Lee Braun: “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

Taking the time to connect with close friends and family is essential for not only mental health, but research says close connections are the number one factor in determining life longevity — even more important than genetic factors, lifestyle considerations like smoking and drinking, or dietary considerations. As a part of my series about the “5 Things […]

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Taking the time to connect with close friends and family is essential for not only mental health, but research says close connections are the number one factor in determining life longevity — even more important than genetic factors, lifestyle considerations like smoking and drinking, or dietary considerations.

As a part of my series about the “5 Things Anyone Can Do To Optimize Their Mental Wellness” I had the pleasure of interviewing Lee Braun, CEO, President and Co-Founder of Perspire Sauna Studio.

Lee Braun has served as the CEO, President, and Co-Founder since the franchising company was formed in 2017. Along with those roles, he’s the Managing Partner of the three Corporate Perspire Sauna Studios located in Southern California. Braun earned his BA from Michigan State University at the Eli Broad School of Business and prior to Perspire, he has an eight-year background in commercial construction and development. He has served as project manager for large-scale projects for various Las Vegas Game house, UCLA, University of Michigan, and LAUSD. He’s an avid infrared sauna user and spends his free time traveling and making wood furniture.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

I’ve always been a fan of different wellness options like saunas, massages, beauty care — really anything that allows me to set aside some intentional time for myself. When the opportunity came along in 2010 to join my now business partner, Ken Arsenian, in growing this completely new type of business — I jumped at the chance. Infrared saunas as a standalone business was unheard 10 years ago. But in my gut, I knew it was the right move; even despite the odds being stacked against us. In 2010 the we had the US recession, hardly anybody knew what infrared saunas were, I didn’t have the experience for the job, etc. Even knowing all of that, I still quit my job in Michigan at the age of 24 and drove out across the country to begin a new journey. When I arrived I quickly began running our first studio in Costa Mesa, CA. Going from construction management of multi-billion dollar properties, to customer service and small team management was an adjustment but I quickly fell in love with my new path — it afforded me the opportunity to apply hospitality and care into my daily life. I remember a Guest named Jennifer who thanked me for having a business like this for people. We faced many challenges early on, but it’s compliments like those, from the early adopters, that assured us and kept us going.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

My partner, Ken, and I have always dreamed of growing Perspire. But we were unsure how and what was the best way to do so.

One summer we were hanging out on the beach. I remember it was a beautiful sunny day in July 2017, on the Newport Peninsula. It was on this day we decided to franchise Perspire. We drew it up on a piece of graph paper (I always use graph paper notebooks — I have hundreds of them). And we outlined how we were going to get started and take the next big step in growing our business. For years Perspire members and friends asked how they could get involved and we knew franchising was the answer. I’m pretty sure we didn’t know then how big of a moment it truly was — but that day in the California sun will always be remembered.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or takeaway did you learn from that?

When we first started franchising and decided to go to our first trade show for franchising. The Perspire Team all flew out to Las Vegas, our Franchisee Tiffany flew out from Atlanta and we had a nice new booth setup with electronics and visuals. We were so excited but apparently we didn’t include the word “infrared sauna” anywhere on our displays. To make matters worse we didn’t have any photos of what our studios actually looked like. Everyone thought we were selling infrared saunas. It was a humbling experience to say the least but we learned to refine our message to be as clear as possible and really help describe our business to the possible franchisees who had not heard of Perspire.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you’re grateful too for helping get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My inspiration on how to navigate life comes from my 82-year-old grandfather, Barry. He has truly been such a source of support for me in my journey and has taught me so many lessons about just being himself. My brothers and I strive to be as kind and generous as he is to his community. He is always friendly and there to provide a helping hand. My grandfather is relentless in his pursuit of helping others and often has to be restrained from helping his neighbors shingle their roof, trim their trees, or remove a 500lb cast iron stove from their basement.

What advice would you suggest to your colleagues in your industry to thrive and avoid burnout?

One of the decisions that helped me avoid burnout, during COVID, was immediately making the decision with our Team to talk as a group — daily. In fact, it was so effective that we continue to do it to this day. I am fortunate to have a Team where we could all be there for each other not only professionally but personally. During March, April and May months, when the COVID outbreak began, we really experienced true teamwork and for that I’m truly grateful. We adopted similar, daily communication outlets with our Franchisees during this time too. To give them a space to connect, voice their needs, concerns, ideas or just to say hello. All of our Studios closed due to the government mandate but we as a Team we’re not disconnected, we were intentional with our Team and truly prospered in communication together. I’m really proud of how the entire brand and all the stakeholders rallied around each other during this uncertain time. It’s probably what I’m most proud of when I think of Perspire.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

We have a few practices in place that are conducive to a healthy lifestyle. For one, our team has access to incredible infrared sauna sessions and we encourage our teams to use infrared frequently. We’ve also set up partnerships with other local health and wellness based companies and studios where our staff can drop-in to any class such as spin, boxing, H.I.I.T., floats and/or yoga as we believe it’s important that everyone has access to a variety of ways to make themselves healthier both physically and mentally.

We also have semi-flexible work hours at our headquarters, allowing our employees to feel empowered in managing their time and in taking care of themselves. This leads to a greater feeling of autonomy and an overall better quality of life.

It’s really important to be mindful about what we are putting in our bodies as it greatly affects our gut and brain health and therefore how we are experiencing the world throughout the day, performing at work and engaging with others. Whenever we are doing our weekly group lunches, whether they be out at a local restaurant or catered in, we choose establishments that offer organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free options to accommodate everyone’s individual dietary needs and so they can make choices that will positively impact their wellness and make them feel their best.

At corporate, in our weekly Monday all-hands meeting, we each go around and share something we are grateful for and something we are anxious or stressed about, allowing each other to open up and center ourselves in gratitude. This leads to more empathy and compassion for another. It sets a really good tone for the week.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. Mental health is often looked at in binary terms; those who are healthy and those who have a mental illness. The truth, however, is that mental wellness is a huge spectrum. Even those who are “mentally healthy” can still improve their mental wellness. From your experience or research, what are five steps that each of us can take to improve or optimize our mental wellness? Can you please share a story or example for each.

I love that mental wellness has become a more open topic than it has been in recent years. Especially during these trying times, taking the time to focus on mental wellness is so important. Meditation is one of the most universal ways to clear your mind and calm the proverbial noise around us.

Taking the time to connect with close friends and family is essential for not only mental health, but research says close connections are the number one factor in determining life longevity — even more important than genetic factors, lifestyle considerations like smoking and drinking, or dietary considerations.

It’s been challenging or impossible to go to a gym during the pandemic, but a few times a week I make sure to go for a run or do a circuit workout outside. Sometimes it’s hard to get started but I never regret a good workout after the fact.

Of course an infrared sauna is the perfect sanctuary for mental relaxation. Similar to going for a run, a Perspire sauna session always helps to clear my mind. Lately, I’ve been using the Calm App inside the sauna for some extra guidance on clearing my head and getting into that positive mindset.

Gratitude Journaling has been a new COVID pastime for me to help me stay sane. Taking stock of all the great people in my life, the gifts I’ve been given, and hope for the future helps me reset my mindset in just ten minutes. Everyone has something they can be grateful for no matter how difficult things currently are and this is a great way to constantly remind yourself of things.

Much of my expertise focuses on helping people to plan for after retirement. Retirement is a dramatic ‘life course transition’ that can impact one’s health. In addition to the ideas you mentioned earlier, are there things that one should do to optimize mental wellness after retirement? Please share a story or an example for each.

Staying engaged in hobbies and physical activities, continuing to learn, and regular infrared sessions are great things to optimize mental wellness after retirement. We have a lot of older retirees, particularly at our Orange County studios that come in multiple times a week, as it not only gets them out of the house, but is keeping their heart healthy, metabolism active, improving the appearance of their skin, and easing muscle soreness and joint stiffness.

How about teens and pre-teens. Are there any specific new ideas you would suggest for teens and pre-teens to optimize their mental wellness?

Now more than ever, amid the pandemic, it’s critical that young adults engage in community-based activities and sports that fill them with joy. The connection you share with others and in-person, face to face socialization is becoming more and more important as the use of social media increases. I encourage those to start early with a meditation practice to further help cultimate greater self-esteem and build internal confidence going into those often challenging teenage years of being the subject of external pressures and stress.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

We have a library at our office of all our favorite books but my favorite business book is, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The title prevented me from reading it for a long time but it’s a classic book that I heavily subscribe to it’s messaging on how to treat people — I read it every year. My favorite story from that book is how Abraham Lincoln learned there is always a better way to get your point across than to use criticism.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start 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. 🙂

I feel incredibly grateful to be offering infrared sauna therapy in a more accessible way. In growing, we’re really incubating a moment toward alternative wellness solutions here at Perspire, making infrared sauna and color light therapy available to diverse communities across the country and globe. It’s been a very rewarding journey already and I’m so excited to see our dreams come to fruition. I love being a part of the inner healing that alternative wellness can provide people, especially those who are looking for something more than mainstream practices. Essentially, anyone can benefit from infrared saunas and because it’s effortless, there’s no reason not to try it and see how your body benefits.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“The People Are the Plan” is a mantra I repeat often to help myself adjust my focus. Taking care of your people — your team, your customers, your family — is the entire point. If I ever feel lost I ask myself “Who can I help” and that generally helps me set my priorities straight.

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow the Perspire Sauna Studio brand on Instagram and Facebook. @perpsiresaunastudio

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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