For this episode, I am so pleased to welcome back Malene Fuglsig – and this time round, she’s here to teach us all how to incorporate some hygge into our brands! And I mean… who doesn’t need a bit of hygge right now, as we come up to almost a year of this Covid crap?!
You see, Malene is not just a Pinterest expert – she is also a hygge ambassador! Yep, that’s right. But if you thought hygge was just about woolly socks, hot chocolate and candlelight, you’d better think again. Malene teaches business owners how to step up, show up, add hygge and lead with intention. She’s the kind of business coach that rocks up with a cup of something warm, and she’s all about creating that business that makes you light up and that feels like home.
TL;DR: For those who want to connect with Malene, you can find her here:
Let’s dive in!
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then edited by me and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s most certainly not 100% accurate.
P: Hi, Malene and welcome back! You’re the first guest to make a repeat appearance on the show – and I’m really looking forward to it!
M: Thank you for having me back.
P: Oh, it’s my pleasure! Today we’re talking about hygge. Before we start, let’s take a closer look at the definition of hygge. Because it’s not just about sitting in a candlelit room, curled up under a blanket, right? I mean, as lovely as that is… and that can absolutely be hygge too, but we’re going to look at hygge in a broader sense – and in a business and branding setting. So how would you define hygge?
M: I think whenever I talk to people about bringing, hygge into their business, at least all of the Scandinavians, they wrinkle their nose a bit and they say “Well, but that’s not hygge…” and hygge and business don’t go together as such – but I think they do, and I think it’s because it’s those feelings behind the hygge. So the things that come before you light the candle and you put on the woollen socks. There are some underlying things that we just don’t think about as Scandinavians, that are actually part of hygge. And whenever I see hygge out and about, and I see other people explaining what hygge is… Obviously they always go to that “light a candle and bring in some blankets.” I’ve even heard of people having a special room to do hygge.
P: That’s special.
M: That is very special. But to us, as Scandinavians, we know that that’s not part of it, and that got me thinking “So what is part of it? What are the underlying things?” And I think that to have hygge; you have to be grateful about the moment, you have to be present in that moment, it’s about slowing down, and it’s about realising who you’re with or how you’re feeling in that moment – and spending that extra time on doing it. So it’s some of those things that I am talking about bringing into business – not just lighting extra candles on your table when you’re doing your work.
P: Yeah, of course you can do that too! When we spoke the other day, we spoke about hygge as being more of a basic feeling, rather than it being about the things that you can do to provoke that feeling.
M: Yes, and especially that whole thing about it being… it’s so individual, like it’s up to the person what creates hygge. But to be able to create it for yourself, you have to know what lies beneath it and sometimes you need to go the extra mile, and sometimes it’s about being prepared for it. I actually thought about our conversation the other day when… um right now, as we’re recording this, we have a lot of snow here in Denmark. So I had my kids out. We went out sledding and that can be hygge on its own, but it can also just be like a really, really cold experience. And you get the snow into your coat, and you get all cold… But I had prepared beforehand. So when I then went out that day, I went and I got some hot chocolate and I got some marshmallows. So even though everyone went outside to be sledding in the snow (and that was fun!), I was also prepared when we got back so that we could have something that would heat us back up and we could sit closely together. All the kids got so wet, they took off all their clothes and they sat under covers. So they just sat there with their hot chocolate, and It was very classical hygge. But when you then take that and break that down, you have to be prepared for it as well. Sometimes you could take an extra step, take a step back and think “OK, so this will happen. They will get wet, they will be cold. How can I prepare to make that a good experience as well?” Then you go and you get the hot chocolate and you get the marshmallows so that you’re prepared for that moment.
P: Yeah, facilitating for hygge.
M: Yeah, basically.
P: And I guess that could be said for when you want to bring hygge into your business. Facilitate for it.
M: Yeah. So, for instance, one of the things that I do in my business is that I have a campfire Thursday.
P: I love that!
M: So I facilitate a space where we just sit together around the campfire. For that to be hygge all around… It’s a virtual thing, so I actually light a campfire in my garden so that there is that in the background. And then you have that space and that talk that I would dare to say you can only get around the campfire. There’s a special feeling that you only get when there’s a live fire, right there. And so I bring that to my brand and to and to my business.
P: I love that you do that – and I’m quite impressed that you’ve managed to take the campfire experience and turn it into something virtual because that’s gotta take some skill.
M: But it’s about thinking about it, and it’s about being conscious about it. So I wanted that talk. I wanted to bring that to my brand, that you were together in that sense. And then Covid hit. And then how do you then take that same feeling of sitting together and being in a community where you can share those things that you would share normally if you sat together around a campfire? So then you try and bring that in
P: So the way that you bring hygge into your business, that’s how you do it for your business. I guess it’s not feasible for everyone to light a campfire in their back garden. So what are some examples of other ways that you can start to bring hygge into your business, into the way you brand yourself? Because, let’s face it, not everyone’s going to be wanting to bring their clients hot chocolate or, you know, just to sit in a candlelit room to work.
M: For sure. No. And I think that one of the things is being aware of it. So the intentionality behind it. So what do you like to do? What makes you calmer. What makes you feel better? I mean, sometimes for me it is to say “Okay, so I have five minutes now between meetings, I’m just gonna step out on the front step and take deep breaths while I look at some trees.” Can you slow it down in some ways, in between meetings and just say “Okay, I’m just gonna walk slowly as I go out and grab my next cup of water to get into the next meeting.” So it can be simple things like that, that makes you more calm. Sometimes it can be that on a Sunday night, you know that you’re going to get started Monday morning, and, you know, it’s gonna be a stressful week. But your table is all littered up by things that have just accumulated over the weekend. So you take five minutes Sunday night to clear the table so that you get in Monday morning with a fresh set of eyes, and you’re like “Oh, this is a nice space to get into.”
P: So yeah, that makes it very, very individual. You get to define what hygge means to you and to your brand, and so obviously you’ve got the things that you’re doing for yourself within your business. But when you talk about branding, it’s often about what kind of messages you put out there and how you connect with the audience… and how yeah, how that interaction is. I think it’ll be really interesting to dig into how you could use hygge as a very integral part of your brand. How can you actually convey that? Because just like you and I are different, our definitions of hygge might be different. But when you are branding and you’re talking to someone else again, how can you get them to have that special feeling of hygge when they interact with you and your brand?
M: Yeah, I think that’s such an interesting question, because again that will be individual to you. But it would also be individual to the person you’re speaking to. I’m guessing you’re more the expert on this than I am, but you need to know who you’re talking to. So you need to get overly excited about the person that you’re talking to, which means you need to figure out what would trigger hygge in them. And as brands we’re always speaking to the place where people want to get to. So where are you helping people go? So if you’re talking to them about a place that you want to help them transform into, you want to help them reach this destination, reach this goal. How is that then connected with hygge?
P: I guess that’s something you could bake into the way you work with clients, too. To actually have as part of your process that you want to identify what they experience as hygge and then tailor how you work with them to make them feel good. You know, like all along the time that you’re working together, you want them to have that feel good sensation.
M: And for that I think that one of the things that is really important with that is that you get to know that there are different kinds of people. So even though there are sometimes people who need to have a really tight schedule. They need to know what is when, what is where, – and that is not hygge to everyone. But you as a brand need to be able to provide that to the people that would relax more by having a really tight schedule. So if you know that some of your clients get really anxious if they don’t know what it will look like to work with you, then you need to accommodate that. And you need to be a brand that has that flow.
P: I love that approach. I think that could boil down to, you know, just being someone who cares. Like a brand who genuinely does care about the people they work with, enough to take the time to really get to know them and to know what makes them feel good. When I work with my clients, I think that is one of the key things. So I think I’ve been incorporating. hygge into my brand without even realising it, because it’s just who I am. I genuinely care about all of the people that I work with. Deeply. And I want them to be happy. I want them to be delighted, and sometimes I want them to be a little bit surprised. And some ways that I do that in my brand…. Is that for instance, once I’ve finished working with a client (I’m gonna ruin the surprise now, but yeah) …every time I finish working with a client, I make a point of getting them a little present that they don’t know about. And wherever possible I try to, and especially if it’s like another solo business owner or a small business owner that I can get to know a little bit personally as we’re working together, I try to pick something out that I know that they will appreciate. So it’s not like a standardised “Okay, I’ve purchased 500 mugs with my logo on it:” For instance, I had one client who was really into crystals and stuff, and I got her a pendant with a crystal to say “Thank you for working with me, it’s been great! Here’s a little present for you and congratulations on your new brand!” Another client who is a grammar geek; I got her pencils with funny grammar quotes on them. So to me, personalising it like that just feels good – and hopefully it makes my clients feel good. So I guess, in a way that’s hygge.
M: It is! And one of the things about hygge as well is that you’re connecting with people. So it’s that true 1:1 connection. You can’t scale that in the same way. Like you say, if you were to scale that in your business, it would have to be something that was less personal. But that is for sure a way that you’re bringing yourself and appreciation and gratitude to your brand. And people will feel that.
P: Yeah, absolutely. Well, I hope people feel that because it’s something that’s important to me, that personal connection. So that’s what hygge maybe looks like in my brand. It’s not every client that this works for. Like if I’m working with a bigger corporate client and there’s a bigger team that I’m working with, that doesn’t always work… to get a personalised gift. But I always try to do a little something to make them feel like I’m not just there to take their money.
M: No, but I think that that is a way of you leading your business in your specific way. So that’s a way that that just feels right to you, and that will then feel really right to the people that work with you. And it will create more people that appreciate that sort of attention because they will tell the people they know. And that’s just how you grow as a brand.
P: Yeah, that works for me because I work with, like, a limited number of clients, on the 1:1 branding services. So it probably would look very different to someone in a larger company who wanted to bring hygge into their brand. It might not be possible, you know, to really get personal on that level. I think that’s possible for me because I am a one person business, I work with a limited number of clients, and that’s how I intend to keep it. But if you are a bigger organisation and you’ve got loads of employees and you work with loads and loads of clients, I’m sure there are other ways that you can bring hygge into it.
M: But I think that is also a question of “do you want it?” Because I think if you as the leader of that bigger cooperation then say “Well, you know what? We are gonna bring hygge and attention and gratitude and being present, and we are going to slow it down” – if you put that into that organisation and you make sure that every employee knows that it’s beneficial for the business, that they take that extra time and care. And that actually goes for big and small businesses as well, because the small business owners you often have a VA working for you, or you add someone else and it’s important that you verbalise this; that you say, “Hey, you know what? One of the things that’s most important to me in this way that we’re gonna work together is that you add some hygge, that you do these things, that you pay attention. And I’m so grateful that you want to be here with me.”
P: That’s a really good perspective. And I think if you’re in a larger organisation, it might be even more important. If you’re a leader of that organisation, you’re the one to lead the hygge process, and that it comes from the top and then seeps down into every level of the organisation so that every employee knows that you are behind them on this.
M: I think so. But I actually think that leadership goes both ways, and therefore I think that this could go both ways. I don’t think that you would ever be wrong coming into a company being an employee and then adding some of your own flavour, saying “You know what, I’m just gonna make sure that I always say good morning, that I bring the right vibes, always make sure that I remember the other employees’ birthdays or their kid’s birthdays. Or I figure out what my coworkers… what’s important to them.” There are always small things that you can do throughout any workspace that would enhance this feeling of hygge, and you can always be more present. You can always show more gratitude, and you can always connect with people.
P: That’s more on an individual level. So if you’re the managing director or the owner of a bigger company, and you want to incorporate hygge… I think you can’t just take it for granted that your employees are going to bring hygge into your business. You might be lucky, and you might have the best employees in the world. But unless you’re behind it, unless you build the hygge into it… You can’t expect people to do that. So I think you have to almost build like a hygge culture within the whole organisation, When it starts from within, and it starts with the leadership group, and you’ve decided that “You know what? We’re going to incorporate hygge into the way we do business. That means that we’re going to have to do these kind of things to make our employees get that hygge feeling. And then when our employees feel good, they can then bring that and pay it forward when they’re working with our clients.” Because you really want your employees to be your brand ambassadors in a way. And you just can’t expect that to happen without putting it into your company guidelines and being clear about “This is the kind of company we’re going to be.” It’s maybe easier for a small business to incorporate hygge without so much, you know, red tape. But I think it’s absolutely possible to do for bigger organisations and bigger brands as well.
M: For sure.
P: But it has to be a conscious decision.
M: Yes, I completely agree. But I think it’s like that with anything that you decide. It has to be intentional and it has to be communicated – I think especially with something like this where you ask people to do something extra, but it’s kind of a counterintuitive extra because it is extra under “feelgood” and not necessarily extra on the productive side of things. So it’s “Well, you know what? As a brand, we want this, and we want you to spend your work time doing something that feels good for others.“ Which is not actually the traditional way of looking at business. But I think this is the new way to go. I think people that are interacting with brands, they want it to be personal as well. They want brands to care.
P: Absolutely. I think there’s been a shift, even just in recent years, from that whole “a business is all about making money, so we need to be productive, productive, productive.” You know… you need to log all of your hours and all of it needs to be billable hours and it’s like, oh my goodness, what a race. It’s one of the things that made me want to start my own company, because always being on the clock and always thinking about you know, every 15 minutes has to be billable. It was killing my creativity. It was making me feel like I wasn’t even meant to be in this line of business anymore. And then I realised that it’s not that. It’s just that I need to do it my way, and I need to do it in a way that feels sustainable. Yes, profits are important, because if there’s no profit then it’s just like a hobby and not a business. But this whole notion that in order for a business to be profitable, you have to account for every single minute and find somewhere or someone to bill for it… I think we have to leave that idea behind moving forward, and start focusing on other ways of adding value. And then by adding value, also bringing value into our businesses. Because okay, so maybe there was an hour there that you spent on making that client feel really good. And you have no idea where to, you know, plot in this hour. How can I invoice for this hour? So if you instead think “Do you know what? I won’t invoice for this hour.” Because it’s, you know, it’s not going to be something that’s gonna pay me in money. But maybe this is going to pay me back down the road, because that client felt so special because I took the time out of my day to do this, that they in turn, are going to recommend me to someone else. And then maybe the value of that hour that I took out of the billable hours is more than just that one hour.
M: Yeah, you know, and and I think… for years and years everyone has been stuck in that sort of mindset. How can I build it? How can it be billable? But you should never create this from the sense that saw it will come back to me – because it just will. And you should just create it from your heart because you want to.
P: Absolutely. And I think it’s easy to see through if it’s not coming from the heart, if you’re doing it for selfish reasons. I think people are gonna notice, and then it’s like, i dunno… It’s what comes around, goes around, because then the effect isn’t going to be as great for your business, or your brand either. So building it into the core of your business and your business strategy and your branding strategy… and being really clear about “You know what? This is us as a brand, as a company – and we’re going to make it happen.”
M: Yeah. And this is really interesting… the way that people are buying things now, I’m sure that there’s gonna be a shift now where people are gonna go from “more, more, more” and actually going for the better instead of just having more of a thing. And this will just help your brand be a better brand so that you’re ready to take care of people in a better way.
P: This conversation is making my heart swell. I love the idea of bringing hygge into your business, in a strategic way. You know, not just because it’s a good strategy, but also because it feels good to you and it feels good to the people you serve.
M: Yeah, and it will be. And I think it’s a shift that is bound to happen now that we can’t keep using the world in the way that we have been using it for the last 500 years. There’s not enough room, so for it to sustain all of us, we need to do things in a better, more conscious, intentional way. And I think this is one of those ways that you can do it.
P: Yeah, so we’ve been talking about hygge on several levels here. We’ve been talking about bringing hygge into your business in terms of making your business feel good for you, and the way you work. But also like on a more foundational level, if you’re a bigger business. So you help businesses to incorporate hygge into the foundation of their businesses. When you work with clients, and I feel like this is kind of a new concept to a lot of people, so how do you bring them around to it, and how do you make them see the value?
M: One of the things that I do is that I help people stand in whatever it is that they want to stand in. But you’re right. I work with people one on one, and I call it leadership and hygge coaching, because I think it is about stepping into the shoes that were always yours – so that you bring your brand and your business forward in a way that it’s right for you. So that you stop having that “Sunday night feeling.” When it’s your own business, you should never have that Sunday night feeling where you think “Oh my God, it’s Monday tomorrow.” So I help people bring their business around so that it always feels like “This is what I want to do. This is what I meant to do. I feel at home here.” So you always have that really good feeling about bringing yourself into the world?
P: Yes, so that Monday’s are something that you start to look forward to rather than look at with dread. Don’t we all just want that for our businesses, though? I know that’s what I want. I’m lucky in that I’ve managed to create that for myself – because I work with such awesome people on such awesome projects. And, yeah, I totally agree with you. I want everyone to have that experience. I don’t particularly like the word mindset, because I get associations to alternative stuff – and I’m a very pragmatic person. But I think it does maybe come down to mindset in a way? That you have to switch your mindset a little bit from it just being “business business business to” it being “How can my business feel good – not just to me, but to the people I work with?”
M: Yeah, and I always talk to people and most people ask “But what would you do?” And I say “It’s not important what I would do.” And like we talked about, hygge is individual, leadership is individual. But it’s about having it feel good to you. And actually, sometimes just having someone allow you to dream in a way that feels good to you. Because we’re so bombarded from society and from all the shoulds. And I don’t know about you, but as a business owner, I have so many ads in my feed on social media about “you should do it this way or this way” – so I just kill all the “shoulds” and say “Okay, so if you want to do this, how are you bringing that to the world?”
P: What feels good to you? What feels good to your clients? How do you treat your clients… all of those kind of things. Do it your way. Not necessarily how you’re told to.
M: Yeah, so sometimes you actually need to say no to some clients that feel off.
P: That’s scary to a lot of people. I know that because I’ve been there before myself and I’m like “No, I can’t turn this away because this is someone who is willing to part with their money to work with me, who am I to turn them away? What are people going to say?” But I think essentially when you reach a point where you know you’re in a good place and you know how you can serve your people in the best way… and boundaries are good in business, I find. Just having that, you know, feeling so confident and safe within your business that you can start to say “Do you know what? I don’t think we’re a good fit.” That is a winning moment.
M: That is a very much a winning moment.
P: And it’s not just for you that you’re saying no to clients and projects that aren’t a good fit – because it’s good for the client too. Because they wouldn’t have had that hygge experience when working with you.
M: I know, they may have been annoyed with the extra thing.
P: They might have hated it!
M: Yeah, and there will be someone out there that is perfect for them.
P: Yeah, exactly. And so by saying no in a firm, but still nice, way… you free them in a way, so that they can go and find the people who would bring them hygge – whatever that means to them. This is something I think is an a-ha moment for a lot of business owners, when they get to that realisation that “You know what? Those boundaries are good for me and my client.”
M: And all of the “shoulds” should only be there if you put them there.
P: Yeah, this has changed my perspective on the word hygge. Definitely thinking it’s probably gonna be a bit of an eye opener to some of the people who are listening as well. So if anyone is listening today and are thinking they really want to incorporate this hygge concept as an integral part of their brand and how they do business, where would you advise them to start?
M: I think I would start with questioning, like just asking the questions. How can I do this so that I am happier. How can I do this so that my clients feel more seen? So start asking questions about how you can do things just a little bit different. Just do one thing today that is a tiny bit different, and a little closer to what you would want to do. So I wanted to tell you a story, actually, because I have been hit a few times with that whole “but if it’s hygge, it’s not really business.” And how do I get through the tasks that I don’t want to do because there’s always gonna be some tasks that are your least favourite ones. I always think of taxes…
P: You’re not the only one! *laughs*
M: But they just have to be done. I have an older sister and she has a summer house. And in this summer house, she has one rule. That rule is that you can only ever do what you want to do! And so this is sort of the concept that we’re working on here with you today as well. And you would think that that would cause a problem, and it sometimes did, because no one ever wanted to do the dishes.
P: That’s relatable…
M: But at some point you actually want to eat from clean plates more than you want to not do the dishes.
P: That it is a very good point!
M: And it’s the same in business. You want to have your taxes done and in a good way, more than you want to not do them. So it is the task that you don’t feel like doing, but it will feel so good once they’re done.
P: Yeah, there’s not much hygge in getting one of those letters from the tax authorities right? Or, definitely not my idea of hygge.
M: No, and as we talked about before, you want to prepare yourself as well. So you want to make sure that then when you do your taxes, I mean… why not go all in and set the stage and have all the cosy food, have everything you like. Sit in a cosy way, and do your taxes. And once you’re done, you know that you have a spa day booked. I mean, you can do different things so that the task itself, that you’re rewarded with hygge afterwards.
P: That is such a good point. I mean, we all have those moments of, you know “Argh, I don’t want to do this!” in our businesses and if you’re not in a position to just outsource it (that would be another way of getting rid of them, I guess). But if you’re not in a position to do that, because not all of us are, then yeah. Reward yourself, make your environment hyggelig; make it so that you want to sit down at your desk or wherever it is that you’re sitting down to do that work. I’m definitely a sucker for those kind of rewards. So if I have to … I don’t usually work in the evenings, but sometimes I have to. It feels like a chore to work in the evenings because, you know, my focus isn’t there. I’m tired. I’ve had a long day, and it’s all just so much easier if I maybe dim the lights a little bit in my office and put my slippers on. I’ll have a big steaming mug of hot tea. Maybe some snacks. And I know that once I’m done, I can go and watch Netflix.
M: Yeah, look at you doing hygge – and you didn’t even know it.
P: No, it’s just…I must have hygge in my bones. Maybe it’s a Scandinavian thing. I don’t know.
M: Maybe it is.
P: And if it is, I think it’s a good thing because I think hygge… at this point in time, you know, we’re recording this in 2021. We all probably thought we’re gonna be done with this Covid crap by now, and we’re not. And so if there was ever a time that we need more hygge in our lives and in our businesses, it’s now. So yeah to anyone listening:I have a challenge for you. And that is to have a think about what’s the one thing that you’re going to do today to bring a little bit more hygge into your life and your business.
M: Yes, yes.
P: This has been awesome. If my listeners are eager to learn more from you, please tell us where they can find you and connect with you.
M: Well, you can find me… I’m @malenefuglsig on all platforms. And I have also actually created a “hygge your business” experience that your listeners are welcome to dive into.
P: So that’s a free series of emails that will pop into their inbox?
P: That sounds like a nice and easy way to get a bit of extra hygge.
M: Very, very slow. A very good introduction to it. And always, I reply to all comments and messages and stuff, so please just contact me if there’s anything else and you have your listeners want to know or something.
P: Awesome! And if you tuned in today and you feel like sharing a little, snippet of your way of doing hygge… You know, pop it onto Instagram and tag it with #branditwithpetchy – tag me and tag Malene, so that we can cheer you on during your hygge journey! I’d love to see all your hygge in the stories on Instagram – I live on Instagram, basically. So yeah, please share and tag us.
I hope this conversation has inspired you to go and add a little bit of hygge into your brand!
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