Put Your Personal Values Into Your Business Leadership, with Krista Clive-Smith
Published DateAuthorDan Sullivan and Strategic Coach
After 19 years as a competitive figure skater, Krista Clive-Smith suffered a career-ending injury. But this didn’t stop her career success. Krista’s had an innate passion for entrepreneurship since childhood, and her entrepreneur motivation has always been, “If there’s something I can see where there’s a gap, it’s my job to build it.” In this episode, Krista shares how she’s created a model for people to become their own personal brands in the most effective way for their business success and business growth.
Here's some of what you'll learn in this episode:
The difference between being what you do and finding value in who you are.
How Krista became the roles she couldn’t find.
How to build equity in your personal brand and what to do with it.
Why Krista releases her attachment to things.
Every decision you make about what business you want to be in has a lifestyle implication.
Every lifestyle decision you make has a business implication.
A person’s ideal customer is a former version of themselves.
Most entrepreneurs have experienced crucial jumps where they turned something bad into something positive through internal capability.
Entrepreneurs strongly identify with their roles as business owners.
Your personal brand doesn’t need to be public facing.
Some people purely use their personal brand for influence within the company.
Entrepreneurs who build a business the wrong way are creating their own prison.
A highly developed skill of pattern recognition helps to chart a path.
Dan Sullivan: Hi, this is Dan Sullivan. I'd like to welcome you to the Multiplier Mindset Podcast.
On today's episode of Multiplier Mindset, it's a real treat to have Krista Clive-Smith. Krista tells her story of being a competitive figure skater, and having her whole early life tied up with that. I've met three or four of them in my life, it sucks up all your time. But it does come to an end, and she tells the story. Hers was an accident which ended her career in a single day.
I remember I was on a speaker platform. We were sitting backstage before I went on, and one of the other speakers was next to me. This person was an Olympic champion and had won two or three I think, in consecutive Olympics, I think two or three medals. And I remember talking to her. She said, "I get a feeling right now that my past is always going to be bigger than my future, because my whole life from before I was 10 years old was involved in this one activity. If I go and I'm a speaker today, it's like I'm only a speaker because of something that happened in my past, not something that I was going towards."
So, Krista, first of all, there's something very interesting about her. First of all, she's not unique in having your life bound up with a particular activity, and obviously a very skillful activity, but that's just your activity, that isn't who you are. The fact that she had the courage to start all over again, we all have some real setbacks, almost every entrepreneur I know, when you dig a little bit deeper and you ask them what were the crucial jumps that they made, the jump was always something bad. Through internal capability, they turned it into a positive energy.
Krista Clive-Smith: Hi, my name is Krista Clive-Smith, and when people ask what I do, it's a bit of a complicated question. But if you've ever been to Disneyland, especially Disneyland, California, you can think of that as the working analogy for what we do. Because when you enter the gates of Disneyland, there are different lands within the park. There is Neverland, Tomorrowland, Toontown for the kids, and a monorail that connects all the lands to make it easy for guests to get from place to place. So, you can think of what we do as a virtual theme park for thought leaders. So, people who have a deep expertise, who are industry experts in a non-fiction topic, and the different lands within our park are, Writing Land, Personal Branding Land, Publishing Land, Speaker Land, and our newest broad umbrella is Empire Thought Leadership. Our little kids program, which is the Toontown of our theme park, is called Little Authors, which helps little kids write books and become published authors when they're young.
So, my passion for entrepreneurship I think is an innate thing. I've been, since the time I was a little kid, I've been really just watching how things worked, and really had a spirit of entrepreneurship and sales and all of those things. But truthfully, every company I've ever built was born from a need that I had as a consumer, but couldn't find in the marketplace. So, for example, with Little Authors Academy, I was a kid author, but there was no mechanism to actually become published in those days. So, I just filed that away in the memory bank. Lo and behold, when it came back time to start business building, there still was no mechanism. So, my belief is always, if there's something that I can see where there's a gap, it's my job to build it.
Personal branding, the model that I've built was born from my 19 years being a competitive figure skater. I got injured in a career-ending injury instantly, and my entire glass globe of my identity was so wrapped up in what I did, versus finding value in who I was, that that led to that. Publishing was when I went to publish my book I couldn't find the publisher I wanted, so I became it. So on and so on and so on. So, here we are today. I do think it isn't just an athlete whose identity is wrapped up. Even as business owners and entrepreneurs, we really deeply identify with our role as a business owner or wherever we sit on an org chart. Sometimes you see it with parents who put their kids on a pedestal. If you take the old school model of an org chart with the brand at the top and the people at the bottom, and the people are promoting the brand their whole lives, or the identity, then you find that whenever that goes away, there's no chess move left on the board of life.
So, my model takes it and flips it, and it puts you at the top as the personal brand, and your identity on who you are. But then what you do is underneath, with an arrow through the middle that symbolizes your evolution. So that if, like my first job in life as a skater, goes away, you can not just evolve and use that as a jumping off point, but you can actually use the credibility and the equity you built in your personal brand to then pay it forward into the next thing, the next thing, and the next thing. With the personal brand up at the top being based on who you are, it doesn't mean that your personal brand needs to be a public facing personal brand. If you look at it purely from a model or a framework, that's where you'll start to see the magic come in.
So, if the personal brand is here, the arrow is here, and then you imagine bubbles underneath. Which, one of the bubbles may be a company that has its own org chart below. So, if you think of that with my first company Organized For Life, and then everything that's come after that, each one of those things builds equity in the personal brand, which you then lend to the next venture. If you think of an Elon Musk or a Richard Branson or a serial entrepreneur, they're really leading with the personal brand and then the businesses are the subs underneath. But then you start to see where other people are purely using their personal brand for influence within the company. It's not really an external thing at all. That is just as powerful, but being at the helm of your company and taking the values of your human personal brand and infusing those into your leadership style, is another way of putting your prints on things without necessarily having to put your face and name everywhere out in the marketplace.
So, luckily, with that arrow going through the middle, I've always believed that I heard a Eckhart Tolle talk one time about, everything in life is like soap bubbles. It's here, it's gone, it's here, then it's gone, and it's always moving in and out of form, and that attachment really is the root of all suffering. So, one of the great things that I've been working on in my own mindset practice is releasing my attachment to not only things, but to allow the seasons of our life to change, and to have the courage to change along with them, and to make big, bold moves. So, for example, with that first company I referenced, Organized For Life, I built it the exact wrong way. Brick by brick with my own two hands, I built a prison that I was living in. I was sitting at the investor table with the term sheet in front of me for the North American expansion.
At that point, we had locations in Vancouver, Calgary, and Toronto in Canada, and I had the pen in hand, and I just realized, if I sign this sheet of paper, I am selling my soul because I was already a prisoner of my own making. So, in that moment, having the courage, and that bolt of clarity to just put the pen down on the unsigned sheet, slide it into the middle of the table, stand up and say, "I'm out." In that moment, I didn't know what I wanted to do. In fact, it was frighteningly similar to the day after my career ending injury as a skater. I was once again, completely lost. But I've started to, by this point, I was like, okay. I had muscle memory from the first time. What did I do to discover and create anew? So that then led to, in that moment, the one thing I knew part of why I was a prisoner is I was tied to a geography.
I was a stay-at-home CEO. My highest value is freedom. So, I really needed to be able to, as I made the commitment, December 31st, 2007, that I would never, ever again run a business that I couldn't operate from anywhere on the planet. So, making a big, bold commitment like that with Dan's 4 C's Formula, and then having the courage to make every single day, how can I build some... Especially in those days, going virtual in 2008 was not really a thing, it wasn't a very popular idea. So, the infrastructure wasn't then what it is now. Thank goodness, when COVID hit, I mean, we were so well positioned it was business as usual. But then in 2019, by this point, my husband and I, we'd had our daughter, she was seven years old, and that next big commitment that was part of that evolutionary growth was, I said to him, "Hey."
I could see the seasons of our lives changing. I knew we had this glorious window for our daughter, from seven years old until she hits high school, to show her the world, teach her what it means to be a global citizen. So, I pitched the idea to sell off our lives in San Diego, all but some of our rental properties, and move to Africa for a year. It took my husband's sales cycle, it's hilarious that I call it that, but it's the truth. His sales cycle for big things is like three, three and a half months, on little things it's two, two and a half weeks. So, I just continued planting seeds, and one day I'm brushing my teeth and he walks into the en suite and he said, "Okay. I think we should do it." "No. You've got to be serious if you're going to say that to me. Because if you're serious..." I always believed, even before I knew of Dan's 4 C's Formula, that once you make a commitment, I always take one big bold action step, that just yanks the rug out from underneath me.
So, as I'm brushing my teeth, I said, "No, no. Be sure, because if you're serious, I'm going to sell my car today." He's like, "Yeah. I think so." So, I literally finished brushing, took the car to the detailer, took it to CarMax, and before the end of the day, check in hand. Within three months we were on an airplane, and that started our whole global journey. We actually don't have a literal primary residence anywhere in the world. We have a small storage unit in San Diego. But no, we split our time between South Africa, British Columbia, Canada, and San Diego. Those are our three main hubs. Then from there, we throw in other global adventures depending on the year and what's happening and what's going on. Our daughter, I learned very quickly during COVID, I might be good at a few things, but homeschooling is not one of those things.
So, we've been so blessed and fortunate to find three schools, one in each place, who allow us to parachute in for her to go to school while we're there, and then to leave to go on to the next and report cards follow her. The headmasters and principals of all the schools really believe in what we're doing, because when she does come in, it's a very different worldview that kids who are around her are getting to experience. Because you can teach your kids a lot of things about diversity, about race. I knew that I could say those words to her, or like when we came to Africa for the year, when we arrived she was the only white kid in the third grade. To me, that is the life I want her to have. I want her to know what it feels like to be made fun of for having an accent that's different, for having all the things that she is so completely different, and foreign to them. That is such a beautiful thing, because up until that point, we lived this resort style life in San Diego.
I felt like watching her, her greatest resilience training in life was riding the school bus. I didn't want that for her, I wanted more for her, for us, and for it all. I somewhat recently did my StrengthsFinder and my top five are Strategic, Achiever, Competition, Positivity, and Learner. So, I really have realized that the combination of that, I love to learn. So, I'm listening to audiobooks and everything I can get my hands on, and that always lights up my brain and kicks it into strategic gear, which then, once I see the goal, I hit the achiever button. Competition, the desire to have mastery and be the best, and then continuing to move forward with positivity through the resilience phase to cycle back to learner. So, that definitely, learning and actively learning, is an important piece.
I think honestly, part of it too is I look at the trends, not in industry. In fact, I rarely look in industry myself, other than when ChatGPT or something like that shows up and completely changes the global marketplace. But I'm watching the trends and the patterns of, what are people talking about? What are people doing and where is the world going? With a highly developed skill of pattern recognition, that really helps to chart my path, so that I feel like I can, using a good Canadian hockey analogy, shoot the puck not to where the skater is, but where they're going to be, and keep us always moving ahead and inspired and excited about what lays in the future.
I think it is answering what I call the Krista's Three Critical Questions. So, question number one is, what business do you want to be in? Question number two is, what life do you want to lead? Question number three is, who do you want to serve? Questions one and two, you can think of them almost in an infinity loop, because every business decision that you make, as far as what business you actually want to be in, what do you want to be doing each day when you get up and go to your work hours, that has a lifestyle implication. Every lifestyle decision you make has a business implication. So, getting those two in harmony and then being able to productize and monetize it in a way that serves that amazing ideal client, and I really believe that a person's ideal customer is a former version of themselves. I think when you look at the seasons through which you've lived your life, you can find that when you tap into that as your ideal customer, you can help them uniquely in a way nobody else can.
You can continue to lay the foundation for an evolutionary customer journey, that then as you continue to grow and evolve, creates a long tail of opportunity for the customer to consume as well. I think just on that one, what business do you want to be in question... Like for example, when I franchised Organized For Life, if someone would've said, and I interviewed 23 different franchisors before I franchised, never once did someone say, "What business do you want to be in?" Because I would have said, building and growing the best organizing company on the planet. What I realized in horror a week or a day later after I had my inch and a half thick franchise agreement, is that I was now in the business of selling franchises. I didn't want to be in that business ever.
So, just by choosing the wrong growth model, it put me in a situation that I couldn't get out of, besides the Jerry Maguire moment walk away. Starting with the life you want to lead first, this desire I've had for this gypsy, world-preneur thing that we're doing, it's been a dream in my heart forever. I just didn't have the courage to listen and be honest with myself when I answered the question, what life do I want to lead? Because if I put that front and center, I would've built everything different the first time. But that's also the beauty of the journey, right? Is we're going to make so many mistakes along the way, and that's where all the magic is.