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Stand Out as a Thought Leader

Winnie Hart is the Founder, President, and Chief Right Engine of TwinEngine, a brand growth agency fueled by purpose. Winnie is an industry-recognized interpreter of business brands and personalities. She has over 30 years of experience impacting both businesses and leaders and over 125 industry awards for helping companies create forward-thinking solutions. Winnie is the Author of Standout As A Thought Leader, Stand Out, and What Do You Stand For? Winnie is a Global Board Director of the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) who has led and championed the women of EO.

Intro  0:04 

Welcome to The Future is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen, we feature top entrepreneurs and thought leaders from around the world, those who bring a global mindset and a unique perspective to their life and business. Now, let’s get started with the show.

David Nilssen  0:22 

Hi, David Nilssen here, I’m the host of this podcast. The goal of this show was to connect with business leaders from around the world who have what I call a borderless mindset and looking to share new ideas, new innovations, best practices, things that can be applied both in your personal and professional life, and ultimately helping us to lead to grow to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Now, this episode is brought to you by Doxa Talent. Doxa helps businesses to source full time highly skilled workers from all over the world. And as a result, those companies can scale faster increase margin and improve culture. The most common roles they fill are things like virtual assistants, finance professionals, sales and customer service, helpdesk even software engineers. To learn more about Doxa Talent, you can go to All right now on with the show. Winnie Hart is the founder and strategic what she calls chief strategic engine of TwinEngine, which is a brand growth agency fueled by purpose. Winnie is an industry-recognized interpreter business brands and personality. And she brings about 30 years of experience in impacting both businesses and leaders to know what they stand for and how they make a difference in the world. Now, Winnie is the author of Stand Out As A Thought Leader. This is a new book. We’ll talk a little bit about this later. And also Standout Mastering The Fundamentals of Standing Out in Business, and What Do You Stand For. She’s also the creator of the one-page marketing plan and the brand in a box with a strategic tools to help build a clear, structured plan to stand out, take off and stay the course. She’s also by the way, a global board member of the Entrepreneurs Organization, which has about 16,000 entrepreneurs across the world in 200 chapters and 60 countries. And she has led and champion the women of EO an organization committed to empowering women entrepreneurs through creating opportunities to learn and grow. And among lots of other things that she’s done. I’ll just tell you that I’m really excited for this particular episode, because I’ve seen the work that when he does, and I think that she has a talent for helping people better crystallize their messages, and is a great strategic mind. So with all of that Winnie, welcome to the show.

Winnie Hart  2:37 

Wow. Thanks, David. I’m so excited to be here.

David Nilssen  2:39 

That wasn’t too short, but I thought it was important. I thought I would just jump in and just ask about your business. So your business TwinEngine is a brand growth agency. Can you tell me a little bit about how you came up with the brand TwinEngine?

Winnie Hart  2:54 

TwinEngine? Oh, goodness. Well, have you met my dad? You’ve heard me talking about my dad.  It’s is a long story but I’m going to tell it anyway, such a great story. So I’m an identical twin. So there are two of me, or maybe two of her. And so, actually, for the first 13 years of my life, actually thought one person that’s Winnie Lorrie. That’s hyphenated Winnie Lorrie.

David Nilssen  3:21 

Is that benefit?

Winnie Hart  3:24 

Exactly. There’s a benefit to having someone who looks exactly like you talks exactly like you and she happens to be working with me and TwinEngine. So there’s where TwinEngine comes from, but really where the name comes from is from my dad. So my dad wanted to have a better relationship with Tommy. So there’s a set of twins and my little brother Tommy, and he want to have a close relationship with Tommy so he decided, you know what, I’m going to like build these remote control airplanes. So they started building these little planes. And every Saturday we go to this little runway and they would build these planes, they fly these planes, you know, and crash these planes and rebuild these planes. And so he spent like, it seemed like just centuries, but it was years and Lorrie and I watch that every Saturday. So then my dad one day and I’ll never forget I remember sitting we were on a picnic table somewhere and my dad was talking about this whole process and I don’t know how that was but he said you know what, I’ve learned this whole small plane thing I really want to learn how to fly big plane. And so my dad who’s a shift worker, excellent chemical, he taught himself how to fly. And I will never forget the day that my dad me standing in front of my 800-square-foot house and Louisiana flew over our house and just the immense pride that I felt. And so one of his dad isms there 1000s was you have to learn how to fly small planes before you fly big ones. So, in one of our rebrands as a company, we decided to name the company TwinEngine and, you know, spent Apollo money buying And here we are.

David Nilssen  5:07 

Yeah, that’s amazing. I love it. I love that actually. So I knew that you were a twin, I did my research. So I knew you were a twin, but I assumed that it was related specifically to that, I love that there’s multiple meanings to it. multiple connections, I should say.

Winnie Hart  5:21 

But we’re also left brain, right brain, I mean, we look alike, we sound alike. And when people see us, I mean, they mistake us for each other all the time. But we really always kind of wonder about that about, I have this really keen ability to see myself outside of myself. So I know what I look like, I know what I sound like, which I actually think is why I do what I do. Because that’s what people want of us, to be able to bring that outside perspective to help people see themselves authentically.

David Nilssen  5:50 

Yeah, that’s super cool. Well, I would love to just maybe talk a little bit about branding, because when I hear the word branding, some people think of that as marketing, some think of it as a visual identity, something of it something else, right? It’s a, I would say, an inconsistent definition. So maybe we can start by just sharing with me, like, how do you define brand? And then why is it so darn hard?

Winnie Hart  6:15 

Well, it’s really misunderstood. I think, people used to think of a brand as a logo, right, or how something looked, but now it’s everything. So I when I talk to people, I always tell them that a brand is who you are, and marketing is what you do, because the brand is something and I’ve very strong beliefs about that companies already have brands that exist, it’s just our job to create a visual and verbal identity, to align those things that already exists with how people consume them. And where other companies or other agencies will work with a client to be able to like, create campaigns or overlap things or cover things up or create identities that may be award-winning, but if they’re not sustainable, and really true to the who the person is, and who the company is, and what they stand for, it’s not sustainable. So I think, again, a brand is everything that you really are, it’s everything you bring to what you do, how customers feel about you the experience they have with you, how you present yourself visually. And so I know you’ve read the new book from cover to cover, it focuses on the eight fundamentals of standing out and those fundamentals, one of them is identity. So do you portray who you really are on the inside-outside authentically? Another one is authenticity in other words that you use authentically who you are. So where people often think that brand is something that you apply to something to make something look a certain way or sound a certain way, it’s really just uncovering what already is.

David Nilssen  7:45 

Yeah, how do you pull that out of people? I mean, I’ve heard a sort of similar perspective on values right, as an entrepreneur, you are as well, like values have to represent stuff that we value, also the company values has to be consistent with what the entrepreneur believes otherwise, they don’t reconcile. So what’s the process that you take people through? Or how do you help them sort of uncover their brand?

Winnie Hart  8:08 

Well, if you’ve talked to anyone who’s worked with us, they know this process really well. Because it’s a process where we take them through what we call brand traffic control. And we do digital workshops to bring full companies, I mean, can be like senior leaders in a company, or it could be everyone in the company have done for a couple 100 at a time, into a digital environment and take them through a process of questions and answers and different tools. In the book, there’s about 30 different tools, we use all of them. And actually, you can facilitate it yourself with a book to help them to the process to really uncover these things. And then we take all that data and information and present it in a way that they can consume through an executive summary. And it’s been really, really effective. And again, it goes back David to this whole idea that you are who you are your brand is something you already have. It’s just up to us to pull it out and present it back to you in a way that people can consume it.

David Nilssen  9:02 

Yeah, so I was just thinking, entrepreneurs, they start these businesses, they start to operate them. And oftentimes, they don’t even know if they have product-market fit, right. So depending on the lifecycle of the business, they may not even be clear what their brand is, or what their value proposition should be, or what have you. And so I’m just curious, like, what stage should people start thinking about really trying to build their brand, not just their name, not their logo or their URL, but like really starting to think about, like, how does this all sort of tie together about who we want to be now and in the future?

Winnie Hart  9:36 

That’s a really great question, David. And I think it comes from people don’t really realize that they come to us with I’m missing out on opportunities, or I feel like that my business has changed or I’ve lost sense of what my purpose was since I started the company or I really want to grow and scale where I want to pivot. But typically it goes back to value proposition and what we do at TwinEngine is we do this extensive interview process to interview people inside the company outside the company relationships to try to understand how people interact with that company to really help. Again, when you’re in a company or you’re running a company, you’re in the jar, or you’re in the jar, you can’t see what’s happening outside the door. And we really help bring that outside what it looks like, what it sounds like, and all that data to different companies. And we do it through a very stringent interview process because it goes back to this whole thing. You already have what you need, you have everything you need, you just have to uncover and discover it. And I think when it comes down to this whole idea of when you should do it, this is something that never delivers. This is something you should always be working on. I don’t know about you, but I have a couple of peloton in my house. For some reason, it doesn’t work unless I actually get on it. I just cannot figure it out. And it’s something you have to continuously do and continuously work out in practice and you get to different stages and fate and fate and phases where you know that things just aren’t really working the way that you want them to or you know there’s so much opportunity out there. Speaking opportunity, I mean borderless, right, I absolutely think that title of your podcast and your brand is brilliant, and I know you mentioned borderless mindset in the beginning and but I think you have to have a borderless mindset with brand too. Because there’s so much opportunity there’s more opportunity in this world than there ever has been in the history of mankind. And it’s up to us to really get focused, be clear about who we are, what our brand is and how we communicate to other people.

David Nilssen  11:31 

Yep, I totally agree with you. It’s funny, you said something a minute ago that resonated for me, I remember years ago, I started one of my first businesses company called Guidant Financial, which helps new entrepreneurs find capital. But we first started, we were helping people to invest their retirement assets in alternative assets, real estate being the number one eventually extended into small businesses. And then eventually we thought, well if we’re supporting these businesses, we should help them with lending. And then they need tax and accounting and payroll and what next thing you know, we had diversified the business and it was just one degree at a time, the next thing you know, we are a completely different company, but we have the same brand. And so your point a minute ago, it’s brands are not something you set and forget, they’re things that evolve over time to continue to, they track with the business and sort of help continue to create that, I don’t know, visual identity, that that feeling that experience where your customers and your people that’s consistent with who you want to be.

Winnie Hart  12:25 

It’s how people describe you when you’re out there. So we’re working with a couple of thought leaders right now and just how they present themselves when they walk in the room when they stand up at a board table when they present to their constituents and their shareholders. Because they can’t see it. They just they can’t they can’t see how they’re how they present themselves. And just think how empowering that is, and then we all change. We change, we evolve, our companies evolve, our audiences evolve, our opportunities evolve, and it’s something you have to constantly stay connected to, and stay on top of. I mean, I really believe it’s the key to success. And it’s what brings clarity, not only to the people you’re targeting, whether it’s a prospect or customer, but to your own internal team. And I think that brand internally and how great resignation. I mean, how many times have you seen those words over the last couple of months, but I think a lot of it has to do with people not feeling connected to the brand from an internal standpoint, and we need to spend more time really just communicating our brand to our own internal teams.

David Nilssen  13:30 

Yeah, that repetition is really, really important. And it’s funny, because as a leader, you get tired of saying the same things over and over again. But then you realize, like, because of turnover and new hires and expansion to the business, there’s lots of people who have continuously not heard that message, we got to continue to reinforce that over and over again. So they start to understand who we are what we believe in. I love it. I want to talk for a second, I want to get into thought leadership because I know your new book is focused on that. And this is actually a really hot topic across entrepreneurship in general. But I want to just take two steps back, I’m just curious, when did you split or first identify with being an entrepreneur? Like when did you start to say like, no, no, I’m an entrepreneur, like, this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.

Winnie Hart  14:12 

And this is in addition to the fact that I’m unemployable, that too.

David Nilssen  14:16 

Well, that might be sometimes when we realize that that’s the case. But yeah, like, when did you first say like, I’m an entrepreneur, and I’m going to own that?

Winnie Hart  14:24 

Well, I started working when I was 12. And, I just did small projects in my neighborhood. But I when I was 14, I met a gentleman, Michael Cantra, who ran a restaurants in Louisiana, and I met him and went to work for him. And within six months, I was assistant manager at one of his restaurants. And I really realized, wait, I’m a leader. So I realized I was a leader before I realized I was entrepreneur. And I worked for him. I worked through college. I mean, I think I’ve worked every single day since I was 12 years old. Growing up in Louisiana, I needed resources to go to college and to do the things I wanted to do. And so I was always had what I call my side hustles. And again, don’t forget, I was an identical twin. So Lorrie had this whole like, twin thing going on, this whole campaign about the things that we did and sold things together and dressed the same every day and went out and sold all the things we were selling. And it was pretty phenomenal. So I don’t know that I’ve ever thought of myself as anything else.

David Nilssen  15:29 

That’s super cool. What about the other side of entrepreneurship? We talked about, I often I hear podcasts, read books, we always tell people the really good things that are happening, but is there ever a moment that you can recall where in your business, something really challenging happened? And it sort of forced you to reconsider? Do I really want to be doing this?

Winnie Hart  15:48 

Like every day?

David Nilssen  15:50 

Well, yeah, I guess I’m just looking for that. 5%. What is something that you’ve been through, experienced, felt that, sort of made you question, is this the right direction?

Winnie Hart  15:59 

Well, for me, it was a hurricane. That was one of the many massive failures in my life, I considered a failure because at the time, Hurricane Katrina was in Louisiana, prior agency was probably a couple of million at that time, we were full service. So we did a bit of everything. But agencies did that back then TV, radio, print, all of the all the things you know about agencies were brand agency now slightly different. I’m a recovered advertising agency owner. But Hurricane Katrina, flooded New Orleans, where we relocated, 240 billion gallons of water flooded the city. And we left the city we evacuated and the difficulty was just in our health care division. So we worked in verticals at the time, financial healthcare technology. In our healthcare division, we had nine hospitals, and every single one of those nine hospitals flooded, and people died. And it really woke me up. Because we were in charge of communication for those hospitals. And we couldn’t do basic communication, cell towers were down, there was no electricity. And we had evacuated to Baton Rouge, we had a setup there. But we were not able to communicate, the only way we’re able to communicate is to drive to the city line and sneak in past guards at the time, and pass handwritten notes. It was a very, very difficult time, and I lost 75% of our business in a weekend. But it taught me the importance of relationships, and the importance of being there when people need you. But it also forced me to really think about what I really wanted to do. So at that time, we reinvented the agency to really be less about advertising a more about brand about really helping people to find who they are, and what they offer, and the difference they make in the world, instead of selling things that in my opinion at the time that people really didn’t need. So as it was my greatest failure, it was my greatest success. And I’ve done a couple of speeches from crisis comes opportunity. And it’s in those times of great despair that we learned the most.

David Nilssen  18:07 

Yeah, it’s hard in the moment to sort of see that. I’ve had experiences in my life to where some of the most challenging times stretched me the furthest. That was, I remember obviously, being in Seattle, I didn’t experience it the same way that you did, but I awful time. And I’m glad that at least you’re walking away from that experience something good came for you out of that. Let’s talk about you just wrote this new book, it’s stand out as a thought leader. That one right there. Tell us like I remember, I just recently signed up for a workshop. And it was on thought leadership, and I invited a few friends. It was really interesting to me the reaction, and I’m not going to get this perfect, but it’s directionally correct. One of them basically said, I don’t really need that, because I don’t really have an ego. The other one said, well, I don’t really want to be a podcaster, which at the time I try not to take personally. But in an Instagram world, I think thought leader is also something that is defined differently. So I’d love to hear like, what do you believe thought leadership is? And then why were you inspired to write the book?

Winnie Hart  19:11 

Well, David such a great question. I’m so glad you asked. Because I think people have a misunderstanding about what that word means. When you think of thought leaders, you think of Tony Robbins or Richard Branson, or maybe even Brene Brown, but they are normal people that have a message they want to share with the world. And they do it consistently. That’s it. And I think that over time, you can’t be a thought leader without thought followers. And if you’re an entrepreneur, every single one of you has thought followers that really want to listen to what you have to say and care about what you do and want to make a difference in the world alongside you. So the reason that we wrote this book is because I also believe that we are listening to many people today that we shouldn’t be listening to. That’s my own opinion. But I think that we have to find our voice, especially as entrepreneurs, because the world needs us, and we need to discover the thought leader within us to be really clear about what that thought is, who are communicating that thought to, and how we make a difference in this world. And the world depends on it. I believe that now of all times, I think if we could always think about EO, actually, Dave, and I think about our 16,000 members, if each entrepreneur can be really clear about what their message was, who they’re communicating it to, and how they make a difference in the world, EO would no longer be the best-kept secret. And I think that this is not difficult to do. I just think that people think of thought leaders as other people. So I wrote this book, because it’s for the thought leaders out there that have something to say, but don’t know how to say it. And you go through a process in the book of really identifying, what do you need to strengthen, and you can just flip to that individual section and just strengthen that one thing, but I think that, this is something that we can’t do, especially if we run companies, because thought leaders are people that really need to be clear also to the people that follow them. And those people that follow them may be employees in their company, it might be their family, it might be their community, this doesn’t always exist in Clubhouse or the metaverse, this is something that we need to be clear about what we stand for the difference we make in the world as a leader, not just as a thought leader.

David Nilssen  21:25 

Yeah, how do you think about separating that, by the way, because I’ve heard a few times that a huge portion of what people believe about your business is directly related to how they feel about you, right? So as an individual, we’re sort of on display, and we’re showing ourselves in all these different social channels, like, how do we think about being authentic, but also recognizing the fact that people are watching?

Winnie Hart  21:51 

Well, and that’s the point, David, people are watching, even when you don’t think they’re watching, and I think you’ve noticed this probably with some of the political figures we’ve seen around the world in the most recent days. I think that, it’s how do you really want to one-up step up, how do you want to stand out, what do you stand for, and this used to be something that was separate from the company, right, this was something that you could control. This is something that you could crisis, manage, or PR, but it doesn’t work that way anymore, because everything’s visible to the world. And that’s why clarity and being clear about what your message is, what you stand for, it’s something that we can’t ignore anymore.

David Nilssen  22:36 

Along the lines of the concept of borderless, right? Like, we always talked about the borderless mindset, it’s something that the borderless business where a borderless leader needs to have. And then of course, Doxa, we spend a lot of time helping people in terms of building a borderless teams, when it comes to thought leadership, when it comes to branding and communications, how much of that is borderless versus really specific to a different geography, at least the stuff that you do with your clients?

Winnie Hart  23:05 

What I just want to mention, because I’ve met some of your team, on the Doxa side, and to me, they embody the values that Doxa communicates. And I think that a lot of times when we see these companies that you have the company, and they have the individuals that work in the company, and it’s not the same, so I don’t know what you’re doing. But hats off to you and your team. Because, again, I see it, and I feel it too. It’s not just a singing thing. It’s a feeling thing, because you can show one thing and if it doesn’t feel right, or if that energy is not there, and I think that we are all looking to people to learn things from, we’re all looking to look for people that that inspire are so that we can inspire. I had the opportunity to release the purpose project for EO recently. And the person that inspired me was Simon Sinek. We all know who that is. He’s a thought leader, but he had a really, really simple idea they wanted to communicate and look what that’s become. I think when you go back to your question about borderless, I think that borderless can be very specific. To me, it’s a mindset versus an actual physical location. I think borderless to me means being open, being honest, being yourself and being open to the possibilities. I think what I love about what you’re doing is you’re helping people see that your business is in a physical location. It’s how you see the world and how you see yourself in the world.

David Nilssen  24:41 

Yeah, very true. I need your help telling our brand story. But let’s talk about something you said a minute ago about learning so I just want to clarify a couple things for our listeners, because not all of them will know some of these things. So first of all, EO the Entrepreneurs Organization is an organization for entrepreneurs who want to learn and grow from people who are like them entrepreneurs across the world, right? How would you describe that experience? Like, what does that do for you?

Winnie Hart  25:08 

Well, I mean, peer to peer, I think as an entrepreneur, before I even knew that he existed, it was lonely, because I mean, who do you go to? Who do you speak to? Who do you share the challenges that you face in your business? But for me, when I talked about Katrina, David earlier, it was that time in my life when I was a new member of EO during that incredibly difficult challenge that not only I face, but my entire company face, my employees face, my family face, my community face, and EO was there for me. And the reason I serve in the capacity that I do in that organization is because this is what you do, that people do things for you and you return those things, favors, efforts, whatever you call them. But I think EO to me has is a platform that we can use as entrepreneurs, to build a better entrepreneur, right to learn the skills and the tools that we need to be more effective, not only to our teams, and that’s how we see ourselves as leaders, but the communities that we live in the families, it’s almost like Brian Bro and you know, Brian Bro talks about the entrepreneur 360. And I think he owes an organization that really considers every aspect of the entrepreneur beyond the business. When I first started, I thought, this is wonderful, I need a board of directors, I need people to tell me what to do, and to help me build my company. But in the end, I became a better person, I became a better person to myself and to everyone else around me. So if you’re not a member of EO, and you’re watching this podcast today,, I highly recommend or you can reach out to me directly, my life would not be the same, and the people that I touch would not be the same.

David Nilssen  26:54 

And as I mentioned, in the introduction, Winnie is a global board member for that organization, what I’d love to just, I guess, sort of wrap up as we’re getting close to the end here is, what is something that you’re really excited about today? Like why is today an amazing time for Winnie Hart?

Winnie Hart  27:12 

Well, because I’m on the podcast. I think thank you for the opportunity to really talk about brand because I think this is the era of the brand. This is something that everyone should be thinking about. This is something everyone should be practicing every day, get on the peloton, this is something that we need to really exercise this muscle, we need to understand who we are and how we show up in the world. And each and every single one of us is a thought leader. We are all thought leaders. And we need to be really clear about the message that we communicate what we stand for as people and be able to communicate that with the rest of the world and the world depends on it. And this is a way that we can come together to really recognize the potential not only for ourselves, but for everyone.

David Nilssen  27:59 

We’re going to end on that point. I think the comment I made earlier, a couple friends of mine that I had talked to about thought leadership, and both of them sort of disregarded it as if they had a choice. And the reality is, most of people are a thought leader, whether they know it or not. The question is whether or not they want to be in control of that. And I love it Winnie, this has been awesome. We’ve been talking to Winnie Hart, the CEO of TwinEngine and the author of standout as a thought leader, and if you don’t have it, go get it. Winnie, where can people learn more about you?

Winnie Hart  28:30 Reach out to me, connect with me, social media, LinkedIn, Facebook, Insta, but I’m here. My purpose is to help leaders to find what they stand for and the difference they make in the world. I’m happy to send you a link to download a digital copy of the book before it comes out. Or if there’s anything I can do to help you in any way.

David Nilssen  28:49 

Fantastic. All right. Winnie, thanks again for being on the show.

Winnie Hart  28:52 

All right. Thank you, David.

Outro  28:55 

Thank you for listening to The Future is Borderless podcast with David Nilssen. Be sure to click subscribe to future episodes so you can hear from more top entrepreneurs and thought leaders and we’ll see you again next time.

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