Free Clarity Therapy in Chicago? Yes!

Last year, pre-SOBCon, I came out to Chicago early and had a chance to meet with several folks for free Clarity Therapy sessions(I called it Brand Therapy then). It was a delightful time and much closer relationships with at least 3 people developed as a result.

So, we’re going to do it again this year! (What is Clarity Therapy?)

On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I’m going to open up a few 90-minute slots to help people – free of charge – figure out their professional DNA and direction. This will take place at (or near) Hotel 71 in downtown Chicago.

Available times:

Thursday May 3: 9:30 am | 2:30 pm | 4 pm (sorry – all booked!)

Send me an e-mail (steve at connectionagent dot com) and let me know if you’d like to take advantage of this free offer, and what time(s) you would prefer. There are already two slots that are on the verge of being spoken for, so don’t hesitate!

(here’s a blog post from last week by Tom Martin describing why Clarity Therapy is important – even for a branding/marketing pro!)

“So, my DNA and my Story Walked into a Bar…”

This has been a really fun week. I got to interact with 4 people at various levels of Clarity Therapy, and in each case, we arrived at pretty remarkable new levels of understanding.

Even though each person was in a very different professional role (pharma consultant, agriculture R&D, customer service, digital marketer – here’s Tom Martin’s story), something very common emerged during the brainstorming process. As we uncover a person’s professional DNA, scheme up a new direction, and look at the past work roles, everyone tends to worry: “How will my new direction fit into the story of my past roles?”

One of the greatest reinforcements that we’re getting accurately in touch with your genuine strengths and desires is that the narrative always fits – the past, the anticipated future, and any present pivot necessary to get there all coheres. The story “works.”

One gentlemen I counseled in the past was moving from one form of media – where his identity was clearly established – to an entirely different medium. There seemed to be quite a disconnect, and it bothered him. But then, as we probed the elements that were common in both formats (great interviewing skills, crafting a good story, expressing it in an accessible format), it became clear that, in fact, this was a natural progression. The medium wasn’t the essence of his identity. The craft that he brought to telling other peoples’ stories effectively was the distinguishing element.

If we’re picking up the important threads and themes of your past work life accurately, and weaving them into a new direction, then even a pivot should appear as a natural evolution. It’s taking what you’ve always done well, and stripping off the no-longer-necessary elements that aren’t heading you in the right direction. A new career direction can be positioned as logical – even inevitable.

When your professional DNA and your story walk into a bar, share a beer, and get along famously – when your prior experiences are part of the narrative of your new awareness, your new direction – it gives you the courage to look in the mirror, and talk to others, and say, “This is the right thing to do.” That’s the end result of Clarity Therapy.

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy

(alt) Leadership

For years, I’ve promoted the notion that there have to be better business structures than the status quo of traditional corporation. I don’t have a problem with capitalism or corporations per se – there has historically been a lot of value in those approaches and structures.

But note the key word there: historically.

Everything we see around us – every product, system, and approach – was designed for a past need. Does this mean we need to embrace all of these things for our present and our future? No. I don’t accept that.

I believe in high-quality, focused collaborative human networks as a superior way to unleash individual talent, find needed resources, refer targeted business, and grow professionals without the unnecessary superstructure of a hierarchical corporation (I call this approach the “co-operation”). I don’t just believe in it; in my business, I practice it.

Others are creating new alternatives, including this extremely interesting employee-ownership approach by John Lewis Partnership in the UK.

So, instead of a single-source view of leadership that involves scarcity, competition, and climbing a hierarchical ladder, we need to consider new approaches to business that will involve new (alt) leadership styles. What will they be?

That will be the subject of our discussion this coming Tuesday (April 24) during #LeadershipChat, 8 pm ET on Twitter. It is important that we not only question legacy approaches to leadership, but as Lisa Petrilli does here in her post, begin to prime the next generation with the tools to move forward based on new assumptions. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Leaders and their Flagrant Fouls

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

What Do I Want to Do When I Grow Up?

In one form or another, I’ve heard this question a lot in the past few years. And, in fact, I’ve continually asked it of myself.

Seems heretical to ask it; but in fact, for people in their 30′s and 40′s – even 50′s – it’s a very common thought.

By now, we’ve been in our career for quite some time, and we’re supposed to be on the “right” track heading in the foreordained destination that leads to our personal fulfillment.

Yeah, right. Actually, it is only after some years in the work force that we finally begin to ask fundamental questions about our own strengths, desires, and professional direction. You’d be surprised at how many of those around you put up the brave front (as you do), but are feeling very unclear about who they are and where they are going in their career.

I’ve sat down and talked with countless professionals who are in the midst of re-thinking their career. And I’ve discovered that such consultation is almost exactly parallel to what I do with brands and companies when they are trying to figure out their identity and strategy. We need to get to 20/20 vision, we need to understand our professional DNA, but so much seems cloudy and unclear from where we sit.

I can help. I call this form of consulting Clarity Therapy <==(that’s a new website that describes this business practice). I started doing this with small companies and entrepreneur/consultants who were struggling with their identity and message (here is one consultant’s experience). And now, I’ve decided to (officially) expand this practice to include the many individuals who are in the midst of re-thinking their career.

I call this my “accidental” business, because it began to just happen organically over time without much design on my part. And there is nothing more rewarding than helping people arrive at an epiphany regarding their identity, direction, and message!

Clarity Therapy for individuals can occur in person or over videoconference (video Skype, which is free, is a great platform for this!), and the session is 2-3 hours of intensive one-on-one discovery of your professional DNA and future direction. For companies, it takes 6-7 hours and is best performed face-to-face.

At times, we all need an outside perspective to help us see ourselves more clearly. That’s what I do as a clarity therapist – and what others have done for me also at times. Here are some Testimonials of others who have been through this helpful process.

There’s no shame in asking the question, “What do I want to do when I grow up?” What we really need is a safe and experienced outside voice to help us see through the fog.

___________

Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts:

>> Clarity, part 1: What’s Your Offering?

>> Clarity, part 2: Make Your Message Clear

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Stories

>> Clarity, part 4: Your Clarifying Analogy

The Analogy That Makes People “Get” You

“Impactiviti is the eHarmony of pharmaceutical vendor selection.”

It took me 18 months to come up with the key analogy to explain my pharma consulting practice, but I’ve gotten more mileage out of that one statement than anything else I’ve used for marketing Impactiviti (my client-vendor “matchmaking” consultancy for pharmaceutical sales/training/marketing).

Why is an analogy so important? Because we all need a shortcut into the understanding and memory of our attention-overloaded prospective customers. And the analogy – appealing to something already understood in order to bridge a gap to something new – is the most powerful mechanism imaginable to spark recognition and recall.

You’re at a cocktail party, and someone asks what you do. “I’m a corporate content development specialist for a healthcare company.” STOP!!! See those eyes glaze over? Has comprehension occurred in that person’s mind? No – because you’ve not bridged the gap. And, perhaps, just as important – will that person be able to refer someone they meet the next day to you?

Rewind. Your answer this time? “My company helps people with rare diseases. I’m like an internal reporter – I get to tell people how we do it!” Boom!

Note the following:

1. Your company is now a lot more interesting, and probably will provoke a follow-up question or three.

2. Your role is now clear – you’re a reporter (but on the inside).

3. YOU are more interesting, because your role has an aspirational and positive element, not merely a technical description. And the listener gets it, immediately.

See how powerful a simple and vivid analogy is? And, the next day, when this person bumps into the CEO of another company that they know from the gym, who happens to be complaining about how ineffective their internal marketing is…guess who comes to mind?

eBay caught on very quickly, in part, because it was just like one big virtual yard sale. People could “get” that. If you attach your company and offering to something pre-existing, common, and positive, you save yourself a ton of grief trying to force comprehension through a blizzard of terms and bullet points.

This is the most challenging deliverable in a Clarity Therapy session. First, we map out your professional DNA by digging into your (personal or company) history, competencies, and aspirations. Then we settle on the core offering, the key message, and the compelling story. Finally, we cap it off with a memorable analogy, and you’re ready with a clear and unforgettable go-to-market approach. In a world swirling with information and noise, only the crystal clear will stand out. That should be you!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clarity, part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Clarity, part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Your Story

Leaders and Their Flagrant Fouls

It seems that hardly a week goes by, without another person in a leadership position being flagged for dishonorable behavior, and in many cases, tossed out of the game.

In recent days, it was Bobby Petrino, head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, who was dismissed in disgrace for…well, read about it here. He joins Brian Dunn, just-departed CEO of Best Buy who also allegedly engaged in dishonorable behavior, and a whole host of other former leaders, from business people to clergymen, from politicians to sports stars, who held positions of honor and influence – then imploded.

Like it or not, we expect our leaders to be examples of responsibility, morality, and self-control. Fraud, deceit, self-dealing, and disloyalty are not on the list of desirable attributes when we describe an effective leader. It’s no wonder so many people root for a guy like Tim Tebow. Leadership with morality and sincerity, at a professional level in sports? Who knew? And it’s a sad commentary that we become so jaded by the dishonorable figures we’ve seen paraded before us, that many are just waiting to pounce, certain that anyone who actually might be the real deal MUST be hiding dirt somewhere.

But Tim Tebow is not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Every player gets flagged for a hold here, an intentional grounding there, maybe a bit of pass interference from time to time. It’s human to make mistakes. But the flagrant stuff, such as actually targeting people for injury – that’s not a mere stumble. That’s a cause of shame and dishonor. Misusing funds, lying to superiors, committing perjury, patronizing prostitutes – these feel a lot more like a gross violation of trust and responsibility.

So, where do we draw the lines in business? What should be chalked up to human imperfection, as opposed to dishonorable behavior leading to “dismissal for cause”? Can trust in a leader be re-built? Join us in a discussion of this topic – Leadership Honor and Dishonor – on Tuesday night, April 17th (8 pm ET) on Twitter during #LeadershipChat. And be sure to read my co-host Lisa Petrilli’s prep blog post, The Power of Leading with Honor and Self-Empowerment. See you on Tuesday night for The Fastest Hour on the Internet!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> How to Gain Influence – the hard way

How to Gain Influence – the hard way

Noise does not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Popularity does not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Numbers do not (necessarily) indicate influence.

Here’s how influence is earned:

- Do a great job.

- Grow in both knowledge and wisdom.

- Care about people.

- Aspire to something big and worthwhile, and inspire others toward it.

Social media changes nothing except to give one more false measure of influence. There is no shortcut. The squash grows (and fades) quickly. The oak is in it for the long haul.

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Clarity, part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Clarity, part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

>> Clarity, part 3: People Buy Your Story

Becoming a Small-Business Engineer

Pop the hood of any company and you’re looking at an engine – a power source that drives the business forward. When it comes to leading businesses in a networked world, perhaps it’s time to re-think what constitutes the most efficient and powerful engine.

That’s what we’ll be talking about Tuesday, April 10th as we welcome small-business expert and entrepreneur John Jantsch as our guest host for LeadershipChat (8 pm ET every Tuesday night on Twitter). John is the author of the well-respected Duct Tape Marketing blog, a top on-line resource for small businesses.

So, how should we view the engine of business in a digitally networked world? And how do we become better “engineers”?

One aspect that takes on heightened importance is referrals. John’s most recent book, The Referral Engine, is devoted to this topic. An enlightened leader will be sure to structure his/her company to maximize the power of networks in order to generate referrals (note: this subject is near and dear to my heart, as my primary business is a trusted-referral network). But what does it mean to be “refer-able”? John will share some insights during the chat, and we hope that you will share yours as well!

We’ll also talk about priority management – be sure to read the prep blog post on this topic (Why Leading on Purpose Must be Your Priority) by my lovely co-host, Lisa Petrilli.

Creating an opportunity network -  a business-expanding human web which will open new doors – is a vital way that an entrepreneur or small business leader can more rapidly create sustained growth. This requires a different kind of mentality in the leader, a different view of how to build a business. Join us as we explore this timely topic, at 8 pm ET (use the hashtag #LeadershipChat – you can use a Twitter client like TweetDeck or HootSuite, or just log into Tweetchat). By hanging out with the brilliant folks in the LeadershipChat community, you’ll be sure to expand your network as well!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

People Buy Your Story

Recently, I was sitting through a capabilities overview from an agency in my pharma network, and it was filled with all the usual elements – we do this, we do that, customer logos, etc., etc. There was actually one potentially distinguishing message buried in there, which was encouraging; but then, toward the end, mention was made that the company has been in business for 20+ years.

And…and…nothing. The ball was teed up, but the 3-wood remained in the golf bag. There was the chance to tell a story – the company story – and it was missed. Any company in business that long has a lot of success, a interesting pathway of evolution, and a great way to build a bridge with the listener by using corporate history to be memorable.

Some years ago, I was evaluating a training company’s marketing and website, and was seeing all the typical verbiage and bullet points – just like everyone else, we do this and this and this. But buried in the web copy was a key point – one of the principals of the company had long experience on the pharma client side of the fence. I told them that their story was the distinguishing message: “We’ve walked in your shoes.” Most of the competitor companies did not have that same story.

When people are evaluating potential providers, one of the distinguishing elements that they subconsciously want to know is the story – why you exist, how you got to where you are now, how you’ve succeeded and evolved. This isn’t just customer case studies – it’s your profile, neatly wrapped with a bow of purpose and progress. People forget bullet points. They remember compelling stories.

There is a story behind my business practice of Clarity Therapy: it is an “accidental” business. I was helping partner companies figure out their professional DNA and message for years as part of my pharma client-vendor matchmaking service (Impactiviti), and I finally came to realize that this analytical ability was a unique skill that met a vast market need. To lead people and companies to an epiphany of their identity in a few hours time? How valuable is that? Yet it came about organically, not as part of pre-planned strategy.

Three entrepreneurs whom I deeply respect (Anthony Iannarino, Lisa Petrilli, Greg Hartle) all have great business stories that happen to be woven in to remarkable medical histories. Carrie Wilkerson (The Barefoot Executive) masterfully weaves her life story into her constant “you can do it, too!” entrepreneurial message. This past weekend’s winner of the Master’s golf tournament, Bubba Watson (pictured above – emotion is a powerful element, no?) has a wonderful story – he’s never taken a golf lesson, but just does what he does as a self-taught athlete.

Apple, Dell, the 3-M Post-it Note, WD-40 – all have memorable stories behind them. And we like to buy into something bigger than ourselves, something that transcends the ordinary, something that is a non-commodity.

Do you have a personal or corporate story? You do – but you may be so close to it, you may take it so much for granted that you haven’t teased it out. It’s one of the first things I do when I sit down with a client to help them get clear about their message – I pull out the story and help them see it.

Yes, people buy what you’re offering. But they also buy the story behind it. Don’t deprive them (and yourself!) of one of your most powerful marketing tools!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Part 1: Your Distinguishing Offering

>> Part 2: Your Go-To Market Message (in 10 words or less)

Open Doors

When you start talking about social media in the business world, you quickly begin to bump into the ROI question (and if you do, get the insight you’ll need from Olivier Blanchard and buy his book, Social Media ROI).

ROI matters. But for many individuals, consultants, entrepreneurs, small businesses – and yes, even larger businesses – that’s not the only measure of value. There’s another factor to weigh in the balance.

Is this activity likely to produce new opportunities? Potential referrals? Broader awareness? Open doors?

Much of what I – and many others – do via social networking is driven by this long-term view, which is based, not on immediate hard returns of dollars-tied-to-specific-efforts, but by what we might call natural human and marketing principles.

Building deeper human bonds with quality people will, in ways both direct and indirect, lead to increased business opportunities. Do you believe this? I do. And I think it’s true for the solopreneur as well as the biggest brand. That means networking – whether the digital/social variety, or good old-fashioned pressing the flesh (note: I believe in both, together).

An example from my own experience: #LeadershipChat on Twitter. Very little direct revenue has come to the co-hosts (Lisa Petrilli and me) for all the time and effort we’ve put in. HOWEVER – the expansion of our networks, the quality contacts with some very influential people, the collaborations that have occurred, not only for us, but among others in the community – these are worthwhile returns, and the future opportunities yet to come as a result of this initiative will, I’m quite convinced, impact business on multiple levels.

I will trade immediate resources of time and effort for open doors tomorrow and next year. Not only for me, but for others.

Speaking of LeadershipChat, this coming Tuesday (April 10), we’ll welcome John Jantsch, Mr. Duct Tape Marketing himself, talking about referrals and small-business marketing in a networked world. Join us for some new thinking, new network contacts – and, who knows?, maybe some new open doors!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

Your Go-To-Market Message (in 10 words or less)

In Part 1 of this brief series (We Do This, and this, and this, and this, and…), we looked at the necessity of having a very clear offering. Amazingly, many companies and consultants fail to make a permanent impression on others because they are tempted to offer too much.

Others, who might be potential customers, or valuable sources of referrals.

Once you’re clear on your offering, the next step is to define and distill a core message – in my Clarity Therapy process, I help create something that is 10 words or less. The goal is to be able to impart your key message before the elevator door even closes (think elevator phrase, not elevator speech!)

When I summarize my client-vendor referral business (Impactiviti), I tell people that I have a win-win business: bringing great clients and top vendor-partners together (I often follow that by saying “Impactiviti is the eHarmony of pharma marketing and training” – but that’s the analogy, which we’ll cover in part 4).

People have a very limited memory space, and lots of distractions. That’s why you need a message that is concise, compelling, and sticky. And, critically important: TRANSFERABLE. Every person who hears and absorbs your message is a potential source of referrals.

I recently had a delightful coffee with a successful business professional in Connecticut, George Bradt. I remarked how much I liked the summary message describing what he writes in his Forbes columns:

As we talked about branding and organizational DNA, he proceeded to give a very concise summary of his company‘s well-defined offering, its clear message, the background story (that’s part 3 in this series), and 2 fabulous analogies. I was impressed. Very rarely have I sat down with someone that had such clarity about their business identity (if you plan to on-board a high-level executive and want to increase your chances of success – call George!)

So, picture yourself bumping into a prospective customer at a trade show, just minutes before the next session starts. After introductions, she says, “I recall seeing your name before, but what is it that you do?” Can you, in one sentence, give her the distilled essence, in such a way that she’ll still remember it after the session – and, be able to tell her friend over lunch about you in 10 words or less?

All the time and effort we spend on our marketing materials, websites, pitch decks, and industry events – is it well-spent if we do not have, embedded in all of it, a very clear and memorable message that cuts through all the marketplace noise and clutter?

Try to come up with this message (it’s a lot harder than you think!). We often have trouble seeing our own offerings/message clearly because “You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in.” But once you take the step of getting a clear message, it is immensely liberating, even confidence-building. You, your employees, your customers, and your bottom line will be glad you did!

Coming in part 3: People Buy Your Story

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> Customers Walking Past You

>> Four Questions for your Future

The Four-Eyed Leader

“Four eyes!”

For many of us that grew up with less-than-stellar vision, this chant brings back less-than-stellar memories of being heckled for having an additional pair of lenses in front of our face.

But, the truth of it is, we all see the world through a set of lenses. Everything is filtered through a prescription unique to us – our worldview.

To make the philosophical simple: behind our words and actions we find our attitudes. Our attitudes are shaped by our worldview. And our worldview is an outgrowth of our first principles – the core beliefs that we have adopted.

Some people say that what we believe doesn’t really matter, as long as we’re sincere. I couldn’t disagree more. You may sincerely disbelieve in the law of gravity, but that isn’t going to prevent your fate as you launch yourself off a cliff.

What we believe determines how we view people, how we view life – and how we lead. You may try to put on a costume of leadership-correct actions, but ultimately, your worldview and beliefs will come to the surface.

So what are my core beliefs about optimal leaders? Here are a few:

1. An effective leader should be marked by positivity. Leaders need to inspire others forward. Negative people sap energy and discourage progress.

2. An effective leader should be realistic. Years of life and experience – successes and failures – will shape a leader into someone who isn’t filled with fantasy about people and progress.

3. An effective leader should be interdependent. Lone rangers and arrogant egomaniacs usually go off the rails at some point (or at many points). The leader makes the team AND vice-versa.

4. An effective leader should be restless. Any team can always do better; any business can find expanding opportunities. The leader needs to push forward continually.

There are many other beliefs – about people, business, life, money, even God – that will strongly impact how we lead. Here’s one disqualifier, however – if you believe, as Mohammed Ali used to proclaim, “I’m the Greatest!” – then you’re probably not ready to lead yet!

Join us at 8 pm ET April 3 on Twitter to discuss this LeadershipChat topic – bring your ideas and your questions (and be sure to read the prep post, Why Understanding Belief Systems is Critical for Leadership, by my lovely LeadershipChat co-host, Lisa Petrilli). We look forward to welcoming you to the lively and diverse LeadershipChat community!

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Hire Steve Woodruff for Clarity Therapy

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> The En-visioners

>> We Do This (and this, and this, and this…)

The En-visioners

Two books that I’ve read lately have renewed my appreciation for an amazing gift possessed by a relatively few number of people.

Of all the abilities we might see in our children and colleagues and friends, this one, if present, ought to be steadfastly fanned into flame.

Steve Jobs (I highly recommend his biography) had it. He could en-vision how things could/should/will be. He had a grasp of ideals, overlaid on the current reality, and the indisputable gift of “seeing” a solution to move from point A to point B.

He was a dreamer-doer.

The amazing geniuses who created our earliest computers (new book: Turing’s Cathedral. Very techie, and very interesting!) understood, conceptually, how such a machine would work. There were massive calculation challenges facing them – many brought on by the need to win a war – and the most remarkable thing for me, reading the account of their efforts, was how firmly they envisioned what the computer would do – and how it would work – before the technology parts and pieces were available. They foresaw it, planned it, invented it – took their vision and theories in hand and brought it to life.

This gift does not require an IQ of 222 (though that certainly won’t hurt!). It’s a way of seeing, and a compulsion to “make it so.”

The en-visioners are our world changers. They may not fit easily into our school-factories, because they are driven by creativity, not conformity. And they don’t just invent objects – we need to encourage our young en-visioneers to create business models, networks, social structures, charitable approaches. We need to give them permission – no, encouragement – to step outside of the status quo. The next Apple, Avon, or Amazon will be the result.

Who are some of the en-visioners you see that are in the process of changing the world? List them in the comments. And, more importantly – who are the 8- and 12- and 15- and 20-year old’s who are right now seeing the future? Let’s nurture these kids and set them loose to make a better and richer future for everyone!

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Hire Steve Woodruff as your Brand Therapist

Recent posts on Connection Agent:

>> We Do This (and this, and this, and this…)

>> Fearing Obsolescence? Four Questions for your Future

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