Bravery and Being the Best

We must be willing to stand up to any challenge in the pursuit of our personal and professional goals.

Welcome to our 30th annual BEST Of the North Bay issue of NorthBay biz! So many great organizations are featured within these pages, and if yours is one of them, you have much for which to be proud. A special congratulations to these three companies that have earned the distinction of being recognized for 27 wins each in the 30-year history of the readers’ poll: Exchange Bank, Redwood Credit Union and Vintners Inn-John Ash & Co.

Our booming economy across the United States and here in the North Bay makes being voted “the best” by our readers more difficult, rather than less difficult. Rising above others is no small feat. The readers’ poll is a long-held tradition in the North Bay. Over the past 30 years, more than 2,000 awards have been presented to hundreds of fine businesses across our three counties. This year’s voting culminated with more than 60,000 individual votes, spread across more than 3,000 ballots. What’s more, we’ve added three new business categories this year—Best Engineering Firm, Best Event Planner and Best Business-Friendly City. If you have any ideas about additional categories that feature the changing nature of business throughout the North Bay, the changing nature of business throughout the North Bay, please let me know.

Our BEST Of awards celebration will take place on Thursday, May 16, at Sonoma Country Day School, which has invested wisely in a community space that welcomes theatrical, musical and cultural events alike. We remain hopeful that the abundance of award-winning wines being poured by wineries such as A. Rafanelli, Balletto Vineyards and Breathless Wines won’t leave a trace of their presence before the school bells ring on May 17, though I suspect we’ll consume all the goodness! Finally, a special thanks to SCDS for use of its facility to celebrate the results of our readers’ poll. Congratulations to all the winning companies, and many thanks to our readers, who took the time to vote.

What does it mean to be “The Best?

Being the best is as overused today as “awesome,” “unbelievable”—and especially among cable TV pundits and politicians, “unprecedented.” Much like these tired pronouncements, “the best” can lose its true meaning and special nature when one extends it too frequently.

Perhaps taking a page from advertising and marketing legend David Angelo, it would be helpful to better characterize the special nature of so many of the companies listed within our pages. David’s mantra is simple: “Be Brave!” This mantra applies to the true nature of our BEST Of winners. David is the founder, chairman and chief creative officer of David & Goliath Advertising in Los Angeles. As his company name implies, he sets himself apart by focusing on the underdogs of the business world, those brands that fight each day to remain relevant, despite overwhelming odds. Popchips brand snacks must battle tirelessly against Lay’s Potato Chips. Universal Studios must battle Disney World’s constant barrage of messaging, promotions and new product launches. You get the idea; David helps brands fight the behemoth of business.

Dave and I met years ago because of our mutual association with Kia Motors. In 2019, Kia will generate more than $15 billion in revenue; maintain its Top 5 ranking for quality in JD Powers consumer polls; sell 600,000 vehicles, launch five or more newly-designed models; and alongside only Tesla, will launch two, all-electric, 225 miles-plus range vehicles. Yet Kia holds only a fraction of market share versus the dominant Honda and Toyota brands. Each day it must remain brave.

When times are tough, we must look for opportunities others are afraid to tackle. When prosperity abounds, we must invest heavily in our brands, our people, our culture and technology to prepare for what is next. David knows that we must all have the courage to do what we fear the most. We must be willing to stand up to any challenge in the pursuit of our personal and professional goals. Of course, David knows that being brave is only the start. But man, is it a crucial one! Then every underdog needs a big idea to break through the media clutter and capture consumer attention. And that’s when the fun starts, isn’t it?

So, what sets your company apart from the others? How are you focusing on opportunities, as well as challenges, and fighting against your greatest fears? As always, I welcome your thoughts. Please stay in touch at

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