Stories We Tell (About Our Brands)

A recent article at First Round discusses the importance of a good story. Narrative is one of the most relatable ways to communicate your identity and value—as a business, as a leader, as a person—to customers, employees, or investors. That communication establishes connection and builds genuine trust and excitement.

The article goes into lots of juicy detail. Here is quick summary, with some reflections, of key takeaways and actionable tips.

Pass the “Bar Test”

Would someone get your point and pay attention to you if you were telling your story at a bar? Your message should be concise and interesting enough that your audience sustains engagement, even in the face of distraction (be it the temptation to check emails about the next meeting or order another round). Nicole Kahn, formerly Senior Director of IDEO’s Design for Change Studio, says a compelling story should include these key elements:

  • A through-line that connects the dots
  • Anecdotal descriptions that draw the listener into the story
  • Moments of reflection that give your audience cues to linger on a particular thought or feeling

Language like “At this point, we often hear questions like X” or “And here I think Y is so important” can help guide your audience to the points you want them to consider.

Be Persuasive

Persuasion is strongest through clear messaging.

“Because they’ll remember random parts, you want to construct a message that — when sampled at any point — reinforces your argument and remains persuasive,” says product leader for Google Chrome Tyler Odean. “Keep it to the highlight reel and stick to a very short, simple message that you repeat in different ways again and again. When there are fewer things to remember, your audience is more likely to remember what matters.”

The Failure Story

There has been a lot written on the topic of leveraging the power of failure lately. Read more here.

Story as Culture

Molly Graham, former Culture and Employment Branding Manager for Facebook, suggests writing your own story—and sharing it with your team—to focus on what your stand for and reinforcing people’s association between you and those values.

“It can be four sentences or one paragraph or 3 values. But it needs to make it clear what you are and what you aren’t as a company,” says Graham. It also needs to give you language that you can re-use again and again in the press, in hiring, in product announcements, and at all-hands meetings to reinforce what your company is about, who you want to attract, and why you’re doing what you do.

Perspectives on Position

“Brand positioning” tells the story of what you’re building, why, and for whom.  Lean Branding author Laura Busche defines brand as “the unique story that consumers recall when they think of you.” She continues, “This story associates your product with your customers’ personal stories, a particular personality, what you promise to solve, and your position relative to your competitors. All human aspirations are opportunities for brands to build relationships.”

That last line might sound a little intense, but this opportunism need not be calloused. Listening to the stories of customers’ aspirations can help your business sincerely respond to their goals. Storytelling goes both ways. Good listeners make better storytellers because they have learned more about their customers’ (also, just generally human) experience.

Startup adviser Gibson Biddle recommends you gather and compare as many perspectives as possible to “capture and articulate” what others value about your company. Specifically:

  • What is it?
  • How does it improve customers’ lives?
  • What is its personality?

If the team lands on a different set of descriptions than you’d hope, try to answer why. Also try to answer the question, “What word do you want customers to associate with your brand?” Innovative? Healthy? Reliable? Efficient? Whatever it is, consider what your business will have to do over the next ten years in order to “own” that word.

Hero’s Journey

Pixar veteran and Apple Manager Oren Jacob reminds us that great stories have structure—a beginning, middle, and end. “The best meetings are the ones where the [stakeholders] in the room want to take this journey with you. To ensure this, you have to hit all the stops they’re anticipating. Lay out the map for them at the beginning: ‘I am going to talk about engagement; I am going to talk about monetization; I am going to talk about our team and features and potential competitors,’” Jacob says.

Motivational Failure

Some clichés endure for good reasons. Cat posters exhorting us to “hang” in there adorably/annoyingly acknowledge a universal truth: you’re going to mess up.

Own it. Learn from it. Use it to grow and teach others.

A recent First Round article highlights the importance of stories. What is a compelling example of a time you failed, persevered, and prevailed? As a leader, how can you share that experience with your team in a way that encourages courage?

Communicating vulnerability can make you more relatable and can instill your team with the confidence to take risks. Don Faul, CEO of Athos and former Pinterest Head of Operations, suggests crafting language around failure and inspiration carefully in advance. It’s important, he says, to make sure the story leaves the listener with a sense of potential. Faul also recommends experimenting on one or two trusted colleagues and tweaking your story based on their response. “It gives you a chance to strike your own balance between vulnerability and confidence,” he says.

This is an important point. Keep in mind the value in these stories is to help build confidence from a feeling of empathy, not to wallow in doubt! In another article, Senior Gametime Strategist and Fast Company writer Jackie Berkery suggests “vulnerability in moderation.”

The benefits of vulnerability get sidelined when your team hears you doubt your own management skills. Most of the time, your team needs someone who can inspire confidence, display composure and consistency, and lead by example. While there’s still ample room for showing empathy, owning your mistakes, and developing an approachable, open management style, expressing doubt in your abilities as a manager is not an effective strategy.

If “motivational failure” seems like an oxymoron, the NY Times recently published a piece with helpful examples. Researchers from Northwestern University compared two cohorts of young scientists. The groups were statistically identical except that one  had narrowly succeeded in a attaining a National Institutes of Health grant whereas the other had narrowly failed. Ten years later, the initially less successful group had gone on to more impactful careers. After controlling for various factors, the research team concluded that the higher performing group’s later success was causally connected to its initial setbacks.

The same article also suggests keeping a “failure résumé.” Despite seeming a bit daunting, such a record can be a powerful tool to track your lessons and progress. It can also,  somewhat ironically, help to build confidence. Dr. Melanie Stephan, a lecturer at Edinburgh Medical School and the first to popularize the failure résumé says, “Sometimes I look back on them and see how much I’ve actually struggled to be where I am. That’s a powerful reminder that I deserve to be here.”

Millennial Money

New Mexico is moving up in the ranks of states for millennials to live, according to WalletHub—all the way from last place to second to last place! The penultimate spot does not tell the whole story, though.

Albuquerque is a pretty great place for millennials, in fact. The low cost of living, proximity to gorgeous outdoor scenery and recreation, and rich culture contribute to a high quality of life. The burgeoning film and tech industries are creating jobs and contributing to the “cool factor,” and supportive economic policies make it an opportune place to run a business.

According to Albuquerque Economic Development,

The region has a favorable ratio of residents in the key working age group of 20-34 years. Current estimates show that 19 percent of the population is in this key age bracket, compared to the national average of 18 percent. Albuquerque’s 20-34-year-old category is also projected to expand by a greater rate than the national average.

This matters, even if you eschew avocado toast and Instagram, because millennials are a crucial market. They are projected to become the largest generation this year and currently represent 21% of all discretionary spending in the United States.

CNBC summarizes a recent report by Coldwell Banker Global Luxury and WealthEngine that studied some of the economic and life choices of “millennial millionaires”—of whom there are apparently about 618,000.

The population of wealthy young people is growing, the report finds. And they’re getting richer: “By 2030, millennials will hold five times as much wealth as they have today, and are expected to inherit over $68 trillion from their predecessors in the Great Transfer of Wealth.”  The “Great Wealth Transfer” refers to the trillions of dollars that will be passed down to millennials from their baby boomer parents, who are considered the wealthiest generation in history.

The same study also found that millennials are choosing to live in more affordable markets and second-tier cities where it’s easier to get ahead financially. As we’ve reported, Albuquerque ranks in the top 10 affordable cities and top 5 for building wealth.

So factor millennial spending power into Albuquerque’s phenomenal economic growth potential. If you’re a millennial thinking about where to move,  take that WalletHub report with a grain of salt. And read about opportunities to own an ABQ business here.

More Love for Santa Fe

Santa Fe and local hospitality businesses are basking in love this week thanks to the voters in Condé Nast Traveler’s 32nd annual Readers’ Choice Awards. Based on survey responses by 600,000 people, The City Different is Number 2 on the list of Best Small Cities in the U.S. (after Charleston, S.C.).

Inn of the Five Graces and La Fonda on the Plaza were Numbers 1 and 2 on the list of Best Hotels in the West, respectively. Albuquerque’s Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm was ranked fourth. El Dorado Hotel and Spa came in at Number 9 and Rosewood Inn of the Anasazi was twelfth in the same category. Inn of the Five Graces was also dubbed fourth best hotel in the country and 17th in the entire world. Major congratulations to our neighbors!

“These rankings are so important, particularly the rankings that are reader polls or scientific rankings,” says Santa Fe Executive Tourism Director Randy Randall in the Santa Fe New Mexican. “When people are talking to other people and telling them how great Santa Fe is, that is so incredible.” Santa Fe’s many charms draw 1.8 million tourists a year, with a direct economic impact of $750 million.

“There is a lot of sameness in cities around the world,” says Mayor Alan Webber. “We remain unique.”

Incidentally, SGA’s office is located on the same beautiful street as the lauded Inn of the Five Graces. Come see us—it’s a lovely place! And read about opportunities to own a business in this inspiring city here.

Smart Millennial Retirement Planning

Millennial Retirement Plans (Hashtag!)

Last week, the trending hashtag #MillennialRetirementPlans shone a darkly funny light on the despair many millennials feel regarding their financial futures. This generation (born from around 1981 to 1996 depending on the definition) has faced its share of economic challenges. The 2008 crash hit many millennials with the triple whammy of skyrocketed healthcare, student loan debt, and a dearth of paying jobs and wage stagnation. Their average net worth is less than their predecessors’, at less than $8,000, according to a study by Deloitte. They have witnessed wild volatility in the stock market–with swings of a hundred points in a day or thousands in a week—whereas the Baby Boomer generation saw the consistent climbs of the 80’s and 90’s. Research indicates that financial fears are causing this group to defer home ownership and families.

Despite the challenges, millennials are approaching financial planning with their eyes more open than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. A study by TransAmerica found that found millennials start saving for retirement at age 24, compared to 30 for Gen X and 35 for Baby Boomers.

Business Ownership and Financial Planning

One smart way of preparing for your financial future is business ownership. As we’ve written before, entrepreneurship through acquisition allows you to mitigate the risks involved with starting a business from scratch while maximizing the personal rewards of owning a business.

“[Your] significant ownership interest adds both to rewards and stability. In the long run, we think that being a senior consultant involves much more angst than being the CEO of a small business,” write Harvard Business School professors Richard Ruback and Royce Yudkoff.

An additional benefit of business ownership is in-built, savvy financial planning. You can leverage up to 100% of your 401(k), 403(b)s, IRA, or any other retirement fund to purchase a business. IRS code allows, when structured properly, that such a roll out does not incur penalties for early withdrawal. This frees up funding without creating interest payments on loans, allowing you to launch into your business unencumbered by debt—or at least much less burdened. If you use financing from an Small Business Administration loan, which most purchases do, the terms are almost always better than banks’.

“Instead of investing your money in mutual funds or stocks over which you have no management control, you can invest your savings in your business and grow your equity,” says SGA President Michael Greene. “Your business becomes your retirement fund. With good management and a strong growth record, you can usually sell it for more than you paid for it when you’re ready.”


Click here to see the business listings currently on the market to launch you on the path to a rewarding, independent future.

ABQ Ranked in Top 10 for Affordable Cities and Cities to Build Wealth

Albuquerque was recently ranked America’s ninth most affordable city by The comparison of 75 major U.S. cities considered the following factors:

  • Rent for a 1-bedroom apartment
  • Utilities (electricity, water, etc.)
  • Internet
  • Gasoline
  • Food (groceries plus occasional restaurant meals

Rounding out the top ten were El Paso, TX; Lincoln, NE; Toldeo, OH; Wichita, KS; Louisville, KY; Tulsa, OK; Memphis, TN;  Lexington, KY; Albuquerque, NM; and Mesa, AZ.

The top five most expensive cities were San Francisco, CA; New York, NY; San Jose, CA; Oakland, CA; and Boston, MA.

Significantly, Albuquerque’s low cost of living contributes to its also being ranked one of the top five cities in which to build wealth by pay experts  This ranking, “based on census data and analysis, focused on local salaries, the cost of living, and unemployment. Secondary factors, such as diversity of the local economy, residents’ education, percentage of population below poverty level, and commute time were also measured,” according to CNN Money.

Learn about opportunities to buy a business in ABQ here.

(Infographic by Albuquerque Economic Development)

11 Reasons to Do Business in Albuquerque

In more #AlbuquerqueAscending news, economic development and media company Livability lists 11 reasons why ABQ is the perfect place to do business.

“The Southwestern city is witnessing an entrepreneurial renaissance with the help of startup-friendly culture, excellent universities and a great cultural scene for that ever elusive work-life balance. Albuquerque’s tech scene is so vibrant that even Facebook is setting up an outpost in the area, and the city has seen a nearly 10% increase in average salaries over the last four years. With STEM jobs galore, Albuquerque also earned a spot on our 2018 list of the Top 10 Best Cities for STEM Workers,” Claire Hannum reports for Livability.

The list focuses on Abq’s business-friendly and innovative economic, policy, and cultural environments.

1. There’s no shortage of startup incubators.
2. Tech companies love it here.
3. There’s plenty of funding to be found.
4. The city encourages tech innovation that benefits the economy.
5. There are excellent co-working spaces.
6. Albuquerque provides support for female entrepreneurs.
7. You can make your business official in less than a day.
8. You can work from home without losing your mind.
9. The great outdoors are right in your backyard.
10. You’ll never run out of amazing food to try.
11. And you’ll always be able to end your day with a cold beer.

Find out more about great opportunities to join the vibrant community of Albuquerque business owners.


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Tumbleweeds, Beloved Community Resource, on the Market

Tumbleweeds, an early and mid-childhood development magazine loved by parents and educators, is now on the market. Long-time owner Claudette Sutton is ready to move onto her next projects after decades of growing the publication into a staple resource for northern New Mexico families.

Listed at $95,000 with a cash flow of $50,000, this home-based business allows for a flexible, part time schedule and engagement with a passionate, grateful community. The publication enjoys an established advertising base, strong distribution, and a dedicated team of writers, designers, and editors.

A recent article in Santa Fe New Mexican highlights community appreciation for the publication’s helpful content:

“Where would parents and teachers be without Tumbleweeds?” said Joani Kennedy, who has operated the Wee Spirit Preschool in Santa Fe since 1984. She’s been a Tumbleweeds reader since the beginning [in 1995].

“There are profound articles for teachers and people to solve the wonderful problems that come with working with children,” Kennedy added.

Tumbleweeds grew out of a four-page newsletter, Tot’s Hot News, that Sutton started in 1991 focusing on early childhood. By 1995, it had grown to 16 or 20 pages and was addressing increasingly older children. Sutton upgraded to a magazine format with Tumbleweeds.

“I was realizing a lot of articles were not just for parents of young children but children in elementary school and approaching teens,” she said.


Albuquerque Ascendant: Ranks in Top Ten Cities for Economic Growth Potential

Albuquerque ranks in the top ten large-size metro areas in the country for economic development potential, according to site selector publication Business Facilities. It’s a great time to buy a business in Albuquerque—or sell a business and move on to the next Big Thing! Albuquerque was ranked ninth. Topping the list were Atlanta, GA and San Antonio, TX.

In a recent Albuquerque Business First article, reporter Collin Krabbe writes:

“‘Albuquerque has a foothold in very high-tech industries,’ including renewable energies, photonics, and information technology,’ said Business Facilities’ Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. ‘We think the up arrow is going to stay for a while.’

Rogers said targeted growth sectors and industries, the efforts to diversify those clusters, local demographics, and workforce development were factored into the analysis. He also praised the state economic development department’s Job Training Incentive Program, a government-funded incentive tool that pays for classroom and on-the-job training for new jobs at expanding or relocating businesses.”

Leadership Santa Fe


Leadership Santa Fe helps up-and-coming leaders develop high-level management skills and connects them to key players in Santa Fe’s business and policy spheres. Participants delve into challenges facing the city and actively engage in the process of creating solutions. The program takes place every year between September and May and consists of 12 sessions, about two per month. Alumni include Santa Fe City Manager Erik Litzenberg, Police Chief Andrew Padilla, and multiple City Council members and business leaders. We spoke with Program Director Valerie Alarid about LSF, its participants, and its value to the city and graduates. Applications are open through August and available here. There will be an informative kickoff celebration Monday, August 26, 5:30-7:00PM at Rio Chama Restaurant. RSVP required – register at

Could you give us a bird’s eye description of the program?

LSF has a civics and a leadership skills development portion. We focus on six topics: youth and education, economic development, government, energy and sustainability, health and public safety, and non-profits. We go into the whole community of Santa Fe, holding sessions at multiple venues. It’s a great way to get to know different businesses and connect with people in various sectors.

What are the most important takeaways for participants?

First, they learn so much about the community and fiber of Santa Fe. Both locals and newcomers tell us they gained insights into areas and issues they’d never considered before. Second, people learn about themselves. They cultivate new skills and discover strengths they often hadn’t realized they had. The program also creates a lifetime of strong professional and personal relationships. Participants leave knowing they can always reach out to this network.

What are the benefits to Santa Fe?

LSF aims to create leaders in many forms. We support rising business leaders that might go into upper management roles as well as people who are interested in public office. Participants move on with a practicable understanding of diverse facets of the city. This allows them to contribute and make a positive impact whatever area they choose to pursue.

What’s an average cohort like, and who are your participants?

Cohorts are usually around 30 people. We keep them small so that our trainers can give everyone the attention they deserve. Groups are diverse and balanced. There is an application process and a review committee accepts the top candidates. A lot of individuals are sent over by their business’ management team for training. We also have independent individuals who want to go into public service, learn more about Santa Fe’s vast non-profit scene, or start or grow their own business.

What are you most excited about for this year’s program?

I’m especially jazzed that the economic development session will feature Daniel Werwath, who focuses on affordable housing and community development in Santa Fe. There’s a coalition working on housing solutions for the city, and I’m hoping some of this year’s cohort will bite into that work. It’s an important issue for attracting and retaining talent for Santa Fe.

The program is $1,045 for the whole seven months. Sponsors underwrite about 80% of the budget. LSF thanks early committed 2019/2020 program sponsors Enterprise Bank & Trust, New Mexico Gas Company, Delta Dental, Journal North, Century Bank, State Employees Credit Union, and CHRISTUS St. Vincent.