Extraordinary Talent Interview with Sian Gunney, Marketing and Brand Strategist

FilmmakerLife Magazine Presents

Interview by FilmmakerLife – Extraordinary Talents

  1. Today we meet one of the leading creative minds in business strategy Sian Gunney. Sian we heard that you recently have emigrated to Canada from Wales, what brought you move country?
Sian Gunney – Brand Expert and Strategist

It’s only when we reach too far do we realise, how far is possible to go.

I was content but I was bored in Wales, I never felt at home despite loving my family and friends and I was growing more restless and tired with each passing day. I was desperate to move abroad ideally sun, and sand played a big part of this … but I believe in co-creating and I knew that I must be stubborn on the idea and flexible on the details.

A friend of ours a futsal champion Rico Zulkarnain always emphasised to us about the power of playing with your heart .. and this has stayed with me.

So, when my husband Ashley Charlton got offered a job and a relocation package from Cardiff to Toronto, we knew we had to go for it and take the opportunity. My husband is logical, mathematical, systematic and algorithm orientated, so we weighed risk and reward up meticulously.

 I march to the drum of optimism however life has also taught me realism and that you can’t take anything for granted. We must not let fear keep us small, we must take risks and live as fully as we can… Life is precious and fleeting we need to make the most of each chapter … so here we are in Toronto!

  1. Welcome to ‘Toronto The Good’ Toronto is Canada’s largest city and a world leader in such areas as media, marketing, business, finance, technology, entertainment and culture. Most Hollywood movies are filmed in Toronto. It has one of the largest populations of immigrants from all over the globe which makes Toronto one of the most diverse, welcoming, and multicultural cities in the world. How are you finding it Sian?

I’ve got to say I didn’t think I’d like it .. you know arriving in a city in winter and the seasons are strong here… I was gearing myself up to city-hopping around Europe and was ready to embrace new languages, surf, do yoga on the beaches, wear colourful kaftans, adorned with crystals, paint my terracotta pots, look after my plants, cook and read mountains of books… but the universe and my hubby had other plans.

Truth is I wake up excited every day! now I’m here it’s like something has just clicked into place for me I feel more at home here than I did at home. There’s a warmth, an acceptance a celebration of people that I have not experienced before. I’m also already a big raptors fan! The cafes, restaurants, bars and shops here are unreal.

Today I’ve already done boxing bootcamp, walked the dogs, had meetings, and got through enough caffeine to disqualify an Olympic track team and it’s only 9:30am.

Sian Gunney
  1. For those of our readers who don’t know you or the work that you have done… who is Sian Gunney

That’s a good question, check back in, in the next 6 months and ask me again because she is in a constant state of evolution.

  1. Okay I’ve got you, so Sian Gunney is a brand expert and strategist who is famous for launching and scaling some of the biggest brands in beauty, wellness, and sport. She is often behind the scenes working on many celebrity-owned brands and is a trusted and well-respected personal brand adviser and business confident for sports and entertainment stars.

Oh yes, I do that too! I always find it funny that so many high-profile doctors and celebrated individuals in media and sports want to work with me. I remember laughing because an a-list Hollywood star rang to speak with me, and I thought it was a prank and their voice was very stern after my giggling fit… and since then I take every call seriously.

The doctors I work with say they love working with me because I challenge their thinking and work can be very stressful and I help them to enjoy the journey of building something bigger than them.

I also help them to work through imposter syndrome as I make them more visible and profiled in high level press. Most of my clients are money rich and time poor so they want someone they can trust to create a master plan, get a team in, and manage them to go beyond the results.  There are too many great ideas out there that do not happen because people are not bold enough to try and don’t have the right people around them to encourage and guide them.

I also get to work with major players in music and business billionaire businesswomen. I believe strongly you are who you surround yourself with and my work magnetises the most inspirational people and circumstances.

No matter where we go in the world or who we work with or meet. One thing is true “people are people.’ You either look through the lenses of judgement or lenses of grace.’  The other thing to note is no-one is watching, like not really, we live in a narcissistic world, where most people are too concerned with what they are doing or how that looks or too busy to care. I think this helps because in my mind there are no judgements, no mistakes just creative experiments.

On a small stage in Wales anyone can win…On a big stage in Canada I risk failing but the important thing here is I’m opening myself for expansion. Growth never comes from comfort zones… the most interesting flowers grow in the shade!

  1. What one philosophy has changed your way of working the most?

Essentialism I’m always looking at priority with the etymology of the word as a singular thing not this new age 14+ priority lists.

I’m intentional I identify what is my number one goal and each day where my highest point of contribution is. Therefore, anything else not working towards this goal or working against my highest point of contribution is a distraction.

Same with people if they are not making you stronger, they are making you weaker, when we walk next to people, we always adjust our pace, whose pace are you adjusting to?

I think the bit most people skip is mapping out our own personal values (not our parents, not our bosses, not someone we have read about, not our partners… ours!)

Values are our personal sat navs to joy. Values determine what success really means for us and what’s important amongst the noise of life. I use my values to check alignment for any new business opportunities, it makes saying No or yes very simple.

Values can help you prioritise and focus your attention where it counts and be intentional when it comes to the daily doings of your purpose and path.

Decluttering is so important in every area of life to stop you from saying yes to stuff that you know deep down isn’t for you.

It’s not surprising that when we don’t take time to understand what success really means to us, let alone make decisions that are aligned with them, we’re left feeling depleted, frustrated, or just lost. Your focus matters as your best interest are where the highest interest gets paid.

Mastering essentialism fully is an everyday discipline for me as a recovering people pleaser and workaholic it’s been a massive shift in my thinking.

A non-essentialist thinks everything is essential an essentialist thinks nearly everything is non-essential.

A non-essentialist thinks all opportunities are equal they cannot discern value.

Many capable people are kept from getting to the next level of contribution because they can’t let go of the belief that everything and everyone is important. 

“Strategy is about making choices it’s about deliberating choosing to be different.’ – Michael porter

3 steps

  1. Declutter everything and simplify
  2. Focus on the step ahead only
  3. Practice WIN – what is important now

Trade-offs are important you trade off the things that don’t matter by knowing fully who you are and what your brand is you are working on. Yes, you alienate some people, but you stay true to yourself and your brand values.

A strategic position always requires trade-offs. Saying yes to something requires saying no to several others.

I see so many great people living the same year in different ways constantly multi-tasking and adding and adding and not removing things then burning out and going back to unhealthy patterns, poor communication or fragile relationships with their bodies, minds, finances and other people.

That old saying you can do anything but not everything is so important, and direction is much more important than speed. So many people are going no-where fast.

Don’t be stuck in a straddled strategy of making decisions on margins rather than design.

In my years of business and strategy consulting I have witnessed that senior executives are the worst at understanding trade-offs. Its why staff are over run doing multiple jobs.

An essentialist asks these two questions

– what problem do I want?

 – what can I go big on?

We must learn to scan our environment for the critical few and start eliminating the trivial many.

Explore Determine what activities and efforts do not make the highest contribution

Eliminate nonessentials, execute by using habits, rituals, a regular routine and commit to this entirely.

Make your habits a system you enjoy with rewards to make your implementation as effortless as possible.

To identify where and how you can make your contribution the highest follow these two steps below:

Step 1 – explore

Discern the vital few from the trivial many

What do I feel deeply inspired by

What am I particularly talented at

What meets a specific need in the world

Step 2 – eliminate

Cutting out the trivial many

Many say yes because we are eager to please and make a difference yet the key to making our highest contribution may well be saying no

People are effective because they say no (this isn’t for me)

Focusing on essentials means saying no to someone often. It means pushing against social expectations. To do it well takes courage and compassion

It’s emotional discipline to say no to social pressure

Given the reality of trade-offs we can’t choose to do everything

The real question is not how we can do it all but who will get to choose what we do and don’t do.

If we don’t choose what not to do other people will pull us in directions, we don’t want to go in.

  • With all this systematic structure where do you find time to create and let’s talk about play. Is play important to you?

Oh, I love this question giving myself and indeed my clients and suppliers permission and freedom to play and to be silly has been a game changer for me. The clarity, focus and space that essentialism creates allows room to play and explore.

Play is the highest form of research and exploration; life is not about finding our limitation it’s about finding our infinity.

“When we embrace a childlike wonder and let ourselves be whimsical, we can feel lighter, more energised, and more inspired.” – Dr Mark Hyman

Play is not only an antidote to stress and keep the ego in check. Play helps us adapt to an ever-changing world. Play expands our minds in new ways that allow us to explore and germinate new ideas or see old ideas in a new light. Enabling us to unlock the solution using a different way of thinking, than the thinking that caused these ideas. For high level senior executives and entrepreneurs if you want to unlock your true brand potential … my message is simple ‘Give Yourself permission to play regularly.’

All this world’s greatest thinking breakthroughs I believe came through play. Play and creativity will be highly valued in the new age of artificial intelligence. 

Did you know that

  • Columbus was at play when it dawned on him that the world was round
  • Newton was at play in his mind when he saw the apple tree and suddenly conceived of the force of gravity
  • Watson and Crick were playing with possible shapes of the DNA molecule when they stumbled upon the double helix
  • Shakespeare played with iambic pentameter his whole life
  • Mozart barely lived a waking moment when he was not at play
  • Einstein’s’ thought experiments are brilliant examples of the mind invited to play
  1. When was the last time you played at work?

That’s easy yesterday and today as I have just launched a fun, upcycled, pre-loved, customised fedora range called fedy. You can check it out here at www.fedyhats.com

I’ve never understood why in a world where people reject uniform, we all wear black and grey and denim and copy fashion styles.

Colourful creative clothes cheer people up they start conversations they bring people together.

My neighbour Lowri once said to me “People see you wearing a fedora and think I want to do that too…but it’s about feeling brave enough.”

I really believe that … fedys give people confidence the wearer and people that want to connect with that person… it’s an ice breaker.

There’s a natural fight in me to want to create products, communities and environments that bring people together things … I wish I’d had 30 years ago.

My twenties and 30s were a time where we were all told to hustle, and you had to be a loud bitch in business just to take some space in a room. I was too friendly, and everyone kept saying it won’t get you anywhere. Gentle soothing energy and positivity wasn’t celebrated the way it is now and if you were creative in business as a leader you needed to tone it down or keep it quiet to be taken seriously.

If you don’t follow fashion but have your own style and vision… and eventually create trends, it means what you are doing makes sense to people … it means you are connected to people.

  1. What book are you currently reading and give us a quote that inspires you?

I’m reading Ray Dalio Principles that was recommended by a Torontonian fitness expert and model Alyssa Veniece. I struggled greatly listening to his equations and methodology regarding the meat industry as I’ve not eaten meat by choice since the age of around 3 years old because of my love for animals.

However, his business and investing principles I’m listening to. Plus, a lot of his mindset matches mine in terms of rebelling and not wanting to be told what to do but to figure out my own ways.

Because I’m keen on overdelivering and 3 is my magic number (and life path) … I’ll give you 3 quotes that will give you a taste of what I mean.

“I also feared boredom and mediocrity much more than I feared failure. For me, great is better than terrible, and terrible is better than mediocre, because terrible at least gives life flavour.”

Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“I’m a curious independent thinker who ran after audacious goals

I got excited visualising things to go after. I have had some painful failures going after them.  I learnt principles that would prevent me from making the same sort of mistakes again and changed then improved which allowed me to imagine and go after even more audacious goals and do that rapidly and repeatedly for a long time.

The Key to success is being able to strive for a lot and fail well.”

Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

“Losing faith in investments or business during bad patches is as common mistake as being too enamoured with them when they do too well. Most people are more emotional than logical they tend to overreact to short term results.

They give up and sell low when times are bad and buy too high when times are good.

I find this is just as true in relationships.

Wise people stick to sound fundamentals through the highs and lows. flighty people react emotionally to how things feel. Jumping into things when they are hot and abandoning things when they are not.”

Ray Dalio, Principles: Life and Work

  • What’s next for you?

I’m not sure yet. I love seeing others WIN and helping people to go beyond what they thought was possible. I love seeing people transform their lives and thinking I helped.

I create data informed strategies that are action plans that jettison brands into new stratospheres. My knowledge gathered from instructing so many businesses over 15 years and I pour all this knowledge into my new client’s businesses. I’m consistent and steadfast I don’t guide people wrong.

I like to work with big brands on a big scale. Or small brands with big heart.

I’ve been approached to build, launch and scale 3 training programmes within the wellness and medical space.

Outside of this there’s a big sports agency opportunity on my desk.

Plus you have my side plays – fedy hats (https://www.instagram.com/fedyhats/)

and indeed hermits daughter travel itineraries https://www.instagram.com/hermitsdaughter and https://www.instagram.com/hermitsdaughter_interiors

 that I will be looking at slowly developing.

We will see what I take on and what I say no to… after all they’ve all got to align with my values and my big goal.

You can follow my journey on Instagram here if you’d like? https://www.instagram.com/siangunney

Or browse my website here to discover all my services to see what I offer…  or get in contact here: https://siangunney.com

I’ve also been approached to support the launch of a nutraceutical and advanced age blocker.


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