People are craving authenticity. This is something that people want the most today. People want authenticity. They want to get to see the real thing. They don’t want the polished version. They don’t want the professional corporation. They want the real deal. People would rather do business with people who are not perfect than people who are perfect because they can’t relate to perfect people.

We often use the term “Influencers” to describe people with significant social media followings on platforms like Instagram, Twitter TikTok, Youtube, Linkedin and Facebook. Influencers have become today’s media titans, sought after for everything from product placements to timely trends. What’s the difference between influence and impact? Fans and followers? Sizzle versus staying power?

In this interview series, called, “How To Cultivate Community In A Click to Connect World” we are talking to influencers about how they define success and what we all need to discover about the true nature of influence. As a part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Joel Freund.

After quickly climbing the corporate ladder into management positions, Joel was hired as CEO at a telecom company, where he used LinkedIn organically to bring the product to market. After leaving that role, Joel founded Fluex Media (, which currently manages some of the largest personal brands on LinkedIn. His team uses Fluex Media’s unique, trailblazing process to build a consistent, authentic, and lucrative LinkedIn presence for executives at B2Bs. When he’s not working, you’ll find him playing music, listening to audiobooks (favorite topic: company culture), and donating kidneys.

LinkedIn profile:


Thank you for making time to visit with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. How did you discover your career path and what got you to where you are today?

I have worked for various companies for many years. Early on, at my first job, I quickly reached a leadership position despite having little experience. However, something that has bothered me throughout all these years is that many companies, regardless of their size or success, have an environment where people are consistently unhappy. This disconnect between the leadership team and the employees is pervasive, affecting everyone from the top to the bottom. The employees simply aren’t content, and there’s minimal focus on the human aspect of the company, the people piece of a business — the people actually doing the work — which should be the central focus. I used to think that this is just how business works, that there was no other way. To succeed in business, I believed you had to adopt certain behaviors and attitudes. I almost convinced myself that I wasn’t cut out to be a business owner and had no desire to become one if it meant becoming like those individuals.

However, years later, when I was in a specific company that I won’t mention, but was extremely dysfunctional, I found myself in a significant leadership role that required me to fix things. That’s when someone recommended the book “Traction” authored by Gino Wickman, and introduced me to the work of Patrick Lencioni and others. Reading about the EOS system made me realize that there is another way to do business, one that doesn’t require becoming the type of person I never wanted to be.

My mindset slowly began to shift, leading me to form new relationships and let go of old ones. Ultimately, this journey brought me to the business I am in now, and I am incredibly grateful to be surrounded by amazing like-minded individuals. Recently, we all attended the EOS conference together and even spent extra days before and after the event to spend more time bonding. It’s remarkable that all of us, including successful business owners from large companies employing thousands of people and generating billions of dollars, share the same values. And this amazes me. For years, I never thought this was possible, but now I know there is another way.

What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned along the way that influences how you operate now?

The most important lesson I learned is the ability to be open and honest, to be able to say it the way it is without fear and without the need to be politically correct or beat around the bush. The ability to be open and honest, and at the same time, to be completely sincere and respectful to the other party. Ultimately, this is the best way to operate and communicate, and I don’t even know how it is possible to be different. I don’t understand politics; I don’t understand how people in politics operate. Once you get used to honesty and sincerity and saying it the way it is without beating around the bush, it’s very difficult to go back and undo that or to operate any differently.

We’re all searching for some good news. How are you using your platform to make a positive social impact?

I try to promote success stories that emphasize sincerity, openness, honesty, and vulnerability. My goal is to advocate for healthy work environments and raise awareness that operating in such an environment enhances productivity and doesn’t hinder business operations. It saddens me to see how many people are miserable in their jobs, considering that work takes up the majority of their lives. It’s interesting to observe how many companies still adhere to outdated practices.

I receive countless private messages whenever I post about dysfunctional workplaces. People from various walks of life reach out to me, sharing how difficult their lives are. When I ask why they don’t leave, they often explain the challenges of making a change. Some have well-paying jobs that make it hard to transition. But if they don’t make a change for themselves, no one else will do it for them.

It’s not just individuals who complain incessantly; companies themselves are always complaining. They constantly grumble about recruiters poaching their employees and the rising costs of salaries. When I shared my thoughts on LinkedIn about poaching employers, the response was overwhelming. Many people fought back against the idea. It’s interesting that people still fail to understand the need to examine their own companies and reflect on whether their employees are genuinely happy. It’s easier to blame recruiters, employees, the market, and everything else. But before pointing fingers, take a hard look in the mirror.

It’s not just about affecting business growth; it’s also about personal happiness. When you despise your job, it becomes a drag on your life, and the idea of work-life balance becomes questionable. I recently came across a post highlighting the notion that if you work late hours, the only ones who will remember your children are the babysitters. While work-life balance and making time for family are important, if your work isn’t aligned with your inner core, if it doesn’t elevate your life, there’s nothing to balance. It’s a contradiction — work should support and enhance your life, not make it worse. It’s as if you’re constantly building your life at home, only for work to come crashing down on it, repeatedly. Why choose to remain in such a situation? It’s not worth it, even if the money seems enticing.

Unfortunately, if we were to conduct a survey, I believe that most people would admit to not liking what they do. This is why they seek work-life balance, unions, and laws to limit working hours. They need protection from the monster that work has become.

Many of our readers are influencers as well. Others have tried and have yet to succeed. What words of advice would you offer to aspiring influencers, knowing what you know now?

There are many people, particularly young ones, who aspire to be influencers. Some excel in writing, while others have acting or video skills. Some possess strong verbal abilities and thrive on podcasts or similar platforms. It’s not a bad thing at all. I’m not here to criticize anyone. If you excel in gaining Instagram followers through videos or showcasing your writing skills in articles, blogs, or LinkedIn posts, that’s fantastic. However, that alone doesn’t make you an influencer. Being an influencer means actively working on oneself and striving to become a better person. Throughout this journey of self-improvement, influencers share their struggles, shortcomings, and the areas where they face challenges. They also share their progress and the strategies they employ to become better versions of themselves. This approach, which involves sharing real-life experiences, is the most impactful format of influencing. If your aim is to help others, showing them how to navigate through real-life situations is the best way to go.

It’s similar to parenting. You can’t just come home and tell your kids what they should and shouldn’t do, only to contradict yourself by doing the opposite. The “do as I say, not as I do” approach simply doesn’t work. We all know that.

Unfortunately, 99% of all influencers out there are people who know how to do the videos. They know how to give speeches and how to write articles. Very few of them are actually living up to their message or trying to. I’m not saying that you need to be perfect to become an influencer, but you must be authentic and genuine with yourself and with others. Share your journey, including the messy and challenging aspects of it. Embrace vulnerability because it’s vulnerability that truly connects with others and wins in the world of influencing. The key lies in showing rather than telling. That’s the essence of being an influencer. So, if you aspire to be one, start by working on yourself and your personal growth.

Success is often a matter of perspective. I’ve always resonated with Henry David Thoreau’s quote, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” How do you see success — or define success — for yourself now?

Success is not a destination or a fixed term. It’s an expression that holds different meanings for different individuals, and even for the same person over time. It constantly changes and represents something unique to each person. Success is not a specific goal, nor is it merely a dream. It is an ongoing expression. When someone says, “I want to be successful,” each person in the world has their own definition of what that means. Even when it comes to money, success has different connotations. For someone living on minimum wage, the idea of earning a hundred thousand dollars a year might seem unimaginable and highly successful. On the other hand, for someone already making that amount, the significance of that money would be entirely different. This applies to all aspects of life — success is a subjective concept.

Personally, I’ve realized that the things I strove to achieve never brought me lasting happiness. As soon as I reached a goal, my mind would immediately shift to the next objective. Success is a moving target, and life itself is a journey. Along this journey, we learn the importance of enjoying the process. None of us are perfect, and we’ll never reach a state of perfection. Only those who are already perfect remain so because they can’t change any more. As long as we’re alive, life is a continuous work in progress. Every day, we aim to improve and do more. Once we achieve a goal, we set new ones. This pattern persists indefinitely. There’s never a point where we can say, “I have enough. I’m content. I’m perfect.” That moment never arrives. The individuals who claim to have accomplished everything and achieved perfection are likely experiencing a state of depression. The pursuit of growth and progress is what drives us and keeps us mentally and emotionally healthy.

So, when people ask about the definition of success and where we see it, I genuinely don’t know. If you Google the definition of success, I think it’s one of the most searched-for words. Every single interview is going to ask you for the definition of success, where you see success, and what you think success is. I have no idea why people are looking for success. However, success is not something to be found or achieved one day. It’s a moving target that requires us to continually set new targets for ourselves. Understanding this concept is crucial for personal growth. Success is not a fixed goal but a dynamic expression of our continuous journey through life. Success is an expression, and people look at it as a goal to be achieved. They have a dream that they’ll be successful “one day” — and there’s no such thing.

What are your strategies to make room for who and what matters most?

I never really think about it. It’s not something I consciously consider because, if I were to stop and ponder, how do I fit all these things into my day? The answer, in short, is that there’s no way. No one can provide a straightforward answer on how to manage so many different responsibilities. I have a large family, thank G-d, with seven kids, and I’m involved in various businesses and charity organizations. How do I find time for it all? The truth is, there’s no logical explanation. If you try to calculate or schedule everything, it just doesn’t work. However, when you engage in activities that make you feel alive, and that give you energy instead of draining it, you can accomplish more than you think. It’s a different kind of time management. When you’re doing things that energize you, the rules change.

Let’s take the holiday season as a good example. I believe everyone can relate to it. During the holidays, regardless of your family situation, you find yourself doing so much more than usual. You wonder how it’s possible to accomplish so much in such little time. The answer is simple: because you want to. You’re busy with things that give you energy, and you don’t stop to analyze how much time you have. You just do it and keep moving. I aspire for every day of my life to be like the holiday season — productive, energizing, and filled with a sense of accomplishment. Even on the most demanding days, when you’ve completed numerous tasks, you don’t feel stressed. Instead, you feel invigorated and content, looking forward to the next day, which promises to be just as fulfilling, if not more. That’s the mindset I strive for each day. I don’t want to approach my day as a long list of tasks that need to be completed, making it difficult to get out of bed in the morning.

How do you reduce or mitigate stress?

I heard a speech from Dr. Randy Marshall years ago. He shared something that I found fascinating, and once you get to the point of understanding and internalizing the message, it makes a huge difference, and it becomes easy to deal with the stress. It was a huge breakthrough for me and everyone that I shared this with. We’ve all seen a huge difference in our lives once we can truly live that message.

Dr. Marshall says there’s a very thin line between goals and desires. It’s all about how you frame it. Basically, there are things in life that you want, but it has nothing to do with you doing anything. For example, if I want to win a lottery of a billion dollars, the only thing that I can do is go and buy a ticket. And this is where my activity part of the equation is done. There’s nothing I can do about that outcome. One hundred percent of the outcome is up to G-d once I bought the ticket; there’s nothing I can do anymore. So if I want to, I can pray. But there’s nothing tangible left for me to do that can make that desired outcome happen.

That’s a little bit of an extreme example. Let me try to give an example that’s more relatable. Imagine that you’re driving down the highway in the middle of the night. It’s 2:30 a.m. You’re driving yourself, you have your kids in the car, and you’re afraid that you’re going to fall asleep at the wheel. Is that anxiety or a real fear? The answer is that this is a real fear.

Take the same example: Imagine that you’re driving a car on the highway in the middle of the night. You’re in full control, completely alert — but you’re afraid that someone else might fall asleep at the wheel and that someone else is going to crash into your car. Is that anxiety or real fear? That is anxiety.

The keyword here is “control”. When you worry about the things that are in your control, that’s healthy. That’s normal, and it should be. You’re thinking about things you have control over, and you’re taking the proper precautions to ensure the outcomes your desire; to make sure you don’t drive into the wall or into other cars, or that you’re well-rested and everyone is seat-belted. That’s the responsible thing to do. But when you start worrying about other cars, wondering if a driver on the same road as you is drunk, or that a plane will fall out of the sky onto your house in the middle of the night. Once you start worrying about things that are outside of your control — that is called anxiety. That’s not healthy.

In order to maintain your mental health, to be able to manage stress and anxiety, you have to focus on the things you *can* control. The key is to understand the difference between the things that are in your control, and the things that are out of your control. You should do everything you can about the things that are in your control; carry your responsibilities and do what you need to do. Whatever is out of your control — just let it go. Don’t even think about it, and definitely don’t worry about it! Don’t spend an ounce of your energy on it. Whatever is going to happen, will happen. When you’re able to straddle the line effectively and focus only on the things you can control, you have no stress, no anxiety. You’re healthy.

I’m going to try a few of your tips, and I’m hopeful our readers will, too. Now it’s time for the big reveal — the moment our readers have been anticipating. What are your “five strategies to cultivate a large & engaged social media community?’ Please share a story or example for each.

I’m “in the trenches” daily, and these 5 strategies are something I’ve developed after years of testing the waters and figuring out what really works. We call it our “CAVES” strategy:

C stands for “CONSISTENCY”:

Consistency is very important. You have to be consistent. There are so many people who try to get into the space, who try to become influencers. The start, they do it for a couple of weeks, a couple of months -and then they stop. Because they get bored of it. Or they didn’t see the result that they envisioned right away. I would say most people who do it stop after a while; they don’t stick to it. And that is one of the biggest differentiators between those who are successful and those who aren’t because most people give up at a certain point. Think about it from an audience’s perspective: They’ve seen this so many times where people come and go, come and go. And they have a hard time connecting to someone who isn’t real. Every time they see someone put up a very good post that really resonated with people and it got a lot of engagement and comments — they’re skeptical. They like the post, but they don’t know who the author is, they don’t know if he’s for real, and they don’t know if he’s going to stay at it. They have a very hard time buying in because they’re waiting to see what this account will look like in the next week or in the next couple of months. It doesn’t matter what you’re using your influence for; if you’re not consistent, people don’t take you seriously; they think you’re a joke. Whatever you do, you must be 100% consistent. You cannot stop. Of course, your strategy should be tweaked, and you can change things around, but in general, when you are doing influencer marketing, you have to stick to it because it’s the most public form of advertising. It’s not like it’s not like a one-time ad or something. It’s the most public format of putting yourself out there, putting your brand out there. And if you’re not being consistent, you’re basically telling the world that this is my brand. I’m not being consistent.

A stands for “AUTHENTICITY”:

People are craving authenticity. This is something that people want the most today. People want authenticity. They want to get to see the real thing. They don’t want the polished version. They don’t want the professional corporation. They want the real deal. People would rather do business with people who are not perfect than people who are perfect because they can’t relate to perfect people. It’s hard to work with companies who are so perfect and do everything so perfectly; they can’t relate to it. It’s very difficult to relate to someone or something like that. It’s easier to connect with someone who comes across as human and normal; just like me. They can connect to that. It’s important to remember when using social media that not every post is a tactic or a marketing gimmick. Posts should tell people who you are and what you stand for. What do you care about for real? My posts are not a tactic; it’s who I am. So yes, if this is what you are and this is what you stand for and this is what you do, do it. If some people will not like it, they won’t like it. This is who I am. I’m not gonna apologize for who I am and for what I do. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to. The influencer business is about being your completely true self. This is who you are.

This is how I use my social media accounts — to share my true journey. This is what I’m up to. This is what I do. This is my journey. I tried this; I tried that, and this is what worked, and this is what didn’t work. It’s about being real. So you do it if you feel like doing it, and you don’t do it if you don’t feel like doing it. Not everything is a tactic. True authenticity always wins.

V stands for “VULNERABILITY”:

The most important strategy, and the best one, and the easiest and the hardest one — is vulnerability. Be real. Be yourself and share your journey. Don’t be politically correct; don’t say what you think people would want to hear it; just say it the way it is. And of course, you have to live up to the promise. You can’t be an influencer and just tell people what to do and preach to people. You have to share your story, how you overcame certain things. This is the only format of influencing that truly works.

E stands for “ENGAGEMENT”:

Engaging with your audience is an important strategy. Engage with your audience. Don’t be that person who is the big shot on the stage. Who, a second after giving the speech, is gone. That doesn’t work anymore. Not in today’s day and age. People want to connect. People want to engage, they want to feel part of the action. If you’re just putting out your posts, your blog, or whatever, and you walk away, you don’t engage the audience. You’re killing your brand, you’re killing your authority. You’re killing the whole purpose of why you’re doing it. Engaging with the audience is so important, and so few people do it properly.

S stands for “STANCE”

If you want to make everyone happy, sell ice cream. Don’t be an influencer. You cannot worry about what everyone has to say. You need to stand for something. You have to take a stance. And sometimes, it’s not going to be popular. Sometimes, a lot of people are going to disagree with you. Some people will say very bad things about you, and some people will try to take you down. If you’re trying to be an influencer and you have never gotten criticized in public, strongly criticized, you probably are not doing it, right. So you have to stand for something, for something you believe in strongly.

What do you do to create a greater sense of connection and community among your fans?

The number one thing is that you have to surround yourself with people who have shared values. This is the number one thing — to surround yourself with the right people. If you’re not with people who have the right values, that sense of connection and community won’t happen.

Number two is to be vulnerable to others. If you open up to others, you can have a real community. A good community is when people are real to each other. You can’t expect other people to be real before you go first. So if you want to be a leader, you want to have an influence — you have to go first. You have to be the one. Otherwise, who is going to open up first? It’s very risky and it’s very scary to do that. If the leader doesn’t do it first in a genuine way, then you can’t expect it from anyone else.

Number three is this: Especially in the social media world, we’re so used to our phones; we’re so used to the virtual world, the DMs…and it comes to a point where people are literally hiding behind the screens. They want to stay there. It becomes very comfortable. That’s a very big mistake. People are people. People are social creatures. They want to be connected to other people. You can’t hide behind the screen. Yeah, the screen is a good tool. It helps you scale. You can do LinkedIn, and it helps you to scale it up, but nothing beats a face-to-face conversation. So, you want to get out of that screen as soon as you can.

And lastly, there’s the mind. The main and most important thing is human interaction. Humans are just like precious metals, just like silver or gold. You cannot just have a beautiful piece of silver and let it sit around for a while and not touch it. You know what’s going to happen? It’s going to get ugly. You have to maintain it. You have to clean it. You have to work hard, and if you did neglect it for a while, then you’re going to have hard work to polish it and bring back the real shine. So you have to work on it. Keep on working on it — it’s a work in progress. You have to do it all the time. You can’t neglect it.

As an influencer, you are, by definition, a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

There are so many things that come to mind — it’s hard to pick just one. I think the most important thing would be a movement to build up emotional health and emotional intelligence. The biggest thing about emotional intelligence is the ability to manage your own emotions and recognize the influence of the people around you. So many things fall under emotional intelligence, including a strong sense of self-awareness, empathy, motivation, social skills, and self-regulation. A lot has been written about it; there’s a lot of information around out there.

In general, people have a very good handle on their IQ, but a far lesser grasp of their EQ. I’m not sure exactly how to go about this. I’m not the best at it either; it’s something I’m working on. I try to become better at it every day. It’s something that is on my mind, and I think that sharing this journey and sharing everything we do, I hope it will influence other business owners and people, in general, to become more aware of emotional intelligence and to work on it. I don’t think I’m qualified, but I’m hoping through sharing the journey that it will inspire someone.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you’d like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He, she or they might just see this. 🙂

If there’s one person that I want to meet, that’s Patrick Lencioni. He basically wrote the book about healthy teams and taught the world how to create a healthy company. He pretty much changed everything in the business world — for the better. So yeah, he would be someone I would love to meet one day and have lunch with. I really like his work and what he’s done, and I would love to be able to pick his brain.

What is the best way for our readers to further follow your work online?

Connect with me on LinkedIn — my social media platform of choice:

Thank you for these thought provoking insights. Here’s to your continued success!