Len Herstein is a CEO, brand strategist, author, and a sheriff’s deputy. He talks to The Industry Leaders about fighting complacency with vigilance to achieve success in all areas of his work.
How did you end up sitting where you are today?
Straight out of my undergraduate degree, I first worked in Management Consulting. I then got my MBA and switched to CPG brand marketing. I was going to a lot of conferences and realised I was often left unsatisfied. So I created Brand ManageCamp to be the conference I wanted to attend.
Looking for a way to give back to the community, I then became a Reserve Sheriff’s Deputy. Quickly, I realised that there was a lot I was learning in law enforcement that could be applied directly to business and to life. So I wrote Be Vigilant!, and that’s how I got here!
What kind of work does your role involve?
I currently have four jobs! I run the Brand ManageCamp conference and Brand ManageCamp University. I also work hundreds of hours a year as a Patrol Deputy. In addition, I’m the Chief Brand Strategist for Audiobrain, a sonic branding company. Finally, I have my book, and I have my public speaking on complacency and how we can fight it with vigilance using simple techniques I've learned from my time in law enforcement.
So, really, my role involves a lot of multi-tasking and time management! But, more importantly, it involves helping people and businesses protect the success they’ve worked so hard to attain.
What gets you excited about your industry?
As I've mentioned, I have a few industries I work in, including marketing/brand management, consulting, law enforcement, and public speaking. But the same thing excites me about all of them: the opportunity to be of service to organisations and individuals, and provide them with the actionable insights and tools they need to be more successful (and to protect that success!). I've always believed that the greatest opportunities arise from the most difficult times, and, let's face it, times have been difficult — which makes the future even more exciting.
What's the best advice anyone ever gave you?
The best advice I've ever received was given to me during the very first day of Police Academy: "Remember, complacency kills." It's on a sign that I see every time I leave the Sheriff's office car park. This advice resonated strongly with me and I quickly realised that complacency is not just dangerous in law enforcement; complacency also kills businesses, brands, organisations, and personal relationships. I then embarked on a mission to empower organisations and individuals to safeguard the success they’ve worked so hard to achieve. Which led to my book, Be Vigilant!.
How do you support aspiring leaders in your field?
For the past 19 years, I've been supporting aspiring leaders in brand management by producing a conference that gives them the actionable insights they need to better connect with consumers and customers, and become more effective leaders.
Now, I'm supporting aspiring leaders by teaching them about the dangers of complacency and how to fight it so that they can protect their success once they achieve it. Along the way, I connect and converse with people through social media (mostly LinkedIn) — sharing, commenting, and mutually growing.
What was the most challenging project or situation you've overcome?
The most challenging project I've overcome was making the switch to a 100 percent virtual brand marketing conference after 18 years of producing exclusively live events. When the pandemic hit hard in the first quarter of 2020, we were already promoting Brand ManageCamp 2020, scheduled for September. We quickly realised that we needed to pivot. Because we had become complacent about our previous success, we weren't ready to make the switch to virtual, and so we had to get up to speed and build our capabilities quickly. Our ability to do so and, subsequently, execute a flawless virtual conference was a huge accomplishment.
You finish work today and step outside the office to find a lottery ticket that ends up winning $10 million. What would you do?
The first thing I would do is pay off the house, and then I'd secure my children's future in terms of education and starting their adult lives.
Then I'd refocus my working time by splitting it evenly between serving the community in my role as a Sheriff's Deputy and serving the business world by educating about the dangers of complacency and how we can all fight it every day — not through paranoia but by vigilance and preparedness. Of course, I'd make sure I still had plenty of time to spend with my family!
How do you define failure?
Failure is only bad when it marks the end of a journey; failures have a tremendous role to play along the way — they help us to learn and grow. Failing quickly and cheaply can be the key to success in innovation. So failure is often good.
Failure is bad when it defeats us, when we submit to it, when we give up. The key is to not let that happen. It’s ok to mourn a little when we fail, but what matters the least is what's already happened. What matters the most is what we do next.
If you had one wish for the future of your industry, what would it be?
As I've mentioned, I've got a lot of industries that I play in. However, if I had to choose one, my wish would be for the future of law enforcement. That wish would be that we could all work together to bridge the gap that has developed within our trust for one another and create a future where we can all work together towards shared goals of safety, security, equality, fairness, wellbeing, and happiness.
What book or podcast should everyone know about?
I've had the opportunity to work with many brilliant authors throughout my years producing the Brand ManageCamp conference... It's difficult to choose just one! And I'm not going to take the easy way out by choosing my book.
So I'm going to go with Bruce Turkel's All About Them: Grow Your Business by Focusing on Others. When I was thinking about the most important advice I've received, that was right up there at the top. It's about where many businesses (and people) go wrong. Learn how to make it “all about them”, and you’re on the way to success.