastest, Easiest, and Most Reliable System for Getting More Clients – with Michael Port

Photo Credit of Michael Port from Entrepreneur

I devoured Michael’s book Book Yourself Solid and I’m a little bit incredulous that Michael is here now two years later, speaking to all of you and to me.

One of the things that I wanted him to talk about was how you create a system for having a plethora of clients that you love to work with. Like I discussed in my previous blog post, some of us have had clients that we do not love to work with and we’ve had to fire them.

Here are 9 mindset shifts and actions that Michael Port revealed to help us set up our own systems for having a fountain of clients that we love.

This interview has been edited and abridged for time and readability.

1. It’s not the marketing that books you business

“It’s what you do once somebody becomes aware of you, that actually books you the business. And when I started analyzing companies, I discovered that they’ve got lots of marketing activities in the works. They’re creating awareness. But, they don’t have a systematic approach to turning that awareness into actual business.”

We can generate tons of content, throw it at the wall and hope it sticks. Or, we can create a meaningful cadence to our marketing that intrigues people, converting leads into buyers who love to choose us.

“Ultimately, most of us would probably like to have a business where we no longer do any marketing whatsoever. That the business itself becomes a self perpetuating and self generating referral engine.”

Personalized marketing is more effective now than ever before. People want to know there is a real person emailing and reaching out to them – not a machine. 96% of marketers know this helps improve relationships with customers. So even if we automate our processes, we should still add a human-friendly approach.

2 We don’t have to help everybody

“Let’s recognize that there are certain people we’re meant to work with and others probably not so much. And just because we can help somebody doesn’t mean we have to help them. But I think that this is something that each business owner comes to terms with at different points in their career – at the beginning of your career.”

When we first start out, we want to help the whole world. It’s in our nature as entrepreneurs to solve problems. But, we are human. We cannot solve everybody’s problems. Evolving in what’s right for you is the most effective way to create a lasting niche for yourself.

“If you feel like you’re just struggling to pay the bills, you might think it’s really difficult to say no to a particular opportunity. Or, to dump a dud client who is just draining your energy, makes you feel like your work isn’t worthwhile. And wonder why you got into this in the first place later on. [Knowing this] seemed to make me feel a little bit easier.”

It is unhealthy to attribute our self-worth to our business. You and your business are two separate entities. Even if we are not earning what we expected doesn’t mean our intrinsic value as human beings is any less.

Always put self-care first. We need full awareness to be able to make quality decisions for the long-term health of ourselves, our team, and our business strategies.

3 Embrace and enforce a red velvet rope policy

“Right from the beginning, we should be saying, ‘no’. Not necessarily as much as we say ‘yes’, but if you’re doing external marketing and people that are coming to you randomly – as opposed to through referrals from people you trust –  you might say no, as much as you say yes. Fifty percent of the time you might say, ‘I don’t think we’re right for each other’.”

Saying ‘no’ is important. Speaking our truth ensures we have enough space in our lives for the things that matter most to us. Having family time, going the extra mile for clients we adore – these are things we need to have the bandwidth to say ‘yes’ to.

“We have a red velvet rope policy. We’ve documented what makes a client ideal and what makes them a less than ideal. And we look for any flags that are on that less than ideal.

 We address them directly with confidence and without any concern for what they are going to think if I asked them.”

Actions speak louder than words. Create steps at the beginning of your sales process that weed out any clients who are not ideal for you. These ‘red velvet ropes’ create exclusivity for your dream clients. Boundaries keep you from being overworked, and make your clients feel appreciated and cared for.

4 Move Into Visionary Town

“One of the things that helps really establish your authority is to move out of ‘expertville’ and into ‘Visionary Town’, which means this:

 If you’re sitting squarely in ‘expertville’, you’re a commodity because experts these days are a dime a dozen.”

The Internet is a wealth of knowledge. Because of that, anyone can become an expert on a topic they choose. Being an expert is just understanding what best practices are in your industry.

What brings the right people to you is your visionary abilities. How can you create the future of your industry while serving your clients in the best possible way?

“People see you as a thought leader that is not just reporting on the present with here are the best practices, but creating the future by articulating a vision that is different than what the people who are in your market or your space are currently seeing. So that really establishes your authority as a visionary, not just as an expert.”

When we read books to improve, we are finding our own way of doing things. That’s what clients need. There is no cut-and-dry way to do life. Everyone has a unique voice.

Rehashing the same-old information can turn people away. But building credibility as a visionary, as Michael said, is what truly sets you apart.

5 Run A Referral-Based Organization

“Well, I don’t think people talk much about the fact that you can run an entirely referral-based organization if you want. And in fact, when your clients know that you are a referral only organization, they feel really good that they’re in, it becomes more exclusive. It feels almost like being a member.”

You don’t have to run a referral-based organization to find success. It is an option if you are just starting out as a consultant. Adding a referral incentive to your business can ensure that you work with aligned clients. Referrals for new clients would come from inside your network, meaning that people will be able to tell if they are a good fit for you or not.

“What do we do for people that extends beyond just the services we typically provide that brings them together? So there’s some sort of forming of community, which makes them more connected to you know, the, the mission at hand and their, their relation to it. And they’re more likely to refer in.”

6 Create Content That Repels Unwanted Clients

“So there’s two things that come to mind for me. Number one, I would put as much material on the front end of the process as possible to weed out people. And you’re probably already doing that. You know, I would put, we don’t work with pricks and we certainly don’t work with super pricks. So now you share a value and you bring it to the surface, right? At the beginning.”

 Earlier we talked about setting boundaries at the client-receiving end of your business. These boundaries are powerful ways to let in clients that already love you and your work. You don’t have to create a long questionnaire. An effective way to do this, that Michael described, is giving potential clients a piece of content that explains your values. Or allowing your values to show up loudly in the first instance of any touchpoint.

“The second thing I would do is something that we found really, really effective that we call the 80-20 video. The 80-20 video is something that we have any potential client watch before they get on the phone with us, if you want to get on the phone.

 So at the front end, we say, ‘look here, we’re really, really clear about who it’s for and who it’s not for. And if, and if you’re not in this category, here are some resources that would help you. Even though you’re not going to be coming to work with us. So you can listen to the podcast, you can read the book. Here’s other books, other people that are potential teachers for you.’ “

Sending away unaligned clients can be difficult when you don’t know if they will receive the guidance they need. Providing them with helpful resources that may help their journey is thoughtful. It also takes the awkwardness out of telling someone that they are not a right fit to become your client.

Here ends our consideration of the LadyDrinks’ podcast with Michael Port. There is so much to unpack here when adjusting your consulting business to Book Yourself Solid.

But, Michael gave us so many enriching tips, that I wanted to include 3 more points that were really valuable.

7 Gain And Leverage Trust

“Sales offers should be proportionate to the amount of trust that you’ve earned. So if you make sales offers that are too big too quickly, then you’re going to need these long, long conversations where they’re asking a million details.

 But if the sales offer is perfectly proportioned to the amount of trust that you earn, they often don’t have a lot of details because they say, ‘I’m not even concerned about the details.’ ”

8 Grow Your Network Of 90

“So there’s something that I call the network of 90. So you’re going to identify, say 90 people, tops that you feel like if I had deep relationships or, or at least connected relationships where I could contact them and they would respond to me quickly with 90 people, that should be more than enough people to get booked solid.

 You take just a few minutes each day. Introduce people inside your network who do not yet know each other, but would be probably pleased to meet each other.”

9 Start With 25

“So there’s 25 people. Now, if you do that for four weeks of the month, 25 times four is what hygiene. Yes. That’s a hundred people every month that you’re staying in touch with in a way that’s meaningful and supportive to them.

 It’s more than your network of 90. I just called it 90 because a hundred and rhymes with network. So I figured a network of 90 people. So if you miss a day, you’ll still get your 90. If you miss two days, you’ll still get your 90. But think about that.

 You’re staying in touch every month. In some way, that’s meaningful to all those 90 people. That’s an, a phenomenally effective way to stay top of mind for them. So when anybody asks them, Oh, I need some help with this. They go, I know somebody.”

If you enjoyed this interview, I welcome you to subscribe to the LadyDrinks Eventbrite. Every week, I host virtual fireside chats with CEOs and thought leaders in business.

I believe in learning-based networking. I would be overjoyed to have you join the LadyDrinks community, where we can all learn together.

Thank you for reading.




LadyDrinks Presents A Virtual Workshop: Calling All Managers! How to Lead from Anywhere. with David Burkus

As working from home continues throughout the world, and companies begin to re-evaluate their short- and long-term plans for office space leases, and return to work plans, a lot of managers are also thinking about their leadership styles, and how they can potentially continue to effectively lead teams virtually going forward.

David Burkus, keynote speaker, and organizational psychologist, and author of Leading from Anywhere shares his six tips for not only being a more effective leader of a virtual team, but how to be a key contributor to the overall company culture – even when that culture is reduced to Zoom meetings and DM chats.

Tip #1 – Encouraging Teams to ‘Work Out Loud’

When team are remote, it’s quite easy to lose sight of what employees are actually working on, and managers often feel like they’re managing individual relationships vs a team. When this happens, it’s easy to lose sight of what everyone has on their plates, and how it impacts all other team members. While these exchanges would typically happen organically in an office, it’s a lot more difficult when everyone is in their own home.

By borrowing a page from the ‘agile’ or ‘scrum’ model of working, and scheduling a daily stand-up. While daily may be too much, using the model of asking the following questions, can help your team overcome roadblocks, focus on urgent projects, and identify opportunities to work as a team to meet deadlines.

Tip #2 – Developing a Shared Identity

In teams that spent their working hours in an office, there’s already a shared camaraderie and identity. People knew, and followed, a company’s core values, and teams functioned as a unit. When people are working from home, particularly when new people are onboarded, that sense of shared identity may not be as easily replicated, but it’s still possible. Perhaps it’s hopping on a Zoom meeting a few minutes earlier than scheduled in order to socialize, or maybe it’s even a matter of encouraging employees to opt into a deliberate program where people are randomly assigned to a 30-minute virtual coffee chat once a week (a practice that the Swedish refer to a ‘fika’ – a break taken to enjoy a coffee and a break).

Tip #3 – Develop a Culture of Psychological Safety

When teams are remote, it’s easy for everyone, including managers, to get caught up doing the day-to-day work, but not thinking beyond those assignments. When the focus is on making sure that the slides in a meeting are running precisely, or that everyone’s on mute during a big presentation, we miss opportunities for teams to ask questions, to come up with new or innovative solutions, or to express an contrarian position to a task or idea. One idea for managers is to have someone watch them, and watch the team, to see if there are any disconnects between how you’re managing the meeting, and how employees are interpreting the message. If your team is simply carrying out the work, and not feeling safe to speak up, shifting your focus to encouraging civil discourse is important.

Tip #4 – Allowing for Flexibility

As a manager, you know you need to ensure your team is giving 100% to their jobs. However, when teams are remote, it’s critical to also recognize that the lines between work life and home life are blurred. As a boss, accepting and understanding that 9 to 5 is no longer the way it works is critical to successfully managing a team – people are working around children’s schedules, taking shorter breaks, and tend to work longer hours because their office is now in their home. As long as the work is getting done, allowing employees to work a little earlier, or end their day a little earlier shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, managers should encourage flexibility to help their teams avoid burnout.

Tip #5 – Encourage Setting Boundaries, and Set the Example

Conversely, employees also may need help setting boundaries to ensure their work gets done. If team members were in the office, their family members wouldn’t come walking into meetings, or interrupting their workday with questions. When team members are encouraged to set spaces between work and home, it helps them better focus on their work during their workday, and on their home life on their own time.

Some of this may include encouraging a ‘faux commute’ – using the time that you’d usually spend community to prepare for the workday or decompress form their focused work time.

Another idea may be to purchase a small ‘do not disturb’ sign when work focus needs to be the priority, and teaching family members to respect it.

Tip #6 – Take Nature Breaks

As a manager, taking breaks for yourself is also critical. But, as Burkus points out, it shouldn’t be just any break. Studies have shown that spending time in nature has huge benefits including increased focus, increased energy, and decreased stress levels. Even just a brief walk around the block can have a positive impact. By not only taking breaks yourself, and turning towards the sunshine, it will help you be a better manager to your team, and lead from a place of increased focus and calm.

While returning to the office may not be something we’ll do in the near-term, learning to lead in a virtual environment is a skill that will serve not only you as a manager, but will benefit your teams as they work to establish their own work from home routines.

Women Who Know What They Want: Bourbon Tasting with Linda Ruffenach, Founder, Whiskey Chicks

LadyDrinks Knows How to be a Bourbon Badass

LadyDrinks and our badass community of South Asian women execs and business leaders sat down for a bourbon tasting with Linda Ruffenach, founder of Whiskey Chicks. Attendees to this virtual chat received a few delectable goodies by mail prior to Linda’s masterclass: “How to be a Bourbon Badass.”

With a 100-proof bottle of bourbon in hand, Linda taught us the evolution of good whiskey, how to experiment with your bourbon, and one of the sexiest things a woman can be: Herself

Linda’s Lessons: Whiskey 101

  1. Good whiskey takes time. “The reality is you can’t get really good whiskey fast… It has to sit in a barrel.” Like tea, it must steep in the barrel for that aromatic, full-bodied goodness. “The longer you leave it in there, steeping,” says Linda, the stronger it will be and the different flavors you’ll get. “That’s how bourbon works.”
  2. Whiskey & bourbon have come a long way. Back in the 1800s, when it was sold in jugs and barrels, in order to flavor the whiskey some distillers got “so creative,” says Linda, that they put in things like Sargassum, iodine, tobacco spit, and other surprises. “As you can imagine, that did not make the best tasting whiskey.”
  3. Look for a Bottled-in-Bond label. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 created a label for American-made Distilled Spirits that guarantees what’s in it and confirms “every bottle in bond will be at least 100 proof.” It also assures it comes from a single distillery, in one season, and that it’s been aged at least four years.
  4. The grain difference between Whiskey and Bourbon. For a whiskey to qualify as a bourbon, it must contain a mixture of grains, of which at least 51% of the grains are corn. Often made in Kentucky, U.S.A.

Befriending Your Bourbon

  1. Beware the bourbon. Bourbon is far stronger than wine. So don’t sniff, swirl. “Swirl it around a little bit and kind of let it up to your nose,” says Linda. “Don’t stick your nose all the way in or you’ll burn out your senses.”
  2. Coat generously. With those first sips, “You want it to coat your whole tongue,” says Linda. “Pay attention to where and how you feel it,” she informs. “Just like your tongue has different segments that will pick up different flavors, every bourbon has a different finish, and a different way of hitting your palette.”
  3. Observe each flavor. In Linda’s book, How to Be a Bourbon Badass, on pg. 55 is a wheel of flavors and aromas that contribute to crafting bourbons. Just remember: When doing tastings, work your way up in proof!
  4. A hug for that burn. While most of us already knew bourbon and whiskey aren’t for the faint of drink, we didn’t know the term for the burning chest. “That little bit of burn, if you’re feeling it,” explains Linda between sips, “We call it the Kentucky hug. When you get that little warm feeling inside, it’s the Kentucky hug.”

Playing with Your Bourbon

  1. Take one finger and a single drop of water. “You’re going to take literally a drop of water and drop it in your bourbon,” Linda showed. “No more than just a drop, and you’re going to swirl it around.” This will reduce any burning ‘hugs,’ and allow your smooth, neat bourbon to “open up” with even more distinct flavors.
  2. From neat to Old Fashioned. “An Old Fashioned cocktail,” explains Linda, “has something sweet and it has something bitter… Spirits back in the 1800s were not very good. They weren’t that tasty,” explains Linda. “It took a while to perfect the process.” To improve the flavors a bit, the Old Fashioned cocktail was born.
  3. Adding a dollop of sweet. Dilute a bit of raw sugar, use simple syrup, maple or honey. Each will open up its own set flavors. Or refer to Linda’s recipes in her book to make your own syrups, like Blackberry syrup.
  4. Get creative. While the classic method adds sugar and bitter together, Linda recommends trying flavors one at a time. “It’s just like making any kind of dish,” says Linda. “Every component is going to add a different flavor to it.” With the Bitters, notice the herbs and spices—cinnamon, cloves, nuts, even fruit peels.
  5. Pro-tip: Be open to new flavors. Linda says if you squeeze a bit of oil from the peel of an orange onto your glass rim, it will blow your palette’s mind. Or visit Whisky Chicks for virtual events, held once per month.

How to Be a Badass

“My whole philosophy is there’s no right or wrong way to drink bourbon. The only way to drink bourbon is your way,” Linda states. If you want to dilute it with water or add Dr. Pepper, do it. “It’s my bourbon. Don’t tell me how to drink it,” she says. Much more important: Know what you like and make it your own.

“I’ve realized over the years that this concept transfers into everything we do as women and individuals,” she says. As female executives, entrepreneurs and leaders, we all know that fear and insecurity can kill dreams.

Linda’s best advice: Woman, know thyself. “That was probably one of the biggest lessons of going through this journey,” says Linda. “Know what you want, how you want it, where you want it, when you want it… knowledge and experience will empower you. That’s what being a Bourbon Badass is all about.”