Raising the Bar

Social media…not for the weak or thin-skinned

Betsy Alexander, CNBC
Designer Kenneth Cole: Every day I have to earn the right to be chosen
Designer Kenneth Cole: Every day I have to earn the right to be chosen
Shark Tank's Daymond John: You better not have thin skin
Shark Tank's Daymond John: You better not have thin skin
The "what have you done for me lately" generation
The "what have you done for me lately" generation

Each week CNBC's "Raising the Bar" series will provide insight into the minds of business leaders as they talk candidly in some of Manhattan's most interesting watering holes about everything from making mistakes to making it big.

Social media has given everyone a license to create their own brand, and changed the game for fashion brands—and employers.

"Today, I find everybody is their own brand," said Kenneth Cole, founder and chief creative officer of his eponymous fashion label, as he recently sat down with Daymond John, founder of the iconic FUBU clothing brand and one of "Shark Tank's" favorite resident investors, at the Daniel, one of the only restaurants in Manhattan with the coveted two-star Michelin rating.

"Every morning they wake up and curate their own brand on their Instagram page, on their Facebook page, on their Twitter feed," Cole said. "Not only do they curate the content, they curate their audiences. They decide who is gonna have access to their brand. ... So now my job is to hopefully impose upon other people to allow me to be part of their brand."

The other side of that is everyone is accountable for how they present themselves.

"The best thing about social media is you hashtag your name, or your company's name, and you better not have thin skin, because you're gonna see what everybody's saying about it," John said.

That doesn't mean it's always smooth. John blames social media for shaping behavior in the work place.

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"(Some of my) employees will argue with me over emails," John said. "And I think that's because of social media. They're used to going back and forth and back and forth. They feel they can bicker with you often. Until I have to say, 'OK, I understand. I'm employing you. I don't agree with you. You're fired.'"

Fashion Designer Kenneth Cole (left), Chef Daniel Boulud and Shark Tank's Daymond John at Daniel Restaurant
Source: Kenneth Cole

Both have used their celebrity status and professional success to actively give back. Cole famously became one of the first and foremost to recognize and address the AIDS crisis back in the '80s, and continues today.

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"Nobody was talking about the biggest, most looming darkest cloud of all, which is HIV/AIDS that was about to hit this country. Because you couldn't. And if you did, you were presumed to be at risk. So I initiated a process and did a campaign with Annie Leibovitz.

"And we spoke about the fact that nobody was speaking about HIV at the time. And it changed me. It changed me in a very profound way. It changed me as an individual, it changed the brand, it changed the company. And I realized that what I do in the ordinary course, I can connect with people in such a more meaningful way. And I can make what I do important. 'Cause arguably fashion is only so important in certain people's minds."

John agrees.

"I'm fine with the checkbook philanthropy, but I really like to roll up my sleeves and I think it's our job to educate people," he said. "A lot of the causes that ... I like to work with are to ... bring awareness.

"I love talking about the fact that I'm dyslexic because there's so many kids out there that, you know, dyslexia is something that they think is a problem," he said. "But 80 percent of professional chefs are dyslexic. Four out of the six 'Sharks' are dyslexic. Seven of the presidents were dyslexic. I love to bring awareness to kids and families that this learning challenge is not a problem necessarily."

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"Philanthropy ... is something very, very important." John said. "Everybody has to do that. We are blessed for a reason. And if we pass that on to other people, we're gonna be even more blessed. And that's why we're here."

During the conversation, Daniel Boulud, the celebrated chef who created the chic Upper East Side restaurant, stopped by the bar to greet Cole and John, before heading inside to prepare the contemporary French cuisine that has made the restaurant a must-do on every food lover's bucket list.

Below is the recipe for Daniel's signature White Cosmopolitan.

Daniel's signature White Cosmopolitan

  • 2 ounces Stolichnaya vodka
  • 1 ounce St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • ¾ ounce white cranberry juice
  • 1.2 ounces lime juice
  • 1 orchid ice ball *

* Place an orchid in a 2-inch round ice ball mold; fill with filtered water and freeze.

In a shaker, combine liquid ingredients with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a carafe. Place orchid ice ball in a martini glass. Pour contents of carafe over ice ball.