A CEO's Guide on How Not to Fail at Life and Leadership: Q&A with Michael Kurland, CEO of Branded Group and Author of Broken to Better


Michael KurlandCEO of Branded Group

Friday, August 5, 2022

Purpose is critical for your business, your employees and your consumers. Without it, you risk losing big. Today, it’s not just about making a profit and selling a product or service. It’s about aligning your business offering and company culture with your audience’s and employees’ values. It’s about being better.

Interview 6 Minutes
A CEO's Guide on How Not to Fail at Life and Leadership

A global Zeno study shows that 94% of consumers said the businesses they engage with must have a strong purpose, with 83% pointing out the importance of delivering a positive impact before earning a profit. Therefore, as a business and thought leader, you must give back to the community by finding better ways of running your business.

So how can businesses do better? How can business leaders drive organizational success by listening to employees and respecting the core values of their business? And What characterizes a great business leader? CEO of Branded Group, Michael Kurland, talks about how companies and business leaders can do better.

Why do you think businesses need to ‘be better’?

The business climate is continuously evolving and to be a purpose-driven, next generation leader, you should always explore better ways of running your business, leading your teams, serving your clients, and giving back to your community.

Clients and consumers are seeking companies that align purpose with profit, act ethically and responsibly, and have a genuine concern for all of their constituents. They will support those organizations that care about the greater good. To strategically grow your business, you have to think outside of the box, be willing to take risks and be open to new opportunities.

What does it mean for business leaders to ‘be better’? What does this look like?

To be better as a leader means you lead selflessly. You think about others first as well as let go of thinking that “what worked in the past will work now”. It means you get to know the whole employee, the whole customer, and the whole vendor, approaching these partnerships with a multi-dimensional lens and not getting stuck in one-dimensional thinking.

What do you think the biggest challenge is in being better?

The biggest challenge in being better is persevering through challenging seasons without giving up. Any change you want to make professionally or personally begins with a decision, followed up by a daily commitment to adhere to the decision you made. For example, it’s easy to start a diet, yet living a healthy lifestyle requires daily action.

How important do you think company culture is in driving the success of a business?

I’m convinced that no business can sustain success long term without a solid company culture that keeps their workforce engaged and wanting to come to work each day.

Your culture is like the lifeblood of your organization. It runs through every aspect of the business from your new hire process to your Town Hall meetings to your customer service.

Are there any areas you think business leaders are failing the culture of their company?

Leaders who ignore the “whole” employee may be missing the mark on how to retain and engage their team members. Team members spend most of their lives at work and so, we have to embrace them as a whole person, not just the 9 to 5 person.

People want to work for organizations that align with their core values. They want to do meaningful work that gratifies them and makes a difference. Leaders must provide opportunities for professional development so that skills can be enhanced.

How can business leaders shift their company from focusing less on the money and more on the success culture?

I don’t think it’s a question of shifting focus but rather aligning the focus. If you’re not making money, you’re out of business. CEOs and other organizational leaders have to work towards aligning purpose and profit. You can’t do good in the world if you have a weak P&L. You can’t give back to your community, or offer better programs to your employees if you’re not making a profit.

What do you think are the core principles of a great thought leader?

Thought leaders have to be authentic, vulnerable, and act with integrity. Additionally, thought leaders have to do more than think. That is, they have to move past the platitudes and actually do what they are telling other people to do.

Leading by example and putting the principles into practice that they talk about are what people are seeking in leadership today. It’s easy to say “You must have a great company culture.” Taking steps to create and sustain this culture is what makes you a “do as I do” instead of a “do as I say” leader.

How important is it to become a thought leader in today’s business landscape?

If you can become a thought and action leader, then I think it’s vitally important because our teams need to see people who are doing what they say they will do.

Do you think the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about positive change in how business leaders approach success?

I think the pandemic has taught everyone about what’s really important. It has helped us to focus on our top priorities and let go of what’s not needed any more. For business leaders, perhaps this means a more streamlined service offering or eliminating waste.

I think it has also sparked a “creativity revolution” – in that new ways of doing business have arisen that have attracted a new audience or sparked a new product or service. Because we couldn’t do business the way we used to, the pandemic opened our minds to new ideas.

If there’s one piece of advice you could give to your younger self starting out on this journey, what would it be?

I would tell my younger self to never give up no matter what challenge is in front of you. There's always a way, always a solution, always people to support you if you persevere.

What would you consider your proudest achievement is?

My proudest achievement is the launch of Branded Group, the culture we created and have sustained, the amazing team of industry experts on our team, and the creative social impact programs we’ve developed that have made a real difference in people’s lives.

Who would you say has the most inspiring #BeBetter story?

I think the entire Branded Group team has the most inspiring #BeBetter story. Two plus years ago, they went from a normal working environment to less than 48 hours later, being completely remote. They rose to the challenge and have been the key driver in our success. I could not have done it without them and I’m extremely grateful for their contributions, dedication, perseverance and “never give up” attitude. They are my BeBetter heroes.

Michael Kurland

CEO of Branded Group


Michael Kurland is CEO of Branded Group, an award-winning facility maintenance company based in Anaheim, CA. His determination to “Be Better” was the driving force in the launch of his company and has led to its exponential growth, cultural transformation, innovative social impact programs, and cultivation of a highly-regarded team of industry experts. He is the author of the upcoming book, Broken to Better: 13 Ways Not to Fail at Life and Leadership (Houndstooth Press; July 19, 2022).


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