Given its popularity, we’re sure many of you have seen The Apprentice on NBC or at least heard about it. We loved it. Being in the business of business, we were downright addicted from the very first show-and never missed a single episode; it was edgy and slick. It was bold and boastful. It was visceral and shiny! We bought the ‘gold’ lock stock and barrel.

It wasn’t necessarily the competition that we glued too. Really, does getting a job that way makes any sense at all? Its appeal for us, week after week, was watching business school played out, emotionally, right in front of our eyes.

Watching the participants, the Donald, his team, and the producers make decisions, now THAT was fascinating! Watching the show gave us a new way to work on our own business:

What would we do, as business owners, to win each challenge?
How would we decide who was really responsible for failure?
What was this whole challenge really about?

In an age where millions of people are leaving corporate life for entrepreneurial ones, where the corporate bar is not only being raised it’s being shifted to a whole new place, The Apprentice connected the big dream of business success to the TV audience in a mass-media way. And it was for REAL! At least the part they showed us.

The show became an instant hit and you’re fired became the buzzword of the Nation. The fact that commercial tie-ins, which surfaced in season two, actually became part of the content was sheer brilliance. It took TV back to the days of the Bob Hope Texaco Hour. Well that…on steroids. While it was showcasing other brands, the show became a brand in itself-launching products beyond the original service it provided which was simply…entertainment.

While the ‘TV machine’ ramped up (code words for huge money) the The Apprentice caught up with itself. The mix of the challengers changed. The show concept got tweaked. And ‘the show’ began to believe it was invincible. And something changed. It lost its ‘soul’. The shiny gold we had held so dear every Wednesday night became less appealing and cheep. And then we saw it! Right there in the beginning of each and every show, something that was there from day one, was now screaming at us-the tagline of the show, It’s not personal, its just business.

Oh, really?

That phrase hit us like a ton of bricks. It’s not personal, its just business. OUCH! Their very own tagline was the blood that killed the show for us! It belied everything we know about the future of business. It belied everything we know about the past of business. It belied everything Donald and every single person on the show knows- if they are aware of it or not.

Donald wouldn’t have been able amass his fortune twice, coming back from the abyss of bankruptcy, if he did didn’t have an immensely personal connection to his business. It’s so obvious. After all, it is the Trump Organization (ego aside), not the Massive Faceless Real Estate Development Corporation. That’s not to say all companies that are driven by strong personal visions are named after their founders. Microsoft, Apple, Pixar, Peak Potentials etc. have super-strong driven leaders with immense vision. But let’s call it for what business really is… it is and ALWAYS will be personal.

Now we’re not ragging on the show or even on ‘the Donald’ himself… both are amazing achievements. The bottom-line is that anybody who says business is not personal is hiding something-whether they’re aware of it or not. It can be innocuous or malicious, but either way it is not the way to create a lasting successful business. It was the lack of personal connection that brought about experiences like Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, Arthur Andersen, Jim & Tammy Bakker to name a few? Those unfortunate events are understandable. Because it’s very easy to do unconscionable things when ‘business’ is JUST business.

A business is so much more when business is deeply personal™. Successful long-lasting businesses that have local and even global impact are-ones that ‘do business’ with complete integrity and sincere connection to the impact here business has on the individual as well as the world.

We’ve worked with entrepreneurs and large companies, public and private, guiding single visionaries and executive committees alike. In our experience, most companies, no matter their size, have marketing challenges when they can’t articulate their vision, connect their business to it and communicate it clearly from a deeply personal place. Great marketing can sell anything… at least initially.

The marketing and the packaging of The Apprentice pulled us into a show that appears to stand for the opposite of what we believe. The first question that any business owners should ask themselves…is not can we sell it but should we sell it? Then if the answer is yes, the second question should be…why?

With our ‘inside/out’ approach to building businesses, we find ourselves more naturally aligned with entrepreneurs and small business owners. They naturally feel ‘the connection.’ They’re closer to what they’re doing in their business. The larger the business, the greater the potential for diminished connection, unless there is a strong, domineering or persuasive founder or leader and a method for keeping that vision in place. Think Apple or Virgin.

If a business is only about numbers, results, quotas, and money, the easier it is for the company to act impersonally and rationalize negative situations. We’re not saying that we believe big business, the large corporation, is bad. Quite the contrary. To us, size doesn’t matter-only the vision. As we were quoted in Inc. magazine in December 2004:

…the words of Jessica Rabbit, I’m not bad, I just drawn that way. Companies aren’t bad; the leaders of companies may be bad.

Looking for quick fixes, the silver bullets, is a major side effect of this type of disconnected operation. We just did a live internet presentation to nearly 400 people worldwide and many just wanted to know the tricks of how to use branding to make more their business more successful. Looking for just the ‘tricks’ they missed the whole simple point.

The act of being sure you are personally connected to your business is where branding truly begins. Disembodied corporate brand leaders in ivory towers with deep pockets have the resources to buy a personal connection. Even still, this ‘purchased’ connection is hit or miss depending on who is hired to create the personal connection and their own connection to the product or service being branded. Believe it or not, entrepreneurs and small business owners have the advantage.

A more foolproof, cost-effective method is to make sure you, your staff, or your executive team is fully connected – emotionally, energetically and effectively to your business. If you’re in business just to make money, make sure you’re in the business that focuses on money, like banking, Western Union, or if you have really high hopes…the Federal Reserve.

We include ourselves with the likes of Oprah, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Anita Roddick, Mark Victor Hansen, Wayne Dyer, and many many others, who are not solely driven by the desire of money and the fast way to it. This illustrious group has been gifted not only vision and leadership but also the instinct and the dedication to create their vision in a natural organic order. Our personal mission is to share that process with small business owners so that everyone can experience the personal joy and financial success that these leaders demonstrate year after year.

Individuals and small companies truly have the power to easily change the world. The large companies have deep stockpiled resources but the rest of us have so much more. In this one-world market, fueled by the Internet, all types of businesses with all types of positive impact can succeed… and succeed BIG.

To genuinely succeed as a small business, you need to take a ‘whole success’ systems view and not be afraid to use both the tangible and intangible methods:

  • Invest the time to know yourself. Your success potential soars when you can express your unique gifts in all facets of your life. This is especially important in your largest focus of time each day (other than sleeping) your business activities. No more, I can’t wait to leave work. Change that to, I love how I spend my day.
  • Begin to align yourself with your business by carefully examining what business you are truly in and how it is connected to who you really are. If you can’t find the connection or it’s weak, and then change it. If it is only for the money, look for the business that is aligned with your passion of money. Contrary to logic, it is harder to stay in the condition that is not ‘right,’ than the energy it takes to make the change. When the change is right, it will be surprisingly effortless.
  • Anchor your business to your power by developing your business using a process that is most in tune with discovering and connecting your unique passion to the company’s name, logo, look & feel and language.
  • Know that business IS deeply personal and that the balance of work and life is the key, not the separation. To truly be successful, you need to live your brand, and be fully engaged in a balanced life- including health, relationships, the exchange of value, and the use and care of money.

We hope you’ll join us, and many others, in the business revolution that is coming. This insurgency is consciously building sustainable independence through a complete connection to their work.

Is it business or is it personal? It is both… business is deeply personal™.

Kim A. Castle and W. Vito Montone, Co-founders BrandU™, Co-Authors of Why Brand: Big Business Success No Matter Your Size, It’s a BrandU™ Day, a fear transforming process and journal, and the BrandU™ Bible, the only step-by-step workbook for developing your business as a brand and proud members of The Dream Exchange.