It’s only 112 pages long–you can read it in less than an hour–but it may be the best guide ever written on personal branding.

It’s called The Fred Factor and it beautifully illustrates how one man (“Fred”) transformed a common, ordinary job into a lifestyle of delivering extraordinary value.

The Fred Factor is a story told by author and professional speaker Mark Sanborn who, shortly after relocating to a suburban Denver neighborhood, encounters Fred, the most amazing mailman on the planet who, through exceptional service and commitment, demonstrated the potential we all have to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.


Watch as Mark Sanborn describes his first experience with Fred the mailman.

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Woven throughout the book are 4 “Fred” Keys–principles that will release fresh energy, vitality, and creativity into your work and your life:

  1. Everyone Makes a Difference. As Fred demonstrates, everyone, regardless of the work they do, can choose to be exceptional. Most people have an inner desire to be significant, but unfortunately, few act on it. According to Mark Sanborn, “I have met cab drivers who are more inspired about how they perform their work than some upper-level managers who seem to have lost any drive for excellence.”
  2. Success is Built on Relationships. The key to Fred’s amazing level of service was first getting to know the needs or preferences of his customers. That’s because the quality of the relationship determines the quality of the product or service.
  3. Continually Create Value for Others. As Sanborn illustrates, Fred lived out the most important job skill of the 21st century: the ability to create value for customers without spending more money to do it. The only resources Fred had at his disposal were a drab blue uniform and a bag of mail. Yet his passion for creating value led to a New York Times Best Seller…and launched the careers of both Fred and the author to a whole new level.
  4. Reinvent Yourself Regularly. “If Fred the Postman could bring such incredible creativity and commitment to putting mail in a box,” Sanborn writes, “you and I can do much more to reinvent our work and rejuvenate our efforts.” The fact is, no matter what job you hold or what industry you work in, every morning you wake up with a clean slate. You really can make your business, and your life, anything you choose it to be. Fred’s life is a living example.


The first part of the book describes a “Fred” and what distinguishes “Freds” from the rest of the world. The remainder of the book explores how to become a “Fred” and how to develop other “Freds” in your organization. Sanborn highlights dozens of “Fred-like” attributes that can transform your culture. Here are my favorites:

  • Be interested–not just interesting. It’s been said that the most interesting person in the world is the person who makes you feel like you’re the most interesting person in the world. “Freds” intuitively understand this principle and practice it every day.
  • Practice “Personality Power.” Sanborn shares a story about having dinner in one of his favorite Italian restaurants in Denver. “My server was nice,” he recalled, “but not exceptional. I had observed an older gentleman who was filling water glasses and chatting with patrons. As I was paying my check, he approached to see if I needed a refill. His enthusiasm was genuine as he put his hand lightly on my shoulder and said, ‘We’re glad you came in today.’ To Mark, those brief words brought an extraordinary conclusion to an otherwise unexceptional dining experience. This is a great example of “personality power,” when people extend themselves to others genuinely and enthusiastically, in this case, by turning an ordinary service like filling water glasses into a fine art.
  • Solve a problem you didn’t create. It’s no compliment to be called a problem finder–the world is full of them. But the world loves problem solvers. “Freds” go even further by taking responsibility for solving problems and mistakes even it they didn’t initially create them.

One of the powerful motivators behind personal branding is the realization that every day through every communication and interaction we have, every room we walk into, every hand we shake, every phone conversation, blog post, or even Facebook comment and tweet we make, we have the opportunity to create value–to turn the common into the uncommon. This simple but profound demonstration by an ordinary mail carrier in suburban Denver prompted Mark Sanborn to write a New York Times best-selling book that has inspired millions of people.

Question: Can you name any “Freds” you’ve encountered in your life? How did they influence you? Can you identify any “Fred” behaviors in your work that, if you adopted, would turn the ordinary into the extraordinary? Leave a comment below, I’d be curious to hear your stories.


Seize the chance to be extraordinary.

Who has made the biggest difference in your life? Whose words and actions have uplifted and motivated you to excel? Chances are it was someone like Fred the postman–so outstanding in his service that Mark Sanborn realized this mail carrier could be an example for any person wanting to be extraordinary.

The “Fred factor” is summarized by four principles that will release fresh energy, enthusiasm, and creativity in your career and life:

• Make a Difference
• Build Relationships
• Create Value
• Reinvent Yourself

You, too, can apply The Fred Factor to enrich the lives of customers, co-workers, friends, and family members, as well as reach new levels of personal success yourself. Sanborn also shows how to discover and develop other “Freds.

Why not become a “Fred” yourself? You will turn the ordinary moments of life into extraordinary opportunities to make a difference in the world.