The We First Blog.

Why our ability to believe precedes our capacity to achieve

April 5, 2011 Comments

Today I wanted to share with you a new book by Tim Sanders called Today We Are Rich.  I first heard about Tim when he wrote his New York Times bestselling book, Love is the Killer App.  Since then, I’ve known him to be an inspiring business leader and author and his latest book is a testament to that.

What Tim shares in Today We Are Rich is the ability to tap into the power that the right mindset can give you.  This involves filling your mind with confidence building thoughts, carefully choosing the words you use to build momentum behind a goal, preparing your mind for any challenge, and how to use the way you think to recover from any setbacks.

This message resonates specifically with me because I believe there is a deep connection between confidence and your ability to achieve your purpose. From my own experience I know that your chances of fulfilling our personal goals become almost nil if you don’t have the right mindset in place, which allows you to persist through the criticisms, setbacks and inevitable challenges along the way.

As we witness more brands doing meaningful social work and more companies restructuring themselves internally, we are also starting to see a very positive reframing of the way that CEOs and executives, employees and regular people think about their roles. As more business leaders commit to playing some type of role in scaling social change, they need to prepare themselves with the right mindset to get through the challenges along the way.

That’s why I think Tim’s book is so important.  Because the internal shift we make is a precursor to the external change we hope to achieve. The benefits you’ll enjoy are not just the realization of your goals, but personal fulfillment that only comes when you give of yourself to others. I recommend Today We Are Rich as a powerful tool to help us all get there, and congratulations to Tim on another wonderful contribution to how we more effectively prepare ourselves to build a better world.

Note: You can order Today We Are Rich here and follow Tim here.


Why caring for your customers is good for business

April 3, 2011 Comments

Panera Cares Cafe in Dearborn, MI.

I wanted to share with you an inspiring example of how a corporation is reaching out to its customers in a meaningful way. The brand in question is called Panera Cares Café. As you walk inside the store, everything looks exactly the same as every one of the other Panera Bread restaurants across the United States except one thing is missing – a cash register.

Instead, Panera has chosen to manage a number of these Panera Cares Cafes out of the corporate foundation. So instead of a cash register, you’ll see a donation box where customers are invited to pay what they think is fair value given their financial situation at that time. As the former Panera co-founder, Ron Shaich, explains, “If you’ve got a few extra bucks, the right thing is to leave it. If you’re feeling pressure, you can take a discount. If you’ve got nothing, you’re free to enjoy your meal with dignity.”

Panera opened up the first one of these Restaurants of Shared Responsibility in a suburb of St. Louis in May, 2010. This business model is as strategic as it is well intended. Sights for the cafes are chosen due to their mix of affluent professionals and homeless families so that the concept is mutually beneficial. What’s more, the powerful humanizing effect this has on their brand resonates loudly with all their customers.

What’s extra smart about this strategy is its self-sustaining design. The profits generated by the cafes are going to be channeled into job training for disadvantaged youth, while any shortfalls are made up by the generous donations of the more affluent clientele.

Even if the Panera Cares Cafes come out behind financially in the short term, the brand itself will come out way ahead. Such a powerful demonstration of concern for the well- being of the entire community in the way it engages both affluent and less affluent customers is simply smart business that contributes to meaningful change. What it demonstrates is a commitment to the well being of society as a whole over the mlong-term rather than a one-off marketing strategy designed to merely benefit the bottom line.

Panera Cares Café is a wonderful idea that deserves our support in principal and practice. It is also an inspiring example of a We First approach to marketing and our world. Let’s hope more brands follow their example and build healthy communities by offering them great food and the opportunity to take care of each other.

Do you think more companies should take a greater responsibility for the less fortunate in society? What other examples have you found?


Valeria Maltoni: How brands talk to customers so they listen

March 30, 2011 Comments


I recently had the pleasure of catching up with a blogger I greatly admire, Valerie Maltoni (@conversationage), and she shared some of her invaluable insights into effective social strategy and the art of conversation between brands and consumers.

SM: Valeria, can you explain to us what you do in and around the art of conversation?

VM: I’m a business strategist, so if you think about strategy as motivation, I help businesses and companies think about what are the motivating factors around their business that we can use to structure the processes and systems they currently have to create a framework to design the right kind of conversation.

What I see as the opportunity in social media is to use the tools and technology to allow the transformation of buyers into customers. Most organizations think of customers as all the people who buy from them. But think about transactions. If you have a lot of people buy just once, what you really have is buyers, not customers. To me, commerce begins when you have those buyers come back and buy a second time and third time. And with social you have those customers who not only come back, but bring back their friends. With social media it’s like ‘word of mouth’ on steroids. So you see the multiplying effect of designing a conversation that allows people who are attracted to your business and solution to come back with other people and generate more business.

SM: With all the brands you’ve worked with, what would you say is the number one, most consistent problem that they struggle to overcome? What’s the biggest mistake they make?

VM: In terms of challenges for brands, I would say that persistence and commitment are a big mental shift. Many marketers and communicators are used to the idea of campaigns, so they go to market with a big push and when the campaign is done there is no continuity. Sustaining that energy that the community may have in rallying around the campaign is really important. They don’t take advantage of it.

In terms of challenges for business, I see it as having two parts. Some businesses have a communication problem. They need to, as I’m used to saying, go on a different diet and be less constipated with their customers, have regular communications and conversations and not be afraid to get up close and personal. That is one side of the problem.

Other businesses have poor marketing and communications because they are symptoms of a business model that needs to be adjusted, that needs help. You can put more effort into your branding, marketing and communications, but it’s not going to help until you look at what change needs to happen within the business. They need to ask whether or not they are in a different business today than when they started.

SM: Would you say that the starting point for brands is that they need to define who they are in the type of conversations they want to generate? How do you systematize a conversation? How do you build it out internally so you can launch it and maintain it?

VM: There are cultural underpinnings, so in terms of process what you first look at is understanding what the organization is doing. Take a look at their presence, their internal culture, what the organization thinks about itself, and re-propose it to the organization in a safe matter where you provide them with key takeaways from interviewing a cross-section of stakeholders.

From there you take a look at the ecosystem in terms of the competitive presences in the marketplace, what kind of things they are doing, where are they in the social/conversation spectrum? Then take that information to inform your thinking of their marketing and business and communication plans.

From there, generate a framework where you look at the difference between where they are and where they would like to be, figure the thought process that gets them there, and how to you design an action plan to get them there.

If anyone is interested in the art of conversation, I recommend you follow @ConversationAge and visit



Is social media the web’s weapon against war

March 29, 2011 0 Comments

httpv:// At a time of so much unrest in the Arab world from Yemen, to Egypt, to Saudi Arabia, to Qatar, to Syria, to Bahrain, and to Libya, I wanted to share this short video by war photographer, James Nachtway. …

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Why storytelling and social media need each other to survive

March 27, 2011 17 Comments

As the business marketplace continues to integrate social technology, it’s tempting to say that the arrival of social media is as revolutionary as the digital revolution was ten years ago. It’s also tempting to think that social media agencies will …

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AOL365: Why doing good work does wonders for a brand

March 24, 2011 1 Comments

httpv:// Last week at the SXSW conference in Austin, Texas,  I had the pleasure of meeting Blair Cobb, the Director of AOL Cause Marketing. Their new AOL365 program is exactly the type of for-profit and non-profit partnership that I describe …

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charity: water on how brands benefit from non-profit partnerships and transparency

March 22, 2011 4 Comments

httpv:// Today, March 22nd, is World Water Day, an initiative that grew out of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Rio. What better time to share some of the great work being done by charity: …

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Network for Good: Providing digital and social tools for tsunami relief

March 21, 2011 2 Comments

httpv:// SM: Hi I’m Simon Mainwaring and I’m here with Katya Andresen, who is the COO of Network For Good. She is doing a wonderful outreach on behalf of the victims of the Tsunami in Japan. Tell us about what …

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About Simon Mainwaring

We First training and consulting helps the world’s most innovative brands tell the story of the good work they do in ways that build their reputation, employee productivity, sales and social impact.

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