The Actionable Interview with Billee Howard

As a brand and communications executive, first with Weber Shandwick and then at her own consulting firm Brandthropologie, Billee Howard was well placed to see the shift in what she calls “me commerce” to “we commerce.” In her book We-Commerce: How to Create, Collaborate, and Succeed in the Sharing Economy she breaks this down for us into ten areas we can modify to take advantage of this shift. Each area has helpful rules to follow plus great examples of companies that have applied them successfully, and then ends with a summary.

If you want to understand why certain companies and their messages are resonating and others are not, this is the book to read. Billee sits down with us to answer a few of our burning questions.

1. In the introduction, you mention how visiting the Roman ruins and reflecting on them made you realize the shift going on from me- to we-commerce. Can you give this some context and explain what was going on in your career and/or life that got you started down this mental path?

I was at a pivot point in my career where I had pushed myself to a low, so that I would need to find new strength and disruption to rise again. Standing among the ruins and the greatest example of creative destruction, where a Phoenix rose with new life from the ashes, inspired me to rip everything down and start again with an eye on becoming the best again, but doing so this time with no compromises, for me and me alone.

2. loved the two instances where you demonstrated how you applied your rules to your own career. Is there another example that you can share with us?

Innovation is not a moment, it’s a discipline. Too often, people think that being innovative is about stepping on a rainbow as opposed to being someone who can see their pot of gold and shape it to be so each and every day. Innovation doesn’t just happen, it’s instigated and those who are the instigators are rightfully rewarded.

3. How can an individual apply these rules to their own career to stay relevant in a we-commerce age?

If an individual can realize that no matter who they are or what they do that in today’s market – one can only be successful if they are the sum of their parts.

4. I read lots of business books and was impressed with the wide range of examples you used to illustrate your theories (e.g., the honey bee and potlatch). How did you initially gather all your examples and then how did you decide which ones to include?

I firmly believe that culture informs commerce success today, so I scoured the landscape for real-life and far reaching examples that showed both the power of culture married with commerce, but also unique situations that divined success recently just because of market circumstance.

5. If an individual or company could only apply one of your principles, which one do you think is the most actionable and necessary to success in the we-conomy?

Embrace storytelling not as an agent of marketing but as a business competency. If you can tell an engaging story about who you are just as much as what you do – in an engaging manner – you’ve already fought half of the battle.

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