Continuous Learning

Continuous Learning

It doesn’t matter how old or young you are. Whether you just graduated from school or if you’re as old as dirt, it’s important to keep your mental synapses firing and keep learning. Besides improving your employment possibilities, studies have shown that continuous learning can also slow down or prevent dementia. Continue reading

Stronger, Freer – A Celebration of Canada


“The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.”

That’s a quote from Jessica Hische, but how many of us have the opportunity to turn our passions into our work? Maybe there’s a compromise. Some companies/universities offer their tenured employees the chance to take a sabbatical and what a wonderful opportunity that could be. A year to re-ignite your passion and follow your heart.

Steve Harvey said that in order to achieve great success, sometimes you have to jump. You will never be a huge success by doing the same thing day after day and never taking a chance, never following our passion, never dreaming that we can soar.

A couple I worked with for several years are doing just that. They’ve jumped and they’re taking a break from their professional careers to follow a passion of theirs. That passion led to the creation of Stronger, Freer. In honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, our sesquicentennial, Stronger Freer tells the story of a struggling Canadian family over the course of 150 years from Confederation through to present day, in a series of vignettes. It’s going to be playing June 15, 17, 18 at Nineteen on the Park in Stouffville, Ontario – even though it’s not on the calendar yet, the venue is booked and I predict it will sell out fast, so keep an eye on their calendar.

Two ordinary people taking a leap of faith to use their gifts and share their passion for Canada and for theatre with everyone else. I’m envious. And honoured to know them. They are setting an example for all of us and giving all of us this fabulous gift. You won’t want to miss it.





#Canada150 #CrazyPassionateCanadians #Stouffville #Sesquicentennial #StrongerFreer

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The Worst Decisions


I hate making decisions; I’m a fence-sitter at heart. When I’m forced into making a decision, I second guess myself for days afterwards. I have doubts and they can be crippling. That’s how I feel though, it’s not how I act. People who meet me in meetings would describe me as decisive, opinionated, confident. Which is true? They both are to some extent. The first one is internal, and the second one is external. You don’t always get to see what’s really inside some people.

downloadThere are people worse than me though; those who can’t even pretend to push themselves. They can’t make a decision and they’ve given up trying. people-who-have-an-indecisive-personality

Then there are those who will not make decisions so they won’t have to be accountable. Nobody can ever accuse them of making a bad decision; because they never make decisions. If things go wrong or don’t work out, they can point the finger at whoever made the decision, safe in the knowledge that the fingers will never be pointed at them. Let someone else take that risk. The people who do this, consciously or subconsciously, are much harder to recognize. I’ll point my finger at them though. It’s easy to abdicate your responsibility and let someone else take the chance and the risk. Then you can resent them if they fail, (but subconsciously you’ll resent them if they succeed, because you’ll feel it should have been you).its-not-my-fault

If there’s one thing I’ve learned though, is that the worse decision you’ll ever make, is the one you never make.

As the Dalai Lama said, Great results and great growth involve great risks.

  • Right or Left?
  • Chicken or Beef?
  • Mutual Funds or Bonds?
  • Red or White?

Just make a damn decision, take a chance. It’s always better than doing nothing.


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Interesting fact:

Nintendo started as a trading card company. They released a few board games in the sixties. They also created Mahjong and Twister. All before they came out with a video game. An excellent example of how companies should adapt in order to stay relevant.

On a more personal level:

I have used Windows computers for years and even took a Linux course and played around with different distros, but with Linux, android tablets and smartphones, I was constantly trying to find a way to do something on the android device the way I could do it on Windows.

An interesting twist happened today.

I tried to find a way to do something on my Windows computer, similar to how I can do it on my android tablet.

It reminds me of when Fahrenheit changed to Celsius, I thought it would take me forever (if ever) to make the change mentally. And then one day I realized that I was mentally trying to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius because I understood Celsius better. (And spellcheck just told me that I was even starting to forget how to spell Fahrenheit.) I also remember the time when they introduced litres/100 kms (crap, now I feel old!). The change from mpg (miles per gallon) just kind of happened. Now I can’t even translate mph to litres/100 kms. Or I can’t be bothered. Either way, I’ve adapted.

Speaking of feeling old, we’re NOT going to talk about mimeographs, teletypes, dictaphone, Faulker / Pittman shorthand, or ditto machines, because I haven’t a clue what any of that means! And don’t you dare ask me what they are. God created Google – look it up!

Even as people, we must adapt to a changing society. Or get left behind and some day die out. 



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I often compare what is learnt as a club officer in Toastmasters to the skills needed to run a business. Here’s another area where the lesson applies to both Toastmasters and businesses.

While performing a club officer role, members learn the skills and acquire the knowledge to perform the role in the best way possible. Things may be shaky at first, but ideally they have the support of members who have performed that particular role before. By the end of their tenure in a role, they’ve usually developed confidence in what they’re doing and initiated some bright new ideas.

And then they need to move on; to a new role which is a little bit different. And so they grow.enthusiasm

Yes, you identify who has the potential to grow into a role. Not everybody is suited for every role. Part of becoming a leader though is being able to identify and mentor your replacement. You don’t stay and do it again, now that you know. A fellow Toastmaster once stayed on for a second term as area governor (as they were called in those days). He felt that he would do an awesome job now that he knew what he was doing. By mid-year, it seemed his passion and enthusiasm had waned. By the end of the term, he told me he felt he had made a mistake by repeating the role. While he may not have started with confidence the first time, he was constantly developing it, and acquiring knowledge and skill while doing the role. When he repeated the role, the challenge was no longer there and he became bored.

I’ve noticed this in business as well. If you hire someone who has absolutely all the skills you need and want, and who has done this job or better in the past, you run a huge risk that the person will become bored and lose interest. If you must hire an expert because of a pressing business need, hire someone on a short term contract to just get the job done and leave. If you need someone to take on the role permanently, hire someone who has to reach a little bit to grow, they’ll do it with enthusiasm and passion.

So the lesson I take away from all this is not to look for pre-made experts, regardless of the benefit you perceive they can bring to your club or company, whether you’re in Toastmasters or in business. Give someone the opportunity to grow and enjoy doing it. Let the ready-made experts look for their next challenge as well.positive energy

Separation Anxiety


A few years ago, I had a conversation with a coworker that has stuck in my mind ever since. It was about the difference between work friends and “real” friends. Her opinion was that work friends were temporary friends – when you changed jobs, any friendships made at your previous employment were dissolved. I found that perspective a little perplexing, maybe because I don’t categorize my friends or maybe because I don’t call just anybody my friend. Some are acquaintances; some are colleagues; and some truly are friends. True to her word though, as soon as she left the company we never spoke again. No emails returned, even Linked In requests were refused.

When you’ve worked at the same company for a few years, friendships do develop on many levels. It may be one or two people you have lunch with regularly, but sometimes relationships extend beyond the workplace. Being part of a social group at work, participating in golf events, dragon boat racing, major fundraising events, even corporate Toastmasters club meetings, often facilitates the development of friendships. As time goes by, if you haven’t met every member of their family, you’ve certainly heard enough about them to feel you know them as well.

Work friendships can be very beneficial. They can develop into trusted confidantes, an outlet for our frustrations, as well as an often well-needed perspective on situations.

When people move on though, things change, especially if it wasn’t their choice to move on. HR departments usually send out notices of organizational changes, along with dire warnings not to communicate any further with the person or discuss any matters that are confidential or proprietary. For many people, this is where the friendship dissolves.


Now imagine you’ve been part of a company for several years. You’ve helped it grow and transition from a small, family business, to a larger, international company. Then one day you leave. Maybe you’ve retired, maybe you’ve taken a different job, or maybe the company has restructured and your position become redundant. Whatever the reason, can you imagine how it will feel if the closest friends you’ve made in the company suddenly shunned you. It’s as if you’ve become a pariah – persona non grata. Dropped like a hot potato. What an awful experience that must be and what awful friends you must have. These must be the kind of friends my previous co-worker had experienced, and on which she formed her opinion and built her walls to protect herself from the sting of that type of rejection.

If I have someone I’ve been friends with for several years at work who is now in this situation, I absolutely will pick up the phone or send an email to ask how they’re doing. I will meet them again for lunch or dinner, and discuss what they’re up to these days, how they’re managing, how I miss them. I will NOT discuss confidential, proprietary company business. Boundaries need to be set and respected, but that doesn’t mean you can’t discuss personal events. You can and should reach out if you were any kind of friend. For many people, this can help smooth the transition. Changing jobs is a major life event and can be extremely stressful. If you’ve been good friends and shared confidences with someone, it’s actually insulting if you can’t or won’t do this. The friendship may eventually fade as time goes on and life paths evolve and change, but at least you were there to help with the transition.

As a friend.

“Things are never quite as scary when you have a friend.” 
– Calvin and Hobbes – 

How Reliable are Employer Reviews?

Standard the beginning of time, people have passed judgement – on their neighbours, on their country and leaders, on their merchants, on their family, and of course, on their employers. It’s never been easier though than it is right now, in this technological age.

Are you upset with how you were treated in a restaurant or store? Post it on Facebook for all your friends to see. But, as Phil Ochs, a folk singer in the 60’s, once wrote “it wouldn’t interest anyone outside of a small circle of friends”.

You may take it to a larger stage with websites like or  For the most part, the reviews on these site are more balanced. People review both positive and negative and where there are negative reviews, companies can reach out and respond to you. It might just be an apology, or it might be an offer to get in touch with them so they can send you a gift certificate or some other means of making amends.

Even the Better Business Bureau has space for you to review a business and allows businesses to add their perspective, so that consumers have a chance to see both sides of any review.

There’s a certain amount of anonymity associated with many online reviews, and people are more likely to speak about their experiences, good or bad, when they don’t have to identify themselves. There are basically three types of people who post reviews:

  • People who are unhappy or upset.
  • People who are friends of the owners of the business and want to do something nice.
  • People who are paid to post positive reviews (or negative reviews of competitors).

There’s another kind of review trend that’s a bit disturbing – where people can rate their doctor, rate their teacher/professor or rate their employer. I find this trend disturbing because the people who post usually have a vendetta or an agenda, and the party being judged is often denied the opportunity of rebuttal. Even in a legal situation an accused is afforded the opportunity to face their accuser. Not so on these sites.

Maybe you are the patient from hell and your doctor won’t give you a prescription for antibiotics for your cold (don’t laugh, I’ve seen it). Let’s face it – not all doctors have a great bedside manner but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not going to give you the best treatment. You can ruin a doctor’s reputation though by going to one of the myriad of sites and telling the world how terrible they are. Maybe your little Mary-Lou is the class bully and the teacher suspended her. You can go online and tell the world what a terrible teacher she is and that is going to last online forever. You can negatively impact someone’s ability to make a living, and there’s nothing they can do about it because you’re anonymous.

The same is true of sites that facilitate employer reviews. How can an employer respond to a disgruntled employee who might have been let go for just cause, who has posted online about what a crappy employer they were? Imagine if a company is going through a restructuring phase and lets a number of people go. That could mean a lot of negative reviews.

In addition to the negative comments, misinformation or outdated information may be posted. Some sites allow you to outline benefits and bonuses. If any of those things change, you can’t tell by reading these inaccurate or outdated reviews.

A recent article in mentioned that some of these online rating sites are negatively impacting companies’ ability to attract good talent. Here’s my advice: potential employees need to take any online rating site that is clearly one-sided and biased with a grain of salt. Never, ever let that stop you from interviewing with a company. You can even use LinkedIn to see what contacts you can find in the company and reach out to them for their opinions. Absolutely mention what you have read in the ratings if it causes you concern, and hear what they have to say. That’s called being fair.

If a company has 200 employees, and 2 employees a year give the company a negative review, that’s 1%. Are you really going to made a career decision based on the opinions of that 1%? If you’re going to let unfair and biased reviews affect whether or not to even accept an interview at the company, then the company is better off without you. Only small-minded people make decisions without having all of the information. Intelligent and analytical people know the importance of including all variables and relevant data in their decision-making process.

Let’s Get Social


social mediaWe live in an age of social media and with it there are a few pros and cons. As of January 2014, 74% of all internet users in the world use some form of social media. In fact, if you have an account with any of the sites I’m going to mention, a quick search on your name will take me to your profile.

I think I’m somewhere in the middle of social media users. I’m sure there are many people out there who are working multiple social media profiles with ease, but I’m also aware that many people limit themselves to one social media site mainly because they’re not aware of the differences.

This post represents my opinion and analysis on the following top social media sites. Your experience may be different than mine.

Facebook facebook

Facebook is the undisputed king of social media. It’s a social network, but it also allows for media sharing, bookmarking, and social news. Started by Mark Zuckerberg when he was 19 years old, it was initially intended as a type of dating site for Harvard students. By 2005 it was in use by over 2,000 colleges and $25,000 high schools as it was quickly adopted as a way to plan events and share media. In 2007, Facebook started allowing business pages, allowing companies to attract potential customers. By 2011, it had become the largest photo host, and over 350 million users were accessing Facebook through their mobile phones. As of January 2014, approximately 71% of all internet users use Facebook.


  • Keep up with close social ties, especially those in more remote or rural areas.
  • Re-connect with childhood friends, schoolmates, and past colleagues.


  • It’s become the medium of choice for many online bullies.
  • Many people are seemingly oblivious to the fact that the people they are speaking to (or about) on Facebook are real people.
  • Companies will sometimes terminate employees based on comments made on Facebook that they feel reflects poorly on them.


  • If you want to act like an idiot behind a keyboard, be prepared to be treated like an idiot when you meet people in person.

LinkedIn iconLinkedIn

LinkedIn is a social media site that is more business-oriented. It was founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman and launched in 2003 and is primarily used for professional networking. As of 2015, LinkedIn has more than 400 million users in more than 200 countries and territories. The main purpose of LinkedIn is to allow its users (employees, employers, and entrepreneurs) to create profiles and build a network of connections, similar to professional relationships in real life. If you’re looking for a professional in a specific field, you may want to look and see what recommendations some of your connections have given. LinkedIn also supports special interests groups, most of which are employment related. From Toastmasters to Grammar Geeks, there’s a group you can join for information or discussion. There are currently 128,000 groups.


  • Extremely useful when looking for or listing jobs and business opportunities. A well-built profile highlights a person’s areas of expertise and lets you see their recommendations.
  • For businesses, they’re able to tap into a wealth of candidates – even if they’re not looking for a job or not suitable for a job, they might know someone and pass the information along.
  • Candidates can find out more information on companies and even interact with other employees at the company, through 2nd or 3rd degree connections, to find out what the culture is.
  • TechRepublic, an online trade publication, describes LinkedIn as the “defacto tool for professional networking”.


  • There’s also a tendency for people to want to “mine” your connections. You have to pay attention to what information you’re sharing publicly, and even within your network of connections.


  • Pay attention to your privacy settings and don’t just accept every connection request you receive.
  • Pay attention also to your LinkedIn account and keep it up to date, sharing information and updates with groups of connections, and keep yourself relevant in your field.
  • Remember that it’s not Facebook, and forget about sharing political rantings and cat videos. Seriously – is that what you want people to think you do all day?


Twitter is a way for people to stay connected and communicate through the exchange of short frequent messages called “tweets” through their website, SMS or mobile app. Tweets can contain photos, videos, links, and up to 140 characters of text. These tweets are sent to your followers and are searchable. Twitter was created in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone, and Noah Glass and currently has more than 100 million users posting 340 million tweets a day (as of 2012).  While I have a Twitter account, I’ll admit I haven’t been a big user as I personally feel there are better, more efficient ways for me to stay informed on subjects of interests. Twitter hasn’t been doing very well lately and recently posted a net loss of $90 million US in their fourth quarter of 2015.


  • Twitter has played a very instrumental role during the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. With the emergence of Twitter, no country can operate in a silo anymore; Twitter has helped to spread the word and raise social awareness during times of political unrest, government corruption and oppression. Even when the media is silenced, all it takes is one person with a mobile phone and Twitter and the whole world knows what’s happening. The revolution has become digital.
  • Twitter has also been beneficial in improving communications between businesses and their consumer base. Many people use twitter to express their opinions about companies and products, forcing companies to respond in a much quicker manner.
  • Companies can quickly tweet about breaking new developments and opportunities.


  • You may need to be careful about what you tweet as there is no taking it back. I didn’t even know who Justine Sacco was until she tweeted “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!” As a PR executive, she should have known better. Yes, you may want people to know who you are, but for the right reasons.


  • Take the time to learn how to use Twitter effectively, including the use of hashtags.
  • Decide your purpose and define your brand. Focus on your passion.
  • In doing some research on Twitter (as previously stated, I don’t use it very much), I came across this quote from a Forbes article; “Don’t be a jack of all Twitter subjects and a master of none.” That’s me. From media outlets, e-Learning, technical writing and Toastmasters, I am all over the board and completely lacking in Twitter-focus. If you want to be an effective Tweeter, don’t be me.


While Facebook is known for their photo sharing, Instagram is a social media site completely dedicated to mobile photo / video sharing. Started in 2010, tens of millions of users share their photos through Instagram, which also lets you customize your images with filters. You can share your Instagram photos with several social media sites as well, including almost all of the ones mentioned here. In 2013, Instagram was listed in Time Magazine as one of the top 40 apps for android, and is recognized as one of the fastest growing social networks.


  • Great way for users to connect with each other in real time through visual communication.
  • With their filters, you can easily transform an amateurish photo taken with your mobile phone into a beautiful professional looking, artistic image.


  • A lot of younger people are starting to use Instagram and I’ve often joked it’s because their parents joined Facebook. One of the dangers of young people using Instagram though is their tendency to use location tags, which is starting to become a bit of a problem because of predators that are searching on Instagram.
  • Instagram now has a direct photo messaging feature that allows friends to share private photos to one another which, as I’m sure you can imagine, has led to a rise in sexting.


  • When sharing on any social network, remember to keep yourself and your children safe.
  • If you have children, talk to them about the dangers of sexting and be aware of all their online activity.


Tumbler is a microblogging platform and social networking site founded by David Karp, which has been owned by Yahoo since 2013. Microblogging has been described as a cross between Facebook and Twitter. Tumblr has become known as the “anti-blog”. Apparently the main reason people quit blogging on traditional blogging sites is because it’s difficult to find and develop an audience. Tumblr allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog where users can follow each other. Tumblr has a younger user demographic, although users must be over thirteen. If you are starting to wonder why your kids are no longer actively posting as often on Facebook, it’s probably because you’re there so they’ve moved to Tumblr. It’s become one of the top ten websites in the US, with 20 billion page views monthly. Last year it surpassed WordPress as the most popular blog hosting service in the world, with 77.6 million blogs.


  • Almost appears to be a replacement for Myspace, especially among younger people.
  • Users are encouraged to create their own content and to interact with other like-minded users by following their interests and expressing themselves.
  • Users create a web page where they can post images, music clips, text, etc., and they can customize the look of the personal page to reflect their personality, which has attracted people who which to express their artistic side.
  • Perfect for people with short attention spans.


  • Unlike Facebook and other social media or blogging sites, you cannot comment on someone’s posts, you can only “love” them or re-blog them.
  • Posts are intended to be short – if you want to provide in-depth information, this is not the site for you.
  • Since Tumblr blogs are not screened, filtered, or moderated in any way, it’s becoming a magnet for hard-core pornography and other explicit material.
  • It’s becoming a haven for users to replicate and share copyrighted content.


  • If you have teens that use Tumblr, stay vigilant about what they’re posting and who’s following them.
  • If you have a blog and want to post to Tumblr, remember to keep it short. In fact, some advice I received was to only post a picture from your blog post, and link the picture back to your blog.


Flickr is a popular photo-sharing and hosting service with an engaged community. Created by Ludicorp in 2004, it was acquired by Yahoo in 2005, which closed down Yahoo Photos in 2007. In 2013, Flickr had 87 million registered users and more than 3.5 million images were uploaded daily. Flickr currently stands at the crossroads of photo sharing and social media sites.


  • Many bloggers use Flickr to host the images they use in their blogs.
  • It has a smooth, scrolling interface and it’s easy to upload photos and videos easily. With 1 TB of free storage space, it’s easy to see why.
  • You can also easily share with other social media sites.


  • In 2014, Flickr (Yahoo) announced that it would sell wall-sized prints of users’ photos which were licensed under Creative Common licenses that allowed commercial use. Although legal, many felt it was unfair exploitation of artists’ work, and while Yahoo reversed that decision in 2014 and promised to work closer with artists to design a program, their reputation was damaged. T
  • here are rumours that Yahoo will try to sell Flickr, along with its core internet business, but at the moment it’s a wait and see situation.


Google+ is Google’s social networking project. If you have a Google account, you can activate your Google+ account easily. This is actually Google’s fourth attempt at social networking, following Google Buzz that retired in 2011, Google Friend Connect that retired in 2012, and Orkut, which I wasn’t even aware of. It’s described as a social layer across all of Google’s services. Since signing up on Google+ is usually just a by-product of signing up for other Google services, it’s hard to actually know how many people use it actively. Posts to Google+ are shared with members of your “circles”.


  • Since so many people already have Google accounts, it’s easy to sign up for a Google+ account.
  • There’s a tremendous convenience to having one sign in for all Google services, such as YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Play, etc.
  • Google+ can also be used for webcast broadcasting.
  • It actually has a huge array of powerful tools and features, including SEO.
  • Google+ is also better suited for longer posts than Facebook and other social media sites.


  • I’ve been using Google+ for years, but I wouldn’t consider myself active on it. Because it is so similar to Facebook, many users simply share the same content on both.
  • A drawback for businesses is Google+ prohibits companies from offering contests or promotions on their Google+ pages.  The way around that though is to merely post a link to your contest or promotion.

If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations! Believe me, I had no idea when I started this that it would be so long. The mere exercise of researching each of these platforms has been a learning experience. In addition to deciding your purpose and defining your brand when using Twitter, another thing I learned is that it isn’t wise to share all content to all platforms, something I’ve only recently learned how to do.

When the same content is shared, you’re giving your readers the option to follow you in one place or the other, when you should be striving to have your readers follow you in both places. As with my Twitter advice, this is best achieved by deciding your purpose and defining your brand. Something I will definitely work on once I have readers!

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Let’s Get Social by Suzette Seveny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Building Your Brand


LinkedInAre you one of THOSE people? You know the kind I mean… the kind of person who only goes on LinkedIn when they’re in between jobs and looking for their next opportunity. It’s actually how I stay informed on who’s out of work; suddenly their name pops up in my newsfeed as they feverishly share content among their contacts so they can become more visible.

You’re doing it wrong.

Working your LinkedIn profile only when you’re looking for a job is like calling up a contact out of the blue after several years and asking for a reference. Who are you? Yes, I vaguely remember you. Why should I give you a reference?

Relationships don’t grow by themselves. They need nurturing and require time to be set aside to connect to people, and to build trust.

It’s almost amusing how many people log onto Facebook daily and share articles and status updates, yet they let their LinkedIn profiles languish, treating it almost as an afterthought. Oh look, Mary Lou is having a work anniversary. I think I’ll log in and send her a “Congrats!”

You have it backwards.

Facebook isn’t going to help you find a new job. Facebook is where you keep in touch with family and friends, sharing jokes and recipes and the occasional funny cat video. (By the way, don’t share those on LinkedIn – it’s really unprofessional and that’s not going to make you look good.)

Have you read an interesting article lately that pertains to your line of work? Maybe it was something about a style of business you admire or a new innovation in your field. Why not share it with other professionals? Over time, your contacts will get a fairly good idea of the type of person you are, what you’re interested in, your concerns for your profession, the type of self-development you’re pursuing, and the direction in which you’re heading, just by the articles you’re reading and sharing. This is an important part of building a relationship with your contacts.

We are constantly selling ourselves, to our customers, to our current employers, to our next potential opportunity. You need to market yourself and build your own personal brand so your contacts will know who you are.

Contacts that will be so important when you’re looking for that next opportunity.
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Building Your Brand by Suzette Seveny is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.