Praveen Kanyadi of Groupe.io: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS

… The value of communication and its impact on employee motivation is well established. The value of technology and automation is well established as well and yet organizations haven’t been able to leverage this for their frontline/field based workforce until now. We are changing that and our vision is to bring the frontline/field based workforce at par with their desk based colleagues from a technology perspective.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Praveen Kanyadi.

Praveen is the Co-founder & VP Products at Groupe.io. Praveen has over 20 yrs of experience developing enterprise and consumer products for startups and Fortune 500 companies. In his previous role at Yahoo, he built social experiences that reached over 750 million end users. Praveen also holds a patent publication in the social space. Praveen has deep expertise in building SaaS and mobile based solutions.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I met Vijay Pullur while I was at Yahoo. Vijay’s company Pramati Technologies had a very unique and successful product incubation model. The original idea was conceived by Vijay and he offered me to come onboard to co-found the company and build the solution. The idea and the incubation model got me excited and that’s how I got started.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

We originally started with the concept of ‘real time location network’. The idea was to instantly connect people at any physical location such as a retail store, resort, mall, stadium, airport etc and enable a real time social experience.However while working on this we realized that one of the biggest challenge for these businesses was that they couldn’t communicate with their frontline workforce since they did not have a corporate email address. None of the traditional communication mechanisms worked very well. One of our customers was a large mattress dealer in the US and they deployed our solution to connect with their frontline employees across 50 retail stores. They were able to instantly onboard all their employees. The employees loved the experience and the corporate office was thrilled to be able to communicate directly with all the storefront employees. This overwhelming feedback made us realize that we were genuinely able to solve a critical problem for such organizations and that pushed us to pivot our platform to exclusively cater to the needs of the non desk workforce.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

When we started out, the concept of connecting frontline workers was relatively new. There was a lot of apprehension and reservation from the key stakeholders about how a solution like this would work. There were many concerns ranging from privacy, security, administration overhead to distraction at the workplace etc. There were also concerns about adoption of this solution by the non tech savvy frontline workforce. We did not have case studies, metrics and credibility so it was an immense struggle initially. We had long sales cycles with no closures but we stayed patient because we were very confident about our solution and the value we could deliver

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We have now been able to establish ourselves as one of the leading communication and productivity platforms for non desk workers and often compared as the ‘slack for non-desk workers’. HR leaders have been able to use our solution to significantly boost employee motivation, engagement and reduce turnover. Operations team has been able to improve compliance and reduce manual errors through automation. Our customer retention rate is higher than industry average. Our solution has become central to daily operations within these organizations.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We had just rolled out our beta and I connected with a senior executive of a large hospitality chain over LinkedIn and subsequently shared some details of our product over email. During the same time, I was getting spammed by marketing calls offering me free vacation with that same chain. One day I got 3–4 robocalls in the span of 2 hours and I was really annoyed. Meanwhile, this senior executive wanted some additional information and decided to just call me. This was our first conversation and I wasn’t expecting his call. When he called and introduced himself I thought it was the robocall again and I rudely hung up on him. it was only later that i realized what i had done. I did manage to connect with him later and we had a good laugh about it

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are a few aspects about our solution that makes our company stand out. We knew it was critical for our user experience to be intuitive and simple for non-tech savvy frontline workers to adopt our solution, so we obsessively focussed on user experience. As a result of that most of our deployments haven’t required us to provide any training to our users including the frontline workforce. The other important aspect is that we consciously designed our product for extensibility. We were amongst the first solutions to introduce the micro-application framework. This framework has enabled our customers to easily add custom features and functionality on top of our solution and tailor the platform for their unique needs. This is what makes our solution stand out from the rest of the solutions in the market.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Most startups start with limited budget and resources so everyone dons multiple hats and there is also an implicit expectation to start sprinting right out of the blocks. Ultimately all of this could result in burn out. Its important to realize that entrepreneurial journey is a marathon and not sprint

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

We are grateful to few of our early customers who trusted and believed in our solution and provided us with the opportunity to prove ourselves and also helped shaped the product

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Groupe.io is used by over 500 customers across 20 countries in various verticals such as retail, hospitality, construction etc. We have also onboarded more than a dozen partners worldwide

In the initial phase, we spent a lot of time identifying the different points of friction for customers to adopt our solution and addressed most of them. We focused on creating a self served experience to allow prospects to get a fair idea of the capabilities without requiring much support from our team. As we started to expand to regions outside the US, we also focused on region specific requirements such as localization, pricing and regulatory requirements. We also focused on onboarding partners rapidly expand our business

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

We offer a per-user based subscription model. We also offer a flat pricing model for customers that have a large install base and prefer a fixed cost. We haven’t tried any other models primarily because the per-user subscription model is a well established model for SaaS and preferred by customers as well.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

It may depend on the business idea itself but in general for a SaaS based solutions, here are some of the important things –

Onboarding: it’s critical to focus on the initial user onboarding experience and offer a self served experience to the extent possible. This significantly shortens the sales cycle and fuels bottom up adoption.

API First Approach: The other key aspect is focus on developing your solution with an API First approach. This would enable your solution to be integrated with our systems and also enable developers to consume your solution in ways that you may not have initially envisioned.

Establishing ROI: It’s critical to help customers measure ROI of using your solution. Offer a dashboard that shows all the key metrics and KPIs out of the box. For some use cases however, there may not be a very tangible way of measuring the ROI and may require some secondary and tertiary metrics to be collated. In this case, it’s important to ensure there are means to collect these metrics . It’s also very critical to measure and record these metrics before the roll out of your solution as it provides the baseline for your measurement.

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 believe we have started that already. The value of communication and its impact on employee motivation is well established. The value of technology and automation is well established as well and yet organizations haven’t been able to leverage this for their frontline/field based workforce until now. We are changing that and our vision is to bring the frontline/field based workforce at par with their desk based colleagues from a technology perspective.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/praveenkanyadi/

https://twitter.com/pravinkanyadi


Praveen Kanyadi of Groupe.io: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alfred Nader of OFX: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

I wish everybody in the United States — in the world for that matter — spoke a second language. It opens up worlds that really just aren’t possible otherwise. There’s nothing like seeing someone’s face brighten up when they realize that you speak their native tongue. It develops an immediate connection, personally and professionally, when you do that.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Alfred Nader.

Alfred is the President of OFX, a publicly-traded international payments company, with North American headquarters in San Francisco. Alfred is a 20-year veteran of the payments industry, with previous executive roles at Western Union & Travelex with a specialty in international expansion. He holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and a BBA from The George Washington University. He lives in the San Francisco Bay area with his wife, 3 daughters, and goldendoodle.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

My parents emigrated from Brazil to the United States in the 1970s for my father’s academic training, and I’m the first of my family to be born outside of Brazil. I grew up in the Great State of Nebraska and moved to Washington, DC for college when I was 17.

Being raised in a household where English is the second language gives you a different lens to the world. Getting introduced to different cultures is something that has always attracted me. I like understanding the cultural nuances and dealing with them. When I was growing up, I had a very clear goal in mind that I wanted to get as many different experiences as possible so that I could become a well-rounded individual and executive. Through this, I have gotten a first-hand look at how resilience is a necessary trait — in the business world, and beyond.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

As a 19-year-old student at The George Washington University, I was working at an internship for the former acting ambassador to Brazil for the United States, Dr. James Ferrer. I learned a lot from him and the experience that has stuck with me, but two stories specifically stand out.

One time, I handed something in that he wasn’t happy with. He told me that “success is measured by attention to detail.” I’ll never forget that. He stressed the importance of taking an extra two minutes to revise something, to make sure everything is excellent. It is the difference between success and failure. This is something that I repeat all the time. It’s so simple, but it’s profound enough that it sticks.

Something else that Dr. Ferrer did that I will never forget happened before email was so prevalent. We were putting together a newsletter by hand and had an issue with the printers that was putting us behind schedule. We all had to come in on the weekend and fold newsletters to send them out. I thought it was just going to be the interns and a couple of junior managers — but in walks Dr. Ferrer. He sits down next to us and starts licking stamps, folding papers, just like me — an intern. That really showed me that it doesn’t matter what title you have or where you are in your career. You’re never too good to roll up your sleeves and get the job done.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are a lot of exciting new entrants into the payments world that offer great front-end experiences. OFX is different. We think as hard and spend as much capital against creating a great online experience as we do against perfecting customer support. This focus sets us apart.

Our online experience enables us to complete 90% of customer transactions digitally. But when someone needs to speak to someone at 11 p.m. on a Friday — we are here. We have 24-hour customer service teams in places like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia — high-cost locations. We do this because it’s important that our employees understand the context of our clients. If you’re in Australia sending money to purchase a house in Miami, or a company in England sending money to the US to purchase goods, you want to speak with someone who understands the local intricacies of this transaction.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I’ve been fortunate to have strong mentors and sponsors inside organizations who helped create opportunities for me. The role I hold today is a result of those opportunities, but the way I lead and execute within that role is now the thing I think the most about.

When I look back, I think the ways I think about leadership were originally born from things I didn’t want to be. Early-on, I worked for an inflexible manager, who led solely through power and a lot of micro-management. This experience made me think about leadership and how I didn’t want to lead. Once I had those pillars, I then began working to become something better. Leadership is about building successful teams. We hire intelligent, curious, hungry, and nice people. Then, stay out of their way and let them go do their jobs. The more someone can do, the more we’re going to throw at them.

I measure my personal success on that of my team’s success. The thing I’m most proud of in my career are the former employees of mine who work all over the industry, doing incredible work, and who I consider to be dear friends.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is knowing that when you fall, you can always get back up. Right now is a perfect example of this. The most resilient leaders and companies are going to make it through this tough time in our world. Conan O’Brien once said, “work hard, be kind, and amazing things will happen.” Resilient leaders will continue on.

That said, even the most resilient leaders aren’t invincible: they’re human, and we collectively need to be okay with showing emotion. Even for companies in control, this is new territory. It’s okay to say, “hey, we’re in a difficult period right now; Let’s get our heads together to see how we’re going to work through it.” A good leader surrounds themselves with professionals that allow them to get up when there is a stumble or when there’s a difficult time in business.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, instead of focusing on one person, I’d like to focus on the American spirit. The American spirit is one of resilience. This country has seen a lot of ups and downs in our history. It starts with our founding. American people always refuse to stay on the ground. We always stand up, persevere, and continue on. We reach new heights together. That’s what is so great about the United States and its people. We refuse to stay down. There are very few places and people like that. You could say that the spirit of never giving up, never surrendering, is embedded in our cultural psyche. I know things aren’t perfect for the United States right now, but I believe that we’re going to come through this stronger than before.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Well, first of all I was a coach’s dream growing up. The best way to get me to do something is to tell me I can’t do it. I would love to prove my coaches wrong. You could say that doubt definitely motivates me, as does a fear of failure.

An example of how that translates to business is that I really believe in the internationalization of the Chinese renminbi. I think the renminbi will be a major global currency. In 2008/2009, I started to see the Central Bank of China make moves to internationalize that currency. At that time, I wanted my company to make investments to prepare ourselves for that. A lot of people questioned me. The infrastructure we put in place to make it easy to get money into and out of China is now a significant revenue generator for my former employer.

People in business, especially in my industry, tend to fear what they don’t understand. It takes a special kind of person to be successful going into complex countries like China, India and Brazil. I had a professor once give me a card when I graduated, and it said “the world is a better place because of people who refuse to believe they cannot fly.” I carried that card around with me for years, until it just broke. I think those are the people who make the world a better place. The Bill Gates’ of the world. The Mark Cuban’s of the world. Those are the people who get told ‘you can’t do this’ and they’re going to go out there and get it done, just because they believe that much in themselves.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My first big deal in China was definitely a setback. Due to competitive pressures, we needed to move quickly with a deal that allowed us to launch across multiple geographies within a quarter and keep a pesky competitor at bay. The other side wasn’t negotiating in good faith, and I needed to make the decision of either walking away or agreeing to something that wasn’t ideal. We chose the latter, and because I followed an early mentor’s advice of always hiring the best lawyers (you don’t skimp on legal talent!), we had a contract in place that provided flexibility. We were able to address a competitive threat in the short term while giving us the ability to re-negotiate with our new partner or find a new one. The result was a long term, profitable relationship for the division and a good lesson on the importance of always having alternatives during both the good and the bad times. Not coincidentally, I chose to come and work for a man, OFX’s CEO, Skander Malcolm, who has similar views and once said, “you shouldn’t run face first into a wall that you know is there.”

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Growing up, our family moved around a lot. When you’re the new kid, you often have a choice: Are you going to be the quiet kid in the back of the room without any friends, or are you going to step outside your comfort zone to be outgoing and make friends? Moving around a lot, while not ideal — and not something I want for my children — is something that definitely made me more resilient. I lived in a city of four million people in Brazil and then moved to a city of 3,000 people in Iowa. You learn to roll with the punches. People are all the same. They just see the world through a different lens depending on where you are. The faster you can identify the lens, the more enjoyable life can be and the more friends from different backgrounds you can make.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

Meditation

I’m in no way shape or form a meditation guru, but I do try to take five minutes where I put my phone away and go somewhere quiet (which is hard to do with three little kids) just to center myself. There’s a lot of noise out there, being in the market all the time, you’re essentially working 24-hours a day. Just being able to take a moment, step away, and center yourself — it’s a nice reset in the middle of the day. Some days I meditate more than once, some days I don’t get around to it. But, I try to make it a consistent part of my routine when I can.

Read

I try to read as much as I can, and on as many topics as I can. Don’t just focus on American books, or publications — branch out and read things from a European or Latin American perspective. If you’re able to see how people are dealing with different situations in different cultures, it gives you ideas on how to apply it here. When I joined OFX, I bought several books on Australian history. It’s easier to do business with people if you know how they got there.

Have a good life partner

A lot of my success is because of my wife. She has told me to toughen up when I needed to hear it and supported me when I’m having a tough time, offering words of encouragement. Having a strong partner by my side is essential. My wife is as patient as they come. When you’re working internationally, there are no time zones. When there’s work to be done, I get on the phone at 1 a.m. to negotiate a contract in India. I’m on the phone at 10 p.m. having a meeting with my colleagues in Australia. I’m waking up at 6 a.m. to have a call with London. So, you need to have a very patient partner, and I definitely have that in my wife.

Get Moving

Living in Northern California, you can throw a rock and hit a hiking trail. To me, just leaving my phone and going outside to be with nature is incredible. Anything to work up a sweat is important to keep your mind sharp and your body in line. This is especially important when you have an international career. When you’re traveling to foreign countries, it’s pretty easy to stop at McDonald’s. Nobody wants to eat a salad when they get to their hotel at 1 a.m. right? Those Kit Kat bars look pretty sweet. It’s just about incorporating some type of regular physical routine, it helps out a lot. During the pandemic, I’ve become an avid user of Peloton.

Be curious

Finally, I’m a big believer in just stopping and asking your employees questions. Sitting down on the trading floor, going to speak with new employees, it helps you keep things in perspective. There are many examples of when you climb that ladder, you forget that the most important people in your company are those that are dealing directly with the client. They’re the ones with the best ideas. When it comes to being resilient in the business world, it has to do with what your clients want — and no one can help you do that better than your own employees.

You are 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. 🙂

I wish everybody in the United States — in the world for that matter — spoke a second language. It opens up worlds that really just aren’t possible otherwise. There’s nothing like seeing someone’s face brighten up when they realize that you speak their native tongue. It develops an immediate connection, personally and professionally, when you do that.

In my house, we only speak in Portuguese. It’s very important to me that my children speak a second language because they’ll have more context about the world, and be able to see things from different perspectives.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

I would say Guilherme Benchimol. It’s not a name many people will recognize in the United States, but it’s a name worth knowing. He’s the CEO of XP Investimentos (NASDAQ: XP), and single-handedly brought investing to the mainstream in Brazil. He’s the leader of a movement. His story is very inspirational. He started from the ground up, selling educational tools about the market in a market that wasn’t user friendly to the main street. He made investing in the stock market accessible to the common Brazilian — and you’re seeing a surge in Brazil right now, and across Latin America.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Alfred Nader of OFX: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chris Wilson of Smart Furniture and Office Designs: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully…

Chris Wilson of Smart Furniture and Office Designs: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

“If everything goes according to plan, we didn’t try hard enough.” Have a plan, execute it well, but don’t be afraid to stretch. Your goals should be ambitious enough that you can’t always hit them.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chris Wilson.

He is the CEO of Smart Furniture and Office Designs, online home and office furniture retailers. For years, remote teams have powered the sibling companies as they’ve partnered with businesses across the United States to create workspaces that promote innovation, collaboration, and productivity. In the age of COVID-19, they are leveraging their experience to help business leaders equip their dispersed employees with the same environments they’ve grown accustomed to in office settings.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I serve as the CEO of Smart Furniture and Office Designs, two Chattanooga, Tennessee-based online retailers of home and office furniture. Prior to my current role, I served in marketing and product roles at two startups. (Fun fact: I actually interned at Smart Furniture in college and then spent several years in full-time roles upon graduation. I was excited to rejoin the team as CEO in 2018.)

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

COVID might be it — our business has changed dramatically two or three times this year, undergoing changes that normally would take 12–18 months. We’re a home office retailer, so you can imagine how the pandemic has affected our sales and marketing tactics. I don’t know if there’s ever been such a massive, rapid change in the way people work and the furniture needed to support them before COVID. Being a part of that has been a wild ride the last few months, and we’re excited about what the future holds.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I once made a pretty big pricing error on a new marketplace. We were adding several hundred items to a new sales channel, and I made a typo where I incorrectly entered a price of $2,799.99 as $279.99. Of course, someone found this steep, accidental discount and purchased the item before the error was fixed. Fortunately, the customer was understanding and knew the price was wrong, and we did not lose money on it. The lesson learned here is pretty obvious: Details, details, details. Always get the little things right and have good systems of testing/checking.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Not everyone shares your inherent passion and motivation for the business, and that’s ok. It’s your job to figure out what does motivate people, what gets them excited to come into work, and ensure that motivation aligns with where you need to go as a business. Accountability and responsibility work well in accomplishing this goal — if you hire the right people and clearly communicate the right goals, they’ll get energy from taking ownership of something they enjoy and have a greater chance at success in their role.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Smart Furniture has almost always had remote teams. Our warehouse, retail store, and HQ office are all at different locations within Chattanooga, and multiple key staff members are remote. We even have a Chicago-based sales team as a result of our recent acquisition of Office Designs. In some respects, completing that acquisition in October of last year — and then immediately kicking into holiday sales madness — was a blessing in disguise. It was a pretty stressful time for us, but it better prepared us for the intensity of COVID and rapid changes we’ve dealt with.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

  1. Communication. Not being in the office together and changing the formats of meetings makes communication both “up” and “down” the chain of command difficult. We’ve been working to ensure people still know what the goals are, and that managers have good visibility into what is getting done.
  2. Culture/connection. You can lose that team atmosphere, people can feel isolated, etc. For us, it’s actually been a good exercise to have everyone remote. Since we always have some remote team members, having this experience has given leadership a first-hand look at what it’s like to spend all your time in a remote work setting.
  3. Meeting creep. People still need time to get work done vs. spending all day on video calls, but with the lack of face-to-face, in-office interaction, they may come up against roadblocks that need to be discussed.
  4. Burnout/stress. Especially with COVID-19, plus the general state of the world, stress levels are by default at a 6 or 7. Add in work stress, and it’s easy for people to spiral. Also, with work-from-home, it’s easy to get sucked in to being “always on” — working longer hours, not taking breaks, etc. And with the work-from-home setup, there’s no opportunity to leave the office and disconnect. Your “relaxation space” is now your office, and people tend to take less vacation when there is nowhere to go.
  5. Training. It’s much easier to train in-person than on screen-shares or calls. As we’ve hired new people over the last couple of months to keep up with the increased volume, we’ve been forced to adapt our training to a remote reality. It’s been a learning experience. Remote training shines a bright light on every aspect of the business that is not well documented.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

  1. Communication. We have standardized our team meetings (both full company and specific teams) to have more set formats that will cover important information and encourage managers to present relevant points to the broader team. We also added two midweek team check-ins to make sure everyone understands where the business is, given how quickly things can change.
  2. Culture/connection. Schedule regular team calls (whole team + peer teams) to facilitate interactions. Schedule and plan social hours (coffee breaks, etc.) so that people can still connect and not be limited to transactional work conversations.
  3. Meeting creep. Make sure meetings have an agenda and stick to it to avoid hours and hours of meetings. Also, routinely evaluate how long meetings need to be if you stick to the agenda — can an hour meeting be cut to 30 minutes? Make sure everyone shows up on time, avoid impromptu meetings if possible, and stick to a schedule.
  4. Burnout/stress. Encourage people to have a dedicated workspace in their home and go to it/leave around work hours. Getting dressed/undressed for work also helps establish that boundary by letting people feel like they can disconnect. Encourage people to use vacation (even if staycation) to relax and disconnect. We started strongly encouraging time off in June as we realized that many people had not taken a single day off (and many working weekends as well) since February. It’s striking how much more engaged and productive someone is after a few days off.
  5. Training. Invest the time into good documentation/SOPs/training videos so that people can self-learn. Schedule ongoing training and check-ins over the first few months (even just 30 minutes, two times per week) to give new hires a chance to ask questions, as it is easy to not be heard/seen with everyone remote.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Ensure the expectations and metrics are clear — a team member should know where they stand prior to any conversation. Make sure cameras are on, and be direct but not personal — stick to the facts. We’ve had success with clear targets (accounting closing the month by the 15th of the following month) and weekly dashboards with a baseline you can objectively measure against.

Have corrective conversations early, and give direct feedback continually. If someone starts falling behind, it’s much easier to address in the moment or in a weekly one-on-one than three months down the road.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Some situations warrant a video or phone call. But if you do feel like a particular piece of feedback is safe to send in email or a chat platform like Slack, lead with or follow up with the fact that you’re happy to hop on a call if needed. Also:

  • Be specific.
  • Criticize in private, praise in public. Make sure you aren’t blowing someone up on a thread with 20 other people.
  • Take the emotion out of it. Don’t be afraid to write an email and wait an hour, day, etc., before sending to make sure it is an accurate reflection of where you are.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Over-communicate, and be proactive about communication. Have good dashboards and reporting so that everyone can see what is going on. Send those reports out to the group on a regular basis.

Have a project management tool. If you don’t have one, get one (Asana and Trello are great).

Implement greater flexibility. You can’t micromanage people who are at home (if you need to micromanage to begin with, you likely hired wrong, trained wrong, don’t have a strong measurement, or have broader issues). Set clear goals and have good ways to measure, but then give people the ability to hit in their own way. This can apply to work hours; don’t stick to 9–5 if people can get their work done at odd hours. Focus on results over butts in seats.

This ties into flexibility, but working from home is tough for parents when kids are also at home. Be flexible, and allow people to have flex hours. Still hold high expectations, but focus more on “getting things done” vs. “butts in seats from 9 to 5.”

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Turn your cameras on during meetings, schedule social time, set clear, aggressive goals, and celebrate when you hit them. One of our values is Achieve, Celebrate, Iterate. Do great things, acknowledge, repeat.

You are 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. 🙂

Remote life — obviously there are associated challenges, but the potential is huge. Just a few of the ones I personally believe in are:

  • Environmental impacts. We’ve seen cities dramatically cut smog and pollution with less traffic on the road.
  • Time. Commutes suck. The average American spends over 50 minutes per day traveling to and from work. If people did not have to travel to work, on average they would save almost 10 days per year.
  • Improved Cities. We’ve started to see it in New York, Seattle, and Portland, but with fewer cars on the road during rush hour, cities could evolve to be built more around local community, walking, biking, etc. and less around cars.
  • Expenses. Remote work enables us to land jobs based on skill, not where we live. It seriously increases the potential for workers to find the jobs they want, as well as choose a place to live that can afford them the lifestyle they wish to have. This type of setup could also help us cut costs associated with commutes, such as shifting from one car per person to one car per household.
  • Education. What if the quality of education wasn’t limited by the schools in your neighborhood, but you were able to access the best teachers, so long as you had an internet connection?

I could go on and on. We are faced with a huge opportunity if we start thinking about this shift as a wealth of potential vs. a nuisance.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“If everything goes according to plan, we didn’t try hard enough.” Have a plan, execute it well, but don’t be afraid to stretch. Your goals should be ambitious enough that you can’t always hit them.

Thank you for these great insights!


Chris Wilson of Smart Furniture and Office Designs: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alexandra West of Art at Work: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line

I truly believe that giving people an opportunity to share of themselves, and to find acceptance in that sharing, is an amazing force for good. I also firmly believe that engaging with art makes life so much richer. It allows us to connect with humanity across time and without borders.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alexandra West.

Alexandra West is an award-winning designer, international speaker, and corporate trainer. She is passionate about culture, creativity, and collaboration. Her company, Art at Work, teaches organizations how to use art to increase inclusion and drive innovation. When not busy curating and coaching, Alex can be found eating cheese. All kinds of cheese.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Alexandra! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

Thank you for having me! My journey has certainly not been a straight one, but it has been interesting. I have always had a passion for art. After growing up in Florida, I moved to Atlanta to attend Emory University where I earned my degree in Art History. I then spent about ten years working in commercial and non-profit art galleries. I slowly found myself becoming a bit disillusioned with the art world. It seemed to me somewhat exclusionary, deliberately difficult to access, and overly money driven.

I ended up leaving the industry and working for a large human resources software company where I helped clients with their hiring processes. I learned a lot about what goes into building a strong team and the enormous costs that go into recruiting and hiring. I also found the work a little boring and the corporate environment somewhat stifling. I certainly wasn’t getting to use my creativity, or work with other creatives. Because I was making good money, I stayed — A situation I’m sure a lot of your readers can relate to.

Then, in 2007, the universe decided to give me the kick in the pants that I needed. The recession hit hard, and I was downsized from my company. After shedding more than a few tears I realized this was an opportunity to return to the world of creatives — the world I was really passionate about. A director I knew suggested I try working in the film industry within the art department. I ended up starting out at the bottom of the ladder as a production assistant. I was able to work my way up fairly quickly thanks to my background and a lot of hustle and eventually found myself working as an art director and production designer.

In 2015, my husband Dave and I started a tech consulting firm. While he was busy coaching technical teams, I wondered how I could use my background to bring value to these organizations. Luckily I was introduced to Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) — an amazing method of facilitating group discussions of art in order to sharpen critical thinking and collaboration skills. While the method is primarily used in schools, I quickly realized that it could be applied to corporate teams. I started speaking about it and leading workshops and I’m so excited every day to introduce it to new people. Not only do I get to work with art — my love! — but I get to present it in a simple and non-threatening way to other people. I feel so lucky to have gone on this journey and ended up here.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

When I began speaking about VTS I was fortunate enough to get booked at several international conferences. I noticed that some of the organizers in several countries did not think I’d get the audience participation needed for the types of highly interactive sessions I run. I heard things like, “Swedish people are very reserved. Don’t be disappointed if they don’t participate.”, and, “Indian people don’t like to speak up in group settings so you may have trouble.” So discouraging!

What I found out was that none of that was true! I never had a session that wasn’t a lively discussion. Audiences engaged because I worked hard to create a safe space — one where no one feared having a “wrong answer”. I learned to believe in myself and what I was teaching and to not let the nay-sayers get in my head. I’ve gotten to speak all over the world and have amazing interactions with people despite those silly warnings!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think bringing the museum into the workplace is a unique idea. What I do is allow people to talk about art without needing a background in the field. Because there are no right answers, the Art at Work program increases psychological safety — the feeling that one can share ideas without fear of embarrassment or punishment. This in turn gives participants the opportunity and confidence to share all of their ideas freely — making collaborative work more engaging, inclusive and equitable. The value of diverse points of view is built into the experience, and I think that’s what gives it sticking power. I’m not telling you how essential outside perspectives are, I’m allowing you to discover that on your own. As adult learners I feel we get so much more from an experience than a lecture.

My favorite thing to hear after a session is, “I never would have seen that without someone else pointing it out!”, or, “My opinion changed so much after hearing everyone else’s input.”

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Every workshop I do is unique and that keeps me really excited. I’m thrilled to be able to introduce people that many never think of visiting a gallery or museum to the world of art. I think giving people opportunities to engage with the visual arts in a non-intimidating way can really enhance their enjoyment of life. And the fact that this can lead to a more inclusive workplace is just so fantastic. We’re all stronger together.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I really encourage leaders to think about all the ideas they’re not hearing. Every team can attest to the annoying fact that most meetings and projects are dominated by a few people in their group. The wallflowers, the people that are not sharing their thoughts, just might be the ones with the best solutions.

Often companies that hire for diversity drop the ball when it comes to creating inclusion. That sense of being “the other” can cause many individuals to be afraid to share their “different” thoughts. We really need to find ways to engage those more reluctant speakers if we want to reap the benefits of diversity.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

I think seeing the team as a group of individuals is key. Learn about your team members, engage with them. Find out what unique perspectives are available to help drive innovative thinking and creative problem-solving. Find ways to have conversations that aren’t about work. This is especially true when dealing with remote teams, as so many companies are now. The physical distance makes it hard to have those impromptu chats where we learn more about one another. Carve out time to check in with your employees and find out how they’re really doing, and what they’re really thinking.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Increasing diversity in your organization leads to many positive outcomes, including higher profits, more innovation, increased productivity, and higher employee engagement and retention.

Let’s start with the bottom line — Diverse teams have been proven to be more profitable. According to a recent McKinsey Report, companies in the top quartile for racial and ethnic diversity are 35% more likely to have financial returns above their industry’s national medians. Likewise, companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15% more likely to see higher financial returns. Additionally, according to recent research from UCLA, 92% of companies with LGBTQ+ anti-discrimination policies credit the policies with having a positive impact on annual sales.

In terms of innovation, we know that a key contributing factor is that of divergent thinking; commonly defined as generating creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions. Divergent thinkers don’t ask, “What’s for lunch, a sandwich or pizza?” but instead think, “What could I have for lunch out of all the options in the world?” Opening up a world of possibilities is a key benefit of diversity. Those “outside the box” ideas only come from diverse points-of-view and life experiences. This is where inclusion becomes so important — you want to hear those crazy ideas! If you talk about being a “disruptor” or building a better mousetrap, then you must value diversity.

Productivity measures vary across industries, but I think the findings of a report from Cloverpop entitled Hacking Diversity with Inclusive Decision-Making are pretty universal. They found that teams made up of three or more diverse employees were able to make better decisions than individuals 87% of the time. These diverse teams also made decisions twice as fast — a pretty fantastic productivity increase.

Ultimately, we’re talking about the happiness of your employees and how you treat them. Increasing diversity and inclusion shows employees that you care about them as individuals — that they can feel safe bringing their whole selves to work. This increases engagement, helps in recruiting efforts, and lowers turnover. It’s important to mention here that diversity does not just mean ethnicity, race, or gender; but also age, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic background, and so on. Making your leadership team more diverse is also critical when we talk about employees. Future and existing employees need to see people like themselves across the board in your organization — particularly as managers or executives.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I love this question! I truly believe that giving people an opportunity to share of themselves, and to find acceptance in that sharing, is an amazing force for good. I also firmly believe that engaging with art makes life so much richer. It allows us to connect with humanity across time and without borders.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

Well, I have two! “Fortune favors the brave.” by Roman-slave-turned-playwright Terence, which encourages risk-taking. And, “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” by Auntie Mame as written by Patrick Dennis. I really think we all have to seek out and recognize things of joy and beauty every day, everywhere we find ourselves. It can be hard to do in these beyond challenging times, but I promise you the beauty is there if you go looking for it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

Oh my gosh — there are so many! I’m really so grateful for every artist that has taken the time to share their world with us — even when it was painful. The feeling of connection art can create is central to my entire life and everything I do.

I’m also very indebted to every producer and director that took a chance on me when I was first starting out in film. I know I made a ton of mistakes and their acceptance and encouragement allowed me to grow and thrive.

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, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

Michelle Obama is such a fascinating woman and an inspiration — call me anytime girl!


Alexandra West of Art at Work: How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “A completely touchless dining experience for restaurant…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “A completely touchless dining experience for restaurant customers” With Michael Jordan of Order For Me

Before COVID-19 even existed, we were already aiming to change the way people dine-in at restaurants with Order For Me. We wanted to create a shift in the hospitality service to fit the wants of a younger generation, where true hospitality is a matter of improving experience through convenience. We committed to that right away, despite the challenges we knew would exist. We’re aiming for this to go beyond just restaurants and become a catalyst towards a more convenient global system for any type of transaction or service.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Jordan.

Entrepreneur, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Michael Jordan, is a self-taught programmer who developed and launched the mobile platform, Order For Me. Officially incorporated in January 2019, Order For Me offers restaurant customers a safe and completely touchless dining experience. Michael brings a true entrepreneurial spirit to the company, with years of experience building tech products and launching and selling several successful startup businesses currently being used today.

With a multitude of hands-on experience and lessons learned in building, managing and growing online platforms and communities, Order For Me was a concept Michael considered and researched for a few years before it evolved into a sustainable business model. In the summer of 2019, he tested the platform with a few restaurants, not yet realizing the enormous relevance it would soon foster. With a global pandemic on the heels of the unveiling, the significant shift in restaurant dining has made Order For Me a vital solution for customers in today’s climate.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I never expected to go into the tech industry; My college degree is actually in Fine Art. After graduation I ended up working for the Fire Department of New York for a while. I dove into the tech industry when I decided to start an online fantasy sports game for professional surfing. My friends and I wanted to play this and there weren’t many available options, so I decided to create one. I’ve always been a self-starter who loves a challenge, so this quenched my entrepreneurial spirit at the time. After selling a couple of successful tech startups in the surfing space, I started noticing a need for new technology in other industries. I was reading some articles on California Labor Laws and their impact on the restaurant industry and had that lightbulb moment to make something easily accessible, without the need for downloads, that could simplify the process to benefit both the consumer and restaurant. My entrepreneurial spirit has consistently guided me through my work in the tech world, eventually leading to Order for Me.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

We launched our first two Order for Me accounts in mid-February 2020 with no sign of a looming pandemic. Less than a month later, all LA restaurants were required to shut down due to COVID-19. While we were just beginning to get Order for Me off the ground, this huge curveball came to us and there was little information on how the world would look moving forward, let alone indoor dining. Rather than giving in to the stress of the situation, we seized the opportunity to adjust our service to the current climate. Virtually overnight, we created a to-go ordering option for restaurants to use while sit-in dining was not allowed, with the promise of not charging any commissions or fees for life. From there, we grew to 27 accounts in less than two months. In a time of worldwide chaos, we were able to find an opportunity and increase reach with our target market by creating a valuable tool and resource for local businesses and the public.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I’ve always lived by the Steven Pressfield quote: “Don’t prepare. Begin.”

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Order For Me is a convenient and user-friendly mobile platform designed to allow restaurant customers a safe and completely touchless dining experience. By utilizing QR technology or a designated table code, guests can view the menu safely from their own phone/s and place orders (complete with modifications or special requests) when they are ready, which are then sent directly to the restaurant to prepare and deliver to the table. Payments plus tips are also made through the platform and on the guests’ timeline — There’s no more group bill to split.

How do you think this will change the world?

Before COVID-19 even existed, we were already aiming to change the way people dine-in at restaurants with Order For Me. We wanted to create a shift in the hospitality service to fit the wants of a younger generation, where true hospitality is a matter of improving experience through convenience. We committed to that right away, despite the challenges we knew would exist. We’re aiming for this to go beyond just restaurants and become a catalyst towards a more convenient global system for any type of transaction or service.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Given the unprecedented climate we are currently in, it feels like we are already living in a “Black Mirror” episode! But in all seriousness, any digital platform poses certain risks. For example, people could argue that using your smartphone to order a meal, split the bill and leave without speaking with your server several times throughout the process may decrease the opportunities for human interaction that many enjoy. But, Order For Me actually makes it safer and more convenient for people to dine out and socialize with friends and family, instead of opting to get food delivered to their couch at home.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I met Greg Daniels, Order For Me’s Co-Founder and Chief Executive Chef, in early February while I was attempting to work by myself on every aspect of the service, from setting up sales to testing the platform itself. Over time, I realized I did not have enough of a handle on restaurant operations and staff training. I needed someone with actual experience in the restaurant industry by my side if this was going to be successful. In hindsight, when Greg came into the picture it was almost like a perfect storm. He filled in all of the gaps I was struggling to compensate for on my own. He knows what goes into the back of house, front of house, the proper language to use, and the overall operations that go on within restaurants. By adding Greg to the team, we gained a credibility within the restaurant industry that I was unable to bring beforehand.

“I had been looking into this over the years. In the back of my head I had the idea that direct communication between the customer and the kitchen would be available at some point from technology,” says Greg Daniels, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Chef of Order For Me. “I understood the value in what Michael concepted, and it turned out I had a perspective that he needed.”

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

The technology and concept is already there. Once more restaurants start utilizing it, and more customers realize the ease and convenience of using this tool, we are confident it will attract a wider reach and we can develop it across various verticals and into other markets beyond the restaurant industry. We’ve heard it described by customers as “life changing” and it really is an incredible dining experience.

Given the current state of the restaurant industry post-COVID, we expect a 25% adoption rate based on the increased demand for contactless ordering. With newly implemented safety protocols, contact tracing and overall convenience, both customers and restaurant staff have a strong incentive to use Order For Me.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Don’t stop. There are always reasons to stop and they are relentless, but you have to ignore them and keep making progress every day. Make lists, write down goals and always take steps towards achieving them.

Greg Daniels, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Chef of Order For Me adds, “One thing I like to tell my team is to take on more than you can handle and you’ll rise to the occasion. It’s also so important to build and maintain relationships. Stay in touch with as many people as possible because you never know when that relationship may play a pivotal role in the future.”

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

We were already committed to the concept of Order For Me as a revolutionary dining experience prior to the pandemic. Once COVID-19 hit, the platform became even more essential to the future of the industry. What makes our product different is that we have been developing this technology for years, and not only to be utilized during this critical current climate, but as a sustainable resource for the foreseeable future. Now that the technology and execution are in place, the platform has the ability to scale into more restaurants, and from there, into a range of different verticals. There are only so many restaurants in the US, and we hope to go beyond that into other industries as we continue on this exciting trajectory. We have the momentum right now.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Michal Jordan, CEO & Founder

https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaeljordan100

Greg Daniels, Chief Executive Chef & Co-Founder

https://www.linkedin.com/in/greg-daniels-377341138/

Order For Me:

https://www.instagram.com/orderfor.me/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “A completely touchless dining experience for restaurant… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brian Mandler & Brian Nelson of The Network Effect: “We urge Creators to recognize their followers…

Brian Mandler & Brian Nelson of The Network Effect: “We urge Creators to recognize their followers as more than just a number and as a community of passionate people”

We consistently make our core creators aware that they now have real influence across those that follow them. We urge them to recognize their followers as more than just a number and as a community of passionate people. Each creator should know they they now have the opportunity to facilitate real change on what matters to them most.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brian Mandler & Brian Nelson, founders of The Network Effect.

Brian Mandler and Brian Nelson bring their combined career experiences to their highly successful venture, The Network Effect. As pioneers of TikTok since inception, the duo launched a digital brand agency that has successfully taken their clients beyond the normal advertising model and into the core of this powerhouse engagement platform.

Brian Mandler has built his career at the nexus of entertainment and technology. With executive roles at Google/YouTube, SayNow (acquired by Google), in2une music (acquired by Kobalt/AWAL), and YouNow, he continuously explores innovative ways to build community through digital platforms, extend reach and drive engagement.

As an established mainstream talent manager of 25 years, Brian Nelson’s work with global talent provides him with a unique perspective surrounding both brands and the modern-day creator ecosystem. Nelson has forged relationships and built unique digital marketing campaigns with entertainment and Fortune 500 companies around the world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Of course! We are happy to contribute!

We both have extensive backgrounds in entertainment and tech. When Brian (Mandler) sent me the musical.ly beta (5 years ago) we immediately saw the potential and were literally astounded. Why? We saw the potential for immediate massive audience growth & engagement, and a vehicle for how the Gen-Z audience in particular wants to view AND create short form content. We then prioritized working inside of the platform daily.

  • Brian Nelson

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

For me it has been working directly with artists like Taylor Swift, Mick Jagger and especially my business partner and good friend Joss Stone. I remember being on the Universal lot with a Super-Group project called “Super Heavy.” It was a surreal experience as to whom was in the band. I ended up having to take the reins a bit because all of the managers were reluctant to approach Mick Jagger. I jumped right in and we kicked things off with a great day shoot. For me it’s about moments, just like short form video for us now. Great moments!

  • Brian Nelson

After my stint as a digital executive at major record labels, I joined SayNow as head of Business Development & Content, where we built social phone numbers for public figures and brands. This experience allowed me to focus on all areas of social growth, content development, innovation, experimentation and expansion for the company and its product. 18 months after I joined the start-up, we were acquired by Google (where I spent the next 5+ years of my career in entertainment/product partnerships).

  • Brian Mandler

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Specific to the core product, we let TikTok innovate with their tech. Every week we are astounded by their product developments and the speed by which they deploy. Where we focus our time and energy at The Network Effect is on innovation, not duplication. Every project, product, artist, client approach is unique to their goals and ethos.

  • Brian Mandler

We spend 4–6 hours a day diving into existing and emerging platforms to understand new trends, behaviors, tendencies and which creators are starting to build traction. We then build concepts along with actions which consistently spark trends vs copying what everyone is already doing. This strategy has resulted in billions of on-brand views for our clients.

  • Brian Nelson

How do you think this might change the world?

While our approach may not change the world per se, we do see it as a revolutionary approach to “influencer marketing” (which by the way is a term we both despise). We believe that in order to build effective brand/product traction via short form, you need to effectively build “life integrations” with the right creators and brands. There needs to be a proper “fit” where a similar ethos is shared. Our content strategies are not accomplished over a day, a week or a month, but over multiple months. Building this foundation is what makes our approach unique.

  • Brian Mandler

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

This is more of a broad question about modern day tech. For us it’s about experimenting with feelings and habits. It’s also about engaging with a certain type of creator or content and what we predict the actions will be based on how the audience feels and reacts. We are at the forefront of a very fast-moving Gen-Z powered space. To understand that you must have acted inside the short form revolution from its inception like we have.

  • Brian Nelson

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

We’ve both put decades of work into studying audience habits. When we started to see short form video blossom with Vine we were both standing at attention. Then when musical.ly rolled out publicly, we KNEW it was going to work. Fast forward to today with TikTok/Triller/Dubsmash/Instagram Reels (forthcoming), we can boldly say that short form content is not a FAD, it’s a FORMAT which is here to stay.

  • Brian Mandler

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We are an experiential marketing team. So, for us, innovation is a daily thing. Even down to starting trends with the user base. I can tell you that we intricately know how Gen-Z adapts and adopts to existing and emerging social platforms. This allows us to effectively weave the brand’s initiatives into the emotions of the viewer.

Also, word of mouth for our agency and approach has been very strong. When brand executives want to understand these new platforms, we have been receiving consistent outreach

  • Brian Mandler

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

I have to say my business partner and co-founder Brian Mandler has been the most influential to me. The deep knowledge he has in technology, marketing and innovation really helped me to take a dig in, learn fast, and deeply understand all aspects of short form content and how we can effectively move the needle.

  • Brian Nelson

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

We both believe strongly in offering our expertise to those who want or need it . We both pride ourselves in being “creator advocates”. We work with many creators in this space on all aspects of their career. Especially those who are first experiencing attention. With decades of experience combined in the entertainment industry, we advise on a wide range of topics including contracts, content & growth strategies, emerging platforms of focus, brand narrative and career development. In most cases, what you have not experienced yet you simply don’t know. We have seen ALOT through our careers, and offer unique perspectives especially what pitfalls to avoid.

  • Brian Mandler

You are both people 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. 🙂

We consistently make our core creators aware that they now have real influence across those that follow them. We urge them to recognize their followers as more than just a number and as a community of passionate people. Each creator should know they they now have the opportunity to facilitate real change on what matters to them most.

  • Brian Mandler

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ll take a bit of a different approach here. It certainly is not “if you can’t beat them, join them ” 🙂

We both believe in the notion of innovation over duplication. Our space changes daily and we pride ourselves in adopting our clients to this in real-time.

  • Brian Nelson

How can our readers follow you on social media?

TikTok — https://www.tiktok.com/@thenetworkeffect?lang=en

Instagram — https://www.instagram.com/thenetworkeffectofficial/

Linkedin — https://www.linkedin.com/company/thenetworkeffectllc/


Brian Mandler & Brian Nelson of The Network Effect: “We urge Creators to recognize their followers… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Courtney Malengo of Spark + Buzz Communications: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade

Courtney Malengo of Spark + Buzz Communications: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Develop a narrative and messaging matrix. An amazing story is only amazing if it is told well and others know about it. That means you must be intentional about developing a narrative everyone internally can ascribe to and repeat, and then strategically embed that into every tactic and initiative, internally and externally, that the company undertakes. Develop a message matrix tool that serves as a guideline, highlighting key themes, words and phrases the brand should use.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Courtney Malengo. Courtney is the founder of Spark + Buzz Communications, a strategic communications consultancy that helps brands tell their story to inspire audiences and galvanize growth. A passionate communicator with 17 years’ experience, she holds an accreditation in public relations and a master’s in communication and organizational leadership. www.sparkandbuzz.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

From a very early age I knew I wanted to be a writer and that drove my pursuits through college, while also dabbling in graphic design and photography. I love sussing out a good story — my first gig as a reporter really helped me hone that ability. As I began writing full-time in the workplace and experiencing broader marketing and communications jobs, I realized that I could take my storytelling skills and apply that in a totally different and rewarding way. The entrepreneurial bug also bit at a young age, manifesting in a childhood lemonade stand (where my only customer was the mailman) and selling friendship bracelets in elementary school, to starting an online cupcakery and a bespoke stationery business. Each of these endeavors taught me several lessons that prepared me to launch Spark + Buzz Communications.

Ultimately, this creative track led me to a career of 17 years leading a variety of marketing, branding, public relations and communications initiatives for several organizations. In almost every organization I worked for, my role was a newly created position. I loved that because the job description didn’t define me, rather I could define the job description. It gave me the opportunity to be a trailblazer and create the foundation for the future of what that role would become. Looking back at my career, I see how that appealed to my entrepreneurial nature and helped me create in-house communications agencies at several different jobs. Along the way I earned my Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) certification from the Public Relations Society of America, in addition to a master’s in communication and organizational leadership from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I have made my fair share of mistakes, but I have also been fortunate that most of those were not public, or at the expense of anyone but myself. At the very beginning of my career, the emphasis was more on the creativity and less on the strategy. As my roles evolved, I learned how to harness strategy so that any creative piece could be translated into business objectives. This notion is crucial for success in the business world. However, I was not so great at personally following a strategy-first approach when I decided to launch my online-only cupcakery, Cheeky Cupcake.

This cupcakery was born out of a stressful job, my love of baking and thinking ‘if others can do this, why can’t I?’ So, I poured myself into testing recipes, gathering customer feedback and months later launched my brand. My business plan, or lack thereof, was basically launch the website, do grassroots marketing and see how it goes. If all went well, I could look at phasing into a mobile cupcakery. From a timing perspective, this was before the market became flooded with cupcake-only bakeries. I really fancied the idea of it all and loved the process of creating a brand from scratch, quite literally, but I was working full-time and doing this as a side hustle.

After committing to creating 150+ cupcakes for a friend’s wedding, complete with fondant cherry blossoms and decorations, I realized a cupcakery was not for me. I was baking in batches out of my home kitchen at the time and had to enlist the help of my husband and best friend just so I could meet my deadline. It was really stressful and not sustainable. I loved the idea of Cheeky Cupcake, but not so much the actual operational side of it. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? I learned so many great lessons about myself and I’m proud of the delicious cupcakes I made. Now when I bake, it is purely for fun, or to bring goodies to my Spark + Buzz clients.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

I’m not sure that I would pinpoint any one specific thing, but rather years of building, creating, refining and making mistakes. It’s the culmination of all of those efforts and experiences that have allowed me to be where I am today. And, I also don’t believe the notion that you’ve ‘arrived’ — there is always room to continue learning, growing and tackling new challenges.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I just wrapped up a brand identity project for an executive performance coach. It is really invigorating to create a brand from scratch, while taking a client’s vision and making it a reality. In this particular instance, it was a unique process because the brand is the coach and the coach is the brand.

I’ve also been working with several senior living clients to help strategically change their story in the media. As you know, COVID-19 has impacted everyone, but the most common media narrative about senior living and skilled nursing organizations is that these companies have not done enough to protect our most vulnerable population. In the majority of cases, that couldn’t be further from the truth. As guidance changed daily and even hourly, it created the perfect storm for this pandemic to fester inside congregate living. Most people working in senior living genuinely care about the older adults that they are charged with protecting — these individuals become like family members to staff. I can attest to this personally as I spent a decade of my career in senior living marketing and communications, advocating for older adults and challenging the stereotypes that are all-too pervasive.

So while the world focused on the heroes at hospitals, very little mind was paid to caregivers in these organizations — heroes in their own right who were sacrificing their own health and wellbeing to show up for work each day to battle this silent predator. Fortunately, their stories are starting to be told and Spark + Buzz has been able to help by amplifying their voices and partnering with the media to illuminate a unique angle on the coronavirus narrative. One media outlet just conducted virtual interviews with one of my clients, speaking with several seniors over 90 who contracted COVID-19 and beat the virus. It gives hope to many, as your age and living arrangements do not have to be an automatic death sentence.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

That’s a great question and I’m certainly no expert, as this is a lesson I am constantly learning. Less is more and unless you prioritize your own health and wellbeing you will never be able to bring your best to your professional or personal life. I also advocate doing work you are passionate about, so it doesn’t have the same drudgery and stigma as “work.”

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

I know some view branding as a logo, tagline or packaging, but those are really just components of a brand — specific to the brand’s visual identity and expression. I view branding as a cumulative experience that is really the essence or ethos of your company. Ultimately, your brand is a culmination of touchpoints someone has with your product or organization, both internally and externally. It’s about having a strategic story that filters across all of those touchpoints, whether you are selling a product, service or lifestyle. With that overarching story in mind, the product marketing or advertising is simply one channel that tells that story. That could be through digital advertising or traditional print advertising, etc. The best brands know how to curate experiences for their customers and employees alike. The latter is often forgotten in the branding/marketing mix, but it is just as important. The only way you can build passionate brand ambassadors from within is involving your team at the outset, rather than after the fact.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

When I look at a brand through the lens of an experience and telling a unique and cohesive story as a differentiating factor, the specific tactics become secondary to that strategy. Your brand becomes the reason why a customer chooses you or chooses your competition, especially if you are selling the same thing. That differentiation leads with your organization’s unique story and filters across experiences and channels. Customers want to intuitively connect with brands on multiple levels and that has been highlighted even more during coronavirus. Ultimately, I believe that the story is what becomes the market differentiator, and how well you tell that story shows up in the various marketing and advertising tactics you undertake.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

This is a timely question — many companies have faced pressure from various movements to rebrand. Just look at Aunt Jemima or the Washington Redskins. Both of these brands have experienced scrutiny before, but timing and momentum created a groundswell of action that led to change. With that said, there are lots of other reasons a company would consider rebranding. Perhaps it was involved in a scandal or misconduct — rebranding, along with new leadership, may be the right choice. In other instances, a company is significantly changing their offerings or evolving into a new service. Or, it is a longstanding company with a rich history, but needs to modernize for today — and in many cases like that, it is really a brand refresh, rather than a full rebrand.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

If you rebrand for the wrong reasons or without any market research and feedback from your customer base, it can be detrimental. There are cost implications to rebranding and those costs can be voluminous depending on the size and nature of your business. If it relates to merchandise and retail products, think about all of the items you have to pull, update with the new image/look, along with things like signage, website, company apparel, business cards, stationery, tchotchkes, internal documents and more.

Likewise, brands can make huge missteps in plenty of other areas too. Sometimes executives grow tired of a logo or slogan and think they need to ditch everything to start fresh. If that decision is made in a vacuum, just based on an executive’s preference, it is the wrong decision. They may have an inkling something needs to change, but that should be validated by extensive customer engagement and research. With that being said, there are lots of ways brands can elevate what they have with a simple refresh or telling their story better. It may be keeping the same logo, but modernizing the typeface that was used, or altering the color palette. It also may incorporate a focus on the details and extra touches that make the customer service experience special and unique. Ultimately, it comes back to the strategy and business goals and whether a rebrand or refresh supports the goals at that time. If your brand has strong market recognition and resonance, that can actually make it harder to rebrand. Think of companies like Gap, who years ago attempted to refresh the brand with a new logo and consumers forced them to revert that decision (never mind all of the money and time lost in that process). The infamous Tropicana debacle in 2009 with their rebranded packaging caused them to lose more than $50 million and ultimately revert to the original packaging. Customers no longer recognized the new packaging was Tropicana because everything had been overhauled, which I believe contributed to the consumer confusion. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, but these are examples to consider when embarking upon a branding decision.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  • Step back and evaluate. Ask yourself why? No person or company should embark upon a brand refresh or overhaul on a whim. Ask yourself how this will advance the company’s strategic goals and opportunities for revenue. Ask yourself, why now? The answers to these questions are important to determine the right timing and next steps.
  • Storytelling as strategy. What’s your story? Your story can be the ultimate marketplace differentiator and serve as a strategic avenue to connect with your customers or clients. The key is, your story and messaging must be authentic to who you are. If you think of that story as the heart of your brand, it is what will attract the right customers.
  • Develop a narrative and messaging matrix. An amazing story is only amazing if it is told well and others know about it. That means you must be intentional about developing a narrative everyone internally can ascribe to and repeat, and then strategically embed that into every tactic and initiative, internally and externally, that the company undertakes. Develop a message matrix tool that serves as a guideline, highlighting key themes, words and phrases the brand should use.
  • Align internal and external. As I have shared before, a brand is more than a logo or tagline. If you believe and view your brand as a series of touchpoints with customers and employees, you will quickly realize that your story must flow through all parts of the organization, both internally and externally. It becomes about nuancing your unique story to the various audiences and understanding what makes them engage with your brand. This is also important from an operational perspective because your brand will never truly embody its purpose if your internal teams do not believe your external messaging. It requires coordination and collaboration across all departments, which means no kingdoms and silos. Everything should be structured in the best interest of your customer and how you cater to them.
  • Explore visual identity and details. Once you’ve gone through the processes above and determined whether you are pursuing a brand refresh or a brand overhaul (rebrand), then you can begin exploring the visual identity and how that needs to be represented moving forward. The little things and details really do matter when it comes to elevating the brand experience.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Earlier this year, Dry Soda Company became Dry Botanical Bubbly to more fully represent their vision of culinary-inspired, zero-proof celebratory libations. I stumbled upon the brand a few years ago and instantly fell in love with their lavender soda. At the time, the brand was more of a craft soda that was seen as a healthier soda alternative and something fun for teetotalers, but the latter message was a bit lost. In their 2020 rebrand, the booze-free, or “dry” lifestyle has taken center stage and been matched with more vibrant packaging, new celebratory-size bottles (comparable to champagne bottles) and cheeky sayings across packaging and marketing efforts — “Here’s to zero-proof partying.”

Frankly, it also came at a good time as more products and bars are offering non-alcoholic experiences, packaged in ways that rival the booziest of bottles. While this rebrand is rather new and it remains to be seen how it will alter sales, I do think this more fully expresses their original vision and story in a way today’s consumer can relate to. I never recommend people replicate what another brand does, as that may not be a good fit. But great lessons from this instance are market timing, listening to customers and returning to your roots. Sometimes companies can lose their way and when you bring back the authenticity that you first began with, it really reawakens and reimagines your story in new ways.

You are 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. 🙂

It would be a movement of teaching others to truly communicate with one another, listen and express empathy. Right now, everyone is talking over and shouting at the other. Language and words have become so politicized and our squabbling with one another only furthers our divides. We pigeonhole people in boxes and proudly assert that if you don’t believe the same thing I do, then you are now my enemy. We have truly missed the mark on what it means to be tolerant. Tolerance, as defined in the dictionary, means that you have a “sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one’s own.” Note that tolerance does not mean you have to accept another person’s viewpoints or beliefs. We have lost the ability to pursue constructive criticism or differing conversations while still respecting the other person, yet now is the time that should be happening the most. We must learn how to respectfully disagree with a person’s beliefs or opinions, and still care about that individual. We are all a beautiful mix of conundrums and contradictions and must become comfortable with that to truly understand one another.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Picking just one is difficult, but I love Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote about enthusiasm. The last part of his quote is what most people know, but the entire quote is quite powerful. I’ve always believed that your passion and enthusiasm will show through in all that you do. No one wants to do business with a dud!

“Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic, be enthusiastic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow me on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/courtneydarbymalengo/ and Instagram @sparkandbuzz https://www.instagram.com/sparkandbuzz/

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Courtney Malengo of Spark + Buzz Communications: Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chen Yahav-Levanon of the Kumbaya App: 5 Things You Need To Do To Create A Successful App, Saas, Or

Chen Yahav-Levanon of the Kumbaya App: 5 Things You Need To Do To Create A Successful App, Saas, Or Software Business

Teens need us more than ever. Any teen that wants to work should have a job. Through the Kumbaya App, we want to help educate and prepare teens for the real world by helping them enter the job market earlier through the app. Today’s teens are motivated and want to find jobs earlier than previous generations, but they lack sufficient and safe solutions to find flexible job opportunities. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught us all off guard and has removed in-person job opportunities for teens as more people are staying home and unemployed adults are looking for jobs themselves. I want to start a movement to help teens feel empowered to meet their personal, professional and financial goals and continue to be the tech-savvy, resourceful and hard-working generation we are finding them to be.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chen Yahav-Levanon.

Chen Yahav-Levanon is a Co-founder and the CEO of the Kumbaya App, overseeing all business decisions for the gig marketplace company that connects teens with parents who need care services. She is a serial entrepreneur, having previously co-founded and led both self-funded and profitable SimilarTech and ClicksMob (acquired in 2017, ranked #28 in Forbes’ list of America’s Most Promising Companies in 2015 and listed at a Deloitte Rising Star winner in 2015). In 2019, Chen was featured in Silicon Valley Business Journal’s 40 under 40 as an individual to watch.

Prior to co-founding Kumbaya, Chen worked as an investment banker at Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and was also a former European champion hurdler. She graduated cum laude from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in Business and Economics and holds an MBA from Bar Ilan University in Israel and Fudan University in China. Chen is also a mother of three young children and is passionate about helping people thrive in their professional lives while raising children in the modern world.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

With the Kumbaya App being my third company, I did not have fear when we started. I’ve been through launching a company twice. I’ve learned that if you choose the right team of people, inspired as you are for your idea work, you can make anything happen.

As background about the startup, I met my co-founder, Dr. Adi Zief-Balteriski at a networking event in Silicon Valley two years ago. While trying to solve care services for our own families as working moms, Adi and I discovered 90% of parents who need childcare mentioned they are using their own teens or teens in their network to do a variety of care tasks. We paired this discovery with the knowledge that GenZ teens are not lazy. They want to work and save for their future, but their busy academic and extracurricular schedules do not allow them the flexibility to get part-time jobs. At the same time, many teens prefer smaller gigs to traditional jobs.

The Kumbaya App helps parents find trusted and affordable childcare and any teen in any geography who can work and wants a job to have a paid gig by doing virtual babysitting and other tasks. The platform connects teens with other parents in their own parents’ network. It provides them a safe place to make extra money, learn about financial responsibility, and foster a work ethic that will prepare them for the future.

Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has removed in-person job opportunities as more people look to stay home for the upcoming months and potentially years. It has taken away a lot of summer jobs and internships for teens, and also made the competition fierce with over 40 million adults currently unemployed. To address these issues, we launched the Kumbaya App early to help U.S. communities cope with the new reality by providing teens the opportunity to do virtual gigs for money, all while offering assistance to parents working from home during this time.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

At first, we were focused on our experience as busy parents who needed help, but then we had an “aha moment” and realized that every parent tries to promote their own teens to help others in their network. We did a focus group of parents and found that they either said they know a teen or they know of a teenager they can pay to help out with gigs. We realized GenZ teens were a huge audience and underserved community most of the business world has forgotten about. We then paired this with the fact that parents needed help and are looking to solve issues for both through the Kumbaya App.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

We have never thought about giving up, even when times are hard, we work to think of short-term and long-term solutions for each challenge we face. However, COVID-19 happened right as we were in the midst of raising seed round funding. We had not yet launched the app and were trying to figure out the right path to take given the unusual circumstances. We decided to take a risk and launch the Kumbaya App early in the hopes that our app would help communities through the pandemic with virtual gigs for teens and care services for younger kids.

Within 48 hours, we were up and running and our platform spread through word of mouth, first through our communities in California, but then we started seeing parents and teens from all over the U.S. download and use the app and start to book gigs. We are moving forward full force and even though our app was initially for in-person work, we are finding virtual opportunities to be very popular, especially for parents who are working from home and need help keeping their kids entertained.

The drive to continue really came from the realization that we could offer virtual services ahead of the in-person-focused ones we had planned to launch later this summer.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

The Kumbaya App has really taken off. As of July 2020, two months after our official launch, we’ve had over 1,600 downloads, passed over 650 virtual paid gigs complete, and had 350 teens registered by their parents. Moreover, 100% of parents who hire a teen through the platform come back to hire another teen. Another really cool finding is that this summer we’ve seen a couple of teens make up to $1.5–2K a month working every day through the app by booking gigs.

While we were faced with an unforeseeable circumstance, we applied grit and resilience to pivot our app and make the most out of an unfortunate situation. We wanted to meet parents where they are at now and help teens find work through the pandemic. The virtual world has increased its footprint in America, and we have seen so many creative ways teens are working with kids whether doing virtual babysitting, tutoring, science experiments, drawing and more.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

I’ve made a fair share of mistakes, however, I do not find them funny because they are business-related! I guess the most recent one was a couple of months ago. Because I’m a third-time founder, I did not prepare as much as I should have when speaking with an investor. I realized from the experience that it is important to not let arrogance drive any business decision, even ones as basic as preparing for a meeting. It was a big wake up call and a mistake I will not be making again.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

My partnership with my co-founder, Adi, makes our company stand out. We are an incredibly strong and dynamic duo. When we met two years ago, we knew immediately that we would work together because our personalities and backgrounds meshed so well. This is the first time I’ve gone into business with someone who also became a good friend, and during the last two times, I always felt nervous taking days off, but with Adi, I know she can handle it. I can take a break knowing full well she has everything under control. Our company is agile, our tech is great, and we full-heartedly support our mission to help teens who want to work find jobs, and to get parents the help they need at home while being able to remain balanced in our leadership.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I have a lot of tips. In fact, the Kumbaya App is the first business endeavor I’ve started that I haven’t felt burned out about yet. My first tip is to hire good employees. You must also trust your co-founder. Exercise. Remember that there is an end to everything. Lastly, whatever you are thinking with your heart, remember to also think with your brain.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

While I worked on Wall Street, I met a famous businessman at the gym I used to go to. I recognized his face from the newspapers and approached him to introduce myself. Stemming from the chance encounter at the gym, I convinced him over time to allow me to hire me as his “chief of stuff” and worked with him four years.

While working at his company, I transitioned to a financial associate and then to chief knowledge officer roles. It was the best business experience I could have ever asked for. As one of my most trusted mentors to this day, he taught me that money is not everything and the importance of being patient and understanding of other people. Without his guidance, I would not be the successful entrepreneur that I am today or have had such solid teams backing me up.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

We have over 1,600 downloads and more than 40% are 60-day active users. To build this community over a short period of time, we raised brand awareness and focused on the community aspect of the app. We also incorporated educational materials to help teens positively position themselves on the app to land more gigs and prepare them for jobs in the real world. Between parents and teens, our app has spread quickly by word of mouth over a few short months.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

The answer is yes. Since we just launched, we are still checking relevant options. We previously considered a monthly subscription model but decided to go with a fee-based model instead. We waived fees due to COVID-19, but are planning to charge parents who hire teens a service fee when the timing is better. Teens do not get charged at all and will even have a cashback plan to incentivize them to work.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

The five most important things an entrepreneur should do to create a successful app are: 1) listen to your users’ feedback, 2) conduct focus group research, 3) make sure the app is functional and looks ok 4) don’t wait until the app is perfect, go ahead and launch it and 5) think of a way to influence a network that gets the word out about your app and increases engagement.

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. 🙂

Teens need us more than ever. Any teen that wants to work should have a job. Through the Kumbaya App, we want to help educate and prepare teens for the real world by helping them enter the job market earlier through the app. Today’s teens are motivated and want to find jobs earlier than previous generations, but they lack sufficient and safe solutions to find flexible job opportunities. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has caught us all off guard and has removed in-person job opportunities for teens as more people are staying home and unemployed adults are looking for jobs themselves.

I want to start a movement to help teens feel empowered to meet their personal, professional and financial goals and continue to be the tech-savvy, resourceful and hard-working generation we are finding them to be.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Your readers can follow the Kumbaya App on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube. My personal LinkedIn can be found here.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Chen Yahav-Levanon of the Kumbaya App: 5 Things You Need To Do To Create A Successful App, Saas, Or was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andrea Lagan of Betterworks: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

…It takes longer to develop trust with people you don’t see face to face. Making the effort to get to know team members as people and not just as co-workers is critical in a world where everyone is remote. Spending time asking people how they’re doing, or what’s top of mind for them will help build trust and a sense of belonging. As a leader, you have to be willing to share as well. If you want others to open up, you have to be willing to do the same.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Andrea Lagan, Chief Customer and People Officer at Betterworks.

A customer experience veteran with nearly 25 years’ experience, Andrea has successfully led teams responsible for driving business growth, customer retention, and exceptional customer experiences.

Andrea is a great business leader who planned and implemented organizational change of global support services from a loosely managed, physically disperse cost center to a critical driver to business retention and growth. Not only does she set visionary, revolutionary objectives, but also conveys strategic messages in plain text that are precisely accepted and executed throughout the organization.

Andrea has had numerous successes from her previous experiences as COO at FinancialForce, chief customer and people officer at Alfresco, VP of cloud support at Oracle, VP of global support and operations at NetScout, director of operations at Remedy.

Thank you for doing this with us Andrea. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Two key themes: 1) I never said “No” to a new opportunity, even when I really had little idea what I was doing or getting myself into. 2) I’ve been very lucky. On more than one occasion, people have taken chances on me and I’ve worked my tail off to make sure those chances paid off. I have tried to do the same for others in return. Finding diamonds in the rough and watching them shine is one of the best things I’ve experienced in life.

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

My first entree into a VP role came as quite a surprise. The first 20 years of my career were spent in various operational roles: Contracts, Sales/Field Ops, Product Ops, IT Ops, all while raising 4 kids and all of the operational nuances that go with that! I loved learning every aspect of the business from an operational perspective, the importance of keeping the customer at the center of everything you do (even if you’re not in a direct, customer-facing role) and learning how to lead people and teams to drive business execution with the customer’s perspective at the core. After being so operationally focused, and because I had an innate understanding of what customers needed and why they buy, I decided I wanted to try my hand at sales. It was near the end of our fiscal year, and I worked hard to convince our head of sales at Network General to give me a chance. In parallel to this convincing effort, I was recognized by the company as a ‘Friend of Sales’ and was awarded with a trip to our President’s Club that year. My effort to convince him that I was ready for an Account Executive job paid off and he offered me the job. I was over the moon about it and the exciting news was announced while at President’s Club. The very next day, I was floating in the pool, drinking a beach drink of some sort, and our head of Product Management came to the side of the pool and said “Ken is on the phone for you and he needs to talk to you right now.” Ken Boyd was Network General’s CIO and my boss at the time. What Ken wanted to tell me was he was making some changes on the Operations side of the business and the company wanted to promote me to the position of VP of Operations. The day after it was announced to the sales team that I’d be carrying a bag, just like them! I honestly was very conflicted because actually doing this AE job was important to me, but so was the opportunity to be more involved in setting strategy for the company as part of the senior leadership team. So in one President’s Club outing, on the island of Grand Cayman, I was “promoted” twice, I chose the VP job, and it’s a trip I will never forget.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I wish I could say this was when I was first starting, but it was far enough into my career that I should have known better. I’ve always worked hard to perform at my best and help my teams do so as well. One year, after a particularly great year for me (I was an individual contributor at the time), I was preparing for my annual performance review (on a side note, thank God I now work for a company that offers a solution that moves organizations away from the dreaded annual review process). When I did my self-evaluation, I gave myself all high (the highest) scores. My boss at the time also gave me all high (the highest) scores. Wonderful. Here’s where the stupidity came into play. When I had to talk about my areas for improvement, I literally said I had none. My boss was dumbfounded (and rightly so). Over time, thankfully, I was exposed to leaders and peers who helped me learn humility and how incredibly fulfilling it can be to allow others to be the center of attention.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

The strongest, most well-rounded employees are those who benefit from variety in what they are responsible for. Give your employees the opportunity for visible projects. They are energizing and the employees who want to grow will jump at the chance. Be careful not to make it a habit of tapping into your employees during off-hours, especially during these COVID-19 days when everyone is glued to their laptop for (minimum) 8 hours per day.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I first began managing ‘remote’ employees in 1990. These ‘remote’ employees were in field offices that were remote from our HQ location where I worked, nobody really worked from home. Back then, there was no video conference. It was via conference calls that we would connect, collaborate, get to know one another, and get things done. Of course, we would travel to see our colleagues occasionally so there was opportunity for face-to-face relationship development. I then managed ‘remote’ global employees when I co-led the M&A efforts for two very large companies. Again, this was before video conferencing but it worked the same way as mentioned above.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

1. Body language insights are limited: In an environment where video conference is used heavily, this can help. When video is turned on, you can see whether people are leaning into the conversation — are they leaning toward their laptop, nodding in agreement or shaking their head in disagreement, talking with their hands, etc. Or are they leaning back in their chair, participating a little or not at all, crossed arms, etc. Video affords us much of the same body language insights we had when we worked with a team that was right in front of us.

2. Proximity bias — those in the room get more off the ‘floor’: One of the biggest challenges of managing remote team members is when you, as a leader, also have team members who work right in front of you/in the same office. There is a bias to let the people in the room dominate the conversation and those who are remote have to work much harder to be a part of the conversation. Being intentional about giving speaking time to the remote team members before those in the room is one easy way to combat this challenge. Also taking pauses in the conversation so those who are remote have time to come off mute and speak up.

3. Harder to develop trust and cohesion with remote teams: It takes longer to develop trust with people you don’t see face to face. Making the effort to get to know team members as people and not just as co-workers is critical in a world where everyone is remote. Spending time asking people how they’re doing, or what’s top of mind for them will help build trust and a sense of belonging. As a leader, you have to be willing to share as well. If you want others to open up, you have to be willing to do the same.

4. Time zone constraints: When working with remote employees across different time-zones, someone is usually going to have to meet at an inconvenient time. Be flexible when scheduling (especially recurring) meetings so the same person/people aren’t always inconvenienced. Always acknowledge the inconvenience as well. Sometimes that acknowledgement is enough to help the inconvenienced person/people feel less frustration. Also make sure that you, as the scheduler, are inconvenienced occasionally as well. This will give you good insight and empathy for others on your team and might make you re-think your meeting strategy.

5. Tech failures that don’t allow you to fully connect/engage: Always have a plan B. Is someone’s video choppy because their internet bandwidth is low? Encourage turning off video so conversations can continue. Is someone’s audio garbled? Move on to another topic until that topic can be covered when audio is clear. Bottom line: be lighthearted about the tech failures — it’s probably not the end of the world and is something that can be resumed at a later time when technology is cooperating.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Answered above.


Andrea Lagan of Betterworks: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “How AI Can Help Reduce Friction and Fraud” With Eric Haller, EVP at Experian…

The Future Is Now: “How AI Can Help Reduce Friction and Fraud” With Eric Haller, EVP at Experian DataLabs

The world is inevitably moving towards more decisions being made leveraging AI and more transactions taking place between machines we use (smart phones, tables, connected TVs, Amazon & Google smart speakers, laptops) and machines representing someone or something else (reservations, purchases, access to our personal accounts, etc.). We bristle when there is friction like typing in a password, having a code sent to our phone, asking funny questions we need to answer, but we panic when one of our accounts have been compromised. The challenge is reducing friction, while at the same time reducing fraud. When it works right, our lives are more convenient and safer, and it creates time for us to do other things.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric Haller.

Eric Haller is the Executive Vice President and Global Head of Experian DataLabs. Experian DataLabs is responsible for developing innovative products generated from break-through experimentation leveraging artificial intelligence and data assets from a variety of sources. He led the creation of labs in the US, UK, Brazil and Singapore that support research & development initiatives across the Experian enterprise. New products developed in the labs cover mobile, payments, consumer & commercial credit, fraud, targeted marketing & healthcare. Prior to Experian, Eric was responsible for new products with Sequoia Capital backed Green Dot where he created and brought to market the first credit card a consumer could purchase off of a j-hook in a retailer. Eric also co-founded identity fraud detection business iDawg which was later renamed ID Analytics. ID Analytics was acquired by LifeLock which is now part of Symantec. Other roles held by Eric includes Chief Marketing Officer of the first publicly traded machine learning company, HNC Software (acquired by FICO) and executive roles with Visa & MasterCard. Eric has a B.S. in Finance from San Diego State University and an M.S. in Technology Management from Columbia University in the City of New York; he is also a member of the University’s School of Professional Studies Board of Overseers.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started as statistical analyst at Visa. My job was pulling data from the mainframe on our authorization, clearing and settlement systems and assessing if there were any peculiar activities taking place that necessitated us changing our policies or system changes. This evolved to developing new products and services for Visa clients (banks & merchants) around the globe.

Back in 1994, I was absolutely convinced we were on the verge of a massive proliferation in data usage for decisioning and that analytics was going to be at the crux of it. I left Visa and spent my career focused on solving problems with leveraging data, analytics & software.

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

I learned a pretty valuable lesson presenting when I was 24 years old. I was presenting on anomalous chargeback behavior at a large global bank. There were about 20 people in the room and the senior executive from the bank in the meeting couldn’t read the “detail” on my slide. Back then they were acetate slides on an overhead projector. So the executive walked up to my projector, pulled the slide off and said they were going to have copies made for everyone in the meeting so they could read along as I explained the analysis. I was caught for five minutes or so standing in front of the crowd “killing time” until the executive returned with my slide and the copies. It felt humiliating. While the presentation wrapped up well because of the value of the work, it left me thinking I would never let that happen again. So I never put that much detail in a slide and if detail is necessary it always is distributed as a handout.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

I’d say there are a handful of areas we are experimenting with that show promise. We developed a generative adversarial network (GAN) that both creates and helps to detect synthetic identities. The effort performed so well that we immediately productized it and brought it to market in our US credit bureau. The new product, the Sure Profile™, promises to change how banks can be assured that they are pulling credit on a real individual. For the average person, this means that they are less likely to have their identity appropriated by someone attempting to commit fraud.

Another area we are experimenting in is in fair and explainable artificial intelligence (AI). What may be one of the most significant challenges that could evolve in this century — our ability to ensure that machines make decisions that don’t disadvantage classes of people that we believe should be protected is critical. So we’ve been experimenting with how we select and or constrain the performance of the “building blocks” of AI which are data attributes in order to manage how an AI system arrives at a conclusion. We’ve also created new processes of how we leverage un-biased / minimally biased external data sets to benchmark AI fairness throughout the entire model development process. This includes data inputs, attribute development & selection, algorithms, decision trees & rules and ultimately the outputs/decisions being made. The results will be measurable and demonstrable processes to prove out decisions are explainable & fair.

Perhaps what we’re most excited about is how we have eliminated rules and the use of expert systems from our ability to resolve the identity of an individual. We have developed a decision system that uses AI 100% in pulling together data elements when defining and validating the identity of an individual. This replaces the need to develop new expert rules and leverage human intellect every time new data elements are being introduced to help define who someone is when engaging in a fully digital, “faceless” transaction. As the world migrates towards a “touchless society,” where most of what we do is digital, this ensemble of AI developments will lead the way in reducing fraud while taking friction out of may processes.

How do you think this might change the world?

All three of these areas combined means that as the world changes, we can be more confident that the impacts to us as individuals will be positive. The world is inevitably moving towards more decisions being made leveraging AI and more transactions taking place between machines we use (smart phones, tables, connected TVs, Amazon & Google smart speakers, laptops) and machines representing someone or something else (reservations, purchases, access to our personal accounts, etc.). We bristle when there is friction like typing in a password, having a code sent to our phone, asking funny questions we need to answer, but we panic when one of our accounts have been compromised. The challenge is reducing friction, while at the same time reducing fraud. When it works right, our lives are more convenient and safer, and it creates time for us to do other things.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I love that show! But I don’t always agree with the endings. “Skynet” doesn’t have to become self aware — to borrow from Terminator.

When I think about the evolution of AI, I think it’s important that our lawmakers are aware of what’s happening so that as an industry, we can be responsible in assuring the right rules are in place to guide us. That’s what I find invaluable at Experian — we’re active handraisers when asked to discuss with lawmakers how we’re leveraging AI and where we see things headed. Because our roots are in understanding laws that protect consumers like the FCRA, GLB, HIPPA, DPPA and others — we evaluate everything we do in this context.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I’m not so sure there was a tipping point. I’ve been chasing this dream for years. I co-founded a company to focus exclusively on detection identity fraud that eventually sold to Symantec for $185mm. I was also the CMO for the publicly traded first machine learning company that specialized detecting fraud using neural networks. I feel more like a veteran warrior fighting the good fight — using the best data sources and best AI tools that society can leverage to protect people.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

With some of these items, like AI fairness, we’re working with clients to assess how well we’re doing what we set out to do and make whatever adjustments we need to make to scale. It’s the typical “proof of concept” to “product” process. With the others, Experian is actively leveraging our enterprise to begin scaling around the globe.

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

Yes! I am very thankful to a gentleman named Jeff Hug. He was the Chief Operating Officer for company I worked for in the late 1980s called Imperial Savings & Loan. He discovered me when I was working fulltime as a bank card customer service representative while I went to school at night to get my degree. I did some analysis on my own and turned it in. It wound up saving the bank a lot of money. He later recruited me to come to work for him as statistical analyst at Visa. He gave me the freedom to pull data from Visa mainframes, do a lot of analysis and build models. It set my career on the path that has led me to where I am today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try and Experian has been very supportive. We’ve had the opportunity to recently work with the United Nations on two significant efforts. One around modern slavery & sex trafficking. We’re currently building a national database in Brazil that can be leveraged by the UN and others to identity potential victims and “hot spots” for abductions. We’re also working on three continents with the UN and others on Covid disease spread modeling and PPE forecasting. By improving how we model for disease spread and flare-ups, we can help consumers that are vulnerable and small businesses with high exposure to economic risk. Experian has given me many more opportunities than this to do good — it is something that we work on the company every day — we call it “data for good.”

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Spend more time with your kids when they are little. I was very obsessed with my work in my early days when my kids were young. They change so much every day from birth until about kindergarten. I think looking back, it would have been wiser to have slowed down a bit during those years and enjoyed them more. Our careers often span 40+ years, so over the long haul we have plenty of time to make an impact. But that window with our kids in their early youth is a small one.

Be more patient. I was interviewing for a spot in a very selective commercial banking executive training program with Union Bank my senior year of undergrad. One of the executives told me I was going to be huge asset for UBOC. He said that in three years I will likely be strong enough to be a VP in the bank. But it will take 5–7 years from the time I started before the bank will be willing to promote me to that position. He said whether I took the job or not, that’s likely going to be a problem I will face my entire career. I will always feel ready for something before others will be as confident as I am that I can do it. So his advice was to be patient. Even though I did get this advice before I started — I wish he had made his point even stronger! Because patience extends to many more aspect of our career than just our next role change. It extends to developing relationships, building products and creating new businesses. Things never go as planned and always requires patience, persistence, thoughtfulness and grit.

Take your vacation time; think of it as medicine to help avoid burnout. I have several stories here, but I think it comes down to some simple facts of life. If you have passion for your work and ambition for your life, it’s likely you work longer and harder than most people around you. But it’s not a requirement. Our passion and ambition can make us want to drink in the adrenaline rush created by our work with both hands….until we are drowning in it. Without a break, all those positive things we build up by working so hard can turn our mind into thinking others don’t work so hard, they don’t contribute as much, the business isn’t going a fast as it should, etc. It creates the ingredients of burn out. Vacations are very important — they force us to take a pause from that rush and help us to avoid going down the negative rabbit hole that can be created with working too much. It took me close to 10 years before I realized this one.

You are 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. 🙂

Until recently, I think my passion would be instantly oriented towards kids that don’t have parents. My heart goes out to them and I feel at some point I’m going to have to pay attention to that spark inside of me and take some action. But the past couple of years have me more concerned about the challenges facing our country. If I could stimulate a movement, it would be to bring back the art of compromise. Compromise is far more challenging to achieve and often considered a word with deep negative connotations. Yet it’s what brings divided people of different ideals together. Somewhere along the way, we’ve formed an opinion that there is a right side and a wrong side on just about everything. In the world of machine learning, I think I’d argue there is no perfect right or wrong — but there is an optimal point. And finding it gives you the best performance.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“As steel sharpens steel, so does one person sharpen another.” This has always inspired me to try to meet up and work with the very smartest people I can find. I’m happiest when I’m surrounded by a gifted group of people that force me to step up my game. It is without a doubt when I’m most likely to perform at my best.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Experian gets my big ideas!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Just follow me on LinkedIn. I post what we’re up to that I think others will find interesting all the time.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: “How AI Can Help Reduce Friction and Fraud” With Eric Haller, EVP at Experian… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “AI Powered Cybersecurity” With Jonathan Langer of Medigate

The explosion in connected medical devices is revolutionizing and saturating the healthcare industry, and we are here to revolutionize with it. Spending on connected medical equipment will potentially triple over the next few years, so it’s imperative that there are solutions designed to help hospitals align with this movement. Also, it’s been speculated that the pandemic accelerated telehealth adoption by a full decade, so there’s now a real need to protect these touchpoints and devices– especially as patient-doctor care becomes more remote and virtual. Solutions like Medigate will be essential to protecting these touchpoints (and the networks they operate on) from malicious actors and others looking to do harm. Simply put, the healthcare space is changing the world, and we are here to make sure it can grow and adapt to these increased demands safely.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan Langer, CEO of Medigate.

Along with his co-founding partners, Jonathan Langer, CEO of Medigate, has spent the last two years applying innovative technologies and healthcare-specialized techniques to secure connected medicine across the United States. While the impact of the WannaCry attack served as a catalyst, a closer look at the vulnerabilities of clinical networks drove Jonathan and his partners to create the Medigate integrated medical device management and security platform. Jonathan gained his cybersecurity expertise in the Israeli Defense Intelligence Corps, where he commanded a team of security analysts focused on identifying vulnerabilities, correlating threats and automating response processes. Based on his contributions, he earned the prestigious Israel Defense Award. Jonathan holds a LL.B from the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. As Medigate’s leader and visionary, he brings nearly two decades of relevant cybersecurity experience to his company and the industry.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share your story behind what drove you down this career path?

I spent fifteen years managing project teams on the intelligence side of the Israeli Defense organization. This was an environment where cybersecurity risks consistently surfaced, which forced us to dive deep into the problem-space and develop solutions. It was fascinating to me (as well as eye-opening) when I learned that the problems we faced in the military were pervasive across the private industries as well. To be honest, after I left the service, my co-founders and I understood we had a real opportunity to effect change. We wanted to take the lessons we learned and apply them in meaningful ways. And because healthcare’s attack surface was recognized as the most vulnerable across industries, that’s where we decided to plant our flag.

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

Our first sale immediately comes to mind. While attending a healthcare conference we had the good luck to meet an executive who liked what our team had to say. This was critical– we didn’t have a graphical user interface to our product at that point, so there wasn’t much to show him. We originally presented our capability as a kind of “data machine” and planned to go to market by partnering with companies whose solutions would be made more powerful with the data we offered.

However, after hearing our plans he wasn’t interested in our “machine” without an intuitive way to interact with it. So, he volunteered to help us build the user interface and structure our capabilities into a platform that would integrate asset management and cybersecurity practice. We accepted his offer and it proved to be an important step forward for the team and company.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

For starters, we remain focused on improving our core capabilities to best support our clients and their work in fast-paced healthcare environments. Specifically, we’ve expanded the coverage of our platform to include and protect all connected assets on a hospital’s network, which was a common request from all of our early stage clients. In other words, not only are we protecting medical devices from malicious actors, but also the HVAC systems, laptops and all other devices that could be potentially breached and used to cause harm.

As far as what’s genuinely new, I would point to our ability to identify telehealth applications and resolve coverage against Mobile Device Management platforms. And I think the Value Analysis Model that we developed– a model for documenting both operation and capital savings– is opening a lot of eyes. In short, our solution provides insights that can be used to enhance both cybersecurity and operational efficiencies– this not only helps to protect patients and doctors, but allows for better decision-making and ROI in the short and long run.

How do you think this might change the world?

The explosion in connected medical devices is revolutionizing and saturating the healthcare industry, and we are here to revolutionize with it. Spending on connected medical equipment will potentially triple over the next few years, so it’s imperative that there are solutions designed to help hospitals align with this movement. Also, it’s been speculated that the pandemic accelerated telehealth adoption by a full decade, so there’s now a real need to protect these touchpoints and devices– especially as patient-doctor care becomes more remote and virtual. Solutions like Medigate will be essential to protecting these touchpoints (and the networks they operate on) from malicious actors and others looking to do harm. Simply put, the healthcare space is changing the world, and we are here to make sure it can grow and adapt to these increased demands safely.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

I will just say that artificial intelligence at its essence is a tool, and like all other tools, it has good applications and bad ones. We use a deterministic approach to AI that learns the coding “language” of each medical device, so that we are 100% certain about what we report and from what devices we’re reporting. This allows hospitals to know when to service and update their specific machinery or operating systems, keep track of communications so that it is easy to know which machines should be connecting to other devices on the network (and which shouldn’t), and most importantly, provide a real time headcount of inventory. The way we program this AI is to be used as a learning and monitoring tool for an industry that needs specificity, not guesswork. Essentially, a tool for good.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

The moment we knew Medigate was onto something came early in our development. Our interviews and demonstrations with hospitals made it clear to us that we were providing details and insights that no other competitive vendor could match. Again, it goes back to the way we discover and profile devices, as it’s highly automated and extremely accurate. The example I will share repeats itself about every time we plug-in to a hospital’s network. When we “turn on” our product, hundreds to thousands of devices immediately populate our dashboard, and the look on clients’ faces never gets old. Invariably, the device count we surface always exceed the inventories hospitals expect to see, sometimes by double-digit percentages, so the ensuing conversations are always interesting and rewarding.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We’re in a unique time where platforms like Medigate are already in a phase of widespread adoption in the medical industry. The next major influx of adoption will likely take place when the FDA, Joint Commission, and other regulating authorities move past the “highly recommended” phase and instead require compliance — that will surely change the game. While COVID-19 has created some funding delays, our sales activity has actually picked up. I will also add this: the device utilization data we provide (aka how devices are being used and how they can be optimized) is important for creating operational improvements and ROI. Once all hospitals start seeing the value and ROI in their competitors, I think we’ll see yet another surge in demand.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our marketing strategies center around the fact that Medigate is healthcare-dedicated. We talk about why that matters and let our clients tell the rest of the story for us. On a company level, our team has done a tremendous job identifying the conferences and events where we can most effectively promote our message– and they’ve done a marvellous job getting us recognized in the form of the numerous awards that we’ve received. Lately, we’ve had to turn up the volume of webinars and other forms of remote marketing and client support. Our focus going forward will be centered on the development of community-based intelligence sharing, as our clients are often the best teachers for others looking to adopt similar solutions and best practices.

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

The one person who I would like to acknowledge here is my Father. I have continuously leaned on him for guidance and support while starting and scaling Medigate. He is a wise man and I could not have gotten this far without his mentoring. Staying focused and humble are two qualities that I think parents are especially well-suited to instil in their offspring. Mine have made a point of it!

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I think there is goodness inherent to what Medigate does every day. We help hospitals stay focused on what matters — the patients. We do so by protecting the critical equipment used for treatment and by securing the data that is essential to their continued care. Further, we help technology management workers to be more effective at maintaining and securing the equipment used to deliver life-saving treatments. The insights delivered by Medigate help to effectively manage risk and achieve cost-savings, which in turn is invested to improve patient care. I’ll simply add that we are fast becoming recognized as a contributor, if not an integral part, of the value-based care paradigm that is driving healthcare economics in a positive direction. I’m not sure that any of us saw that coming.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. More balance between work and family: I’ve learned that there needs to be a better balance between your personal and professional life to prevent burnout and dissatisfaction. It’s a challenge. Candidly, working hard isn’t a problem for many of us. But not taking the time to share the fruits of your labor with loved ones– and recognizing that your time is probably your most valuable contribution– is a lesson that must be learned.
  2. Marketing and Sales are a world of their own: The best product on the planet means nothing if you don’t know how to effectively promote it. And that means listening. Not just to your clients, but to the experiences of your sales and marketing colleagues who face the market on a daily basis. Effectively translating their feedback into development and support was an early stage challenge that has become much easier as of late. I’m guessing that we must be doing something right.
  3. Financial management needs client-facing experience: Our financial leadership has been integral to our success from the start. We did well here. However, if I could do anything differently, I would have provided them with even more client-facing experience even sooner than we did.
  4. Building our team between Israel and the US: It was a challenge we took seriously from the beginning. However, with different offices, time zones, and culture brings different working styles and processes. We met the challenge head-on and turned it into a positive. We’re a 24/7 operation by default now, and we regularly gather the entire company for updates. We do everything we can to motivate a style of teamwork that now encompasses Israel, Europe and the U.S. We made it a priority and it has paid off.
  5. HR is critically important: Attracting and retaining the best and brightest is not a matter of luck. It’s a continuous process. We’re invested in our HR department and they know it. When we first started, we had a lot of good people come to us. When the market opened up, we felt the pressure of keeping those same people happy and motivated. We now view professional recruitment and development as a continuous and critical improvement process.

You are 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. 🙂

Movements that are important to me are climate change and sustainability. On a global level, there is no more pressing issue than the need to save our planet and natural resources, an aim that is only achievable if we work together towards realistic objectives. Similar to our push to improve healthcare, meaningful conservation effort requires true buy-in from all of us, as we’re all stakeholders on the earth. If I could inspire a movement, it would be that all nations and peoples put aside their differences to make everyday changes and choices aimed at sustainability. We can accomplish so much more together than divided– I think this is a message that needs to move closer to the forefront of our daily dialogue.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

The most important life lesson I have learned is simple — Stay Humble.

It is easy to get caught up with the responsibilities of being a founder and CEO of a growing company. However, staying humble allows continuous growth and ensures that there will always be moments of surprise and gratitude in life. I’ve always worked to ensure that Medigate is open to incorporating feedback from customers into the product, which is why we dedicated a “request a feature” button on our dashboard. With this collaboration we have rolled out numerous features that have greatly impacted our product for the better. This is just one example of how I try to map “Be Humble” to my business operations, but it’s imperative to keep this mindset in all aspects of your life. By remaining open to new attitudes and opportunities, you can ensure that you’re not ignoring doors that could lead to far better places.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

My pitch to anyone who asks is the same. We’re a healthcare security company. We specialize in enabling patient-safe connected medicine, as we have successfully disrupted the way clinical assets are managed and secured. We’re not a nice-to-have, but must-have capability, as healthcare presents the cybercriminal with the most vulnerable and rewarding attack surface across industry. What we do will soon be a matter of compliance, as the problem continues to grow worse and is now widely recognized by all regulating authorities as a serious patient safety issue.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

They can follow along with our Medigate blog where we talk about our latest developments. You can also follow the company on Twitter or Linkedin. My personal LinkedIn is linked here.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: “AI Powered Cybersecurity” With Jonathan Langer of Medigate was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jayme Bella of Greenerways: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

Meditate: I start my day with a 20-minute meditation to clear my mind and focus for the day.

Find mentors: Organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners have been amazing. The members are such open, sharing peers.

Take your time when hiring: I’ve learned to require background checks, references, and not rely on my gut.

Engage with the customer: This means both the buyer and the end user, the mom shopper. They know what they want. We must deliver it.

Meetings really do matter: They help to keep people on the same page.

I had the pleasure of interviewing with the Founder and mompreneur, Jayme Bella. Jayne created Greenerways out of a need for her family and children.

Greenerway’s mission has always been to create effective, affordable, organic solutions for the consumers’ everyday problems. As a family-run business, it is paramount that shoppers no longer have to compromise their safety based on what they can/can’t afford. All human beings deserve the right to live healthy lifestyles.

Greenerways is dedicated to making life easier and safer for families and their pets by providing an organic assortment of outdoor, lifestyle and personal care products that are infused with the best natural ingredients. It takes this commitment seriously and the company’s many approval seals attest to the level of investment it makes on the consumers’ behalf.

Jayme started creating organic products in 2008 when her house was damaged by a severe storm and became infested with insects. Pregnant at the time and increasingly eco-conscious, she started reading the labels of traditional insect repellents and realized they were ridden with chemicals and other ingredients that were unknown to her. She’d always lived an organic lifestyle. Fearful of what these chemicals could do to her unborn child, she began to research various essential oils and the properties they contained. Her husband, Jim, who operated an all-natural cleaning service, encouraged the use of organic products and helped her formulate an organic insect repellent when their growing family could not find one on the market.

Shortly thereafter, she invested in a small machine that allowed her to mix small quantities of essential oils. After much research, she wound up with a variety of oils, all of which had repellent properties to varying degrees. With a lot of hard work and extensive mixing and matching, she eventually derived a formula that actually repelled insects, was kind to the skin, and safe. Sharing with friends and other family members led to positive confirmation of her findings. From there, Greenerways Organic Bug Spray was born.

This was the birth of Greenerways, a company devoted to bringing safe products to every home. This made her grandmother, Mama Bella, very happy; she had been using organic solutions passed down from her father, a turn-of-the-century apothecary, for years. Mama Bella introduced Jayme to a wide variety of essential oil combinations by sharing a diary she had kept since she was a young girl. In this diary, Jayme found recipes for healing burns, alleviating headaches, soothing sore muscles, and more. Out of these, she was able to formulate a balm to relieve all kinds of maladies without endangering her growing family with harsh, synthetic chemicals.

Jayme Bella’s grandmother always told her, “Read the labels; if there are chemicals or ingredients you can’t pronounce, don’t buy the product.”

Testament to Jayme’s business acumen is that she was named as the National Association of Women Business Owners Los Angeles Chapter’s Business Woman of the Year in 2018.

A resident of Venice, California, Jayme and her family love living in the Los Angeles area. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Hofstra University.

Learn more about Greenerways at https://greenerways.com/.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Greenerways genesis stems from what Mama Bella always told me, “Read the labels; if there are chemicals or ingredients you can’t pronounce, don’t buy the product.” This was never more important to me than during my first pregnancy in 2008. That summer our home was damaged by a severe storm and became infested with insects. Reading the labels of traditional insect repellants and realizing they were ridden with harmful chemicals and other ingredients unknown to me, I was fearful of what effect they could have on our unborn child. I began to research various essential oils and the properties they contain. My husband, Jim, who operated an all-natural cleaning service at the time, helped me formulate an organic insect repellant. Shortly thereafter, I invested in a simple machine that allowed me to mix small quantities of essential oils. After much research, I wound up with a variety of oils, all of which had repellent properties to varying degrees. By dint of hard work and extensive mixing and matching, I derived a formula that actually repelled insects, was kind to skin and was safe. Sharing with friends and other family members led to positive confirmation of my findings and Greenerways Organic Bug Repellant was born. This was the birth of Greenerways, a company devoted to bringing safe, chemical-free products to every home.

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

My favorite story about the early days of Greenerways is about how we were introduced to QVC. In 2013, I took a spin class at Soul Cycle in Yardley, PA. After the class, the instructor and I were lamenting about how yucky the bikes were. I pulled out a spray bottle of our 2 oz. hand sanitizer and cleaned off the bikes. She loved the product, thought it was a perfect fit for QVC and introduced me. She’d been a spokesperson there for 10 years! What a way to get on television!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting?

At our very first trade show, we hadn’t QC’d our bottles. While showing a buyer for a major retailer our product, it leaked all over her and she was in a white dress. It wasn’t funny at the time, but all these years later, we do chuckle whenever we have to recount the details and how we worked the incident into our post-event followed-up. She always reminds us that the way we handled it made us stand out.

Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Well, obviously to make sure any bottle we ever leave with has been through Quality Control! I think it taught me early-on how valuable personal relationships are. I always make sure to get to know the people I do business with and to remember the little details.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Greenerways mission has always been to create effective and affordable solutions for everyday problems. In these unprecedented times, we wanted to create an affordable hand sanitizer for everyday use. With essential sanitary supplies being low, my talented team of chemists and doctors worked around the clock to create a 70% ethanol hand sanitizer in just three weeks. It is already on the shelf at CVS and 7-Eleven stores nationally.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

  • Meditate: I start my day with a 20-minute meditation to clear my mind and focus for the day.
  • Find mentors: Organizations like the National Association of Women Business Owners have been amazing. The members are such open, sharing peers.
  • Take your time when hiring: I’ve learned to require background checks, references, and not rely on my gut.
  • Engage with the customer: This means both the buyer and the end user, the mom shopper. They know what they want. We must deliver it.
  • Meetings really do matter: They help to keep people on the same page.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My husband. He is a natural born entrepreneur and when I was pregnant with our first child, he gave me the push I needed to dive in and start my own business. It was scary, but I am glad to have left corporate America behind. Together we balance our kids, business, friendship, and love.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Greenerways donated 10,000 units of its 2 oz. hand sanitizer to Los Angeles Skid Row’s homeless charity, Beauty2TheStreetz. Another 28,000 of our new hand sanitizers were donated to our home city, Los Angeles. And an additional 5,000 hand sanitizers have been donated to a children’s charity, Friends of Los Angeles.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  • An even bigger focus on online retail
  • Being even more price-conscious
  • Focusing on how to impact customer experience with minimal touching
  • Prioritizing the essentials
  • More local sourcing and selling items Made in America

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 would look to inspire people to do what works for me. Spiritual awareness, whatever that means for each individual. A very healthy family life which takes a ton of work. Eat healthy. By maintaining a healthy diet, low in sugars, I am better able to deal with the stresses of running a business, two kids, extended familial and friend relationships, and still find time for myself. Exercise, the more intense the better. The increased energy I get from working out allows me to have a longer and more productive day while reinforcing my physiological system for health and longevity, and learning, reading daily, incorporating the knowledge, whether emotional knowledge, business knowledge, parenting knowledge, etc. Never stop seeking it. If I was smart enough to bring this all into a cohesive philosophy, I would definitely proselytize to all.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/greenerwaysorganic/

https://www.instagram.com/greenerways_organic/?hl=en

https://twitter.com/greenerdaysllc?lang=en

https://www.facebook.com/jayme.dellabella

https://www.instagram.com/littlejaybella/?igshid=ylkszfs0atrk


Jayme Bella of Greenerways: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr. Veronica Slaughter: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Resilience are those steel beams that hold up sky scrapers. They may sway in an earthquake and at times seem like they’re going to fail, but don’t. The traits, of resilience is the ability to steady oneself when they’re about to fall; resilience is being a warrior and not a victim. Never giving up on what you believe in. Resist saying, “I can’t” and say, “I can” instead; even if you’re unsure.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases, it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Veronica Slaughter, D.C.

Dr. Veronica Slaughter was born in the Philippines to an American father and a Filipino mother in 1951. At eight, she, along with her siblings, were kidnapped by their father and brought to the United States. In spite of her turbulent childhood, she was able to achieve the American Dream through her resilience and determination. In 2017, she retired from her thirty-five-year chiropractic practice in California and moved to the beautiful island of Maui, where she continues to live with her many animals. She has one son; he lives in Northern California and is the love of her life.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Thank you for having me. I immigrated to the U.S. at eight in 1959. It was a strange new world for me. I felt lost and stumbled over the English language. Basically, I didn’t feel like I belonged. My young life was full of self-doubt, shame, and insecurity. In the end, I knew I wanted to be better and do something great with my life. I had to prove to myself and others that I had worth. This is what drove me forward no matter how many times I fell. I wanted the American Dream that everyone talked about.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I have so many meaningful stories. I’ve learned so much from my patients. One story that sticks with me, happened early in my career. A healthy young man came into my practice with back pain. He was a marathon runner, a vegetarian, and possessed the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. He told me he had to cut back on his training because of low back pain. He had been to multiple doctors and taken multiple medications before coming to me. After three treatments in one week, there was little improvement in this young man. At this point, I sent him out for blood work, an MRI and a full physical. He had asked if all this was necessary, being 23, healthy, and an athlete. Because of his good health, I believe the other doctors focused on muscle spasm. It turned out he had testicular cancer; that’s what was causing his back pain. What I learned from this early case, was NEVER ASSUME, never judge a book by its cover, and always error on the side of caution. This young man made a full recovery and was able to freeze sperm so he could have children in the future; and he did. He named his daughter Veronica. I was beyond honored.

I was grateful this challenge happened early in my career. It served me well for 35 years. I’ve never missed a diagnosis because I know my limitations. I carry this lesson throughout all aspects of my life. Being a doctor is part, detective, teacher, friend, and cheerleader. Being a mother is no different.

What do you think makes your work stand out? Can you share a story?

From my first day of practice, I’ve used a low-force chiropractic technique called Activator. Activator was new at the time and many of my chiropractic friends said it was a big mistake to use it solely. Patients were used to the hands-on snap, crackle, pop method. I wanted to be different so I became the best at this ONE method. When a new patient came in, they’d say, “I need to hear the noise when you crack my back so I know it’s working.” This became a teachable moment for me. I was able to explain exactly what was happening during an adjustment and how the noise meant nothing. I told each patient to stick with me for three visits using Activator and if they weren’t better, I’d refund their money and refer them to a hands-on doctor. No one ever asked for their money back and I became one of few doctors that used this method exclusively. People that were afraid, elderly or children, came from all over to get this low-force instrument adjustment. I stood by what I believed in and I believed in this particular method. This elevated me in the community.

A centurion, named Bob, was brought into my office by his great-great granddaughter, Alice. Alice was a patient and wanted her Gramps to get adjusted for the first time in over thirty years. Bob said he never thought of going to a chiropractor at this point in his life because he feared having one of his fragile bones broken. I asked him if he was in pain. He said yes, every morning his shoulders and low back hurt. I explained to him that his walker was too low (Bob was 6’1”) which put stress on his shoulders and consequently on other parts of his body. Bob looked forward to his weekly adjustments. He always walked out faster than he walked in. Coming to my office became his weekly outing, followed by lunch with Alice. Not only did he get adjusted but was able to spend quality time with his great-great granddaughter. They became closer than ever. Bob died at 103 with less pain and happier than he’d been in years. His weekly visits gave his life purpose; it gave him Alice. **Kindness is an action word**

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Of course, my mother was the biggest influence in my life but I want to talk about my early mentor, Dr T.I. Saint. He was 70, 6’4”, wore a cowboy hat, and cowboy boots. He was gruff and always seemed in a bad mood. T.I. saw something in me that I didn’t. He believed in me and always said, “You are special Veronica, don’t you see that? Stop saying you can’t.” Dr. Saint was hard on me. When I was in medical school, he pushed me when I wanted to give up. I think I tried to drop out five times. Every time, he’d say, “Ok, if you do poorly on the next exam, you can quit and I won’t stop you.” I never wanted to disappoint him, so I’d study harder, and to my amazement, I’d get an “A”. T.I. gave me a part time job working in his office after school. When I couldn’t pay my tuition, he’d pay it for me. For a long time, I thought it was a government grant. Dr. Saint, which he was, would not let me quit. He died the year after I graduated. He clearly came into my life to help me achieve my dream. My American Dream. I wish he was here to see what his faith in me produced.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience are those steel beams that hold up sky scrapers. They may sway in an earthquake and at times seem like they’re going to fail, but don’t. The traits, of resilience is the ability to steady oneself when they’re about to fall; resilience is being a warrior and not a victim. Never giving up on what you believe in. Resist saying, “I can’t” and say, “I can” instead; even if you’re unsure. I was determined not to have people look down on me or see me as unworthy; this is what drove me. As a child, my wooden rosary that my mother had given me kept me strong through the dark years. My rosary was my steel beam. Today, it’s not my rosary that keeps me resilient, it’s the knowledge that my past didn’t dictate my future. Now when I feel anxiety, I put on paper what I want and how I’m going to achieve it. I make a plan instead of falling apart or giving into fear. In order to stay resilient, I’ve let go of people that pull me down. I surround myself with positive forward-thinking people. People that are kind. Kindness is what powers me with tremendous results. Kindness begets kindness and should never be mistaken for weakness. I feel like I can do anything with kindness and compassion on my side.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I think of resilience, I think of my mother. She arrived in America in 1963, an immigrant, no money, a woman of color, a single mother of four with only a small Samsonite suitcase. Now that is resilient. She had a Master’s degree but was happy to clean houses on the weekends if it meant extra money for her children. She held her head up when faced with prejudice, discrimination, and ignorance. She never gave up on anything; not once. She eventually got her teaching credential in special education and loved it. When my father said to me, “Let’s hope you grow up pretty Veronica, because you aren’t very smart” the words seared into my brain. I was nine. I graduated at the top of my class in medical school because those words haunted me. I had to prove him wrong. Before I started medical school, I got married for the first time. I told my new husband that I wanted to go to medical school. He laughed out loud, “You’re kidding right?” I never asked him anything again. The marriage was a short one. I fought caring about what other people thought of me, it was what I thought of me that counted. It was hard but I kept my dream in front of me, telling myself, to keep moving forward. Giving up was not a choice. I was my mother’s daughter.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

I know we all have set backs, some worse than others. It brings to mind, “What won’t kill you will make you stronger.” I’m not so sure I believe that. When I experience a setback, big or small, I ask myself, “Will any of this matter in ten years?” If the answer is no, I carry on.

Then, I had a setback that would matter forever. It would change my life as I knew it. I lost my confidence, my will to carry on, my hopes and dreams. Nothing had meaning anymore.

I lost my younger brothers, Vance and Vincent, less than a year apart. I fell into a deep sadness that I thought I’d never come out of. It was my brave and loving mother that pulled me through. By then, I had lost my sister Valorie, in a house fire, my brother Vance to cancer and my youngest brother Vincent, from an accident. I wanted to be with them. I didn’t want to be on this earth without them. I was alone; no one to catch me if I fell. I could always count on my brothers. They adored me and I them. While I was feeling sorry for myself, I failed to realize my beautiful mother had lost three of the four children, she fought so hard for. I wasn’t the only one in pain. She was a warrior and reminded me that I was one too. I emerged with great purpose. I wanted to write my sibling’s and my story. Share it with people that may be going through tough times. I wanted to tell them not to give up, that anything is possible if you believe in yourself. Writing this book brought me great joy as I remembered my brothers and sister and how we loved and fought for each other. I want their children and grandchildren to know what amazing people they were. I want the world to know.

Three months before my book was to be published, I lost my 95-year-old mother. She stayed till I was strong enough to carry on without her.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

When my siblings and I were kidnapped in 1959, I learned, over the four years we were missing, that my determination would strengthen my resilience. I was determined to find my mother, protect my little brother from harm, survive the fears that each day brought. A particular story that furthered my resilience, was when my father sold me to a lady named Sally. I was nine or ten. She had a young son that I baby sat for. Sally saw what good care I took of my little brother Vincent and wanted to keep me so I’d take care of her young son while she worked. Sally was an adult dancer and worked nights. I didn’t understand the arrangement my father had with Sally till a week into staying with her. I thought I was babysitting for the week and was going to get nice things in return but when she said I was hers, I panicked. I tried everything to get her to bring me home but nothing was working so I formed a plan. I decided I would play dead. Nothing she said or did could get me out of my bed. I stopped taking care of her son, stopped going to school, stopped showering and stopped eating. After a week or so of this she finally made a screaming phone call to my father telling him she wanted her $5,000 back. She said I was ungrateful and stupid but nothing she said could have kept me there. I resisted all her tactics. I got hit by my father when he finally came to get me. There was nothing either of them could do or say to make me leave my sister and brothers. I prevailed. I was resilient. I was worth more than $5,000 dollars.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

1) Write down what you’re aiming for

2) Believe it is already happening

3) Do the hard work towards your goal

4) Visualize you dream daily

5) Never give up on what you believe in

When I opened my first office in 1982, I had little money. School had eaten up all my savings and then some. My well-meaning friends and family said to start small; rent a room in another doctor’s office to save money. Work for someone else and try and build a practice. None of that sounded appealing to me. I was ready to go at it alone. I had been saving all my drive for this day. The first thing I had to do was find an office in a beautiful part of town. I negotiated my first years rent successfully. I had them put my name up on the door in big bold gold letters so that every morning when I walked down the hall to my office, I felt I had already made it; DR. VERONICA SLAUGHTER.

Next, after renting an apartment across the street, I went to a designer discount store and bought four outfits that I could mix and match. I traded my old Toyota in for a used 300D Mercedes. Little did I know what a headache that would be. I had taken out a business loan from the bank and knew I had three months to get things rolling. By the way, it was a struggle getting a loan without my ex-husband’s signature, who hadn’t had a job in years. Being a doctor wasn’t enough, I was only a woman and, in those days, a man’s signature was still the only thing that mattered.

I acted successful, I dressed successful, I talked and believed I was successful but most importantly, I did the hard work. I gave free lectures at every chamber meeting I could find. I talked to women’s groups and business groups till I lost my voice. I went to retirement homes and public schools to talk about posture and nutrition. I volunteered at church groups and hospitals. I talked to anyone that would listen. I handed out hundreds of cards. I would talk to strangers and recommend they do themselves a “Big Favor” and come to my office for a complimentary consultation regarding that limp, that stiff neck, that poor posture, or whatever it was I thought was bothering them. I looked like a successful doctor, so why not take me up on my offer. I was honest with my patients. My goal was to guide them in the right direction. Because of this, they sent their friends and family. I wanted them to be able to count on me for the truth even if it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. I continue, to this day, to be the person my friends and family can count on. They see me as resilient and capable of handling anything. What they don’t realize is their trust in me, is what feeds my resilience.

You are 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. 🙂

I would love to lecture on the power of kindness. Maybe even give a Ted Talk on how one kind act can change another person’s life and the lives around them. That one small gesture is powerful; it’s the ripple effect. An example is, when I was ten years old, the old black janitor at my school in Florence Texas, told me I was smart. I was always asking him questions and he always had an answer. He taught me so much while I helped him empty trash cans in the classrooms till the bus came. I thought I was bothering him but then he said, “You’re the smartest little girl in this school, do you know that?” That was the first time anyone had said that to me. That one act of kindness, changed me at that moment. He gave me something to believe in. I held my head higher and felt different inside. I wanted to help other children feel good about themselves too. Well, I was able to do that and not just for children. My practice was a vehicle for me to help people feel good about themselves and all it took was a little kindness. Kindness doesn’t cost anything so give generously.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

For the same reason I loved Princess Diana, I love Megan Markel. I wish people looked at the world the way she does. I sense Megan is real, humble, kind; loving of all people and all things living. I’d ask her for advice on how to go about healing the world one person at a time. It’s exponential you know. I feel if everyone did a little, it would add up to the change this world needs in order to survive. We would continue to benefit from the earth’s gifts without injuring it the way we do. We could celebrate our diversity and cultures. We are all members of the human race. Let’s teach each other what love looks like. We all have something special to contribute.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

My website has all the links to my social media, www.VeronicaSlaughter.com. There is also a place on my website to email me if you have a question on want to leave a comment. I hope all of us try and make this world a better place by using our voice, our written word, our sense of fairness and yes, kindness.


Dr. Veronica Slaughter: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Lenovo VP David Rabin: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

…It’s important to ensure you have a video camera on your employees all day long to ensure they are working. NOTE: this is a joke. What’s true is that for managers who are used to seeing their people in the office and observing their work, this is less practical in a remote environment. And guess what? That’s OK!

A manager is generally not paid for or rewarded by supervising their people for the amount of hours they work. Rather, the manager is rewarded to motivating and enabling their team to succeed.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Rabin.

David is Vice President, Global Commercial Marketing at Lenovo, driving commercial marketing and enablement for Lenovo’s PC and Smart Device group. This includes product stewardship for the Think family of products, including the legendary ThinkPad laptop. David previously directed Lenovo’s branding, marketing, strategy, and alliance partner activities across North America, including advertising, sponsorships, and business to business marketing.

David has over 20 years of marketing experience, representing a wide range of disciplines including account management, database marketing, media planning, marketing intelligence and insights, events, and holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from the Tulane A.B. Freeman School of Business. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife and two kids.

Thank you so much for doing this with us David! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’ve been in the marketing industry for over 20 years. My first job after graduating from Tulane, was at an advertising agency and then I moved to New York to work at J. Walter Thompson. After almost three years, I took a job in Detroit at Young & Rubicam working on the Ford Motor Company account, managing Lincoln’s $100 million national advertising program and competitive intelligence.

After five years at Young & Rubicam, I was excited for a change and took a position at Lenovo as the Director of Marketing Communications. Now in my current role as Vice President of Global Commercial Marketing, I get to focus on the commercial business and meet with colleagues and customers around the world. I’ve been at Lenovo for over a decade holding several different positions and haven’t looked back.

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

After nearly 25 years in the working world, I’ve had quite a few memorable experiences… too many to narrow down to just one. They come in all sorts of different themes, such as:

  • Getting to travel the world and meeting customers and colleagues. It’s been eye-opening to experience differences in cultures across places like China, India and Brazil.
  • Giving back to the community and changing lives, including volunteering with Junior Achievement to expose students to financial literacy.
  • Working with sports teams and leagues.
  • Hosting sales kickoffs at Lenovo for thousands of people (and having freedom to go rogue with some of my remarks!)

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When I was interviewing for a new position, I wrote a thank you note to the agency recruiter but put the wrong name of the client they were hiring for. I guess at the time this wasn’t so funny, as needless to say, I didn’t get the job. However, it taught me to be more detail oriented, because if you can’t master the little things, you’ll never master the bigger challenges. I can look back and laugh at myself for learning such a valuable lesson the hard way.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

My advice would be to foster an environment of flexibility for your teams and let them find out what works best for them. For me, I work better in the early mornings because it’s quiet and I have time to really focus, and even steal some downtime on the weekends to wrap things up I didn’t get to during the week. Also, always look for ways to recognize and motivate your teams as people want to deliver more (and thus, burn out less) when they enjoy what they’re doing and feel valued.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Lenovo has had a flexible working environment globally, with some employees working remotely, others in the office and some doing a hybrid of both for years. Keep in mind, we’re also a global company doing business in over 170 markets. Because of this environment, throughout my more than 13 years with Lenovo, I’ve had experience managing a mix of remote employees. We have used video calls and remote technology to manage teams for years but never to the extent we’ve seen through COVID-19.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

  • Staying and feeling connected to your teams
  • In the office, it used to be that you could bump into colleagues at the water cooler or in the hallway, but now video tools have become our top means for communicating with teams. In marketing, we also have a reputation for being social, whether it’s team outings or birthday lunches. Those are impossible to do in the current environment. By the way, axe throwing has become quite the popular team outing these days.
  • Encouraging flexible work schedules
  • When we first transitioned to this 100% remote work environment due to COVID, many were juggling new challenges — whether it was homeschooling their kids or managing other distractions at home, such as pets. I have two dogs who just love to bark when they see something move outside, and they always seem to do this when I’m about to present on a conference call!
  • Maintaining employee productivity and collaboration
  • Now more than ever companies need to make sure the employee experience is at the forefront of everything they do. A recent survey from Lenovo revealed that when COVID-19 arrived, workers felt at least somewhat ready to make the shift to a remote environment if required (87%), and 71% felt they had access to the technology they needed
  • Working How You Work Best
  • The work environment was changing before the coronavirus pandemic. Many companies had moved to open or flexible offices, where employees had the option to customize their work environment to meet their needs — from working at a desk, office couch, conference room or kitchen table. For me, I don’t like working at an office desk, but would prefer to ‘roam’ during the day. Sometimes I’d work from the cafeteria, and other times on the walking treadmill.
  • Keeping tabs on your people and making sure they are working a 50-hour work week
  • It’s important to ensure you have a video camera on your employees all day long to ensure they are working. NOTE: this is a joke. What’s true is that for managers who are used to seeing their people in the office and observing their work, this is less practical in a remote environment. And guess what? That’s OK. A manager is generally not paid for or rewarded by supervising their people for the amount of hours they work. Rather, the manager is rewarded to motivating and enabling their team to succeed.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

  • Staying and feeling connected to your teams
  • Leverage video calls with your teams and be engaged like you would in an office setting. Let me repeat… USE VIDEO! Ok sure, there will be times where it’s just not appropriate or practical, but for the vast majority of meetings, it’s a mandatory. It may be weird, but you’ll get used to it. We’ve embraced video happy hours and lunches, in addition to typical staff meetings, 1:1’s and other touchpoints.
  • Encouraging flexible work schedules
  • Everyone has had to adjust to working remotely, juggling families, and adjusting to small working spaces, which means different work schedules. I’ve been encouraging my team to be more outcome vs. hours focused and take some time during the day to themselves. For example, I like to walk my dogs during lunch time. We’ve made it very clear to our teams that flexibility is the word of the day. If someone has a personal obligation from, for example, noon-2pm every day, that’s not a problem. The team will support that, and the employee will find time in their day to get their work done.
  • Maintaining employee productivity and collaboration
  • As a technology company, we pride ourselves on having tech that transitions seamlessly into a work from home environment. We have equipped our teams with productivity enhancers, monitors, webcams, and collaboration tools, such as headsets to help teams with productivity. In fact, recent data revealed that 61% of employees feel they are as productive if not more so when working from home versus working in an office. Like many companies, we’ve quickly made the shift to collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams and video chat. We’ve also encouraged our employees to replicate what worked for them in the office, at home. So, if they need two monitors or a stand-up desk, then we’ll enable them to do that at home.
  • Working How You Work Best
  1. Be creative with where you work. Going back to my personal workstyle, I’ve never really enjoyed sitting behind a desk all day, so I don’t do it at home. Depending on how I’m feeling, I’ll work outside, or on the couch, or at the kitchen table. In the office, I liked hopping on the treadmill desk periodically. So, what did I do? I bought a treadmill for home and then found an accessory to allow me to use it as a desk. My wife says it’ll be collecting dust in no time, but so far, I’ve proved her wrong.
  • Keeping tabs on your people and making sure they are working a 50-hour work week
  1. Again, this is not at all what managers should be doing. Our job as leaders is to guide our teams, foster their growth, and enable them to contribute to the business through advice, tools, removing roadblocks and more. That shouldn’t change in a remote environment. What does change is the need to check-in a bit differently. If you’re used to hallway ‘collisions’ with your team at work, schedule a short daily video touchpoint at home.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I would recommend delivering constructive criticism through video calls. They take the place of face-to-face conversations because they still provide a human connection with body language and facial expressions. When delivering constructive feedback, it’s also important to couch the bad with the good — so what is the employee doing well, with what can they work on improving. Providing suggestions and clear guidelines for improvement are critical.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

In general, it’s always best to avoid delivering constructive criticism through emails. It leaves out the tone and human connection that a quick video call provides. However, if it is the only means — like video, it will be important to start off on a positive note, provide the feedback, and offer steps to improve. Always offer up the opportunity to discuss over a phone or video call.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

We need to be mindful that employees’ situations are incredibly important and draining, as some are acting as teachers, parents, and co-workers at the same time. Rather than confronting employees for not immediately responding to an email, or being readily available when you call, be flexible.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Building connections and keeping a team’s culture and morale high is difficult during such a challenging time. However, it’s vital we work to create a healthy, encouraging, collaborative working environment when not physically together. I recommend setting a daily team meeting, or even periodic video happy hours, to keep constant means of communication. Additionally, encouraging chat room discussions on matters outside of work can help keep the culture strong.

You are 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. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement, it would be focused on young people and providing opportunities to the kids and teens who don’t have someone to open the door for them and show them their potential. Personally, and at Lenovo, we aim to inspire the younger generation and empower them to transform the future using technology.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I got some great advice from an executive coach, which is to stop and think ‘Is it worth it?’ before speaking. As a leader, when you talk, in essence you’re issuing an order. Doesn’t matter if your feedback is brilliant or stupid… it’s going to be an order. Instead, just stop and think to yourself — is what I’m about to say going to add value, or is it going to derail or demoralize the person you’re speaking to? Chances are, you may realize that it’s just best to keep listening and not try to overengineer the conversation.

Thank you for these great insights!


Lenovo VP David Rabin: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Arden Montgomery and Margaux Reaume of Argaux: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To

Arden Montgomery and Margaux Reaume of Argaux: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Take responsibility

Solve your problems within 24 hours and move on

Stop complaining

Be honest with yourself

Exercise! Build physical endurance. I truly believe it results in mental endurance as well.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Arden Montgomery and Margaux Reaume, Argaux.

Argaux started as a passion project between two friends who enjoyed throwing dinner parties in college. Arden and Margaux met their Freshman year at the University of Arizona. They bonded over their love of food, cooking and entertaining. Plus, they share the exact same birthday: February 20th, 1992.

Their friendship grew over monthly dinner parties they co-hosted for friends and roommates. Soon they were known as the “dinner party enthusiasts” and their appetite for all things food and cooking fostered their newfound interest and passion for wine. By their senior year in college friends called Arden and Margaux, Argaux.

Various wine bars around Tucson became their “library” where they’d ponder the possibilities and dream up a business plan for what once was a passion project, and now a budding business.

Today, Arden & Margaux are both sommeliers. Their business―Argaux―is 3 years old and based in Costa Mesa, California.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

We started Argaux as a passion project between two friends who enjoyed throwing dinner parties in college. We met Freshman year at the University of Arizona. We bonded over our love of food, cooking and entertaining. Plus, who doesn’t love sharing the exact same birthday: February 20th, 1992.

Today, we are both sommeliers. Our business is 3 years old and based in Costa Mesa, California.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Honestly, I think this past year has been one interesting story after the next. It’s been extremely challenging and we have learned more this year than we have in all 4 years being in business. We’ve learned the power of resilience, perspective, and humility!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Our customer service and approach to wine! We go above and beyond for our customers in that we have sommeliers who respond to customer inquiries and requests in real time via SMS. We call this service “Pocket Somm” — It’s truly a sommelier in your back pocket for any and all wine related needs. Other than that, our wine selection. We focus on small production, family owned, and sustainably farmed wine.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My parents! They have always been my and the company’s biggest cheerleaders. No particular story, I am grateful for their love and support every day.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

I think resilience is at the core of every small business. At Argaux, resilience is a combination of energy, attitude, perspective, and overall work ethic. It has everything to do with how we choose to solve problems, sustain our creative thinking, and ultimately navigate volatility. Things are changing everyday. Rather than letting doubt, negativity, or fear of the unknown override productivity, our team chooses the upside every time.

Argaux sources wine for every occasion, every table, and every day. It’s our job to produce unparalleled customer service, keep glasses half full, spark conversation, educate, and provide opportunity for unique and memorable experiences. Margaux and I believe we are making a difference for our customers. We love what we do, and we’re having a lot of fun along the way. If we need a boost, we tap into that. Reflect and circle back to the business at its core. There is an abundance of strength and resilience within all of us, but we have to work for it not only at a professional level, but a personal level as well.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Honestly, the first two people that come to mind are both of my 90 and 95 year grandmas. When you live a long life, you see a lot of things. You not only experience hopefully a life full of love and laughter, but you experience a fair amount of loss as well. They inspire me.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Not one thing in particular. Moreso, people in the industry expressing doubt towards our business model.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

My biggest setback to date has been losing my father unexpectedly in August of 2019. It rocks your entire world. I remember forcing myself to go back to work the Monday after he passed. He passed on August 15th, a Thursday. He was a mentor for me in business and in life, I felt a sense of comfort being back in the office. I did not get much done that first week back but I felt the need to rip the Band-Aid off and get back to some sort of “normalcy” and routine as soon as possible. The hope is that you bounce back stronger than ever. I work hard on this every single day. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve done, and it is a work in progress.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

I had a privileged childhood with loving parents, absolutely no complaints! I think if anything, it was my upbringing that taught me the value of hard work and in that, I found resilience. The desire to persevere, make decisions and stand behind them. See them through and find that sense of control over the outcomes in your life. Resilience is almost a form of consistency. No matter what, you get back on your two feet and stay focused on the end game. Life throws a lot of curveballs, and resilience allows you to deviate from the roadmap as needed without losing sight of the overall goal.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Take responsibility
  2. Solve your problems within 24 hours and move on
  3. Stop complaining
  4. Be honest with yourself
  5. Exercise! Build physical endurance. I truly believe it results in mental endurance as well.

You are 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. 🙂

Everyday is different! Today I would say, take time for yourself! The best way to do that is to get out of bed in the morning and move. Exercise. It’s the key to longevity and mental health!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Anyone in business and entrepreneurship! I think it’s a fascinating world, and every business is different, yet similar in many ways. I recently listened to ‘How I Build This’ with Danny Meyer of Shake Shack. Would love to pick his brain!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

@_argaux_


Arden Montgomery and Margaux Reaume of Argaux: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Daniel Ramsey of MyOutDesk: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

Finding the right talent. To build out your ‘Virtual Dream Team’, do not make the mistake in prioritizing a candidate’s skills & experience over their culture fit & talent. There are two things you cannot teach people and that’s culture fit and innate talent. So when recruiting, follow this order for criteria: culture fit, talent, skills, and lastly, experience. Now, what is culture fit when you are hiring? It is the type of candidate who would match well with your organization’s culture. They are the person who’ve always wanted because you know they can lead your company to newer opportunities — such as the person who has ever received this sort of response from you: “We’re not ready to hire yet, but as soon as we do, we want you.”

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Ramsey. Daniel is the founder & CEO of MyOutDesk, the highest-rated Virtual Assistant company in the marketplace with over 500 hundred 5-star reviews, and over 13 years of experience serving more than 6,000 clients.

Daniel founded MyOutDesk during the last global financial crisis of 2008 to help businesses leverage the remote workplace and scale businesses with virtual assistants. In 13 years with MyOutDesk, Daniel has helped over 6,000 clients scale their businesses and grow profitability. He’s had the opportunity to work many of the largest sales organizations, technology startups, insurance, real estate, and healthcare companies, and he’s willing share those lessons with you.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I had a natural love for business — I was a child serial entrepreneur selling candy bars around town. My experience learning the principles of business evolved over time into a lawn care business and a paper route. As I got older, I got restless. The harder I tried to find a path to financial freedom, the more dissatisfied I grew with my surroundings.

I launched a real estate company shortly after college. It was my first experience of a multimillion-dollar business, and it led me to innovate the 7-Figure Business Roadmap, which is now MyOutDesk’s unique, step-by-step process to build a 7-figure business. All the financial and global impact I’ve had can be traced to an inner hunger to be more financially successful than my parents, and to make a difference in the world. To simply matter.

After several years working in the real estate industry, I realized that most business leaders & entrepreneurs spend too much time doing tasks that are necessary but highly administrative, routine, and time consuming. Working overtime seemed necessary in order to finish all these tasks and keep in touch with clients and generate new business. While recovering from the global financial crisis, my brother introduced me (virtually) to Lily, who had been doing some work for him from the Philippines

And that’s how I founded MyOutDesk, in 2008, with a vision to provide businesses with indispensable leverage through our virtual assistants to aid professionals in regaining time and freedom, have the ability to grow their business, all while reducing costs.

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

It took two years to build my three companies to a point where I felt comfortable leaving them for a time and having them run without me. In 2011, I did just that. My wife and I moved to Peru for 6 months, and while we were there, the business continued to grow and make money for me from a distance. We rented an apartment there, got involved in our community, joined a gym, and learned Spanish for 4 hours a day. Have you ever wanted to immerse yourself in another culture, to live like the locals? We were able to travel to 5 different countries while experiencing everything South America has to offer, from the Inca Trail, to the vineyards of Mendoza in Argentina, to surfing in North Chile, while generating lots of cash.

We lived, earned money, and grew our net worth, all while using the remote work systems. For the first time in my career, I had leapfrogged my peers, who were back home stuck in the daily grind.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Mistakes…I define ‘mistakes’ under the category of experiences that are painful in the heart or in the wallet. So, I’ve made all kinds of funny mistakes! I guess a general pattern is that I’m not the guy that remembers every detail.

Once on my way to the movies with my wife, Whitney, I was on a call with a client, helping them with setting up a ‘blended business model’ (remote + physical teams). I was so focused on my client that, it was 20 minutes into the movie that I realized, “Wait a minute. I’ve already seen this movie.”

I’m so hyper-focused on my clients and on helping businesses to scale that I tend to miss minute details, such as even forgetting to eat lunch. I’ve learned, ultimately, to intentionally be present especially when making decisions.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Every professional can suffer from burnout during their career. Hiring a full-time virtual professional, at up to 70% less than the cost of a traditional employee, to assist in managing elements of your workload (and your team) can help relieve the stress that a hectic work schedule can cause.

To thrive, a considerable part of our businesses can be leveraged and assigned to other talented people. We can prepare ourselves for delegating roles by building systems and processes in place. Look at what you are currently doing, understand most important work that moves the needle, and document everything. This is key because it helps us lay out what we need to do next and what kind of talent to hire to balance needs.

Having someone there to help organize your schedule and deal with tasks frees up your work schedule to focus on more productive aspects of your business and also helps to avoid your work leaking into your personal life. A virtual professional can help you maintain a work-life balance that is crucial to optimizing your productivity and general well-being.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Back in 2007, I hired my first virtual assistant in the real estate space, and nobody else then even heard of a virtual assistant. My virtual assistant company’s origin story is set during the Global Financial Crisis of 2008. MyOutDesk was founded during this last major recession and has since been successful in helping other businesses scale with virtual assistants. So, it has been over 13 years of experience since I first managed a remote team.

In fact, Tim Ferriss’ bestselling book, “4-Hour Workweek,” wasn’t even out when I first started setting up my business. Ferris’ book explains the core value of leveraging remote teams & virtual assistants in business. When the book finally came out, MyOutDesk exploded because nobody else was providing quality virtual assistant services at a high level like we were.

We are one of the pioneers who built the virtual assistant industry, and it’s been a lot of fun to make mistakes and then fix it, and then repeat that cycle all over again. For us, it’s important to keep shifting and growing in order to provide the best remote work knowledge & value out there.

Our first client in 2008 went from five to seventeen VAs with a completely revamped organizational model in short order, and he told me, “your virtual professionals shaved $250,000 off our monthly overhead.”

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

It’s incredible how today’s digital age allows teams to work together in ways that were once unimaginable. Even with all the great tools & software out there, it takes leadership to foster a thriving remote team. Whether you will directly manage your virtual team or plan to train a team leader, this is what you need to know…

1) Finding the right talent

To build out your ‘Virtual Dream Team’, do not make the mistake in prioritizing a candidate’s skills & experience over their culture fit & talent. There are two things you cannot teach people and that’s culture fit and innate talent. So when recruiting, follow this order for criteria: culture fit, talent, skills, and lastly, experience.

Now, what is culture fit when you are hiring? It is the type of candidate who would match well with your organization’s culture. They are the person who’ve always wanted because you know they can lead your company to newer opportunities — such as the person who has ever received this sort of response from you: “We’re not ready to hire yet, but as soon as we do, we want you.”

2) Communication, communication, communication

I cannot stress this enough: good communication with your team is essential. To conduct and lead virtual meetings, first off, you have the appropriate platform to conduct your meetings. You want something that allows you to have group calls, video capability, chat, and document sharing. Ring Central or Zoom are some examples of enterprise systems that you could use.

Next, always set a daily meeting or a morning huddle. There are only a few times you can interact with your entire team, compared to impromptu interactions in a physical space. Regular huddles are short 10–15 minute calls where your team can give you a quick rundown of what they have going for the day and allow space to ask or answer any questions. You can set longer weekly meetings where you can discuss things in depth. Make sure that you use some of your time during meetings to get to know your team.

Outside from business as usual, find ways to build relationships with your team and let them know that you care about them personally as well as professionally.

3) Developing & enacting action plans

You have goals for your business, right? Well setting them can be easy but what matters most is that you develop action plans to meet them. Develop agendas and action plans for your team members so you all have a clear path towards hitting your marks. Make them specific, yet not too rigid. Striking the perfect balance will set you and your team up for sustainable success without burnout or other repercussions.

4) Setting expectations

Set clear expectations for your team is essential to achieving your goals. I love using quality metrics, such as key performance indicators (KPIs), weekly & monthly team scoreboards, and the SMART goals framework — they’re overall practical and measurable. All goals should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time Bound).

We love to track our productivity using project management systems and MyTimeIn, our all-in-one Remote Team Productivity Tracker. MyTimeIn is our in-house scheduling software that ensures your virtual assistants & remote workers are on-time and productive.

5) Fostering accountability

Leading a virtual team is not too different from leading any other team. It takes a strong leader not just a ‘boss’ — as John C. Maxwell once shared, “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”

Remote work productivity relies on strong individual autonomy to complete one’s work. Make sure that each member knows their respective responsibilities and that you fully understand them as well. Give them ownership of their role and reward them for a job well done. If they hit any roadblocks, give them the time and attention they need to help them surpass the obstacles. It’s a team effort to foster individual and team accountability. The goal is that each of your team members treats your business as their own and that they understand that when they win, you all win.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

I highly recommend that businesses craft a ‘virtual playbook’ for all remote teams. It’s a worthwhile time investment to create one of these as it benefits your business. What is a ‘virtual playbook’ exactly? It’s a step-by-step, documentation that outlines each of your processes and what to do when things go awry.

Avoid repetitive mistakes and avoid making unpleasant and counterproductive assumptions, like, “they should have known that” or “I’ve already taught you how to do that” — try the ‘Play, Pause, Do’ method. I’ve integrated this simple method into our remote culture.

‘Play, Pause, Do’ requires that every standard operating procedure in your “playbook” has a video associated with the written documentation for an employee to simply refer back to. The method allows an employee to go back to the documented procedures and be able to complete tasks as expected.

It’s a playful message. I even use ‘Play, Pause, Do’ to identify time to play, to pause for a moment, or to do sprints across various project cycles.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Visual communication is important in both physical and remote settings, but visual cues are communicated differently between the two settings.

To address any issue constructively, I like to let the team scoreboard do the talking. This is essentially a rubric to score for quality outcomes. The scoreboard is not a serious report card, but rather a discussion point. This gives a quality metric for each individual and the overall team to reflect on results and productivity. We identify any internal and external factors affecting both the good results and the lack of results, and then create a short-term game plan to address & resolve any issues.

This is where I like to ask the employee to refer to the ‘virtual playbook’ to fix any issues. If a new process has yet to be documented, I allow freedom for the team to agree on how to best document the new procedure.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

My first reaction is — do not address constructive feedback entirely over email. Email is tone deaf so even feedback that is well-intentioned will sound bad. The right approach is to meet face-to-face (yes, you can still meet face-to-face virtually).

Your message will create the greatest change and impact by visual communication. The human brain can retain visual communication easier than just text — 95% of messages are retained by using visuals, while only 10% is retained using text.

Email can be done after a face-to-face meeting and positive praise needs to balance out any constructive feedback. As a leader, maintaining team morale is more important than giving constructive criticism.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Of course. I’d love to share and be of help especially in these times. As a matter of fact, MyOutDesk has a free, 3-step Fast Guide to Working Remotely During a Health Crisis with checklists & additional resources.

Remember that change takes time. Allow an adjustment period for your team and repeat key messages regarding any changes intentionally and consistently. By doing so, you will get everyone on the same page.

Some other practical tips are:

  • Suspend nonessential employee travel.
  • Offer special training on a company remote work culture.
  • Urge employees to stay home when they are sick and maximize flexibility in sick leave benefits.
  • Do not require a doctor’s note for sick employees (healthcare offices may be very busy and unable to provide that documentation right away).

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

When working with a remote team, one of the most important things you can do is set up your company culture to resonate well to a remote setting. Apart from understanding that children & pets are now the new officemates, we have a handy 20-point article that describes how to optimally foster a remote culture.

Also, our Organizational Change Model is a great framework to bring change into effect and to breathe life into any organizational culture change or procedural change, like transitioning to remote work.

You are 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. 🙂

Thank you. I’m living that dream right now, and the dream is still growing! As I’m a big believer in the core values of MyOutDesk — “Family Table, Healthy Soil, and Servant Heart.” — I created a charity called the MOD Movement, where employees are empowered to carry our company values beyond the office so that they can make the furthest impact as possible.

Since 2013, MOD Movement is a give-back program where employees (remote or in office) can participate in a cause based on their own interests and preferences. Individuals can get involved by contributing money or their time. In practice, charity work helps boost employee morale and retention. It’s best to encourage employees

to identify a cause of their preference.

It’s been a blessing to see the movement grow. We served an orphanage since 2013, a senior home, a youth program, and now focusing our efforts on families affected by hardships in these times.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is by Zig Ziglar, “You don’t have to be great to start … but you have to start to be great.” If you have an idea, just do it! Everything I have been able to say that I’ve accomplished has come from a mere idea. It’s okay if you can’t take a large step because even a little momentum has the power to breathe your idea into life and to carry it through. Most people never start.

Thank you for these great insights!


Daniel Ramsey of MyOutDesk: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “Expanding Near-Field Communication” With Jason Alvarez-Cohen of Popl

Every country in the world is adjusting to a society that requires social distancing. Even with social distancing, people still need social interactions. Life will continue, friends will be made, business will get done, and people will connect.

It’s Popl’s mission to empower those interactions instantly without business cards, potential typos, or shaking hands.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Jason Alvarez-Cohen.

Jason is the Co-Founder and CEO of Popl, a cell phone accessory and app that allows users to instantly share their social media and contact information by simply touching their Popl to another phone. The 24-year-old entrepreneur launched the product on TikTok and in less than six months has grown the company to 100,000 users in 136+ countries with millions of followers across Instagram and TikTok. Jason’s background in software engineering, his social media skills and photo editing abilities, along with his tenacious work ethic, creative eye, and ability to code in many programming languages have been vital in helping Popl get off the ground so fast.

Growing up in Berkeley, CA with engineers as parents, Jason was naturally encouraged to go that route. With a passion for rooting and overclocking phones as a high schooler, he was excited about and drawn to the most challenging engineering path, Computer Science, during his time at the University of California Los Angeles. In his third year of college and prior to Popl, Jason developed an interest in social media, particularly Instagram. He combined his creative eye with his software engineering knowledge and created an Instagram growth company called Instarize that used Instagram’s APIs to interact with accounts in his demographic. Instarize grew fast and months later, Jason had built a clientele of 60 accounts using his growth script, even working with companies as big as Warner Music.

During his time at UCLA, Jason met Nick Eischens through their fraternity and they became fast friends and upon graduating, roommates. Jason worked at Boeing for 8 months as a software engineer until he learned about a new communication protocol between two smartphones at a party in Los Angeles. After weeks of research, he created a Popl prototype which he shared with Nick in their Brentwood apartment, and from there the company was born.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Jason! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I happen to be born into an engineering family. Both my parents (and now younger brother) are successful engineers and now work closely with UC Berkeley. My Mom is currently the Vice ProVost of Academic Planning at UC Berkeley, My Dad helped pioneer the SkyDeck startup accelerator and the Berkeley Startup Cluster.

Growing up, my parents encouraged me to follow in their footsteps. In middle school I would overclock my Android phones and tamper with unlocked iPhones. When I enrolled at UCLA as an undeclared engineer, it became clear that computer science was the path for me.

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

Launching Popl via a viral TikTok in early February. Our account had just started, I think we had like 300 followers. We woke up to a TikTok at 174k views, which is solid, but not really “TikTok viral”.

At 9am, the video exploded! At one point, we were hitting 10k views per minute. The video climbed to nearly 80M views, leading to Popls being sold in > 90 countries worldwide in just 2 months.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Popl is leveraging a relatively unknown and undervalued technology called Near-field communication (NFC), which is now standard and on by default in all modern iPhones and Androids.

Our goal here at Popl is to fundamentally change the way that people interact with each other and objects around them using this technology.

Popl is the contactless/touchless solution needed to replace the now outdated practices of shaking hands, exchanging business cards, or typing on a stranger’s phone.

We’re focused on integrating Popl into all parts of day to day life, creating contactless and efficient solutions that help people on a global scale.

How do you think this might change the world?

Popl is a global solution to a world problem in that it enables people to be social while remaining contactless and environmentally friendly.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

The potential “Black Mirror esque” drawback about NFC is the question of privacy.

“Couldn’t someone just tap your Popl when you aren’t looking and get all your social info?”

We are constantly adding security features to protect our users, including a feature being rolled out in the next couple of months that enables users to “lock” their profile. Current features include private profiles and only collecting usernames (no passwords), which are considered public info.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

I was introduced to NFC technology at a party in the Hollywood Hills! Someone used a NFC business card on my iPhone XS and it blew my mind. As a tech guy, I thought I knew everything about smartphones, but this was a first for me.

After that I became obsessed with NFC and exploring all potential capabilities and possible applications. After weeks of research, I realized the NFC business card was cool but not necessarily convenient.

The modern business card isn’t actually a card, it’s your phone.

User experience has always been a major priority for us at Popl. We want to reduce work for the user, not create it.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

This would have been a very different answer in January (pre-Covid). In January, the norm was accepted and creating new behaviors was an uphill task. After Feb/March, the world is completely focused on contactless solutions and Popl is just that.

We are relentless in making Popl so easy, seamless and ingrained in our daily life, that tapping phones to exchange info becomes the social norm.

Anyone involved with Popl (users, ambassadors, resellers, fans) is a member of our Popl Family, a concept we created and have stood by from the very start. We know without our amazing family, we’re just entrepreneurs with a dream. It’s the Popl Family that will lead to Popl changing the world.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

We consider ourselves to be one of the very first brands to launch on Tiktok! On February 12th, we had a video showcasing Popl Direct hit 10 million views, and this video is now sitting at almost 80 million views.

Our Tiktok now has 1.7M followers and we were verified a couple of weeks ago! Tiktok has been incredible for our growth and is a major reason we are already in 123+ countries around the world in less than 5 months.

Tiktok is amazing as it rewards great content as opposed to number of followers.

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

Yes, absolutely. I am very grateful for my co-founder Nick Eischens and our Chief Branding Officer, Jeremy Greenfield. Without these 2 by my side at such an early time in the company’s development, we would not be here right now.

I was lucky enough to have Nick as a roommate when I created the first NFC prototype. I showed it to him in our apartment one afternoon and he was all in from that moment on, ready to turn this secret idea into reality. Together we launched Rippl Co, our first iteration of Popl.

We were launching Rippl Co when Jeremy saw it on a mutual friend’s Instagram story. He reached out and I had my first call with him while on a lunch break at Boeing in El Segundo.

How did the call go? Well, Jeremy added more value to the company in just 30 minutes, than anyone I had ever met. He immediately suggested we change the name, the UI, and tighten up some features.

I knew this guy was special, so Nick and I recruited Jeremy to become our third partner and the rest is history.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

At Popl, our highest priority is to change the world for the better. Our product is currently eliminating the concept of a missed connection while creating a contactless solution for networking and sharing information.

We have partnered with Ecodrive to offset our carbon emissions from e-commerce shipments by planting a tree for every Popl sold. We are also rolling out Black Lives Matter themed Popls and will be donating all profits to BLM Los Angeles. We will continue to seek ways to help the world while also growing the Popl family.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • Don’t oversell! I learned this the hard way. In meetings, if you oversell yourself, it comes off as desperate and unprepared. Stay poised and calm and don’t be afraid of silence. We’ve had many meetings early on where my goal was to sell sell sell and my lack of experience showed.
  • Keep it simple when it comes to design. When Nick and I just started in late 2019 as Rippl, our first two colors were a blue and a red. Little did we know that a simple black and white are what the people want! Till this day, Popl Black continues to be the best seller by miles.
  • Let people finish speaking before jumping in. In our early calls, I had a tendency to just jump right in while someone was in the middle of a thought. A good practice is to mute yourself until they finish speaking. Being a good listening is highly valuable.
  • Starting a company with your best friend will affect your friendship in a major way. When Nick and I first started, we figured it would be so easy to work together as we were also best friends. Our close friendship is without a doubt a major advantage, but running a fast paced business while spending so many hours with each other can sometimes create tension. Nick and I have been good at keeping perspective on this, and at the end of the day we know we need a strong connection to keep this company going.
  • The hardest part of my job as CEO is not software, meetings, emails, marketing, product development, or anything else you would expect. It’s the people. People are emotional and sometimes irrational creatures. Keeping your team happy, motivated and on track is by far the hardest task of them all, but once this is mastered, anything is possible 📈

You are 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. 🙂

We love that Popl is a global product. Every country in the World is adjusting to a society that requires social distancing. Even with social distancing, people still need social interactions. Life will continue, friends will be made, business will get done, and people will connect.

It’s Popl’s mission to empower those interactions instantly without business cards, potential typos, or shaking hands.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“You have to temporarily live a life that most people won’t, to live a life that most people can’t”

This quote means a lot to me as I work long days nonstop building a company that I love. As a technical CEO, I usually don’t have time for software development during the day, so 8pm — 3am is my time to develop and continue innovating our platform. This quote reminds me that hard work always pay off.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Every country in the World is adjusting to a society that requires social distancing. Even with social distancing, people still need social interactions. Life will continue, friends will be made, business will get done, and people will connect.

It’s Popl’s mission to empower those interactions instantly without business cards, potential typos, or shaking hands.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Follow us on Tiktok and Instagram! Our handle is @popl.co for both 🙂

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future Is Now: “Expanding Near-Field Communication” With Jason Alvarez-Cohen of Popl was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With Allon Caidar of TVPage

Love, as an ambassador program. As kitschy as that may sound, that word embodies understanding and acceptance, which is what we lack in this world, more of which would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. If we could structure a unified program where we could promote and bring more love to the world, we have truly won, all of us, the entire human race.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allon Caidar, Co-founder & CEO of TVPage. She is a serial entrepreneur in the content distribution and media sectors. Allon is currently Co-founder & CEO of TVPage, a platform which enables sellers for ecommerce (sales associates and influencers), and activates seller storefronts on brand sites for shoppable content. Prior to TVPage, Allon was Co-founder & CEO of Opticomm, a Broadcast Video Systems Company (sold to Emcore, NASDAQ: EMKR). Customers at Opticomm included NBC, Sony, Viacom and ESPN.

Prior to Opticomm, Allon was VP at Hotbar, an Internet Media Start-up that reached over 20M users in <2 years and was successfully sold thereafter. Before Hotbar, Allon was a VC Attorney at Goldfarb, Seligman & Co., focusing on the Israeli high-tech sector. Allon has a Master of Laws (LL.M.) in Corporations from the NYU School of Law and a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from the Sussex University School of Law in Brighton, England. Allon holds a registered US patent for the system configuration of video networks.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After growing and selling an online ad company, and then a video systems company, I understood the power of video. I also detected 2 additional points. I realized that the digital ad industry is broken — in fact, while video is the most powerful ad medium online, the video pre-roll ad actually keeps you from watching the video you want to watch. In addition, I noticed that ecommerce was struggling to bring video effectively into the online store at any scale.

I therefore figured that if we could build tech to integrate video into an online product catalog and make video shoppable, and that if we could source the video from passionate experts, we could replace digital ads with a much more effective way to reach customers by empowering them with a better way to learn about products online.

There is another way to explain this. While the likes of Google, Facebook and other large digital advertising companies will sell you fish; we will teach you how to fish.

The world is tired of ads that simply try to “sell” you on something because of a pretty picture. Consumers today are smarter than that. They follow people, experts, not ads. As a brand today, you need to be empowered with the ability to manage an expert online sales team that can help consumers, not just shove a random message in front of them and hope that they click. We figured out how to expose this real truth about how broken ads really are, and how much they need to be a thing of the past.

We were fortunate to prove this with large retailers such as Macy’s, HSN, Autozone, and Bed Bath & Beyond, and are now bringing people-powered video to the online world, at scale.

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

I can’t think of one to share because there are just so many. There are so many people and moments I can recall that I found to have captured my interest, and guide me along the way. I think the more you are aware of this, and the more you believe in it, the more you notice it. There was a book I read many years ago called The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, which communicates a very interesting concept. I will share this concept as opposed to one specific experience because it embodies the many experiences I have had.

The concept is simple. If you work hard, focus on your goal, and never give up, despite the challenges, the universe will bring to you the people, experiences, and direction you need to achieve your goal. This is something I believe in tremendously and have seen happen to me time and time again throughout my journey; in fact more every day as we get closer to achieving our goals, myself as an individual, and our great team as a company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

Most of us on the management side at TVPage are in our 40s, or at least it started that way. I guess one of the funniest mistakes I made is that I really thought I knew how to work with millennials. I just didn’t. I learned that the evolution of our world over the last 10–20 years has created a very different generation and I realized that I had to learn how this new generation thinks if I was to ever be successful today.

I therefore made it a point to bridge this gap at our company and I must say that today we have found a nice balance, capturing the best from all generations. While there is a lot that the younger generation brings to the older generation, we all at TVPage agree that it definitely goes both ways. As kind of an internal joke, we name our tech after 80s movies and say that anyone who works at TVP at a minimum must be able to get to know these movies… I guess it’s both a joke about how old and nostalgic some of us are, yet at the same time helps bridge that gap in a humorous way.

We even put posters of these movies on the wall at the office 🙂

The end result is that both the Millenials and Gen X at the office can all laugh about these gaps and work together in a fun and relaxed environment. I think the biggest learning from this is that we are together bringing all of our knowledge and experience to the table in order to create the best product for today’s world, one that speaks to all consumers.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

The most exciting project we are working on is our ambassador network — something I believe helps people in a big way. With our app, anyone can work from home, from anywhere, and share their passions, hobbies, and interests. We live in a world where we have great products that serve great hobbies, whether it’s fishing, hiking, cycling, boating, yoga, a love for fashion, home decor, you name it.. To each of us there is something that just keeps us sane, healthy, busy, entertained, and alive!

We also live in a world where the digital stage is our forum, and we no longer need to leave our house in order to learn about these products and seek the experts that can share their knowledge. The TVPage ambassador network enables these passionate people to share their knowledge, and fill that void online for every brand to reach out to the consumer in the most authentic and engaging manner. This helps make these connections and most importantly, empower passionate people to become financially independent while doing what they love. In a world suffering from a pandemic where people have recently lost their jobs because stores have shut down and we are forced to be at home, this has become even more powerful.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Baby steps. The largest of goals require the biggest of visions. The hardest challenge for any visionary is to accept that you just can’t do everything overnight, and when you try, you are not only less productive, but you get frustrated and so does your team, which can lead to burn-out. Therefore, plan wisely and break everything up into digestible and achievable baby steps that will enable you and your team to feel successful and accomplished more frequently, and at the same time chip away at the broader goal all the time. You will also find that this approach is very much in line with agile methodologies that have proven to be more effective simply because the learnings from each baby step make the next baby step that much more on point.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Wow. There are several people, but I will mention the most important one, my father. My father always taught me to stay focused and invest everything into the one clear goal that you are focused on at the moment; not to spread yourself thin by trying to do many things at once. This advice has not only helped me in my career at every step along the way, but has also brought me the kind of satisfaction from my job that I remember my father also had every day that he got up and went to work.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to do this every day. For one, we are blessed by seeing the smiles that we put on every new ambassador’s face when they start generating sales and see their path to success simply from doing what they love. Secondarily, I believe that you can change the world every day just by creating a great, fun and productive work environment. When you are a part of making every person who works for you that much happier, you have, by definition, brought goodness to the world.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

I can share these with you directly from our customer base.

Macy’s— turning on an army of a sales team who share their style and are redefining the retailer<>customer relationship, evolving from the department store of yesterday to thousands of virtual storefronts on Macys.com. See https://www.macys.com/style-crew/sign-in, example Macy’s ambassador storefront: https://www.macys.com/style-crew/a/michelle-kunz/213313

We are powering this across all of retail, selling via people-powered video across automotive (Autozone, Advance Auto), electronics (Crutchfield, Verizon, Lenovo), home decor (Bed Bath & Beyond, Floor & Decor), and many other categories.

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. 🙂

Love, as an ambassador program. As kitschy as that may sound, that word embodies understanding and acceptance, which is what we lack in this world, more of which would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people. If we could structure a unified program where we could promote and bring more love to the world, we have truly won, all of us, the entire human race.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

While I have lots of ideas and thoughts to share, I must choose how I spend my time. There are only so many hours in the day. Outside of my day job, I focus my remaining time with my family. Therefore, you won’t find me posting too much on social media. You can, however, follow everything that we do at TVPage on www.tvpage.com and on all social channels.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With Allon Caidar of TVPage was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future is Now: “A Googling Mindset to Video” With Hank Frecon of Source Digital

I would love to focus on the problems of education in underprivileged societies. I wasn’t a big believer in education growing up, and I took my ability to have a solid education for granted. I still have issues with the lack of practical applications in education that are devoid in public schools and also many private schools. I think that we can make big changes if we stay focused on building educational foundations and awareness for the importance of things like managing our natural resources or the impact that a person may have on a global level at the smallest level in those societies.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Hank Frecon.

He is CEO and co-founder of Source Digital, pioneering the next generation of advertising and commerce technology. Source offers a revolutionary technology that is reinventing advertising by activating brands and commerce companies on content and publisher partners by integrating them into organic viewer engagement at any moment in the content. Frecon and his co-founders have been in stealth development of this game-changing tech for 7 years, which has already been awarded 7 patents with 6 more pending! Source Digital’s revolutionary approach is a new era in advertising, offering the first seamless, in-video consumer attribution and purchasing processes that continue to engage the end-user while delivering substantially increased revenue. Today, Frecon’s technology enables multi-billion dollar entities and small businesses alike to fully leverage sales funnels by introducing opportunities for product purchase at just the right moment in a user’s journey, completely agnostic to any device or screen.

Frecon’s extensive record of successful leadership includes a stable tenure of executing on building businesses and divisions for early-stage initiatives and carrying them to profitability and maturity. In one case, when entering the VPN Market, Frecon co-developed an innovative model for growth, quickly scaling the company from 200K to 24M per year in contract value within just eight months, making it the third-largest private network/VPN provider at the time between AT&T & Sprint. Subsequently, he contributed to the creation of one of the first end-to-end Video-on-Demand models for the consumer markets for companies such as Verizon Avenues, Accenture, and DiStream. Frecon also successfully drove the expansion of SAVVIS into new territories and ventures, including entering the Latin American market, along with defining and building SAVVIS’ Media & Entertainment vertical, including leading teams affiliated with various M&A activities. In addition, he has served as a strategic tech consultant to multinational media conglomerates like CBS Corp and Simon & Schuster.

Frecon then went on to lead business affairs for Agnostic Development Corporation, a Media & Entertainment software company focused on compression and distribution technologies for customers, along with its owned and operated companies. In concert with his for-profit initiatives, Frecon also successfully led digital support and technology contributions for the Sundance Film Festival’s short film program. Frecon then moved on to co-found RadiantGrid, a next-generation video compression technology company where he led business, finance, and operations in the role of Managing Director, accelerating the operation from zero to millions in profits within three years and subsequently exiting at a significant multiple over revenue. During his time at the company, RadiantGrid supported some of the largest M&E brands, including NBC Universal and NHL in the early days of pioneering digital video compression and distribution efforts to emerging VoD outlets and Owned & Operated web properties. His team also executed a multi-million dollar contract with PBS, coordinating a successful collaboration between the non-profit broadcasting network and the AMWA to develop a new industry standard for meta data. After the sale of the company to Wohler, Frecon stayed on for a few years to oversee the transition of the business into the Wohler global organization.

Outside the office, Frecon continues his family’s third-generation farming legacy at Frecon Cidery, one of Pennsylvania’s premier cideries he helped to establish in 2008. Frecon’s operation features 100% estate-grown apples from his father and master cultivator, Henry Frecon. In his spare time, he enjoys assisting with another of his start-up ventures — Boyertown-based nano-brewery The Other Farm Brewing Company — in addition to spending time with his wife and daughter, Sephie, and enjoying as much time as he can outdoors. Learn more about Hank Frecon and Source Digital’s innovative media marketing solutions at SourceDigital.net. Source Digital: Media’s New Currency.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As an Environmental Science and Geography Major at Slippery Rock University, technology was not really at the forefront of my initial career path. However, as a kid, I always liked tinkering and building things: radios, rocket ships, etc. In the late 90’s, I was getting ready to graduate from college and a few of my friends coaxed me down to Washington, D.C. to come work with them. “Silicone Alley” was emerging on the east coast and big internet companies and start-ups were the hot new thing. I moved down to D.C. and got into the internet at its early stages. I soon realized it was a premium that would one day become a commodity. I started thinking of building things that the internet would layer up and serve and realized that video would be one of those things. That’s pretty much where I got my start. I became very interested in video and audio communications over the internet. I started working in early stage endeavors at Savvis to expand their market share, particularly targeting video companies that wanted to exist on the internet. This was the early days, we were streaming, all pre-Netflix. At that point, I learned the value of tech start-ups and I began to develop skill sets in the business and engineering zones- all of the facets that you need to be a modern tech CEO in today’s landscape. I eventually took those skills and co-founded another company, which had a successful exit. I got a taste of what that could be like, enjoyed the process and here we are today at Source Digital.

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

The most interesting story for me would have been 9–1–1. I was in my 20’s and had taken an assignment that ended up being successful with a new product that we launched. With the advent of that product, we quickly became the number three VPN Provider. At that point, the executives asked me what I would like to do next. I asked them what their hardest problems were and they said that they had some issues with the Latin American and Caribbean market. I thought that sounded fun, so I headed to Brazil to interview a new country manager for the company. During the interview, the news was playing behind us in Portuguese. All of a sudden we started seeing the footage of what was happening in New York with the Twin Towers. After the second plane hit, the gentleman said, “Wow, that’s a crazy accident.” I said…”I don’t think that’s an accident. Why don’t we wrap it up for now. I have some things to figure out and get home.” I couldn’t get back to the States, but I was able to get to Peru, where my wife-to-be lived. Through that process, I was able to spend more time with her while I was in the country. I guess you could say that 9–1–1 was a catalyst to my later years with my wife.

Can you tell us about the “Bleeding edge” technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

Right off the bat, there are two types of people who need to be helped. If we value the qualitative aspects of the video industry that we have come to know and love, we must make sure that there is a healthy revenue plan that allows these video companies to compete in the internet generation. They have been left by the wayside and that is largely due to a shift. What the internet does well is create a rewards value for brands and marketers on real time audience engagement. From a video technology company’s point of view, their world was traditionally measured on success by simply getting views. Views aren’t good enough. Views have to be able to measure something and turn into measurement values. They have to turn into engagement understanding. That is where Source stepped up. We need to bring a social media, e-commerce, and a googling mindset to the video itself. This will add value to the consumer, who is already looking for these things. They’re already going to Google, they are already going to Amazon based on trends or things they see in the video. We wanted to make that be able to happen in real time. We wanted to make it measurable for the content owners who are spending huge dollars. If the world emerges where content is quantitative, because there is no revenue strategy to make it worthwhile to produce and be in existence, we will live in a very un-creative world.

The medium of video is arguably the most powerful communications medium and it’s survivability from the 1940’s and how it has evolved over time. Projections are that it will be 82% of the internet by next year and it will be 90% of 5G traffic by 2028. The medium of video is not going away. It is just a method that we have to embrace, create quality standards and make sure the revenue stays up for it.

On a consumer side, consumers need a democratic landscape. They don’t need one monopoly being their product journey. They don’t need just one place or destination for their interests. When a monopoly exists, it’s not god for anyone. It restricts the ability for the consumer to have relationships with their brands, it forces them to pass through gateways where likes and favorites are being measured around brands, where they can’t have an understanding of what is organic and unto themselves, where they have to be told/taught by whomever is cool or hip. That creates a flat universe. What Source does is monetizing in-video and creating contextual relationships with the viewer through storytelling. This intersects the moment in their life where something is of value. Finding that relationship with the brand is a very important journey.

How do you think this might change the world?

I think changing the world is fairly straightforward. I am not going to say that the environment is going to fully recover because of Source, I’m not going to say that we will no longer have a divided country because of Source. I will say that from a technology perspective and a consumerism perspective, people can look at this medium of video that is so important in their lives and find a whole new relationship to it that they have been coveting for a while. It is not just about buying something in the moment, it’s about tagging that moment and sharing that moment. I think about my sister’s experiences in her Costume Design career, when she brought to my attention people reaching out to her to get information about the clothes she was putting on the screen in Hollywood. A story that resonated with me was an oncologist who reached out to her and wanted to buy one of Sookie’s pink hoodies from a particular episode of “True Blood”. The oncologist was not looking for herself. She was looking for one of her young patients who was a huge fan of the show. She wanted her patient to have the exact sweatshirt that Sookie wore. It is that kind of experiential relationship that we want to bring to consumers. We can put them in direct contact with the passions and inspirations that they get from the video.

Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?

There are risks with any new technology. We have to watch trends and we have to look at the pros and cons associated with this new technology. No one would have imagined that a preying on our narcissistic desires to be rewarded would lead to one of the greatest advertising mediums in modern history. At the same time, dealing with audience relationships in real time can also be on the public side of good things. You are giving people instant access to countless amounts of information. In a post Covid-19 landscape, it is very important for companies to have brand-safe relationships with the consumer and it is important for consumers to have a trusted relationship with their entertainment and their brands. These worlds are closely intersected. The positive is that we don’t have to have intermediaries for the viewers and their relationship with their content owners. We don’t have to have intermediaries with their brands and the products they love. Source is showcasing “I am watching something that I think is really great and now I want to learn more. I want to acquire something in the video or find out where they are in that movie and I want to go there.” I would much more equate Source to a public good, like Google than I would to some of the social media platforms and their value to or lack of value to humanity. If I think of what could go wrong, I think about user data and privacy/protection. We are excited about the new standards that are happening in protection and with user privacy, like the GDPR in Europe and legislation in the US. When people say that they don’t want to do Covid testing because of “big brother” tracing and I don’t want big brother monitoring me. I think…”Have you thought about that smart phone that you carry in your pocket?” There was a pixel installed and the minute you logged into your Facebook account, the advertisers were finding out your interests and able to talk to you right now. You may not want those ads, but you don’t have a choice. That is a problem. If anything, Source Digital is part of the next generation of consumer and internet engagement relationships. We are giving consumers more of that relationship and securing that relationship between them, their brands and their entertainment value proposition.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

There was and it was my sister, who is also a Co-Founder of Source. What I realized through her work is that viewers want real time engagement with their content. I also think about our journey to move the standard of video. When I say “our” I am referring to people like myself and the boutique companies in this space. You can find us by looking at The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) or the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC). We operate in a world where we have a certain set of knowledge, we speak a certain language, we have an underlying knowledge of the underlying architecture of video and the internet. When we moved video into the format of being internet capable, we forgot about something important. We forgot about the human relationship. When we think about things that make anything that was invented on the internet valuable to a brand or a content owner it is because they can help to measure the audience in real time. In regard to video, we retro-fit it where the most advanced things we originally thought about were subtitle information. We thought it would be cool to have multiple languages or a great way to overload the viewer with movie options or recommendations based on your viewing history. The reality is that the internet is much more dynamic than that. Through my sister’s work, I noticed the oncologist’s quest to help her patient or on “Mad Men” when the show was at its peak and Banana Republic created a Mad Men inspired clothing line. Culture is currency and video is a huge essence of what we do in culture. There are probably very few fashion designers who would have forecasted the comeback of a skinny tie, but Mad Men pioneered that. That makes you think about the impact of a video on our lives. The medium itself that we created where we move from the pre-internet days to the internet days, we originally forgot about those value propositions. We had that breakthrough with Source. People care about moments, they care about information in real time and we need to make that available to them.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

We need to get the world of publishers to realize that they still have the power. They still have the relationship with their user. Let’s think about machine learning and AI. When you start to create a monopolized infrastructure based on machine learning and AI, you start to have a non-democratic method method for how consumer relationships should be understood or should be groomed. Grooming consumer relationships is happening right now. Anybody who is fighting for existence in the world today, whether it is a brand, a publisher or a content owner is dis-serviced by these monopolies. Let’s say that I have developed great new content and I am very creative with a brilliant creative team. I put all of this energy into breaking new boundaries and creating good content. Then machine learning happens and I can only publish that content in some dystopian world where only three people let me publish that journey. I have to think about what happens when machine learning starts to take my ideas and intellectual capital. I have been intermediated so the only winner is that monopoly who controls my audience and controls the relationship with my viewer that originally found me because of what I created.

Now let’s put that to a brand. You are a brand that is trying to develop a relationship with a consumer, get your product understood, get it heard. What happens when you put all of your energy into these social landscapes and machine learning controls the relationship to the consumer. It is not in their best interest for you to get the business. It is in their best interest to make sure that they can re-groom your audience to find brands like yours. You lose because you worked really hard as that inventor to create your products and develop your brand and put that identity on your product that made it valuable in the first place.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Our technology is so easy that we can send potential clients one of their own posted YouTube videos with our tech integrated. It proves how quickly and simply we can roll out, and that we don’t need any actual video files or permissions to get it done.

We have been focused on working to do a good job by delivering solid, efficient experiences for clients and picking up traffic organically. That has been the focus. We have recently partnered with a fantastic PR and Marketing Team as well.

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

In my journey, I have constantly strived to learn, listen and evolve. My dad is a huge influence. He is always driving at something and never gives up. No matter how tough a situation happens to be, he sticks it out and stays focused on achieving a goal. My grandfather was another big influence. He taught me resiliency, pivoting, business dynamics, always seeing the glass half full in any equation and how to create a business opportunity out of that situation. My Grandfather grew up during the great depression, penniless. He built every single cent of wealth himself with two very successful businesses, both with our family farm as well as in real estate.

Professionally, I always remember Jack Finlayson, the President of Savvis. Jack was no nonsense and never got caught up in company politics. He always stayed focused on the goal. Through him, I learned a key trait. I asked him how he kept track of all of the tasks needed to be done in a day. He answered, “In my life, there are two types of things to worry about. Things that I need to know and things that I have to take action on.” It is those two types of things that drive my success.” Darcy Lorincz taught me how to deal with remote strategies and workforces. He taught me how to build companies for big visions. Those are some of my greatest mentors. There are many others, such as Rob McCormick, the CEO of Savvis. Rob taught me engineering, executing on vision, how important tech is to a vision. The lessons I learned from all of these people taught me how to solve complicated issues and learn from difficult events. The biggest lesson that I learned is that when you are starting a mid-growth company, one thing to always focus on is how to be able to work yourself out of a job. You have to be agile enough to go into any other area and be able to solve problems and move up the chain. You need to teach and figure out how to get somebody else to be able to execute the job. That will free you up to grow and build the next thing.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I try to bring my expertise into areas and organizations that may not have the money or resources that I may have. For example, I volunteered to work with the economic revitalization initiatives in the small town where I grew up. The program was called Building a Better Boyertown (BBB). I ran the economic revitalization program, then took over operations and eventually became the Vice President of the program. That was a great way for me to contribute to a local community development. In building this program, we started a town festival called Pickfest to help support the small businesses in the area. The other thing that we recognized was that the town needed a Brewery. Nobody else stepped up to do it, so we did it. We built a fun music venue and brew pub in the center of town that is thriving today.

I also have interest in my family business, Frecon Farms. I began working with nonprofits and became the President and Founder of the PA Cider Guild which represents small craft cideries and helps to get them into the mainstream markets. Wherever there is an underdog and I can help the situation thrive with knowhow, I try to step up and take action.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

1). If I had understood the value of engineering, physics, the sciences and their practical applications in life, I would have paid a lot more attention to these subjects in school.

2) People are complex. Managing human dynamics in a company is not something you can look at and just solve quickly. You have to consider the long range dynamics in company culture.

3) Being bootstrapped and building a company on that methodology is great. However, it is very hard to scale in today’s tech environment. It is important to have the right amount of capital to create a proportionate reward for the amount of time you have to execute. The goal of the company is very important.

4) Make sure that you have a strong operating partner in whatever you do.

5) Make sure that you always have a clear conversation with your spouse and children and set the expectation for the lack of time that you ultimately have while you are on these building exercises. Make sure that they are ok with it and understanding of it.

You are 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. 🙂

I would love to focus on the problems of education in underprivileged societies. I wasn’t a big believer in education growing up, and I took my ability to have a solid education for granted. I still have issues with the lack of practical applications in education that are devoid in public schools and also many private schools. I think that we can make big changes if we stay focused on building educational foundations and awareness for the importance of things like managing our natural resources or the impact that a person may have on a global level at the smallest level in those societies. We need educators to teach that just because a parents/grandparent or lack thereof might have had an issue of not being educated, you don’t have to carry that burden and you can succeed. I think we can be a much better world if we went upstream and instead of trying to solve stop gap problems, start asking the question: How do we get back to the source where the issue started? We need to start putting energy at the source of the problem.

For the more educated areas, I would love to focus on making everyone purchase food from less than 250 miles away and within an annual cycle. If people started thinking about their food supply and caring about it at a local level, they would better understand the waste and pollution that is happening on a daily basis. If people had to actually think about their local food supply, they would see the world differently.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Hank, you don’t always get to do what you want to do in life. Sometimes you are going to have to learn to like what you do. “ — that is a quote from my Dad. At first it sounds like a hard knocks quote, but it is actually a Zen quote. If you can find joy in every aspect and learn from every part of your life, it makes the difficult and unpleasant things you have to do something that you can enjoy and appreciate.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Video is the #1 consumed media format in the world — the most dominant form of outward messaging our society has ever encountered in modern history. The internet made that so, but the commercial usage of video is exactly as it has been for 80 years. You start a video, you see an ad, then the content. Maybe there’s a commercial break in the middle. Watching a video on Hulu is essentially the same experience as watching it on a TV set in 1965. It got left behind and can not compete like all other things can compete on the internet today. It can not manage its audience in real time. It needs a solution to make it interactive. We need to bring it to the forefront of a public good, just like Google is when you look for information or Amazon when you are looking for a product. Video is the best vehicle to reach out and connect with the viewer. Traditionally this has been a one-way communication. Source Digital will come in and optimize that video to make it interactive in a way that lets it compete against social media giants in all facets. It allows brands and retailers seeking monetization to measure audience behavior at a level that currently only exists on social media or search engine strategies.

How can our readers follow you on social media? We are a “blank label” service provider, and we don’t market directly to consumers. We also believe that our video solutions help brands beat the social media monetization challenge. Therefore, we mostly rely on LinkedIn to keep up with our partners, and we help them utilize their social media in a bigger way.

Source Digital Linked In: Source Digital https://www.linkedin.com/company/sourcedigital

Source Digital Twitter: @SourceSync_io

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


The Future is Now: “A Googling Mindset to Video” With Hank Frecon of Source Digital was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Walkable & Bikeable Communities” With Alan Loomis of…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Walkable & Bikeable Communities” With Alan Loomis of PlaceWorks

Share knowledge freely — your influence is expanded when you share what you know. Mentor and elevate the people you work with — you’re only as good as your team, and your first job as a team leader is to make your team members successful.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Alan Loomis.

Alan Loomis is an urban designer, planner and educator practicing in the Los Angeles area.

Presently, Alan is a Principal of Urban Design with the California planning firm PlaceWorks based in the company’s downtown LA office.

From 2017 to 2020 Alan was the City Urban Designer for Santa Monica, California, where he worked with City divisions and departments, outside agencies, the general public, and local interest and community groups to provide a cohesive and comprehensive approach to urban design. In this role, he was the City’s lead for Promenade 3.0, a comprehensive redesign of the iconic Third Street Promenade.

Before Santa Monica, Alan led the urban design program for the City of Glendale for twelve years, starting in 2005 as the City’s first on-staff urban designer. Alan was responsible for bringing the Downtown Specific Plan (DSP) and Mobility Study to adoption, and personally managing the design review for over 20 new downtown projects, representing over 3,000 new residences. He also worked on projects for the Disney/Dreamworks creative campus and in the Tropico District surrounding Glendale’s Metrolink/Amtrak station, working with some of the most prolific and prominent architects and developers in the region during regular, often weekly, design sessions. Following the DSP, Alan directed a wide range of urban design based policy projects, such as the Maryland Off Broadway Art & Entertainment District, the Small Lot Subdivision Ordinance, the Community Plan program and the Space 134 Freeway Cap Park, leading multi-disciplinary teams through an equally wide range of public outreach programs.

Prior to his tenure in the public sector, Alan was an urban designer for the Pasadena firm Moule & Polyzoides Architects and Urbanists, where he directed planning projects for various cities and colleges in California, New Mexico and New Jersey.

Alan is a frequent speaker and tour guide on urbanism in Los Angeles, and has served on interview panels to select new planners, urban designers and architects for the Cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Monica, and Santa Ana, among others. He has sat on juries for planning award programs and the City of Los Angeles “LA Lights the Way” streetlight design competition, and created the DeliriousLA listing of Los Angeles area architecture and urban design events, now hosted and curated by the Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It starts with Godzilla. As a young child, I had a plastic toy Godzilla that I liked to play with, and that meant I was also building mini cities out of Legos, cardboard boxes, and toy cars for Godzilla to smash. As my model buildings and bridges became more elaborate, someone suggested I might grow up to be an architect. That idea stuck, and I eventually studied architecture in college and graduate school. But I went to college in Detroit in the mid-90s, when the city was essentially at the bottom of a long disinvestment cycle brought on by de-industrialization. So Detroit prompted me to start thinking about the future of cities. As the prototype of decentralized auto-oriented urban sprawl, Los Angeles attracted me for graduate school, where I saw an ideal laboratory to model possible futures for the American city I saw evolving after living in Detroit. After a number of years in architecture school and firms, I began focusing on urban design projects. Eventually I decided that I wanted to implement the urban plans I helped write as a consultant, so I joined the City of Glendale, California as their first on-staff urban designer. What I thought would be a five-year diversion in the public sector turned into a 15-year career in local government, working intimately with the community of Glendale, and then later Santa Monica. While it was incredibly rewarding, because working in City Hall allows a deep dive into how cities are made, it is ultimately a narrow stream. Returning to the consultant world by joining PlaceWorks opened the opportunity to swim in wider rivers and apply my experience in a more impactful way by working with more communities in California.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

When I first joined Glendale, I was tasked with writing the City’s Downtown Plan in partnership with Hassan Haghani, who was then deputy director of planning. I presumed that while I would focus on the technical details, Hassan would manage the politics of projects. A few months after I joined the City, on the night we launched an advisory committee made up of downtown developers, business leaders, past and present commissioners and mayors, and some of the city’s most notorious gadflies, Hassan informed me he was taking a leave of absence to battle cancer. He then asked me why I looked like a deer caught in headlights — he had more confidence in my ability to handle the political nature of the job than I did. About a year later, shortly before Hassan beat off cancer and returned to work, we adopted the Downtown Plan. That success, and Hassan’s belief in me, helped build my reputation in Glendale, and he proved to be one of the most significant influences in my career. Sadly, Hassan passed away in 2018, but I hope that I honor his life by following the leadership and example he demonstrated as a boss, mentor and friend.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

I’ve usually made career choices based on three questions: Where can my experience and knowledge have the biggest impact or influence? What set of problems or issues looks like the most fun to engage? And finally, who are the people I will be working with — are they hard-working, honest, and generous? I’ve been fortunate in that each time I’ve entertained a significant career choice, I’ve found a positive answer to each question.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

Walkable and bikeable communities. I realize this isn’t terribly sexy after urban planners spent the past decade talking about e-scooters, self-driving cars, micro-electric grids, so-called smart cities filled with sensors of all kinds, and all types of other high-tech solutions to urban issues. But the problem with all those ideas is they require yet another highly centralized infrastructure system to scale up and deliver the positive impact the technology promises. Walking and biking are decidedly low-tech solutions accessible to almost everyone right now, and bring your focus back to the local community — your neighbors, the businesses in your neighborhood, the art and culture in your backyard. In most cities in America, we’ve privileged the private vehicle in the allocation of public space to such an extent that many people don’t realize this is a deliberate, designed choice in how we build cities. I believe we need to change that design paradigm to make walking and biking not only the preferred, but also the safe, choice for getting around.

How do you think this will change the world?

As the pandemic shutdown cities around the world, we saw the immediate climate benefits of reducing our addiction to fossil fuel transportation as pollution has decreased and air quality has increased globally. Since transportation forms the bulk of our carbon emissions, we need to sustain this trend and do even more if we are serious about addressing climate change. Reducing our reliance on private cars while increasing cycling and walking as a mobility choice will be a significant element of this effort. I also think there could be a long-term economic and social benefit in slowing down and shifting our attention back to our local communities. Too many places have been left behind or even abandoned in our rush to drive to the next town. Globalization and ever-larger companies have really ravaged the economic base of many smaller communities, and I’m in favor of any strategy that helps build local economies, wealth, and culture.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

I can’t think of any drawback to more people walking and biking in their communities. The individual health benefits are clear, and it is far easier to connect socially with your neighbors when you are not in a car. We know that the communities most resilient to economic shocks or natural disasters are the ones with the strongest social connections amongst residents, not necessarily the wealthiest cities. Those social connections can also build a more robust and nuanced political discourse than what we experience in the national media or our social media feeds. Furthermore, a strong social network is probably a necessary step in expanding investment within the community and growing local economies.

I suppose you might argue I’m promoting a “Bedford Falls” view of city life, colored with a Capra-esque tint of nostalgia and the potential for local provincialism. Perhaps — but I think the impacts of a national and global trade have been so broadly felt that it’s hard to see a significant downside in letting the pendulum swing in favor of the local.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

I’ve always held the belief, based on the data demonstrating the benefits of walkable and bikeable cities, that we needed to spend more effort on this front. But the impacts of the pandemic’s “stay-at-home” orders have really illustrated the need to make our cities safer for pedestrians and cyclists. We’ve seen cities around the world creatively retrofit the focus of their streets from cars to people. It’s certainly been an inspiring expression of human ingenuity in the face of dire economics and health circumstances.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Sadly, a global pandemic seems to have been the trigger to jump start a widespread appreciation of walking and biking in our cities. But like so many other trends, I think the pandemic in fact accelerated a movement already underway. So how can we translate the types of ad-hoc infrastructure cities built in the past few months to support walking and biking into a long-term change in our streets? The challenge will be to resist the urge to go back to business-as-usual when the pandemic subsides. Hopefully the tangible example of slow streets, “streateries,” bikeways, and the other recent innovations illustrates a desirable future for urban residents, who will demand such things become permanent features.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. If you don’t know exactly what you are doing yet, draw with a fat marker.” A great saying, especially appropriate for designers, and especially appropriate in the computer age, when everything wants to be extra precise at the beginning. Broad brushstrokes are usually the best way to get started. “Do a brain dump” is another way to capture this idea, appropriate when faced with writer’s block. As a youth, the fear of making a mistake can often lead to paralysis, when in fact learning from and correcting the mistake is the best way to move forward.
  2. “It’s all about the relationships.” A slightly different way of saying “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know,” except with the more focused emphasis on how well you know the person, and implying that it is not enough to simply know someone; you need to put effort into that knowing.
  3. “What you resist will persist.” One of Hassan Haghani’s many aphorisms — trying to push a problem away almost certainly means it won’t go away.
  4. “I’m speaking to the door so the window can hear.” Another of Hassan’s sayings, this time translated from Farsi, his native language. On many occasions, while speaking directly to one person, Hassan’s message was really meant for someone else who was also in the room. Once he shared this phrase with me, I always payed attention to his conversations with other people. I wonder how many indirect messages I missed from other mentors and bosses before I learned this saying.
  5. “The pace of change has never been faster than it is today — and it will never be slower than it is today.” I don’t know who first said this, but I’ve heard it repeated often. When I was younger, I certainly didn’t appreciate how frequently I would need to adapt to new circumstances.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Share knowledge freely — your influence is expanded when you share what you know. Mentor and elevate the people you work with — you’re only as good as your team, and your first job as a team leader is to make your team members successful.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Invest in local communities. Study upon study shows that dollars spent in local businesses stay within the community, whereas money spent in national chains mostly leaves and is invested elsewhere. There is an almost endless supply of small communities hungry for economic investment. The pandemic and the housing affordability crisis has illustrated the danger of over-concentrating wealth and jobs in a few dominant cities as the economy has sputtered and we’ve seen income disparities made painfully evident. A smart strategy to diversify investments in businesses across a range of local communities could potentially have huge rewards both economically and socially.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

PlaceWorks is online at www.placeworks.com, and I’m on Twitter @alanloomis and Instagram @deliriousla. My portfolio of work and writing is online at www.deliriousla.com.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Walkable & Bikeable Communities” With Alan Loomis of… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “AR that gives children the perspective of real-life situations that are easily…

The Future Is Now: “AR that gives children the perspective of real-life situations that are easily understandable” with Kiddopia’s Anshu & Anupam Dhanuka

Technology has become completely ingrained in our everyday lives, but as beneficial as the digital world can be, many people think that we have become too dependent on it. Many kids are shielded from using technology, because parents tend to have negative feelings about giving their kids too much screen time, especially at an early age.

Through Kiddopia, we are trying to break the stigma, and give parents peace of mind by conveying that screen time can be healthy if it is used to keep children engaged and learning through a platform that will help them grow and develop. We have intentionally created Kiddopia to be a safe, diverse and educational platform that fosters growth and creativity. We’re living in a modern world that relies heavily on video content and passive consumption of digital media, and while we’re able to consume more information than ever before, this tends to create impatience within children and a shorter attention span if they’re not actively engaged in screen time.

As part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anshu Dhanuka & Anupam Dhanuka, co-founders of Kiddopia.

Anupam Dhanuka is the Co-Founder & CEO of Kiddopia USA Inc. He is primarily responsible for the general management and operations of the company and leads the engineering team. Anupam and his wife Anshu Dhanuka became strategic business partners and launched Kiddopia as a start-up venture in July 2017, with a goal of creating a world class “edutainment” apps for preschool kids that is both educational and engaging. Kiddopia has since become an award-winning app, COPPA Certified by kidSAFE, consistently ranks amongst the Top 5 Kids’ Apps in the US according to the Apple App Store and has over two million active users across the globe. Anupam is a passionate tech entrepreneur with in-depth expertise in mobile apps and games. Prior to launching Kiddopia, Anupam received his Master’s Degree in Computer Engineering from the esteemed Carnegie Mellon University. He has over 15 years of experience leading technology teams and has held positions at Morgan Stanley and Dolby Laboratories Inc. Aside from being an entrepreneur, Anupam is a father of a young child, enjoys running and has completed several half-marathons.

Anshu Dhanuka is the Co-Founder & Chief Product Officer of Kiddopia USA Inc. She is responsible for managing Kiddopia’s Game Concept and Design, Graphics, Animation and Marketing Strategy. Dhanuka has strong design skills and provides creative direction to the Kiddopia team. Anshu and her husband Anupam Dhanuka became strategic business partners and launched Kiddopia as a start-up venture in July 2017, with a goal of creating a world class “edutainment” apps for preschool kids that is both educational and engaging. Kiddopia has since become an award-winning app, COPPA Certified by kidSAFE, consistently ranks amongst the Top 5 Kids’ Apps in the US according to the Apple App Store and has over two million active users across the globe. Anshu received her M.A. degree in Finance from Nottingham University Business School. Along with her design skills and immense knowledge of the kid’s digital space, Dhanuka brings in first-hand experience of being a mother of a young child. Through Kiddopia, her mission is to make screen time valuable and safe in the lives of kids at a time when digital media consumption is inevitable.

Thank you so much for participating in our series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

The iPad came out the same year our daughter celebrated her first birthday and we realized right away that touch screen devices have great potential for early childhood education. We wanted to create games that our daughter would enjoy and grow from and incorporate things she was interested in and loved doing in “real life,” whether it was feeding animals at a petting zoo or decorating a cake. From there, our company Paper Boat Apps was born. We realize there’s a difference between games that simply entertain and those that actually teach and help kids develop. To that end, we’ve created our subscription-based app, Kiddopia, to be the best of both worlds and is tailored to kids between the ages of one and seven years old. Anupam’s background in engineering combined with Anshu being a tech savvy mother with a passion for gaming, made for the perfect combination for creating an experience for kids and parents alike to enjoy together through Kiddopia.

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

We took a huge risk in rolling out Kiddopia, and although we were confident in its capabilities after undergoing numerous rounds of testing and spending countless hours to perfect the app, launching a new product can be extremely stressful. As parents ourselves, we were very optimistic about the app, and because it is essentially a collection of all of our past games together in one application, we implemented the features that were effective and eliminated the ones that were not, in order to create the final product. Almost immediately after Kiddopia launched, we were met with an overwhelming amount of support and positive feedback from our audience who had been searching for an app that gave them a reason to feel good about giving their children access to screen time. In general, we didn’t expect the kind of subscriber conversions, retention metrics and positive reviews from our user base. It was a turning point for us and since then we solely and fully focused on Kiddopia opposed to the other initiatives/games that we had in the works. Our vision for the app has come full circle, as parents continue to use Kiddopia as a tool to help their children learn and grow during a crucial time in their development. Kiddopia has resonated with kids worldwide in over 150 different countries and we hope to continue to help parents connect with their children in new and innovative ways as the app continues to evolve. As parents and business owners, we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to make an impact on the lives of young children and humbled by the amount of success we’ve experienced so far on this journey.

Can you tell us about the cutting-edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on with Kiddopia? How do you think this app will help people?

We’ve created an Augmented Reality feature in the Kiddopia app that gives children the perspective of real-life situations that are easily understandable, engaging and visual. The goal is to allow children to explore the virtual world that lives within Kiddopia and see that the features within the app can be translated to the real world.

In addition to Augmented Reality, Kiddopia’s educational games cater to the learning track of each child and their individual needs. Every activity is mapped out, and the narrated questions within the game adapt to their skill levels so children are exposed to the content appropriate to them. The app also has a progress tracking feature that monitors the child’s progress easily with Kiddopia generated reports so that parents can see how their child is performing and targets growth areas they may need assistance with. Education is an individual and personal matter, and we have worked to make sure that each parent can track and understand their child’s unique talents and growth pace.

Our goal is to bring positivity to the lives of children and introduce them to technology early on, in a way that is healthy and facilitates growth, through the integrated technology that Kiddopia uses. We intentionally created this app to be interactive and nurturing in a way that instills positivity and empathy, both traits which we believe can help change the world.

How do you think Kiddopia might change the world?

Technology has become completely ingrained in our everyday lives, but as beneficial as the digital world can be, many people think that we have become too dependent on it. Many kids are shielded from using technology, because parents tend to have negative feelings about giving their kids too much screen time, especially at an early age.

Through Kiddopia, we are trying to break the stigma, and give parents peace of mind by conveying that screen time can be healthy if it is used to keep children engaged and learning through a platform that will help them grow and develop. We have intentionally created Kiddopia to be a safe, diverse and educational platform that fosters growth and creativity.

We’re living in a modern world that relies heavily on video content and passive consumption of digital media, and while we’re able to consume more information than ever before, this tends to create impatience within children and a shorter attention span if they’re not actively engaged in screen time. Since Kiddopia launched, we have developed a rapport with our young users and their families, because we create content that engages them in a productive way and allows them to see results as they watch their children learn to grow through the app. These games give children the tools to develop important characteristics, such as empathy, positivity and problem-solving which are very important qualities, especially in the real world.

Keeping the concept of “Black Mirror” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this sort of technology that people should think more deeply about?

Any form of technology that captivates our attention, even for short periods of time, has the potential to get the user hooked or addicted — it’s become human nature in a digital age and it remains true that “too much of a good thing can turn into a bad thing”. This is why technology use should always be balanced and have its limits, especially when it comes to young children. This is something we have been conscious of while developing Kiddopia and have created tools like screen time controls to help parents limit the use of app according to their individual requirements and parental discretion. It’s extremely safe and privacy-conscious which has become very important in the digital world when it comes to sharing data.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough behind the creation of Kiddopia? Can you tell us that story?

We were building different kids’ games a number of years before Kiddopia came to fruition, and it became challenging to market each app separately. We saw a need from parents who were searching for a comprehensive, one-stop solution to keep their kids engaged in a number of ways, when nothing like this had previously existed. So when the subscription model was launched by the app platforms, we took this as a huge opportunity to collate all our existing kids apps and package them into one app and give the parents the option to use the app as a holistic tool to grow with their children for the long term during the early childhood development years.

What would you need in order to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Since Kiddopia is a digital platform, users need to have access to a smart phone or tablet, so making these tools more easily accessible and affordable, specifically to children in underserved countries, is the key to widespread adoption. Digital payment methods through credit and debit cards are essential for our subscription-based model, and because these payment methods are not fully adopted in developing countries, it is challenging to reach users in these areas. Kiddopia users are represented by over 150 countries around the world, and our goal is to continue to build awareness while finding ways to make Kiddopia accessible to all.

What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?

Showcasing testimonials from real users has been a very successful medium in communicating that Kiddopia is an effective platform that works. Even Chrissy Teigen is a fan of Kiddopia and uses it frequently with her own kids (and we’re grateful that she and her family have become loyal users ☺.

When parents and teachers first begin using Kiddopia with their children, we encourage them to document the story of their learning journey while providing honest feedback, starting on day one. Through their initial testimonials, many users have expressed concerns about limiting screen time and create awareness around the pitfalls of passive video consumption for kids. However, during their journey with Kiddopia, they organically share their kids learning with Kiddopia and sharing their real-life experiences which is very impactful. We’ve seen the positive effects of showcasing real parents and their children who are going through this journey in real time and that creates a true sense of confidence and trust among new and existing users of Kiddopia.

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

We will forever be grateful for our daughter Naavya who is now ten years old. She is the reason and inspiration behind Kiddopia and why we decided to begin this journey and create content for kids. She was not only our beta tester but also our biggest critic. As a child herself, there are times when she has given us some very insightful feedback and once we incorporated those changes, we found that our games were much more engaging and effective. We are fortunate that she has given us a direct and honest perspective that is similar to our users and has helped us to grow our vision.

In Kiddopia’s early development phase, we were hitting a wall and not reaching the anticipated results in terms of engagement, particularly with our Math activities. Even in the real world, it can be a challenge to get children to grasp onto Math, so we needed to re-strategize. After testing out this section with Naavya, she told us that she didn’t believe other kids would play the game unless they were rewarded in some way. Using her valuable insight, we created an incentivized component to the Math section in our next update and sure enough, we saw a 50% increase in session time. The update really spiked the engagement numbers and the whole experience of this learning section, and we had our daughter to thank for that. While we always intend to do what’s best for our children, sometimes we forget to truly listen to them, and when we do, we remember that they’re teaching us as much as we are teaching them.

How have you used your success to bring goodness or positivity to the world?

Education is key, and we believe all children should have access to a reaching their full potential for a bright future, regardless of their circumstances. This is something we are very passionate about, as both parents and entrepreneurs, and we are doing everything in our power to use the platform we’ve built with Kiddopia to make a difference in the lives of our users and beyond. Recently, we have begun to initiate conversations with schools in developing regions and NGOs about the ways we can provide children in these communities with access to tablets, in order to encourage digital learning through Kiddopia and other educational mediums.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Invest in your brand by investing in talented people, regardless of the cost. Hiring those who share your vision and future goals is essential to your success, because a supportive team with a strategic mindset is the foundation of any company.
  2. Implement previously vetted software and/or service providers with a proven track record that fits your needs to streamline and smoothen your operations instead of spending the time and resources to create your own.
  3. Let the market and your customers guide you. When it comes to app creation, you should always plan to first put out a very basic version and see how your audience responds to it before adding all of the bells and whistles. You should always walk before you run in order to avoid setbacks after it’s live — accept and embrace the fact that your app will constantly evolve in order to keep up with your customers’ needs.
  4. Delegate in order to maximize productivity and results. Trust in your team — you don’t have to take on each and every task yourself.
  5. Harness the power of networking. If you are very hands on with the day-to-day execution, it can be challenging to find the time to network with those in your eco-system. Networking is just as important as your operations, so make sure you’re dedicating the time and effort to taking advantage of the networking opportunities that add value to your business.

You are both people 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!

In an ideal world, we would love for Kiddopia to inspire change in the education system, especially for the underprivileged, by providing resources for children in the early development phase. When children are not given the proper attention and tools to learn at their individual pace and ability, there is a risk of falling through the cracks of the education system. We also hope that Kiddopia inspires social change and acceptance at a young age. Our app encourages diversity, gender parity and inclusivity across all facets and learning tools, and our goal is to educate and create a sense of empathy and acceptance that can be translated into reality. The world is going through some very difficult times at the moment, and we hope that parents will continue to use Kiddopia as a platform to instill values in our children that lead them to become the best version of themselves and drive positive change for generations to come.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

We truly believe that one of the best lessons to live by is to “keep moving forward,” in every aspect of life. We have always felt that by setting clear goals and doing everything in your power to pursue them, regardless of adversity, you will eventually reach the finish line — personally and professionally. For us, it felt like the universe was constantly throwing challenges our way on the road to creating Kiddopia and we had to continuously find ways to adapt and evolve — but we kept pushing forward and learned a lot through the process. Many app developers or companies that creates product will need to go through numerous rounds of revisions and pivots. This is just the nature of the business, so it’s crucial to be agile and nimble in your approach, listen to the market, and adapt until you find a solution that works.

It’s a bit of a David vs. Goliath story. After Kiddopia launched, we began to see some companies with deeper pockets drawing inspiration from the app and replicating some of our games. But while we found this very frustrating, we didn’t get discouraged. Clearly, we were doing something right because we were capturing the attention of those with greater resources and bandwidth. This actually motivated us to channel our energies into evolving our platforms and reaching a wider audience.

“Keep Moving Forward” was a phrase that also helped us through some financial obstacles, right around the same time. We were running Google Ads on our earlier apps when suddenly, we were notified that Google would no longer pay us to run ads, citing some policy changes. At that time, ad monetisation formed a big chunk of our revenue share, so we had to find a way to pivot immediately and keep our revenues on track in order to avoid financial setbacks. Our team decided that the best course of action was to shift to a subscription-based model which ultimately lead to the formation of Kiddopia. Through these challenges, we were able to find solutions that best served our customers and business as a whole, all while continuing to stay the course and working to grow as a company along with the support of family, friends and colleagues.

Some very well-known Venture Capitalists read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Our ultimate goal is for Kiddopia to play a positive role in the childhood development of each and every child across the globe. We hope to instill passion for learning by providing access to a fun and educational platform, regardless of a child’s background, socioeconomic status and ability. We want to provide a platform that expands the mind and fosters creativity for children at an early age, so that they are positioned for success later in life. We believe that technology is the future, but more importantly, so are our children.

How can our readers follow you on social media?


The Future Is Now: “AR that gives children the perspective of real-life situations that are easily… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With John Orr of Ceridian

Stay focused on putting the customer and employee at the center of everything you do. Be pragmatic and understand your customers’ business as well as your own. At the end of the day it comes down to your own personal brand, trusting relationships and earned credibility.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing John Orr.

John is the senior vice president of retail strategy and execution at Global HCM company Ceridian. John has a track record of fixing poor performing operations and formulating successful go-to-market strategies.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

As is the case with many professionals, my career path was not a straight line — it was rather crooked. With my undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering/Airway Science, I always loved analysis and technology. However, after being in it for five years, I wanted more out of my career and a better fit for my personality. I have always thought of myself to be good at many things, but then realized my strengths lied in bridging business with technology to deliver value. So, while working full time I enrolled in a full-time night school to earn my masters degree in marketing and decision science. Soon after, I was recruited by a startup in the human capital management (HCM) space and put my skills to work bringing several HCM solutions to market over the next 28 years. I like taking strategic consulting and that higher purpose approach to software to help organizations achieve great value. Being able to bridge the tech with the business — knowing I am making a difference to my retail customers and their people — is hugely important and rewarding.

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

After a year on the road building a production forecasting system for QSR companies, the founder pulled me in his office and asked me to bring our new “Ooie gooie” product to market — Visual Labor Management. I had never developed, I am not a coder, and I had never data modeled in my life, but I decided to give it a try. I ended up creating ERDs and DFDs and data dictionaries and such on the weekends — I became a shade tree data base adminstrator and worked directly with developers using draft documents and pictures on paper to bring it up (very old school!).

It turned out to be the leading system on the market in the mid-to-late 90s and I was able to deliver many innovative first-to-market systems, including a couple I will mention: 1) The first comprehensive WFM solution that delivered budgeting, executive dashboards, advanced scheduling methods, time & attendance, first PitCrew certification with Peoplesoft, and the first fully integrated employee self-service offering on the market — it was a game changer for us, me, and the industry, and 2) That product is now the foundational WFM design used at JDA and Red Prairie today.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

Oh gosh yes, I was traveling and checked into my hotel. I had a meeting with an executive (my boss’s boss) and was to meet in the lobby at 6 pm. I was concerned because I don’t like to be late and was a bit nervous anyway. After waiting 15 minutes and giving her a call, I found out we were both in the lobby, but at different Marriott hotels. The lesson here is to make sure you know the address of the hotel, not just the name. A simple yet important thing to double check, every time.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Yes indeed, I like to be the best. We cannot just be good enough — which drives continued innovation. We are scaling Ceridian globally, while continuing to drive quantifiable value in our networks and with the people and businesses we serve — so very exciting times for us. Dayforce Wallet, our industry-first on-demand pay solution, gives users the ability to draw upon their earnings in real-time. Because we designed our solution the way we did, it enables us to do unique things that our customers and their employees find very valuable.

Whether continued advancements in mobile self-service, On-Demand-Pay, harmonized HCM solutions, and serving the front-line while also providing executive power tools for better visibility and profitability, I love to hear and see the adoption rate, the positive scores and feedback from their employees, and to know we are making a difference with our customers.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

I’d recommend these tips:

Stay focused on putting the customer and employee at the center of everything you do.

Be pragmatic and understand your customers’ business as well as your own.

At the end of the day it comes down to your own personal brand, trusting relationships and earned credibility.

It’s to not be satisfied with politics and protocol, but to always do what’s right as if your own personal integrity is on the line — because it is. The people you deal with will understand that and know it.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I recently sent messages to some teachers I had that helped me grow in work and confidence:

One teacher allowed me to do independent study in math during high school — which showed me she cared and invested in my own interest and growth and — most importantly — that I could do it.

A few teachers and role models showed me tough love and pushed me beyond what I thought I could do. They showed me that working hard despite the grade was hugely important — never give up, hard work pays off, and there are not any short cuts that matter in the long run.

In my HCM career, executives who saw the value I offered and my capabilities and feeding that has continued to be a huge differentiator for me — it’s the difference between having a job or having a career.

Oddly enough, the same person who saw talent in me, who asked me to bring a new product to market, was the same person who joined me to launch what has now become Dayforce, 15 years later. He is extremely bright and taught me so many things. One story he used to tell me, he called it “dishwasher Bob” — essentially, despite the chaos, despite the politics, and despite the anxieties and distractions out there, hard work pays off. While all the distractions and people will come and go, you must remain focused on achieving results and success — just keep washing the dishes and everything else will work itself out.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I have always had a soft soul and think about many things seen and unseen.

When I travel and it begins to weigh on me, I think about the people I can touch and help; whether the person left at the gate in a wheelchair that might want some water/coffee or anything, or the janitor picking up other peoples’ trash, or the situationally unaware people stepping all over someone who can’t stick up for themselves — I approach them and help them and tip them — to see the smile on the janitor’s face when I walked up to thank her for her work and what she does and gave her $40; to help the old vet who lost his phone and is meeting a someone he cannot call find it in his bag, that brings joy to my heart.

Another example is what is happening in South Africa. While the RAND continues to rise, the economy is sluggish in growth, unemployment is extremely high, graduation rates in high school extremely low, poverty is systemic, and no hope for better days nor faith that they will come. In working with Retail Orphan Initiative, I partnered with others to host the trip and install a computer lab with HP and Intel at Ithemba in Jeffry’s Bay. The program has grown to include the Global Leadership Academy — for a journey with these children from pre-K to graduating high school — amazing people and amazing to be a part of.

Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Examples of how retail companies will adjust over the next five years include:

  • Tangible dimensions of service quality will remain high and visible
  • Harmonized revenue models took on a new meaning and will persist in GTM strategy
  • The customer journey will continue to be agile and flexible
  • The shift in wealth from small to large and from specialty to essential will continue to reset to pre-COVID levels seen in 2019, by 2022
  • Employee wellness and engagement will remain meaningful and take on new forms

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. 🙂

To retain the empathy and genuine interest in others as individuals. To continue to strive to stop profiling and remove putting people in buckets or groups as if we all think monolithically just because we are of a particular race, gender, sex, religion, etc. If each of us could make someone smile on a daily basis — what a change we could make.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://twitter.com/john_orr

www.linkedin.com/in/john-orr-80b5592


The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With John Orr of Ceridian was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With Matthew Pavich of Revionics

I believe that bringing goodness to the world is how success should be measured. If you’re not making the world better with what you do, then what you do is probably not all that important. What really matters is that you bring goodness to the world.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Matthew Pavich.

Matthew Pavich, Managing Director of Global Strategic Consulting for Revionics, develops data-informed, industry-leading pricing strategies, processes, analytics and organizational fluency to help retailers meet the challenges of today’s increasingly dynamic and competitive landscape. As a leader in pricing and business strategy development, Matt has 20+ years of experience in retail encompassing consulting, buying, pricing, and marketing across a variety of retail verticals, industries and regions.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My parents owned a convenience store growing up, so I spent a lot of time at my parent’s business understanding how to manage a store’s operations at a very young age. Since then, I’ve been blessed to experience the full spectrum of retail, from stocking shelves at a grocery store to working as a manager at a small retailer to holding positions in management and making headquarter-based decisions. I believe that if you never worked a boxcutter opening cases in retail, you won’t truly understand things like why certain products have a high percentage of damaged items. A lot of the things I learned regarding what happens operationally and functionally in a retail environment today is a result of the firsthand experience I had working these jobs.

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

My career has taken me down a lot of unique places. If I had to choose one interesting story, it would be when I was doing an executive development program for one of my previous employers. I was sent with a team to participate in a rock-climbing adventure in the Black Forest (Schwarzwald). It was an exercise designed to teach us teamwork, how to trust our co-workers and build us to be great leaders. It’s here that I found out I was acrophobic — when I climbed to the top of a hill, I was afraid to repel back down. It took me quite some time, and I had to learn to trust my team to guide me. It’s a great example of the importance of trusting and relying on your team to be successful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I made a lot of funny mistakes during my early career, but one story that wasn’t necessarily funny, but stands out to me as a bad business mistake, is when I was a manager at a retail gourmet bakery. My goal was to improve and streamline productivity, and one of the ways I achieved this was by reducing inventory and ordering fewer products. It was driving strong results, and I was happy with the decision. Well, come Christmas Eve, it turned out I took cutting inventory too far and we ran out of bread before we closed. Of course, Christmas is one of the biggest holidays for bakeries and it’s not a good time to run out of bread. Nonetheless, it was an informative experience early in my retail career that helped me understand the balance of cost reduction and inventory management, and how to make sure I always have the right number of products available for my customers. This lesson served me well as a merchant later on as I made sure our shelves were always stocked while still focusing on growing margins.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

Our team at Revionics is always coming up with innovative ways to solve retail challenges. We have quite a few in the hopper right now, which you can learn on our website or by contacting us. In a nutshell, I spend a large percentage of my day working with retailers to find solutions to their pricing, promotion and markdown challenges. We play with some of the most exciting technologies that are really making an impact on businesses across segments, such as AI, and it’s rewarding to work with our customers to achieve their high-priority business goals by improving the accuracy and agility of their pricing. It’s exciting to be in a space and working for a company where we get to answer these key challenges on a daily basis.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

My recommendation is to always make time to unplug. As somebody who, prior to COVID-19, traveled and worked remotely from home, I’ve learned how important is to know when to shut down and truly define the times when I am working and when I’m logged off. That way, I can fully focus when I am available.

If you’re constantly staring at a computer, you’ll get Zoom fatigue and wear out. To combat this, it’s important to take breaks and exercise. While some days your schedule might not allow a full-on workout, there’s always an opportunity to take a quick break in the day to stretch your legs or go on a walk, taking care of both your body and mind.

I’ll also say while you’re not working, it’s nice to be creative and do things that are stimulating to the brain. That way, you keep your mind churning on something. For me, it means working on my improv, which works well with consulting because it helps keep me on my toes and practice answering things quickly. It’s a creative outlet that’s fun and engaging. By focusing on creative endeavors, you can thrive both professionally and personally.

None of us can achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My wife has always been a great support for me. When you have children and also live a life full of travel, it means everything to have a supportive person by my side who has her own fantastic career and who I can rely on to get things done when I need to focus on my work.

Outside of family, my first manager at Revionics, Sue Dale, was a great mentor who has consistently demonstrated the leadership qualities I admire most. It’s largely due to her guidance that I am in the position I am in today.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I believe that bringing goodness to the world is how success should be measured. If you’re not making the world better with what you do, then what you do is probably not all that important. What really matters is that you bring goodness to the world.

One of the nice things about what we do here at Revionics is that on an everyday basis, we’re creating solutions that are both customer and retailer focused. We’re identifying the items that are most important for your average customers and we’re recommending ways to bring these key item prices down so that families can buy what they need. At the same time, we’re also helping retailers manage profit without hurting those key consumers. Especially in today’s post-COVID world, being able to stretch a dollar is important. Using analytics and best practices to make this come true is powerful for society.

What brings me the most personal satisfaction is to see how the work I’ve done as a consultant is helping others be better at their job and elevate their careers so they can be better and in turn, be in a position where they can then help somebody else. I like being able to help others in their career and see them pass it on.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  1. Growth in eCommerce: COVID-19 has accelerated the growth of eCommerce and forced a lot of retailers to reconsider how important it is. Now, we’re looking at retailers who didn’t have a large eCommerce platform before trying to figure out how to grow their online channel. As this channel expands, they need to consider additional things, including how to price competitively and how to be price transparent. Additionally, there will be an increase in potential competitors as new retailers who are primarily focused on eCommerce for a specific category enter the market, creating a challenging landscape.
  2. Shift in operational models: Because of all that’s going on this year, a lot of retailers are learning about ways to be more operationally efficient. For example, retailers who haven’t thought about working from home might want to reconsider that now that we’re in a post-COVID environment. Even going past that, how retailers set up the stores and interfaces will also change. Basic things like tap-and-pay, which the U.S. has always been behind in, will become more important as people are more afraid to touch pin pads. Retailers might also make the bold move to restructure operational formats, like the way aisles are spaced for safety, in case something else happens again. By preparing now, retailers won’t have to redo everything five years from now if another outbreak occurs and may even find that they save money as a result.
  3. Change in guard of who’s shopping: Over the past 10 years, there’s been a dichotomy regarding millennials versus boomers and how retailers can target millennials to buy their products. But in the next five years, we’ll see a shift in the narrative with some emerging focus on Gen Z. With this change, we’ll see a difference in how retailers reach customers, the type of products they put out and a change in social responsibility to cater to the younger generations’ preferences. The retailers who get in front of this trend and better understand their customers will be more successful moving forward.
  4. Rise in AI and analytics: If we think about the last five years of retail, the amount of technological sophistication and the ability to be more dynamic in pricing and make decisions quickly has moved exponentially faster. The approach of retailers shopping their competitor’s website once every month to match their pricing will no longer be good enough. They will need to process and execute against other retailers much faster. What may work today from a technological and speed perspective will similarly need to be upgraded.
  5. Move in management: The consumer base is becoming more diverse, but while retailers will always have a larger percentage of sales going to women, their management personnel are not reflective of this. To drive change, we’ll see more women in charge and holding higher levels of management at top retail companies. This is a direction that will be good for the industry and something we can expect in the next five years.

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. 🙂

Personally, I think there’s a lot of movements out there to choose from. One of the simpler messages to get across is that simple respect and kindness can go a long way, especially as people advance in their careers and interact with a lot of different people in the retail industry and beyond. I believe that having common decency and treating everyone the same as they would treat their CEO, working collaboratively at all levels to drive great results, is valuable and can really help you find your way in the retail world.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewpavich/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With Matthew Pavich of Revionics was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Advanced artificial limbs that merge man and machine” With…

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Advanced artificial limbs that merge man and machine” With Easton LaChappelle of Unlimited Tomorrow

Curiosity is a tool. I constantly surround myself with challenges and opportunities to learn. Find the thing that sparks curiosity to the extent that you can’t stop learning or solving the problem. This speaks to surrounding yourself with your passions. I found an opportunity where I can simultaneously push technology to the max, create new forms of technology, and directly impact someone’s life.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Easton LaChappelle the Founder and CEO of Unlimited Tomorrow in Rhinebeck, NY. He has spent the last six years creating cutting-edge prosthetic technology, innovative delivery mechanisms, and business models to create a scalable and affordable solution for all of those in need. By using new technologies such as 3D printing, 3D scanning, and AI, Unlimited Tomorrow creates a product that’s better, faster, and more affordable than anything on the market. The company has raised over $6 million dollars and has partnerships including Microsoft, HP, Arrow Electronics, and many others. Unlimited Tomorrow’s philosophy is to keep the user first and to create life-changing technology at an affordable price.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was the kid who took apart everything growing up. I loved to tinker and explore how things worked. Robotics always fascinated me, but seemed to require so much knowledge that I wouldn’t know where to start. Luckily, when I was 14 years old I had the idea to create a robotic hand for a science fair. This was the project that sparked my passion for robotics and turning ideas into reality. Every year, I would make a bigger, better robotic hand/arm that replicated the human anatomy. I purchased my first 3D printer for my 16th birthday from a Kickstarter project, and it changed the way I thought about creating. At the 2013 State Science Fair, when I was 17, I met a small girl who was born without her arm and was wearing a prosthesis. After seeing what she could do with it and talking to her parents, I found out her simple claw prosthesis had cost $80,000, and that she would soon outgrow it. This was such an impactful moment — it changed the way I looked at technology. Since that day, I’ve been on a mission to create advanced, affordable prosthetic devices for the world. Now, Unlimited Tomorrow headquarters is situated in Rhinebeck, NY with access to an educated workforce and business support programs, New York City’s tech scene, the Northeast’s biomedical circle and the business-friendly culture in Dutchess County.

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

The story that comes to mind is showing my invention to President Obama during the 2013 White House Science Fair. For context, I grew up in Mancos, Colorado, which has a population of around 1,500. My high school had a graduating class of 23 kids. I never thought I would be invited to the White House, let alone see my invention shake hands with the President. This experience made me realize that what I was doing could be much bigger than making something cool in my bedroom.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Curiosity is a tool. I constantly surround myself with challenges and opportunities to learn. Find the thing that sparks curiosity to the extent that you can’t stop learning or solving the problem. This speaks to surrounding yourself with your passions. I found an opportunity where I can simultaneously push technology to the max, create new forms of technology, and directly impact someone’s life.

You never know if you don’t ask. This is so simple, but it’s what triggered some of our biggest partnerships, learnings, opportunities, connections, and much more.

Ok. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

We live in a world where 40,000,000 people have a limb difference or have lost a limb. 2,000,000 of those live in the United States. Imagine missing a limb, where the simplest of tasks such as walking, caring for yourself, caring for others, finding work, working, and psychological issues become an everyday challenge. By creating a solution purely based around the global and person challenges, we can start solving these challenges. This takes completely rethinking technology, creation processes, business models, distribution, and leveraging relationships and partnerships. Technology that is scalable, functional, affordable, and accessible is what is needed to make an impact on the 40,000,000 people worldwide.

How do you think this will change the world?

Functional and accessible prosthetic devices have an opportunity to help people around the world in many ways. It could be as simple as giving a child confidence when going to school to allowing someone to find and retain a job and care for their family.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

We are creating advanced artificial limbs that merge man and machine. What comes to mind is the topic around transhumanism and enhancing our bodies beyond the biological tools we were given.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

My tipping is the same moment that put me on my career path — meeting that 7-year-old girl at the science fair. My science fair project, which was a full 3D printed robotic arm, was more advanced than the $80,000 device this girl had. This was my “aha” moment. Since that day, I’ve been motivated to not only create technology, but create the infrastructure and model to help everyone who is missing a limb worldwide.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

Most people can’t afford a new prosthetic device at $30,000 — $80,000. Children are especially in need of this technology, but due to their growth rate they need a new device every 12–14 months. Our technology is extremely functional due to advanced muscle sensors and individual finger motion. Each device is created to match the person’s exact size and skin tone. Historically, you’ve had to choose between functionality and aesthetics. The model of receiving our technology is completely remote and digital. A 3D scanner is sent directly to the person, a 3D scan is taken of their residual limb, and an incredible amount of data is captured in the process. After this, their device is generated, 3D printed, assembled, and sent directly to them. We are able to create this product for a price of $7,995 and are working to make it even more affordable. All of this leads to adoption and change.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

The team is just as important as the idea. I started as a solopreneur, and then became an entrepreneur. You can have the best idea in the world, but if you don’t have the right team and experts, this idea might fail.

Hire for tomorrow, not today. It’s easy to find staff for your immediate needs, but you need to hire for the long term.

You can’t do everything yourself. The power of relationship, partnership, and team is incredibly important. If you go into your business or project thinking you don’t need anyone else, you will compromise the results.

Have fun. So simple, but it’s a must. If you or your team isn’t having fun, you need to change that as soon as possible.

Constantly exercise the muscle of future thinking. This is a tough one, but the more you plan and visualize the future, the more likely it will happen. I am constantly doing that for my business, team, resources, and technology in general.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Work life balance.

Visualize the future.

Never stop learning and collecting feedback.

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are very few opportunities to invest in a company that is pushing technology to the max with such a direct and meaningful impact on someone’s life. Unlimited Tomorrow is in the business of augmenting the human body and using technology to empower people. We embody that in every facet of our business. We like to say we are a business powered by people, for the people. Our goal is to democratize healthcare and create infrastructure to help people around the world. Currently, we’ve secured partnerships with HP, Microsoft, FedEx, Arrow, and many others to offset the resources needed to take on such a bold mission.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

https://www.facebook.com/unlimitedtomorrow/

https://twitter.com/UnlimitedTmro

https://www.instagram.com/unlimitedtomorrow/

https://www.youtube.com/unlimitedtomorrowinc

https://www.linkedin.com/company/10184613/admin/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Advanced artificial limbs that merge man and machine” With… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Kelly Roach: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

You cannot develop resilience if you never try anything. If there is no risk of failure, there is no possibility of developing resilience.

Work on your speed. It is okay to feel all the feelings after you fall but make it a goal to get quicker and picking yourself up and moving forward.

Get intentional about building resilience. If you are not focused on building this character trait, you will not. So, focus on it purposefully.

Surround yourself with other people taking risks and doing big things. Normalizing resilience only comes from surrounding yourself with resilient people who will inspire you.

Celebrate when you have shown resilience!

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Roach.

Business strategist Kelly Roach transforms overworked entrepreneurs into seven-figure CEOs, by teaching them how to leverage timeless business principles, employed by billion-dollar corporations, with the speed and agility of the most powerful online marketing strategies of today. Prior to starting her own company, Kelly spent years in corporate America, rising through the ranks of a Fortune 500 to become the youngest VP in the company. Kelly is not only a best-selling author but is also an ongoing television business expert.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

Growing up just above the poverty line, in a family of 5, I decided early on that things would be different for me and my children. I worked hard growing up, scrubbing toilets to pay for dance lessons, and working multiple jobs in college. After graduation, I got an entry level job in sales, for a Fortune 500 company. In eight years, I was promoted seven times to become the youngest VP in the company. I led my team through the recession of 08’-10’, without letting a single person go. In fact, we had record breaking sales that year. As I was climbing the corporate ladder, I realized that I was making millions of dollars, working 60+ hours a week, for OTHER people. When I thought about what I wanted in terms of lifestyle, that was not it. So, I started my business on the side, while continuing to work my corporate job, and built that company for two years before quitting. I relied on lots of hard work, my sales skills, and an unstoppable mindset to help me build what is now a multimillion-dollar business coaching company with over 500 clients, across the globe.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

So, this technically happened just before I started my career, but was a defining moment for me. At the time, I was a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader, and the year I joined, instead of doing their traditional swimsuit calendar, they decided to do a lingerie shoot instead. I knew that I wanted to build a career in business and that this shoot could do long-term damage to my career, so opted-out. The consequence? Missing out on an incredible trip to a tropical location, and all kinds of media and opportunities that came from the shoot (for the other girls). While I did not know exactly what my future career would look like, I knew that this was not a smart long-term play for me. That decision shaped how I made decisions for the rest of my career. I was able to handle the consequences and am now so thankful I made that choice, way back when!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think the thing that makes my company stand out is that we are obsessed with getting out clients’ results. A lot of coaches in the online space are more concerned with making things easier for themselves. Our company is willing to go above and beyond to make sure our clients have what they need for absolute success. We are not willing to let go of human interaction for the sake of ease and automation. We are there for our clients and constantly improving the program so they will never need to go anywhere else.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

My first mentor in the Fortune 500 world challenged me beyond belief. He was the toughest coach and hardest “boss” you could ever imagine. He saw the potential in me before I saw it in myself and pushed me to be my absolute best. He was the first person to encourage me to think big and begin to chart my own path to greatness. Many others who had the same opportunity to coach with him mistook the high bar he set for them as “unreasonable” and “too tough”, For me, he was a catalyst for achieving my highest potential and for that I will forever be grateful.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is the ability to pick yourself back up when you fall. It is bouncing back and moving forward after failure. Resilient people are the ones willing to take risks, willing to put themselves out there, willing to fall and scrape their knees, then get right back up again and try again. Resilient people are persistent, focused, and unstoppable.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think of all the business owners who just experienced the pandemic and economic crisis who have had to pivot and get creative. It is exciting for me to see the innovation and tenacity as they adapt to thrive in a changing economy.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

When I started out in my Fortune 500 career, there were several HUGE players in my area that the sales team in my company had gone after for years before I got there. I made it my goal to land those companies from day one, but a manager of mine told me to forget about it. People had been trying to sign those big dogs for years with no luck. So, I worked even harder to prove him wrong. Within a year, I had signed every single one of them.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

Early on in my business I had to learn this entirely new online world. I had been incredibly successful in my career. I was smart, capable, and knew how to sell. I worked insanely hard. But, when I did my very first webinar to launch my first offer, it fell flat. I did not make a single sale. Now, looking back, I know that I did not have the audience or authority to make that work. But that taught me that even when you work incredibly hard for something, there are no guarantees it will work. I did not let that stop me though. Even though I had poured so much into that first attempt to no avail, I kept going. There were plenty of other failure after that, but today my company is near the 8-figure mark and we have created a launch strategy that works not only for us, but for our clients and followers as well.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

Growing up my family did not have a lot of money. I learned early on that if I wanted anything in life, I was going to have to get scrappy and work for it. So, I did. I cleaned the dance studio to pay for dance lessons. I went to a local college because it was inexpensive. I walked into a Philadelphia Eagles cheer tryout as a college freshman and made the team. I developed an enormous amount of grit and went after everything I wanted, because if I did not, it just was not going to happen for me.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. You cannot develop resilience if you never try anything. If there is no risk of failure, there is no possibility of developing resilience.
  2. Work on your speed. It is okay to feel all the feelings after you fall but make it a goal to get quicker and picking yourself up and moving forward.
  3. Get intentional about building resilience. If you are not focused on building this character trait, you will not. So, focus on it purposefully.
  4. Surround yourself with other people taking risks and doing big things. Normalizing resilience only comes from surrounding yourself with resilient people who will inspire you.
  5. Celebrate when you have shown resilience!

You are 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. 🙂

I would love to see more entrepreneurs leveraging their earnings to give back. Last year I moved my coaching company to a 1:1 giving model. For every new client we add to one of our coaching programs, we donate to the foundation I started, that has three core focuses for philanthropy. I believe that if people are equipped to find financial freedom for themselves, that they can leverage that freedom to make a huge impact on the world. So, as I coach entrepreneurs, my hope is that more of them will adopt this model and leave a legacy that goes far beyond making lots of money.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

Oprah Winfrey is the most fascinating businessperson that is ever lived. There’s been almost no unpacking of how she became what she is. This is something that should be studied for generations because clearly, she has an understanding of business building and brand, and authenticity, and reinvention, and overcoming obstacles, and determination that the average person can’t begin to comprehend. I would love the opportunity to explore, and uncover and understand her perspective on business specifically, and learn from her and her success.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me inside my free Facebook group: The Tribe of Unstoppables where my team and I go live with highly valuable weekly trainings on everything from social selling to messaging, to packaging and pricing you online offers. You can also check out my podcast, The Unstoppable Entrepreneur Show, wherever you listen to podcasts! I have got 5 years of weekly episodes available for binging!

You can also follow me on:

Instagram — @kellyroachofficial

TikTok — @kellyroachofficial

Twitter — @kellyroachlive

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Author Kelly Roach: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David MM Taffet of Petal: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resili

David M. M. Taffet of Petal: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resilient

Don’t own what isn’t yours. For decades, I tormented myself with terrible thoughts about my unworthiness. I ascribed blame to myself for the abuse, bullying, and general trauma I had experienced in life. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t at fault; I didn’t understand that the people in my life were capable of hurting me intentionally without cause. As an adult, I have finally realized that I didn’t cause my father’s death or trigger my mother’s violence. I never deserved bullying or food insecurity. I wasn’t the agent of my pain; but I was the architect of my victory over it. I was free of blame and proud of myself. I overcame and emerged strong and happy.

In this interview series, we are exploring the subject of resilience among successful business leaders. Resilience is one characteristic that many successful leaders share in common, and in many cases it is the most important trait necessary to survive and thrive in today’s complex market.

I had the pleasure of interviewing David M. M. Taffet. On paper, David appears to be someone who has experienced only success — he attended Top 10 schools for undergrad and law, raised hundreds of millions of dollars, completed successful turnarounds on behalf of Fortune 500 companies, and built, bought, and sold companies all over the world. But a resume is a flattering veneer. Everything written is true, but beneath the surface lies the truth. Just five years ago, Taffet was homeless, car-less, penniless, and suicidal, but this isn’t written anywhere. Today, Taffet is happy at home in Fort Worth, Texas leading Petal, LLC, a high-tech consumer goods startup he co-founded with his wife Christie Zwahlen, Petal’s EVP of Social Impact. Taffet credits resilience for his Phoenix-like rise from poverty and suicidal depression to CEO of an innovative new company he believes will change the world.

Thank you so much for joining us David! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?

A few weeks before my third birthday and two weeks before he was scheduled to return home from war for good, my father, one of only a few Jewish U.S. Air Force fighter pilots, died in the fiery crash of his F-4 Phantom (Vietnam, 1971).

My mother anguished until she raged. My father’s death awakened in her an abusive nature that had previously surfaced only sporadically. Eventually, violence and denigration became the constants which defined our relationship and conspired to dominate my worldview.

Within months of becoming a widow, my mother identified a new mate, one who shared her propensity for punishment: Another Jewish fighter pilot. We followed this man’s flight path from one anti-Semitic base to another. At each base, my “Jewish” features fueled hatred and inspired physical and verbal attacks. Like a one-two punch, I moved silently from abuse at home to bullying at school. We moved homes and schools virtually every year or two, but the violence in both settings was a constant.

In addition to the arduous social task of re-establishing myself at each school, I also had a learning disability that went undiagnosed for decades. Ironically, my mother, who worked as a reading specialist, never identified my dyslexia (which only came to light a few years ago after a friend clued me into Sally Shaywitz’s Overcoming Dyslexia).

By all accounts, the predictions for my future seemed bleak. Experiencing death, abuse, displacement and bullying at such a young age put me “at-risk” of falling down an anti-social rabbit hole of violence and cynicism. Instead, I chose to eschew violence and embrace compassion and optimism. This conscious decision informs every aspect of my life, from parenting and leadership to the professional projects I am willing to accept. I view my work style as a nurturing (yet disciplined): Mr. Mom vs. a hard-nosed dictator.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

One of the businesses I owned and led was called Lippincott, a direct marketing company that purchased precious metals, fine jewelry, and gems. Before I bought it, Lippincott was a family-owned, life-style business that was doing approximately $17 million a year with very few financial controls. After purchasing the company, I infused multiple layers of reporting and accountability while quickly driving the business to almost $60 million a year. Each week, I would go to our partner refinery to witness the smelting of precious metals (platinum, gold, silver) which Lippincott in-turn sold at spot market prices.

Due to our high volume of purchases, I got to the point where I had seen it all — diamond- encrusted necklaces, rare coins, watches more expensive than a Toyota Camry. Until one day.

We received a large shipment of a very fine platinum powder. Its purity was unmistakable and like nothing we had ever encountered. I took the shipment to the refinery and asked the owner what he thought it was. After inspecting it, he asked me to “please take the powder and leave”. In decades of operation, he had never seen anything so pure. He feared it was weapons-grade. Contraband.

By its weight, the powder was worth north of a million dollars. All at once, I knew I was on the receiving end of a crime. Unbelievably (or, perhaps indubitably, depending upon your level of cynicism), this wasn’t the first time I was put in the position of needing to report a crime at work.

Earlier in my career, I had identified a huge, fraudulent hole in the projected value of an enormous credit card portfolio that I was on the verge of selling to Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and the like. Luckily, I had the foresight to detail my observations in writing to the clients (who were also the sellers) and to Best Bank of Colorado (the participating bank).

This proved prescient. Eventually, the FBI and FDIC reached similar conclusions, swooped in, shut down Best Bank, and arrested everyone involved, including my clients. In going through the bank’s files, the FBI and the US Attorney’s office came across my letters. Because I had observed and detailed the fraud, they concluded that I had to be involved in some way. They had the US Marshalls escort me from Philadelphia to Denver where I was treated as a suspect until they realized they needed me as the prosecution’s star witness.

Given this experience, I did myself a favor and called the FBI before they called me. Then, in rapid succession, I retained criminal counsel to serve as a buffer, prepped my 50-plus member team, and invited the FBI to Lippincott’s offices.

I was greeted by Jim Fitzgerald and his team. Having investigated me prior to visiting, Jim was sporting a very civilian UNC Tarheel hat to razz me. I went to Duke, but never attended a basketball game. As expected, Jim declared that any operation receiving weapons-grade material was clearly suspected of criminal activity. Lippincott and I quickly became targets of the investigation.

As such, I provided Jim and his team open access to all of our books and records. They spent hours combing through every transaction made and dollar collected. At the end of the proctology exam, Jim declared that he had rarely encountered such a clean operation and that he knew I was not involved in a criminal enterprise. I was officially cleared.

Over the next few days, Jim, his team, and a Federal judge worked to identify the sender and the source of the powder. The defense contractor who “lost” the platinum didn’t report it and, as such (for hyper-technical legal reasons), the FBI was precluded from pursuing the theft further. They didn’t have probable cause to issue an arrest warrant, so they had to cease the investigation. I was free to sell the platinum and keep the profit.

When Jim told me this, I asked him, “what would you tell your son to do?” The government and judiciary had ruled that there was no crime, so he would advise his son to smelt it and sell it.

I paused in disbelief. Really!?

Drawing on my experience as a lawyer, I suggested that I could consent to a wire and pursue the seller of the platinum independently. I proposed that we call the seller and get him to confess. Jim stressed that I didn’t need to do this. Everyone already consented to my keeping the platinum. But, I didn’t want to profit from a theft. Legally mine or not, I wanted to make sure that more weapons-grade material didn’t fall into the wrong hands.

Quickly, we secured judicial consent for the wire and set up a real-life sting. I was able to get the seller on the phone, and after a series of plausible business-related questions, got him to share details about his location and the source of the platinum. I kept the seller on the phone long enough for the FBI to identify his location and mobilize a team to arrest him. As the FBI closed in, I told him, “I’ve appreciated our conversation. I’m hanging up now, but you should expect a knock at your door momentarily. It’s the FBI.”

This still stands as one of the most surreal experiences of my life.

I gained several takeaways from this experience. Firstly, meticulous accountability in one’s business operations is critically important, both for the health of your business and your own peace of mind. Secondly, by being proactive and acting fast, I was able to avoid criminal implication. Drawing on a sense of justice and integrity, I passed up over a million-dollar pay day, but I got to prove to Jim Fitzgerald that Duke is as worthy as UNC. Great day.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Petal’s culture is informed by public opinion, but established by our team’s collective values. We address issues directly and never shy away from difficult conversations. We define our company’s health first by its impact on people (both employees and customers) and the planet, and only secondarily by its profit potential.

We believe in accountability for all forms of bigotry, but we also believe that people are redeemable and that cancellation should have shades of grey.

Case in point, we recently uncovered racist and offensive online posts by Petal’s co-inventor Brian Petz. The posts are hateful, hurtful and entirely inconsistent with our values as individuals and as a company. What follows is an account of how we handled this devastating blow to our team’s morale, and ultimately, emerged as a stronger community of colleagues and friends.

First, our entire team engaged in direct, emotional conversations about the seriousness of the matter. We provided Brian with a platform to apologize in earnest, which he did. He declared that his actions were abhorrent and explained how he is not the person the posts suggest he is. He is mortified by his actions and has acknowledged that his statements were harmful and utterly false. Since this revelation, he has committed to a path of redemption, which includes professional consequences for his errors.

Brian has since drafted public apologies that are being submitted to various newspapers and will eventually be posted on his personal website. Though we applaud and support Brian’s commitment to redemption, earnest apologies alone are not sufficient to address the potential harm of his actions — for Petal the company, each of us as individuals, and the diverse audience we hope to attract.

Thus, Brian has been stripped of:

  • His executive position in the company,
  • His say in company governance,
  • His ability to speak for the company publicly to the press and/or investors, and
  • His ability to manage direct reports.

Going forward, Brian will serve as a product development engineer reporting directly to me. Over the next year or so, he will actively work to grow as an individual, mature in his perspectives, speak in constructive and supportive ways, and judge every individual by their character and capabilities, not by their immutable characteristics.

Although Brian’s continued involvement with the company poses a potential risk of online attacks and journalistic exposés, the entire Petal team is committed to embracing Brian for the following reasons:

  1. All of us deeply care for and respect Brian.
  2. We know that the Brian who used incendiary rhetoric and ignited the subsequent upset is not the same Brian of today.
  3. We are adamant in the belief that improving our society requires openness, flexibility of thought, and forgiveness. If we are truly committed to forming a more perfect union, we cannot take the stance that people are irredeemable.
  4. We believe that to create change, you must first allow and help others to change.
  5. We are not the type of company that discards people over their missteps. The measure of a person is not in their mistakes, but in how they own their mistakes, make amends, remedy their mindset and/or behavior, and move forward.
  6. We believe in personal and professional growth and we see in Brian a person worth investing in.

These events transpired amidst a backdrop of national unrest sparked by the horrific death of George Floyd, and we shared these details with Petal’s members on Juneteenth. It was fitting to use that time to recognize our own responsibility in creating an anti-racist world. By the steps we took, Petal transcended the emptiness of platitudes and instead engaged in action. We invested real time, engaged in honest conversations, and implemented necessary change. As a purpose-driven company, we will continue to judge our effectiveness not by what we say, but by what we do.

At Petal, we believe that eliminating racism requires educating racists. We believe that our goal should be to eradicate racism, not racist people. Flawed human beings are simply that — prejudiced by personal experiences, hypocritical in their admonishments of others, self-centered in their worldviews, and heavily influenced by their communities, by where they turn to for news and other important sources of information, and their exposure (or lack thereof) to cultural differences.

Regardless of the clichés, many people can and do change, especially when provided with meaningful guidance. We believe in Brian and each member of our team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I am grateful for one of my dearest friends, Bob Gionesi, who died from cancer a little more than eight years ago. Prior to his death, we worked together for 10+ years in lots of different capacities. We respected each other so completely that we never worried about who was the lead. Sometimes he would serve on the board of one of my companies and I would report to him. Sometimes he would serve as a direct report to me.

Our long-standing friendship was truly remarkable because it began when Bob destroyed one of my first large companies.

Early in the Dot-com era, I launched a company that provided end-to-end internet-based digital assets, including web services and video-on-demand. I made the mistake of outsourcing my sales force to a large corporation on the verge of a multi-billion-dollar public offering. The idea was that the company would serve as a channel partner where both the partner company and mine would share in the proceeds of all joint opportunities. The partnership generated tremendous revenue, which should have been a win. Unfortunately, the outsourced sales force claimed that every joint sale was the result of their independent efforts, thus denying my company its share of the revenue.

So, I went to New York City and met directly with the company’s North American VP of Sales, who happened to be Bob. After outlining the issue, I was met with chuckles. He explained that his company was focused on the billions of dollars in front of it as opposed to the millions I was discussing. At that moment, I knew I was sunk. As a former litigator, I knew what it would take to battle and win, and as a finance person I understood that I would be bankrupt before ever seeing a pay day.

Instead of having an emotional outburst and threatening suit, I calmly pivoted. More specifically, I began exploring what needs the company might have given that it was going public. To my surprise, the company had a pressing need for a co-location facility in Philadelphia, where I lived at the time. After extended inquiry, I learned, among other things that:

  • The company didn’t trust any carrier-based company to provide its services;
  • The company had very specific engineering requirements that no existing Philadelphia-based company could meet; and
  • The company did not want to build its own facility for fear of having it on its balance sheet.

Understanding this, I made a proposal. I would raise the amount needed to build the facility to the company’s specifications and operate it if they promised two things. First, a monthly revenue that would make my new company profitable on day one. And second, the ability to build out excess capacity that I could lease to other providers. Bob agreed on the spot and I left with a contract.

Of course, Bob didn’t know that I had no clue what a “co-location” facility was. When I left the meeting, I called my general counsel and asked him to research “co-location” so I could understand what I had agreed to build.

In the end, I had to shutter the company that Bob’s salesforce was helping to destroy, but I succeeded in raising the money to build, launch, and operate a very profitable co-location company called MeridianTelesis. Bob accepted my invitation to serve on the board of MeridianTelesis and he profited alongside me five years later when we decided to sell to a public company. From there, we partnered to build and turnaround a number of enterprises. Along the way, we had wonderful meals, great drinks, and a ton of laughter. I credit his friendship and support for my early success in business, and I miss him terribly.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

Resilience is a life force that one harnesses to survive and emerge from devastation. Resilience is the opposite of victimhood and self-harm. It averts one’s eyes from the rearview mirror and fixes them on the path forward. Resilience arises from courage and builds on strength. Your resilience is not defined by your worst circumstances, but rather by how you handle and rise above your circumstances.

Resilient people harness optimism to envision a brighter day. Through difficult times, they are tenacious in their resolve to move towards that brighter day. They use creativity to navigate unforeseen obstacles, fortitude to recover from inevitable defeats, and audacity to fuel the drive forward.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

Frederick Douglass comes to mind immediately. His autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave by Frederick Douglass, will do the trick if you’re ever searching for some motivation.

Entrepreneurs often romanticize the years of scarcity during which they “courageously” build businesses in the face of obstacles and criticism. It is true that entrepreneurism is not for the faint of heart. Still, entrepreneurial difficulties are generally surmountable, non-life-threatening problems.

In his Narrative, Frederick Douglass suffers from and witnesses extreme violence and constant pain while continuing to pursue the dream of a better tomorrow. Especially now, it behooves us to remember and appreciate how much one can endure to realize a dream. Narrative is an important reminder of the injustices our fellow citizens have suffered and survived. It reminds us that we are privileged to pursue profits while many others are continuing to suffer inhumane and unjust treatment the world over.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

Making contrarian moves is an important underpinning of my success. Many times, I’ve pursued opportunities vacated by others or which others admonished me to avoid. In my opinion, “impossible” is a far too widely and inaccurately used adjective. When I hear it uttered in business, I almost always treat it as an invitation to engage.

One of my most colorful and satisfying experiences defying the impossible occurred in the context of a turnaround in Germany. More specifically, I was retained by the CEO of an international outsourcing company to evaluate and address long-standing financial issues and complex managerial and operational incompatibilities between the company and its German division. The company had tried numerous times unsuccessfully to resolve its issues and to stop the hemorrhaging of millions of dollars each year.

The day after cementing my contract with the company, I flew to Germany and showed up at the division’s offices at 7:00 AM. I was greeted by the company’s CFO, who launched into a harsh, unfiltered diatribe about how he and the subsidiary did not appreciate the American parent company’s continued scrutiny and interference. With that unpleasant start, the CFO escorted me to the corporate offices where he proceeded to show me around.

The tour was peculiar. I wasn’t introduced to anyone or given an explanation of the operations. Instead, I was led from conference room to conference room. At each entrance, the CFO pointed to a prominent brass plate engraved with an unmistakably American name (e.g. Robert Warren, Ed Simmons). After an awkward tour of all the conference rooms in the office, we stopped and stood in front of one last room. This one was remarkable because no brass plate hung beside the door.

At that moment, the CFO turned to me and began to apologize. You see, with insufficient notice of my arrival, he didn’t have enough time to engrave a brass plate with my name on it. I was puzzled.

“So you can formally join the rogue’s gallery of American meddlers that came and failed in Germany,” he said.

I admit, I was equally impressed with and annoyed by the theatrics. Apparently, it was effective in shaking all the previous consultants who came before me.

“Save your money,” I said. “I’m here to succeed.”

After a lengthy process of interviewing all the division’s employees, I restructured the company and extracted significant employee concessions. I then secured approval for the concessions from three company unions and, in turn, from the German National union. Afterwards, I orchestrated and negotiated the sale of the newly-restructured division to a German competitor on terms that included an assumption of liabilities by the purchaser and a reduction in and favorable treatment of a trade payable owed by my employer to the division.

Unmöglich? Nein!

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

At this moment, I’m finally on the rise from my greatest life and career setback.

Approximately 10 years ago, I came face-to-face with my worst fear — the dissolution of my marriage and my family. It happened when my first wife confessed that she loved me, but wasn’t in love with me. Although not altogether unexpected, her confession turned my world upside down, drove me into a dark depression, and set me down a path of self-destruction.

After declaring my intention to divorce and separate, I “rebounded” into the arms of someone who I now recognize suffered from borderline personality disorder. She was also a criminal, and I fell for her — hook, line, and sinker. Without thought, I merged all my businesses and investments with hers. Soon after, she forged my signatures on deeds, defrauded my long-standing friends, pilfered my accounts, and stole my property. Five years later, she spit me out — bankrupt and alienated from my friends and family.

Other than a handful of people, everyone turned their backs on me. My parents, extended family, friends, and professional network all ousted me from the communities I once helped to nurture and grow. I had lost everything, including the home I personally restored to its 1890s glory, the place where my children grew up. I was homeless, car-less, and penniless. I thought about killing myself, but it pained me to think of putting my children through more loss. Only a miracle of God was going to renew my once unflinching optimism.

And then I met my second wife, Christie, who had the daring to stick with me as I was besieged by the fury and disdain of family members and former friends. She has always appreciated me for my being as opposed to my doing. She saw me for me, not my circumstances. She helped me learn to love myself. Her belief in me sparked my Phoenix story and has culminated in the beautifully fulfilling life we enjoy today. After falling so far, we like to say that we “rose in love” together, which is a line from the Toni Morrison novel, Jazz.

Together, we have launched a number of businesses and recently moved to Fort Worth, Texas. We are the perfect marriage of enterprising entrepreneur meets community organizer: We execute with excellence and heart.

Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?

In addition to the violence in my childhood, college was a very difficult part of my life. As a high school senior, I received full scholarships to several universities that were not at the top of my list. Academics was my full-time passion and a very serious commitment.

School was the only place where I consistently received positive affirmation of my self-worth. I knew I’d earned the grades and scores needed to go wherever I chose, but my parents wouldn’t support my application for financial aid. They insisted that I go somewhere offering a full ride, but I refused. As a result, they provided little to no financial support to me while at Duke, where I worked tirelessly towards an early graduation.

Knowing there was no way that I could survive financially for the full four years of a traditional undergraduate education, I embraced an aggressive academic schedule designed to allow me to graduate in three years. I took on multiple jobs, mowed lawns on weekends, and built some small businesses. But, it wasn’t enough.

Despite all my planning and assiduousness, I spent much of my third and final year at Duke taking bets to do stupid things for money. I showed up wherever I thought I might be able to snag a handful of chips or slice of pizza. I did almost anything for a meal. In truth, I often went entire days without eating and without knowing when I would eat again.

Even selling the few physical possessions I had and working every available hour, I couldn’t make ends meet. I showed up to classes tired, hungry, and, in many ways, defeated. Still, I stayed focused and accomplished my goals: I graduated in three years with honors, and I immediately took a job as a legislative assistant in Washington DC. I worked quickly to achieve a stable state of self-sufficiency before attending law school at the University of Virginia.

Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Embrace every setback as if it were your choice. Last year, Christie waited for me in the parking lot outside Miami University’s Administration building while I met with the Dean to formalize a previously agreed to extension of my contract and a significant pay raise. Instead, the Dean sat me down and explained that for University-related reasons he was obligated to terminate my contract immediately. This was a huge, unexpected blow; we had reasonably counted on this contract and we didn’t have a ready substitute for it. I took a breath, stood up, shook the Dean’s hand, and thanked him for the time we spent. From the moment I left his office until the time I got back to Christie, I decided that the contract was not the best use of my abilities and that we were beyond ready for a move. I embraced the setback as if it was my own choice, and, as such became excited to embark on a new path. While we drove the 7 minutes from the Admin building to our home, I contacted the top realtor in the market to list our home for sale and I reached out to the parties behind Petal to express my interest in moving forward with the company. In short order, we sold our house, launched the company, and moved to Fort Worth, Texas to establish Petal’s headquarters and our new home.
  2. Don’t own what isn’t yours. For decades, I tormented myself with terrible thoughts about my unworthiness. I ascribed blame to myself for the abuse, bullying, and general trauma I had experienced in life. It never occurred to me that I wasn’t at fault; I didn’t understand that the people in my life were capable of hurting me intentionally without cause. As an adult, I have finally realized that I didn’t cause my father’s death or trigger my mother’s violence. I never deserved bullying or food insecurity. I wasn’t the agent of my pain; but I was the architect of my victory over it. I was free of blame and proud of myself. I overcame and emerged strong and happy.
  3. Be honest about your reality. See things for what they are before determining your next steps. Often our greatest devastation arises from defeated expectations. When we stay present and keep our expectations of the future in check, we avoid pain that would require resilience to surmount. Easier said than done. Two years ago, I helped an import/export company turn around its operations. During the engagement, I identified money drains outside the core operation that I could not explain from the books and records provided. The principals of the company seemed unconcerned and we moved on. As compensation for my services, the import/export company gave me the opportunity to rebrand and market a truly exceptional, but poorly performing tequila line. I was so excited about the vision I had for the product’s future that I immediately set out to rename it, develop a logo for it, create a special bottle, a compelling label, unique corks and all types of branded marketing and packaging material. In my excitement, I failed to evaluate the operations or meet the operators until 4 months into the process. On the back side of having developed distribution channels, branded marketing materials, and powerful packaging, I traveled to Tequila, Mexico to view the distillery and meet the operators. Upon arrival, my sponsors pointed to a man getting out of a brand new luxury SUV. His manicured nails, coifed hair, silk sweat suit, ostentatious gold watch, and insanely expensive shoes were certainly not the norm. Having spent a lot of time in Mexico, I knew this wasn’t normal. When they told me he was the operator, my heart sunk. In an instant, I knew where all the company’s lost money had gone, and I knew I had to pull out of the arrangement.In my haste, I had overlooked the most important principle in operating a successful enterprise — its people. I had failed to follow my own advice and got smacked for it. Had I stayed present and carefully evaluated the good, the bad, and the ugly of the current operation before executing on my inspired vision for the brand, I would not have required resilience to move forward. Another lesson learned.
  4. Make friends with your discomfort; embrace the pain that leads to growth. During my sophomore and junior year of high school, my family and I lived on Osan Air Force Base outside Seoul, South Korea. While there, I was privileged to study under Grand Master Do Sik Mun who had also trained Chuck Norris. Do Sik Mun required us to start each class by striking a roughly-roped doorjamb at full force until our knuckles and fingers were bleeding. Each hit was excruciating, and we were not allowed to stop. The objective was to hone our fists into weapons by flattening their natural curves. This yielded a wider, flatter striking surface. What’s more, the repeated hits made our fists immune to pain, which in turn increased both the force of our hits and the hardness of the surfaces we could withstand hitting (e.g. someone’s head). To achieve these two objectives, we had to invite and nurture the pain.
  5. Take time to recognize your accomplishments and appreciate your good fortune, knowing that who you are and what you’ve become is a result of how you handled your circumstances — it would be impossible to reach this day without taking the path you pursued. I would gladly repeat all 47 years of my life B.C. (Before Christie). This declaration is not masochistic, but rather celebratory. I no longer fear the pain that, in the end, couldn’t break me. Indeed, I am thankful for it. Without it, I would have never had the opportunity to grow. If I knew then the value of all that pain, I would have gladly endured it. Sitting here today, I would do it all again, and I wouldn’t change a thing.

You are 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. 🙂

I don’t have to imagine what I might do; I’m doing it. Through Petal and its innovative approach to freezing organic waste, Christie and I are on a mission to eliminate the need for single-use plastic bags. Plastics in general, and plastic bags in particular, are environmental scourges that detrimentally affect the health of our planet.

According to a 2018 study by the Earth Day organization, it is estimated that 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. Only 1% of these plastic bags are returned for recycling. The rest end up in landfills, oceans and waterways, and scattered across the landscape. Closer to home, Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags annually. That’s a little over 300 bags per person!

Because plastics do not biodegrade, these are frightening numbers with serious implications. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition, plastics pose, among others, the following dangers:

  • Plastic affects human health. Toxic chemicals leach out of plastic and are found in the blood and tissue of nearly all of us. Exposure to them is linked to cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption and other ailments.
  • Plastic spoils our groundwater. There are thousands of landfills in the United States. Buried beneath each one of them, toxic chemicals from plastics drain out and seep into groundwater, flowing downstream into lakes and rivers.
  • Plastic threatens wildlife. Wildlife become entangled in plastic, they eat it or mistake it for food and feed it to their young, and it is found littered in even extremely remote areas of the Earth. In our oceans alone, plastic debris outweighs zooplankton by a ratio of 36-to-1.
  • Plastics poison our food chain. Even plankton, the tiniest creatures in our oceans, are eating microplastics and absorbing their hazardous chemicals. The tiny, broken down pieces of plastic are displacing the algae needed to sustain larger sea life who feed on them.

Through Petal, we are looking to eliminate the need for plastic liners entirely. We are encouraging consumers to rely instead on biodegradable liners or, even better, to forgo liners all together.

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them 🙂

My life has been touched by the artist, designer, and environmentalist Maya Lin. The Vietnam Veterans War Memorial she designed, which has my father’s name enshrined on it, inspired me to ignore the directions for UVA law school’s application essay, which asked me to describe my reasons for pursuing law. Instead, I shared a poetic shard of my life, part of which reads as follows:

Mirrored within the sober countenance of the Vietnam Memorial, an azure sky, punctuated by windswept clouds, crowned my brother and me as we knelt before our father’s memory. The Memorial has preserved his legacy in its ebonized stone, acknowledged his sacrifice in the engraving of his name, and revealed our grief in an ephemeral reflection.

I am also moved by Lin’s Civil Rights Memorial, which sits outside the original offices of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama. During college, I worked in those offices, where I drafted legal arguments leading to the removal of the Confederate Flag from the Alabama State Capital building in 1993.

Maya leads with courage, sensitivity, and purpose. Despite reaching the pinnacle of success and receiving accolades at the highest levels, she remains humbly and passionately committed to environmentally-aware design. I admire her conviction, accomplishment, spirit and being.

I also admire her resilience. She rose above the anti-Asian racism levelled at her when her Vietnam Veterans War Memorial design was chosen as the winner. At such a young age, she withstood so much with grace and strength. She’s a truly remarkable artist and a brave human being.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am most active on LinkedIn, but my about.me page (about.me/davidtaffet) is the easiest way to view my street photography portfolio and connect with me on your social media platform of choice.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


David MM Taffet of Petal: Rising Through Resilience; Five Things You Can Do To Become More Resili was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nicole Michels McDonagh of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP): Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You…

Nicole Michels McDonagh of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP): Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You Should Do To Upgrade and Re-Energize Your Brand and Image

Be truthful — There’s no substitute for telling the truth. As people. As brands. The bullshit meter and ability to check everything your brand says has never been higher. Stay true to who you are and what you stand for.

As part of our series about “Brand Makeovers” I had the pleasure to interview Nicole Michels McDonagh.

She is currently a Group Creative Director and member of the leadership team at Sausalito-based advertising agency Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP), the latest step in a career that’s stretched from Seattle to Seoul with stops in San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York. Prior to BSSP, she was a GCD at Wunderman Thompson/Seattle (formerly POSSIBLE) and held senior creative roles at Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners; Kirshenbaum, Bond & Partners; and Cole & Weber. She started her journey at FCB Seattle where she was a horrible executive assistant, but (luckily) a decent copywriter. Fast forward to her work being recognized by Cannes, The One Show, Effies, D&AD, Communication Arts, Clios, ADDYs, Archive, and Fast Co’s World Changing Ideas.

Nicole has appeared on Adweek’s Creative 100 list recognizing top creative talent and was honored to serve on The One Show jury along with award-winning creative directors from around the globe. In 2019, her work for Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive — the first fashion line designed with and for people with disabilities — was acknowledged with multiple Cannes Lions and the coveted Titanium shortlist. Throughout a 20-year career her most mind-blowing creations remain her two sons, collectively known as Beast Mode.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I was always that weird kid sitting on a rock in the woods writing poetry, so I was bound to be drawn to a creative career sooner or later. In 1993, I was attending the School of Visual Concepts at night, training to be a copywriter and my day job was working as an assistant for an Executive Creative Director. One day. she told me I was a horrible assistant, but a decent writer. After throwing me small assignments here and there, she promoted me to junior copywriter. Early on in my career I was also very lucky to have CDs, art directors and writers who were senior to me and very generous with their time and craft. It helped me tremendously. That’s one thing I love about our business: a tradition of helping those coming up behind you. I don’t know if you get that in say, accounting.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing or branding mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It was a late night at one of the first agencies I worked at. I was grumbling about working on a small space newspaper ad while my friends and co-workers just a few years older were working on exciting assignments for this thing called radio.

One of the creative directors happened to walk by my desk as I was openly kvetching about the assignment and said: “You know, Nicole, there’s a category in The One Show for small space newspaper.” I’ll never forget it. It wasn’t just a lightbulb moment. It was gamechanger.

Are you able to identify a “tipping point” in your career when you started to see success? Did you start doing anything different? Is there a takeaway or lesson that others can learn from that?

Ironically, my career tipping point happened during my first stint at BSSP in the early 2000’s. There were a few writers ahead of me in the pecking order who were always doing great work for the best clients and about 99% of it was humorous. So, I started to write everything like they were writing it. If it was working for them, it would work for me. Wrong. The tipping point came when the agency’s founders, Mike Shine and John Butler, called me into their office and said: “What’s going on?” I’m sure I had a deer in the headlights look because I had no clue what they were talking about. They pointed to a few ads in my book — one for a financial services company and one for Mattel — and then went on to very kindly explain (with choice words like “WTF?”) that the reason they hired me is that I had the ability to write well in different voices. That the last thing the agency needed was one more humor guy. In that moment, it was incredibly freeing to understand that I was hired for me, not to be a carbon copy of someone else. And that being true to how I created, wrote and crafted work for our clients had unique value. I’ve seen so many junior creatives make the same mistake. And I always try to pay forward the advice Butler and Shine gave me.

As creative directors and leaders we also have a responsibility to find, tap into, and encourage unique and diverse voices. Jimmy Iovine said it best in “The Defiant Ones” when he had an epiphany that his role as a music producer wasn’t to try to change the band and make them sound like what he thought people wanted to hear. His job was to do everything in his power to let their unique sound rock.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Honestly, I think every project has the opportunity to be an exciting project. We’re creating a new campaign right now for Rao’s Homemade which is the fastest growing pasta sauce in the country. People are absolutely obsessed with the taste. And it’s always fun to work on a product that has that kind of passion behind it.

What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?

You have to think of your brain as a hundred little drawers. Your job as a creative is to fill those drawers with as much diverse information as possible. To avoid burnout, I seek out films and books and articles and art that aren’t my usual cup of tea, and dive into them anyway. I always come out of that surprised and refreshed. And nine times out of ten, even if it’s years later, I find myself opening that drawer and taking something out to make the work better.

Ok, let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Your brand is the expression of your values, and your role in the world. Today, as more and more consumers — especially young consumers — chose to spend their money with brands who align with their values, the difference between product marketing and brand marketing is disappearing. Your product is the greatest keeper (or disappointer) of your brand promise.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Someone will always come out with something new or better. When that happens, the only thing that protects you from a massive customer migration is that your customer has an emotional connection, a relationship, with your brand. Just like in all relationships, when we’re deeply invested we’re willing to forgive mistakes, to stick with it during the down times, and to show our love and loyalty openly. In our social media driven world, the last point may be the most compelling. No amount of media spend beats having 10 million brand evangelists who will sing your praises for free.

Let’s now talk about rebranding. What are a few reasons why a company would consider rebranding?

I’d group the reasons to rebrand into two categories.

Some are tactical — as your audience and purchasing power shifts, there are brands who have to re-invent themselves to make sure they’re appealing to the audience with the most buying power.

Some are emotional — your brand values no longer align with how you’ve been marketing yourself out in the world, and it needs to evolve.

Are there downsides of rebranding? Are there companies that you would advise against doing a “Brand Makeover”? Why?

It’s never the right move to do a brand makeover as kneejerk reaction. Sometimes you need to double down on who your brand is and weather the storm. I’d advise most companies who have extreme brand loyalists to be very careful about how you go about a rebranding. If your loyalists think you’re trying to be something you’re not, if it doesn’t feel authentic to the brand they’ve come to know and love, you can have a customer mutiny on your hands very quickly.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share 5 strategies that a company can do to upgrade and re-energize their brand and image”? Please tell us a story or an example for each.

  1. Be truthful — There’s no substitute for telling the truth. As people. As brands. The bullshit meter and ability to check everything your brand says has never been higher. Stay true to who you are and what you stand for.
  2. Be visual — Every study ever done shows that we humans are visual creatures. Often brands get so caught up in messaging framework and language, which while extremely important, is only one aspect of how customers interact with your brand. The visual expression and the feeling and vibe it conveys is usually what stays with the consumer forever.
  3. Be aware of culture — It feels like the world has never changed more rapidly. You must be aware of culture and your brand’s role in it to be successful and to know what areas to lean into or avoid.
  4. Be brave — Brands often weigh risk first, which is understandable. But very often the loudest voices in the room are only rattling off what the brand has to lose. Never forget to think about what it can gain. What if trying something new leads to all of the brand’s wildest dreams being fulfilled?
  5. Be nimble — Don’t be afraid to move quickly. If you see a conversation your brand should be a part of that feels authentic and right, GO.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job doing a “Brand Makeover”. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

One of our BSSP clients, Blue Shield of California, has done an incredible job of not only re-branding but reframing a whole category. They are brave and they are not afraid to be part of whatever cultural conversation is happening, in fact, they welcome it. They take a stand and encourage their members to do the same. That takes courage. And its resonated incredibly well with their audience. The key here is that they have a very specific sense of who they are and who they are not. When you know that, it makes all other decisions easier to make.

You are 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 is no reason that in the wealthiest and most innovative country in the world that any child in the U.S. should be living in poverty. Lifting children out of poverty has an impact on all areas of society: health, racial injustice, educational opportunities, economic opportunities.

I’d like to see each of the “big 5” tech companies spend 5% of their time (working independently and together) devoted to children living below the poverty line. We would see major strides in a short amount of time

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Creativity can solve almost any problem — the creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.

George Lois

I first met the legendary George Lois in Cannes about 10 years ago. I sat in on small 30-minute session and hearing him speak was lifechanging. And if I didn’t believe in what he said, I would have no right to be doing what I’m doing.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicole-michels-mcdonagh-18582687/

Thank you so much for these excellent insights! We wish you continued success in your work.


Nicole Michels McDonagh of Butler, Shine, Stern & Partners (BSSP): Brand Makeovers; 5 Things You… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Kelly Roach: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

I would love to see more entrepreneurs leveraging their earnings to give back. Last year I moved my coaching company to a 1:1 giving model. For every new client we add to one of our coaching programs, we donate to the foundation I started, that has three core focuses for philanthropy. I believe that if people are equipped to find financial freedom for themselves, that they can leverage that freedom to make a huge impact on the world. So, as I coach entrepreneurs, my hope is that more of them will adopt this model and leave a legacy that goes far beyond making lots of money.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Kelly Roach.

Business strategist Kelly Roach transforms overworked entrepreneurs into seven-figure CEOs, by teaching them how to leverage timeless business principles, employed by billion-dollar corporations, with the speed and agility of the most powerful online marketing strategies of today. Prior to starting her own company, Kelly spent years in corporate America, rising through the ranks of a Fortune 500 to become the youngest VP in the company. Kelly is not only a best-selling author but is also an ongoing television business expert.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Growing up just above the poverty line, in a family of 5, I decided early on that things would be different for me and my children. I worked hard growing up, scrubbing toilets to pay for dance lessons, and working multiple jobs in college. After graduation, I got an entry level job in sales, for a Fortune 500 company. In eight years, I was promoted seven times to become the youngest VP in the company. I led my team through the recession of 08’-10’, without letting a single person go. In fact, we had record breaking sales that year. As I was climbing the corporate ladder, I realized that I was making millions of dollars, working 60+ hours a week, for OTHER people. When I thought about what I wanted in terms of lifestyle, that was not it. So, I started my business on the side, while continuing to work my corporate job, and built that company for two years before quitting. I relied on lots of hard work, my sales skills, and an unstoppable mindset to help me build what is now a multimillion-dollar business coaching company with over 500 clients, across the globe.

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

So, this technically happened just before I started my career, but was a defining moment for me. At the time, I was a Philadelphia Eagles Cheerleader, and the year I joined, instead of doing their traditional swimsuit calendar, they decided to do a lingerie shoot instead. I knew that I wanted to build a career in business and that this shoot could do long-term damage to my career, so opted-out. The consequence? Missing out on an incredible trip to a tropical location, and all kinds of media and opportunities that came from the shoot (for the other girls). While I did not know exactly what my future career would look like, I knew that this was not a smart long-term play for me. That decision shaped how I made decisions for the rest of my career. I was able to handle the consequences and am now so thankful I made that choice, way back when!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I am not sure I would call this funny, but it was a true learning experience, for sure!

When you are just getting started in your business, you have this blind optimism and excitement, and you want things to happen overnight. I was still working full-time as a Fortune 500 executive when I started my business. I put so much work into my first big webinar and was so convinced it would go well that I took the next two business days off of work to do all of the consultations and registrations for everyone that I was sure was going to be registering as a result of my webinar. By that time, I had honed my sales skills and was ready to close some deals after the webinar wrapped.

Unfortunately, I did not have the audience or authority built up to where it needed to be at that point. So webinars probably weren’t the best format for me. I got absolutely zero sales from it, despite my extensive experience and success in sales. Clearly did not need those two days off.

The takeaway for me? You can work extremely hard on something and not see results. I put in hours and hours of practicing and running through the webinar — but my confidence and authority and credibility just were not there yet. Those things take time. You have got to be willing to play the long game and not see results right away.

Building a freedom-based multimillion-dollar company has taken us years. But we did it.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Last year I started giving each of my employees a mental health day each month. This is a paid day off that allows them to totally unplug and take some much-needed time off. It’s been huge for my team, as it gives them the space, they need to come back with more energy and focus. If possible, I would consider offering something similar.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Sure, I started my business a little over seven-years ago. We have been remote the entire time. I wanted the freedom to work from home, and wanted my employees to have that same freedom.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

The five main challenges would be:

  • Keeping your team productive — when your team is working virtually, you have very few checks and balances to ensure they are using their time wisely. They could be watching tv all day long if you do not have the right systems in place.
  • Keeping your team connected — without co-workers in the office to eat lunch with or have a water-cooler conversation with, your team is likely to feel a bit lonely at times.
  • Holding your team accountable — phone conversations and video conference calls don’t pack the same punch as an in-person conversation when it comes to accountability.
  • Maintaining motivation-when working virtually there is not a lot of external motivation. Your team needs to be incredibly self-motivated.
  • Maintaining boundaries between work and home life -when you work from home the boundaries lines between home and work can get blurred quickly.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Have multiple check-ins each day. Each department in my company has a morning meeting and an EOD meeting on a video call. Each team member has a set of metrics that they are accountable for, and metrics are tied to bonuses and commissions, so the team stays motivated. We have blackout hours where the team is focused on their most important activities (no internal meetings allowed) and our mental health days allow for some boundaries between work and home as they are required!

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Yes! We do 1:1s on video calls so that we can still see one another. It is not quite the same as being in person, but it’s the next best thing.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Unless something is a formal warning, we try to keep feedback to conversations when possible. However, if I do address things in an email, I usually just keep things short and to the point. I let the person know that I am open to conversation, and remove any vague language, then state the expectation clearly. I spend a lot of time building relationships with my direct reports and ask them to do the same, so a piece of constructive criticism usually has context, and feels less harsh.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Just keep the lines of communication open, the standards the same as usual, and the focus on outcomes. Meet regularly, set team goals, celebrate wins, and get comfortable with a group text thread!

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

We do quarterly team meetings in person (outside of a pandemic) where each team member shares their personal goals and how the job, they are doing at the company can help them accomplish those personal goals. We recast the vision, innovate, and set up what is coming next. These meetings help bond the team together and are incredibly helpful in keeping people motivated and bought in!

You are 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. 🙂

I would love to see more entrepreneurs leveraging their earnings to give back. Last year I moved my coaching company to a 1:1 giving model. For every new client we add to one of our coaching programs, we donate to the foundation I started, that has three core focuses for philanthropy. I believe that if people are equipped to find financial freedom for themselves, that they can leverage that freedom to make a huge impact on the world. So, as I coach entrepreneurs, my hope is that more of them will adopt this model and leave a legacy that goes far beyond making lots of money.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Be the best that you can be in everything that you do.” It is a quote I have lived by my whole life, and it has served me very, very well. It has helped me, and it has allowed me to help many, many other people. It sounds simple, but if you wake up every day and live this quote out, you become unstoppable!

Thank you for these great insights!


Author Kelly Roach: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Candice Simons of Brooklyn Outdoor: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote…

Candice Simons of Brooklyn Outdoor: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Always start with the acknowledgments and praise first. Your employees are working hard. If there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed, let them know you want to help them and provide them with tools. Acknowledge where you may have had shortcomings with providing them with essential tools for success if that be the case.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candice Simons of Brooklyn Outdoor.

Since returning to Detroit in 2013, Candice Simons and Brooklyn Outdoor have been making waves in the out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry. After years of tenure spent in Chicago, Simons recognized a gap in the industry that could be filled by an energetic take on traditional OOH representation. She foresaw the void Brooklyn Outdoor would fill by providing unmatched specialization in national sales for independent OOH vendors nationwide.

The core services of Brooklyn Outdoor are as follows: traditional and digital billboards, large format wallscapes, hand-painted murals, transit advertising, street furniture, and experiential marketing. With sales representation in Detroit, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the company has subsequently emerged as a regional and national force. Simons and her team are adept at thinking “outside of the board,” providing opportunities in places that they didn’t previously exist, and helping clients explore exciting new creative possibilities.

Simons and her team have been recognized time and time again by the following: 2019 OAAA Hall of Fame “Rising Star Award” and Silver Obie award winner, 2019 Ad Age Best Places to work, Inc. Magazine’s “Inc 5000” encompassing the fastest growing and most inspiring companies of 2018, Crain’s Business “40 under 40”, Crain’s Business Notable Woman in Marketing, D Business “30 in their thirties”, Stevie Award winning “Women in Business”, Michigan Celebrates Small Business “50 Companies to Watch”, Detroit Young Professionals Vanguard Award, multiple Summit International Marketing and Creative Awards, Michigan Economic Bright Spot Award, Corp! Magazine’s Diversity Business Leader, 2017 Enterprising Woman of the year, and the list goes on.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Candice! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

After working in Chicago’s out-of-home (OOH) advertising industry for nearly a decade, I decided to move home to Detroit in 2013 to start my own business. Despite its reputation at the time, Detroit’s resilient spirit and growing arts & entrepreneurial scene created an opportunity to build a new, innovative Detroit OOH industry from the ground up. That’s how Brooklyn Outdoor began. We are a national, OOH agency that specializes in billboards, transit advertising, hand-painted murals, wallscapes, and experiential marketing. Brooklyn Outdoor aims to bridge connections between local talent and national companies by hiring Detroit artists to complete creative work for our clients. We also have satellite offices in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles.

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

I would have to say one of the most interesting/exciting moments of my career was winning the Rising Star Award at the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s OBIE Awards. At the awards ceremony in Las Vegas, I was recording the moment on my iPhone as the winners were announced — it actually took me a minute to realize they were talking about me and announcing my name! Winning that award is one of my proudest accomplishments so far in my career, and it was the most pleasant surprise.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

The thing about mistakes when you are starting out is that they are never really “funny” when you are making them, but you can always look back and see a lesson learned and hopefully laugh through them. The Brooklyn Outdoor culture is all about learning from our mistakes as we go, so we celebrate and champion our staff on how they handle and rise above them. I’ve made my fair share of silly mistakes over the years, but there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Check in with your employees and give them the opportunity to give feedback and ask for clarity. If you don’t ask for feedback regularly, then employees are subject to ambiguity and frustration. It’s much easier to solve a problem if you know it exists. Also, it is really important that employees know what they are responsible for and how it fits in the bigger picture. Every role in the company plays a big part, and it’s important for your employees to know that. Recognize and appreciate where credit is due!

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

Thankfully, our Detroit team has always (since 2013) been partially remote and our staff in our satellite offices have been fully remote. This definitely helped with the transition. Nonetheless, it has presented its own unique challenges. Everyone has been dealing with balancing work and home life at the same time. We use Slack to stay in constant communication with each other and have bi-weekly video chats. We have also been working really hard to stay engaged with our clients on both a professional and personal level.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

1. Communication: With less face-to-face communication, it’s important that your company comes up with an organized plan for communication. Scheduling and (most importantly) holding bi-weekly meetings you can quickly address issues and create strategy. If you’re not doing this, then you may not be aware of what obstacles your team is facing, or better yet what creative approach they want to share with you.

2. Reward and acknowledge: Working from home in a time of some much uncertainty can leave employees feeling stressed and disconnected. As a leader you should understand that and recognize people for their accomplishments and hardwork. A “thank you” or “great work” goes a long way when it comes to making employees feel valued and appreciated.

3. Family/work life balance: With most of the family at home, employees who have children may have a harder time balancing work with childcare. It’s important to remember that although we are all in this together, each of us is having our own experience and facing our own unique challenges. Being flexible with call-times and virtual meetings is a great way to reduce the stress of balancing family and work-life.

4. Know your staff: Some people are visual learners, others are verbal and so on. Without being together in an office or team setting, it may be difficult to focus on and cater to the needs of each employee, which can influence productivity, morale, and more. By knowing the way each staff member prefers to learn, and give and receive direction you will see much more productivity. One bit of advice is, pay attention to how people communicate in emails. Are they giving bullet points, or is it high in detail. Which every way a person delivers info, is likely to be how they prefer to receive it as well.

5. Making sure people have the technology and tools they need to work: Does your staff have the devices, software, etc. they need for a seamless transition from work office to home office? The last thing anyone wants is a poor wifi connection, or to be missing the software for a conference call. Setting up your team with the appropriate tools will remove obstacles that prevent them from excelling in their workday.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote.

Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Video chat should become your best friend. We’re fortunate to live in a time where communication is so easily obtainable, so having the option to video chat is crucial because things can get misconstrued through text or email. It also circles back to having an open line of communication with your staff. Asking your employees what is working for them, what is not working, and how you can support them. By allowing your employees to express their needs and challenges, you give them the platform to ask for help without critiquing. Make sure your employees know you want to help them succeed and aren’t just picking on them.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Always start with the acknowledgments and praise first. Your employees are working hard. If there is a problem or issue that needs to be addressed, let them know you want to help them and provide them with tools. Acknowledge where you may have had shortcomings with providing them with essential tools for success if that be the case.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Since we’ve always been partially remote, we use an app called Slack. Slack allows us to create different channels where the staff can discuss different parts of the business. It’s super easy to use and keeps everyone in the loop. Not having separate Slack channels can be confusing and information can get lost. Having a variety of channels helps everyone stay organized and know who to contact and what to contact them about depending on each channel. Also, use a calendar everyone has access to so everyone knows if there is a meeting that day, or someone is out of office that day. That where there is no confusion when it comes to who is doing what.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

We use a reward system called Kudos, where when someone does a good job on a project or goes above and beyond their normal tasks, they get rewarded with “kudos points.” In turn, you can redeem the points for gift cards to a bunch of different places. It boosts company morale and it’s nice being recognized for your hard work. Who doesn’t like being told they’re doing a good job?

Sometimes we have Zoom happy hours as well. We’ll all hop on Zoom and just chat for about an hour about anything. It keeps everyone connected and it’s fun getting to know someone outside or work, even if it is virtually for now.

You are 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. 🙂

One of the things I love about OOH advertising is that it is the oldest format of advertising. With that being said now is a great time for a refresh. Just as we continue to be innovative with formats, technology and engagement tactics, we need to be innovative on a different level. For a very long time there was one demographic we would see in leadership roles. It’s time for that to change. We have certainly made strides, but are nowhere near where we need to be. As someone who hopes to be a thought leader in the OOH industry, I have been working with my peers and leaders in OOH to start developing a diversity initiative. We are still fleshing out the details, but I cannot wait to see how far inclusion can truly move us and make our industry more connected.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite life lesson quote is “integrity is key.” Standing firm in your ethical morals and boundaries says alot about a person and their brand. The more a person acts with integrity, the more successful they are likely to be. Integrity is definitely one of the core values I hold true in my life and in my company. There is no doubt that in business mistakes will be made, and there will be growing pains. However, if you let your moral compass guide you in the right direction then you can always move forward with a clear conscience.

Also, organizational behavior starts from the top down. Leaders should always project the integrity they want their employees to mirror. When you lead with integrity, then you start to see the people around you who share those values, and those who don’t. It’s a great tool for knowing who you want to do business with and who aligns with your company’s core values.


Candice Simons of Brooklyn Outdoor: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sharney Ryan of Mash Media: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

…Establishing trust starts with open communication, getting to know your team members and their daily routines such as whether they are a morning person or not. Give them tasks strategically when you know they will be at their best and trust them to be responsible and complete the tasks without being micromanaged.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharney Ryan.

Sharney Ryan is the Founder and Managing Director of Mash Media, a boutique full-service digital marketing agency operating in Australia and in the US. She remotely manages a highly experienced and international team, servicing small-medium to large businesses.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

Marketing has always been a passion for me. I studied it at Uni and have worked in multiple different facets of marketing: radio, glossy magazines, directories and digital for about the last 15 years. Before starting my own business, I worked for several larger marketing agencies and while I always loved my work, I knew that something was missing for me and that one day I would love to have a business of my own.

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

The most interesting story is how and why I finally started my own business Mash Media. Several things happened in my life all at around the same time: I lost my job, fell pregnant and my father passed away. Starting my own agency was something I’d always wanted to do, it’s also something my Dad was always saying I should do. My hesitation was mainly due to my fear of failure and the loss of having a security net. In losing my job while I was pregnant, I felt that fate was stepping in and pushing me in the right direction to get started. I guess it was a very interesting start to my new career as a business owner.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Well, I made a lot of mistakes and I think most startup businesses make mistakes. I wouldn’t really call them funny, sometimes they can be quite costly or embarrassing. I would say the funniest mistake I made as a business owner was thinking I could wear all hats. Specifically, the biggest mistake was in thinking I could do my own recruiting and successfully hire the right people. It wasn’t until I realized that hiring was actually one of my weaknesses and engaged a professional recruitment agent, that I managed to build my superstar team. I have learned from my mistakes that you don’t have to be the best at everything and don’t need to run every facet of your business, you just have to surround yourself with the best people.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

One of the key things is to provide flexibility. I think most burnouts come from being stuck in the same routine and working long hours which is easy to do when working remotely. Then there is the need to keep personal appointments and run errands but those things have to be done at night or on weekends and it can feel like there is little or no down time. I would advise that it is important to remember your employees are people and that they have lives outside of their work. I believe you should allow some flexibility and trust them to perform their duties without micro-managing them. The biggest thing in avoiding burnout is achieving a great work/life balance which I always endeavor to encourage for my team.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I have been managing remote teams for about 5 years.

I have been managing remote teams for about 5 years. All members of my team have always operated remotely from different cities and in different states and even countries. Many of my employees work from home, a few of them are in coworking spaces 1–3 days a week for the networking and social interaction an office environment provides. Since COVID-19 came into being, everyone has had to work from home so there has been a bit of adjustment for some team members. After managing remote teams for 5 years, there’s still the impact that COVID has had on everybody to deal with.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

After managing a remote team for 5 years, I have learned that there are many challenges but the top 5 for me have been:

– Promoting well-being: remote doesn’t have to equal ‘working alone’. I understand that not everyone has the desire or the option to have an office set up at home but for those who do communication with me and with each other is essential.

– Establishing trust: this means not tracking every online action and micromanaging which can be difficult when your team is remote. Many managers may find it hard to put their trust in the team working as well remotely as they do in an office setting. I have found it creates a sense of pride in my team that I trust them to perform without constant supervision.

– Encouraging social interactions: It is hard to replace that social interaction you get from working closely with colleagues in an office. I organize video chats and challenges for the team to find ways to feel like there is a more social aspect to their situation.

– Choosing the right tools: it is essential to have a well-structured project management system to enable remote teams to work collaboratively. A good communications system for instant messaging, file sharing and chatting is also a necessary tool.

– Set clear goals: we all need to know where the business is going and need to be aware of our part in getting there.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Promoting wellness from a distance can be a real challenge. When working alone, it is easy to get caught up in what you’re doing and forget to get up, stretch and move around. We often put out challenges on Slack to go outside, take a selfie and share with the team. We also encourage team members to share ‘working from home’ and wellness tips and ideas.

Establishing trust starts with open communication, getting to know your team members and their daily routines such as whether they are a morning person or not. Give them tasks strategically when you know they will be at their best and trust them to be responsible and complete the tasks without being micromanaged.

Social Interaction in the current climate is almost impossible, so why not try a virtual ‘Friday drinks’, we have done this with great success. It gives the team a sense of togetherness and an opportunity to review the week’s work and to socialize and get to know each other better. I also organize an annual get together in one location where we perform team building activities, discuss business strategies for the year ahead and do fun social activities while getting to know each other better.

Do your research when it comes to choosing the right tools to operate cohesively as a remote team, I highly recommend Slack for internal communication, it is free and really easy to use on both desktop and mobile. An integrative project management system is also essential so that teams can work on projects together but remotely.

As human beings we are motivated by varying goals. We all have our daily tasks to work on and through our project management system, I can set clear goals for each individual and each team. I like to also create exciting new internal projects to keep everyone learning and motivated. We are about to launch our own business podcast “Mash Pod”, so watch this space!

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I think constructive criticism is really task-specific so while facial expressions can be helpful, they can also go against you if they are read the wrong way. So, I think when you’re giving constructive criticism, the focus should be on making sure you remove all emotions and make it very specific and targeted. That way it can’t be misconstrued by any emotion interpreted from a facial expression. In situations where you really feel that facial expression and body language will be helpful when giving constructive criticism, I would recommend a video chat. By acknowledging anything that has been done well in the same conversation, you can soften the criticism so that it doesn’t come across as too harsh.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I believe that no matter how hard you try to make an email come across in a particular way, people can still read it differently. So, when it comes to giving feedback, I prefer doing it over the phone first. It gives you the opportunity to judge how they are reacting to your constructive criticism and you can work on a plan together. If it needs to be sent in an email, you know that you have already discussed it, and it’s not going to be taken the wrong way. I think a lot can be said for actually having a conversation as opposed to just sending out an email. If email is the only way you can communicate at the time, you can soften the criticism by finding something in the recipient’s work to praise as well.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Some of the obstacles for people who are not used to working from home are that they can feel isolated and miss the personal interaction with colleagues. They also need to be very disciplined to separate their home life from work. Additionally, they need to have a functional set up with all the equipment they need. I would advise them to set up a communication strategy with their colleagues such as a daily or weekly video chat either one on one or as a group, to reduce the sense of isolation. If possible, set up a work area that is separate from the living areas of the home so that they can remove themselves from the work environment after hours and not be distracted by home duties while working.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

One of the hardest parts of having a successful remote team is ensuring that the individual members can feel like they’re part of a team.

It is important to make all employees feel that they are in a team with regular video meetings and having an integrated project management system where each one can see what others are doing. I have also found it useful for the team to share ideas about how to remain positive and motivated while working remotely.

I believe it is necessary to make sure that there is open communication and add a bit of fun and humor. For example, we do some ‘dad jokes’ on one of our Slack channels and everybody gets on board and has a laugh. We have our occasional Friday ‘virtual drinks’ where we get together on video and bring a drink. We wind up the week with a chat about our work progress and achievements and some social chat about plans for the weekend. Even though my team works remotely and some completely on their own, I believe having these virtual get togethers helps them to feel like they know each other and are truly a team.

I think the key thing is to make sure your employees aren’t feeling isolated and out there on their own. Ensure that they are feeling supported and know that they are an important part of a well-loaded machine. Everyone needs to know that they have got a greater purpose, and they are a part of something.

Lastly, I let my team know that I am available to them to chat any time if they have concerns about their job or projects they are working on or even if they just need a chat.

You are 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. 🙂

I would love to make education more available to more people. I believe knowledge is powerful, which is why I always try to educate my clients on the “why” of our strategies as well as the how and the expected results. I believe everyone can feel more confident committing to something if they understand it and the benefits it will bring.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is actually one from Walt Disney that says: “Everyone can achieve their dreams if they have the power to pursue them”. I grew up in a household where my parents were always there, were always very motivating and they always gave me similar advice. They always said you can be whatever you want to be, you just have to put your mind to it and work hard for it. I believe that the first step to any goal is to dream about it but it’s not enough just to dream about it, you have to actually go after it and make it a reality.

Thank you for these great insights!


Sharney Ryan of Mash Media: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Matt Jones of Infor: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

Embrace ML/AI — The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the efficacy of ML/AI. Solutions that really used ML/AI in demand prediction, etc. kept up with the shifts in shopping with almost no reduction in forecast accuracy. Meanwhile, time-phased approaches were largely sidelined in favor of manual allocations to get product to the stores and fulfillment centers.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Jones.

Matt Jones is the Vice President, Global Retail Solution Consulting & Product Strategy at Infor. Having worked in this sector of Infor for four years, Matt is an expert on identifying market needs, conceptualizing solutions, and serving as an executive sponsor for retail customers. Due to the nature of his work, Matt is innately focused on future industry trends such as digitizing the consumer shopping experience post-COVID and the what the future of the retail industry looks like as department stores close, malls struggle to reopen and the ecommerce system booms. Prior to working at Infor, Matt spent nine years working for Oracle’s retail global business unit. He is currently based in Sacramento, Ca.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I wanted to continue my career in retail that allowed me to travel and work from anywhere. Retail software gave me that opportunity.

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

Earlier in my career, I worked at Best Buy’s HQ and we had the opportunity to work in the stores during the holiday season. I made a ton of mistakes trying to remember which of the 20 versions of “A Christmas Carol” were on sale, the differences between two similar looking but differently priced TVs or which PC had the most powerful graphics card.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I was brought in to design new processes in a distribution center, and I thought my recent degree gave me full knowledge of the situation, but I made so many mistakes thinking I knew more than I did and was often too proud to ask for help. I soon got over that and learned to thrive there.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think these projects might help people?

I am working on a lot of machine learning/AI-focused projects right now. So many really impactful, not just cool, things are being done in this space. It keeps me excited to work here. ML/AI is not a job replacer. Rather, it will help retailers better care for their customers and complete with the behemoth based in Seattle.

What tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

It is advice that I need to follow more, step out of yourself and view a situation from multiple angles. It helps me to gain perspective on what is really important and to remove the emotion, the ego and the stress from a situation.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful toward, who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I rely often on two lessons that my high school debate coach taught me. She taught me to simplify a tough problem by pealing back the layers like an onion and to have confidence in myself (and to remember everyone else is nervous too).

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is an area of focus for me. I need to do more.

Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

First, I don’t see a “new normal” that we all can settle into. I think the economy and retail will be in a state of flux for some time. At Infor, we are focused on helping retailers adapt and thrive while in an extended state of flux or transition. We refer to this as adding resilience to your operations.

Second, a decade’s worth of change to how we shop, how we work and how we live has occurred this year. While some of those changes will revert back, we think most of the change will remain in terms of the percentage of shopping completed digitally vs. analog (in store), working from home, how we vacation (or step away from work).

In terms of how consumers want to shop, I can safely say that no one (regardless of the decade) has ever wanted to take kids along to shop for groceries or to try clothes on at the store. Technology and transportation shifts have made it possible to do all of your shopping in the most convenient way. The big hurdle recently was making the last mile easier (keeping the ice cream frozen long enough to deliver it) and more convenient (phone-based apps with real-time updates).

To thrive, retailers must make some generational investments in their technology:

  1. Automate 60% of the work that is being down at HQ — Too many complex tasks are being ignored to complete basic tasks that can be easily automated today (forecast adjustments, store level assortment assignments, allocations, markdowns, PO tracking and responding to changes).
  2. Embrace ML/AI — The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrated the efficacy of ML/AI. Solutions that really used ML/AI in demand prediction, etc. kept up with the shifts in shopping with almost no reduction in forecast accuracy. Meanwhile, time-phased approaches were largely sidelined in favor of manual allocations to get product to the stores and fulfillment centers.
  3. Pressure your software vendors to do more — Legacy technology providers have held retailers back by spending on sales & marketing over investing in technologies that will help their customers (retailers) compete with the mega-retailer based in Seattle. Too many software companies added ML to their marketing message, but not to their products.
  4. Think big picture — Half measures will not enable a retailer to survive, much less thrive. Consumers are demanding big changes to how they shop, they know it can be done, and they have gotten really impatient with overly cautious retailers.

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.

A movement toward win-win vs. win-lose thinking.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Readers are welcome to reach me on LinkedIn at Matt Jones.


Matt Jones of Infor: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ian Morris of Likewise: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS

There are a lot of wonderfully talented and wise leaders out there from all walks of life and I would really like to see more organizations come along that can help match those people up with those who could benefit most from their advice and mentoring. This is needed for people who have been climbing uphill their whole lives due to situations not of their own making. We need to all play a role in helping people get the kind of success that so many are capable of but haven’t been given the chance to achieve.

As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ian Morris.

Ian is the cofounder and CEO of Likewise, an exciting start-up that helps users easily find the best personalized recommendations for Movies, TV shows, books, podcasts, and more. Before Likewise, he served as the president and CEO of Market Leader for more than a decade, establishing the company as the leading provider of SaaS solutions to the real estate industry with more than 150,000 enterprise and SMB customers. Under his leadership, Market Leader was ranked the fourth Fastest Growing Technology Company in North America from 1999–2004, leading to a successful IPO in 2004 and the sale of the company to Trulia in 2013 for $380 million. After receiving his MBA from Harvard Business School, Morris spent seven years at Microsoft where he led many of MSN’s early online marketing efforts and later served as the general manager of Microsoft HomeAdvisor, one of the nation’s first consumer real estate sites. He has also served as a board member and strategic advisor to a number of both public and private technology companies.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

Business and technology have always been an interest of mine, so why not make a career out of it? After I received my MBA from Harvard Business School, I joined Microsoft for the opportunity to work on the Internet in its early days. It was a great opportunity and I loved my seven years there, first in marketing from the first days of MSN to serving as the general manager of Microsoft HomeAdvisor, one of the nation’s first consumer real estate sites.

Following my time at Microsoft, I served as CEO of Market Leader for 12 years where we established the company as the leading provider of SaaS for the real estate industry — this included more than 150,000 enterprise and SMB customers. Through my leadership, Market Leader was ranked as the fourth fastest growing technology company in North America from 1999–2004, which led to successful IPO in 2004 and the sale of the company to Trulia in 2013 for $380 million. I also spent time serving as a board member and strategic advisor to a variety of public and private technology companies.

After my tenure at Market Leader, I spent a very enjoyable 3 years working as a board member and strategic advisor to several technology companies. Then, in 2017, I co-founded Likewise with two friends with a goal of making it easier for everyone to discover, collect and share the things they really enjoy. It’s been incredibly fulfilling building this wonderful team, which launched the Likewise app in October of 2018. We are an exciting start-up with a smart, passionate team that is working on a problem that we can all relate to. It can’t get much better than helping people make the most of their recreational time by providing them with personalized recommendations for television shows, movies, books, and podcasts.

What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?

Our idea for Likewise was born out of Bill Gates’ private office. The office’s managing partner and my friend and co-founder, Larry Cohen, noticed how much time he spent trying to find the best of everything and was frustrated that no one had made it easy to share and discover great experiences in the digital world. He developed the idea with our other co-founder Michael Dix and the two of them brought me in to develop the concept and turn it into a company. Fortunately, Bill Gates also related to and was excited by the idea (tens of millions of people across the world follow Bill’s book picks) and funded the team to pursue it. Our collective efforts resulted in the creation of Likewise.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Our first incarnation of Likewise was very social focused and we realized the difficulty in building a social platform from scratch. We invested in building a far more engaging single player mode that helped people get real-time value from our app in the form of personalized recommendations. That great experience leads to people wanting to share with their friends and family which greatly enhances the experience for everyone involved. As a result, we have seen tremendous growth in the number of people using Likewise.

So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?

We’ve seen the world change drastically in the last few months and everyone has had to pivot and become resilient. Life has been disrupted at the social level with various restrictions seen throughout the country, so having a recommendation app that can keep people engaged with their family, friends and other users while at home has been helpful.

Through this, our team has been able to broaden our content and has quickly been able to provide new recommendations to our users. With students home due to school closures, we’ve created dozens of lists of the best content available to them in areas such as children’s education, fitness, cooking and more. In addition to hundreds of other lists focused on traditional movies, television shows, books and podcasts, Likewise provides a wealth of information about the wealth of content in the world. It’s our job to make sure we can provide users with this information based on what they will most likely be interested in.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I don’t know if it qualifies as a mistake, but it’s a funny story that jumps to mind.

Bill Gates is a supporter and user of Likewise and he occasionally uses one of our most popular features — The Ask — which lets users post a question and get input from the community. It’s a cool feature, because not only do you get a whole lot of ideas, but unlike posting a question in a text or social media app, the end result is a list of answers, sorted most popular to least, all done automatically for you.

Well, Bill asked the community what show he should watch next and also shared the Ask on his Twitter feed. That was great because it spread like wildfire and brought a lot of new users to the app, but what we didn’t see coming was different groups competing to get Bill’s attention.

We saw one group of people come together to keep recommending a documentary about a disease they were passionate about. Another large group were fans of the Netflix original The OA, a show that had been cancelled and that they were lobbying to get another season of (I agree with them by the way). They kept engaging on the original ask hoping Bill could have a hand in bringing the show back for a few more seasons. This went back and forth for a few days and it was fascinating to see. What we initially thought engagement would look like took a different turn, which is okay!

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We are helping consumers solve their subscription fatigue and deal with what can only be called a content explosion. As major media and technology companies jump into the streaming revolution, dozens of new shows are being added every day. At the same time, as these companies compete for subscription dollars, content is often moving from one service to the other. No consumer can or should need to keep up with all this chaos and that’s where the Likewise app comes in.

We put an end to the noise by helping consumers find what they want to watch and exactly where they can watch it. We do that by providing personalized recommendations that are based on their interests, what friends and other people they trust enjoy, what our editors think they will be interested in, and even what they read or listen to. We aren’t aware of anyone else that takes all of this into account when helping people find what they will enjoy next.

And we even take things one step further. We now deliver this information right to their television with Likewise TV. The Likewise TV app is now available for Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV. Likewise TV lets users see their entire watchlist, right on their television. Not only can they see all the things they want to watch, but they can see them in one place regardless of what streaming service its on. Basically we have created a home screen for the TV and from there, launching any show or movie is just a click away.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

This is a great question and I’m not sure there is a perfect answer given that everyone works differently. I personally recommend, in addition to being passionate about your company and how it serves a purpose, that collaboration is key. The best thing about being a CEO is that you get to pick the people you want to spend your time with, and through this, building a team of individuals that share your passion for the company and allowing those colleagues to bring new ideas is vital. Collaboration among colleagues has allowed us at Likewise to continue to grow our audience to the numbers we have today.

During my free time, I do like to avoid “burn out” by getting outside and playing tennis. It’s my favorite activity and the best way to start my day. It helps me say healthy mentally and physically!

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been incredibly fortunate. My parents have been a big part of my life every step of the way. My father worked as a Wall Street analyst while I was growing up and was always ready, willing and able to respond to the questions I peppered him with. With that type of coaching, how could someone not fall in love with the interesting opportunities that the business world presents? Additionally, my wife and family are always there for me. Every business has its ups and downs and CEO is the loneliest job in the world when things aren’t going your way. I honestly don’t think I could have made it through the tougher times in my career without my wife’s support and her willingness to be a sounding board, skeptic, and supporter.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?

Since we began in October of 2018, we’ve seen tremendous growth and engagement with Likewise. But, what’s more notable is our growth during the last four months — we’ve tripled the number of users on our platform. We have had more than one million people sign up for Likewise and those users have enriched our community with more than 25 million recommendations for television shows, movies, books and podcasts. It now takes us about three to four days to generate one million recommendations. This growth shows that consumers are relying on the app now more than ever to help feed their need for entertainment.

Here are some of the main steps we’ve taken to build out our community on Likewise.

Creating Lists in Real-Time

We stay up-to-date on current trends and what’s popular — what people talking about in terms of movies, television shows, books, and podcasts. From there, we can create aggregated lists that span streaming services and build out timely themed lists around holidays, anniversaries or major cultural moments.

Counting on Recommendations

Nielsen reports that 83 percent of people trust recommendations of friends and family over other channels. Consumer skepticism continued to grow due to ratings from anonymous, unverified biased sources. We wanted Likewise to be a unique platform to help people find and share recommendations more easily and have these recommendations come from family, friends and experts.

Understanding Streaming Service Users and Expanding Offerings

As we’ve seen over the past few years, the streaming wars are heating up. There seems to be more and more options each year, which leads to users struggling what to watch next. Did you know that on average, streamers are spending more than 15 minutes trying to decide what to watch before diving into their next television show or movie? With that in mind, we sought to understand how consumers are feeling about what is currently available.

Our research has shown that the explosion of content on the small screen has become a double-edged sword for viewers. And, our findings have suggested that frustrations are about to worsen as more and more platforms continue to be introduced. With our expansion to Likewise TV for Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV, we aim to put an end to these frustrations.

What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?

Right now we are pre-revenue and we are focused on two things: building a great product and getting more people using it every day. The better we do with those goals, the easier monetization will be. After all, who doesn’t want to learn about great new content that they will truly enjoy? And, what media or publishing company doesn’t want to make sure those consumers know everything about its content? Once we choose to begin generating revenue, we are confident we can do it in a way that is win-win.

Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.

It all starts with the problem you are trying to solve. We don’t always get that right at first as is evident by the hundreds of highly successful companies that ended up in a place very different than where they started. But, what all of those companies have in common is that they listened to their customers and stayed opportunistic. If you do that, you will find plenty of opportunities. The next step is to approach each with a balance of optimism and great skepticism. After all, lots of great ideas make for very poor businesses. Once you have found your problem, and one you are confident can be a great business, then it just comes down to execution That’s where the real hard work kicks in! All of this is true whether you are building a consumer app, a SaaS business, or just about anything else.

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 try to serve as a mentor to people who are early in their career whenever I can. I have done some of this with people from underprivileged backgrounds and look forward to continuing mentorship in my community and across the country.

There are a lot of wonderfully talented and wise leaders out there from all walks of life and I would really like to see more organizations come along that can help match those people up with those who could benefit most from their advice and mentoring. This is needed for people who have been climbing uphill their whole lives due to situations not of their own making. We need to all play a role in helping people get the kind of success that so many are capable of but haven’t been given the chance to achieve. Especially now, I’m confident we’ll see more and more leaders taking on the role of mentor to shape the future generations and I’m excited to continue to do my part to support others and help guide them in the right direction.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow Likewise on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for new updates on our platform and to see our latest and greatest lists and user recommendations.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Ian Morris of Likewise: 5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Michele Morelli of Toluna: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

…I would want to focus on social justice. Each individual person should feel empowered to ask questions of their HR team and their management around diversity and inclusion. Don’t be afraid to walk into HR and ask about the maternity and paternity policy. Brands have the power to change the world. Literally. And some brands need a nudge in the right direction. Asking HR and your executives in town halls, in emails, in meetings without ambushing them!– helps hold brands accountable. People want to do the right thing — but sometimes it takes a push. The change may not happen quickly, but it will happen eventually if enough people keep asking questions.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Morelli .

Michele Morelli is Senior Vice President of Marketing Strategy at Toluna. She currently leads all marketing initiatives for the group internationally, owning, developing and spearheading the global marketing strategy as well as identifying opportunities to grow Toluna’s client base across all brands. She recently oversaw the company’s rebranding efforts and harmonized its brand structure. Previously, Michele served as Vice President of Direct Customer Engagement for Prudential’s Customer Office where she was responsible for transforming the way Prudential builds relationships with prospects, focusing on customer acquisition methodologies, including new partnerships. An alumna of Villanova University, Michele holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications and Sociology.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Michele! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I knew I wanted to do something within marketing but I wasn’t sure exactly what. My first job post- college was working in ad sales for CNN, which was such an important role for me for two important reasons. First, it introduced me to how media was then purchased. Second, it showed me how brands were thinking about their customers and reach. I knew I didn’t want to be linear in my career — I wanted to experience as many marketing functions as possible rather than concentrate in one area. So, my career has been equal parts business marketing and consumer marketing, and a healthy mix of leading pure acquisition strategy and building some of the world’s largest brands such as AOL. I was certain that I wanted “end client” experience mixed in with platform/technology side, and that has proven a great asset throughout my career. For example, my experience running monetization strategy at Yahoo made me a much savvier acquisition marketer at Citibank.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I don’t have a mistake per se, but I can share an incident that has impacted my work life. When I first started working at Citibank, I was introduced to our relatively new agency team. Never one to shy away from providing my opinion, I was fully engaged in the meeting. I was making suggestions, providing critiques and offering moments of support. I was killing it. The room was engaged; heads were nodding, there were smiles all around and lots of eye contact. I felt great. When the meeting ended, a few people were waiting to introduce themselves to me personally. As I began talking about my background, I noticed a few quizzical looks. A new colleague stepped in when she saw the confusion. “This is Michele Morelli” she said. Apparently, I had been confused for Michelle Peluso, the new(ish) CMO of Citibank — who they had yet to meet. In an instant, the room cleared. The smiles disappeared and apparently my groundbreaking ideas were not as interesting. Going from a captivating storyteller to just ‘the new person’ in record time was one of the more amusing moments in my career.

The experience taught me the importance of appreciating your position in the room. If I am a manager, people’s reactions to me may be influenced by the perceived power I hold. Power over them, over budget or over resources. My opinion may weigh more and a half -baked critique may have a very large ripple effect. It also reinforced my firm belief in being transparent and truthful with my own managers. We often wonder how bad decisions get made or approved. Most managers don’t want you to “yes” them — they want bold work that creates interest and results. If something is great, say it. If something is mediocre, say it. There was a saying at AOL: Leave it in the room. There were multiple layers to this but the crux was: No matter who you were addressing, you had to do it with honesty and commitment to the overall company mission. We didn’t agree in person and then lament the decision in smaller groups after the meeting ended.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

There are multiple features that make Toluna an exciting and dynamic place to work. Our culture, the leadership, the products. The most important element is that we put the customer at the center. The customer is quite literally at the core of what we do as a market research company. Customer centricity is impossible to achieve without engaging with your customers. We enable businesses to connect with over 30 million consumers across the world who want to provide their opinions on products, packaging and/or messaging. We’re able to be customer centric because of our technology. And from a business standpoint, we’ve structured our business to be truly flexible to client needs — the very definition of being customer centric. If you want to do all the research yourself, great! You can use our SaaS model. If you need help creating a survey, we can help there. Or if you want us to conduct a full project, we can do that too. And because we’re so focused on flexibility, we don’t require a subscription or contract. At other companies, customer centricity is a motto. At Toluna, it’s our core strategy.

Our customer centricity helped us launch our new brand strategy. We reduced the number of brands we had in market to help our clients access the most effective solution faster. We formerly had ITWP as a parent brand for Toluna, Harris Interactive and KuRunData. What we found was that the ITWP brand didn’t hold as much value to our clients as Toluna did. So we sunset ITWP and made Toluna the parent brand. Customer centricity is what sparked the whole company rebrand — and also resulted in us adding simplicity to our company values.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

From a brand perspective, it’s is a very exciting time right now. We currently have four brands in market: ITWP (parent company), Toluna, Harris Interactive and KuRunData. We are simplifying that structure to make it easier for brands to work with us by sunsetting ITWP and elevating Toluna as the parent brand. This shift will make it easier for clients to know that whether they want a pure SaaS technology provider or a full consultancy, they can come to Toluna for all those needs. Reimagining Toluna as the parent has allowed us to evolve the brand. Prior to my arrival, the brand was not fully fleshed out and most of the company associated brand with visuals. We’ve now given Toluna a proper identity and a mission that will really resonate with our employees and clients. Identity and mission are so core to a company — and as a result, to revenue. Who are we? What do we stand for? Why do we do what we do? Our CEO (and myself) spent a great deal of time on the manifesto, honing and crafting and revising until it was a perfect reflection of the company. I encourage you to read it on our site! It’s all about moving forward, and the tie into our new logo is perfect.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Brands need to ask themselves two key questions. The first is the type of relationship they want to have with consumers. If they are only looking for a transactional or executional relationship — perhaps brand is not important. But if they are looking to build loyalty or have a relationship in the true sense of the word, they will need to focus on brand — especially if they are in a category where there is little perceived difference in offerings or service. Brands want people to make decisions based on an emotional level rather than a purely tactical level (such as price or offer). Because once you’re in that transactional level, it’s a race to the bottom with your competitors. The lowest price, the highest rewards value wins.

Brand is a critically important part of any general marketing strategy. I would submit it’s more important to the acquisition strategy than most people give it credit. Because brand can be notoriously difficult to tie to performance on a tactical and execution level — organizations can easily write it off. But time and time again, we see that brand ultimately drives loyalty, performance and revenue. Brand is how you acquire advocates, important word of mouth and recommendations. From my experience, media campaigns (acquisitions) have a lower CPA after consumers have been exposed to brand advertising. And brand leads to more highly qualified consumers seeking you out. It’s more expensive to acquire a customer than keep a customer — this is where brand is key.

It’s important to note that people are shopping all the time. The days of the traditional purchase funnel are long gone. Today people move from awareness to purchase in a matter of steps. They shop for entertainment and they readily consume native or sponsored content if it’s educational or entertaining. This is where brand is so powerful. In an environment where people watch a YouTube video and are compelled to purchase, brand is key. Building your brand through experiences or content, especially digitally will increase funnel velocity in a nonlinear funnel. And when a consumer is faced with a choice between you and a competitor for a similar product at a similar offer, what makes them choose you? Brand.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

I’ve had the honor to help build several large global brands and at the core of any effective branding is trust. There are several important factors to consider when looking at any brand:

  1. Know who you are. Authenticity may be an overused phrase, but if you know who you are as a brand, operate that way. Branding is not just the creative and it doesn’t stop once the brand guidelines are completed. Brand and authenticity need to thread through your customer service, your products, your offerings. When you think about building trust with a consumer, it’s about telling them who you are — and then proving and upholding it.
  2. Bombas is a great example of authenticity. As a mission-driven brand, they donate one pair of socks to homeless shelters for each pair bought. Even when you visit their office, you get a pair of socks plus one to donate.
  3. An extension of number one — you have to be consistent. It’s key to building trust with consumers. Once you know who you are as a brand (once you’ve identified your purpose, your mission, your values), you must stay true to those elements over and over again. Where some brands go wrong is separating new customers from existing customers. New customers are sometimes treated better by brands as a way to entice them to become customers — but once they become a customer, the customer service changes and the offers change. This is damaging to the brand and immediately breaks trust. Amazon is a good example of who does it right. Their mission is to be Earth’s most customer-centric company. And their policies, customer service and product offerings reflect that. The brand starts with the customer and ends with the customer.
  4. Create nimbleness when speaking to your customers. When a situation such as the COVID-19 pandemic arises, it’s imperative that all of your messaging shifts to match consumer sentiment. Consumers do not care that you have CRM messaging automated months in advance or have employed trigger-based marketing. If the world has suddenly stopped, consumers expect you to react. You have to create a nimble marketing strategy that can change as the market changes. Digital media has made it much easier to create this nimbleness from an advertising perspective, but it’s important to have the same kind of agility in all areas of your marketing, from market research to media buying.
  5. Nimbleness is also important when addressing customer issues. How fast you address and resolve customer questions is key to building customer trust.
  6. Understand your customers in real-time and adjust accordingly. Customer sentiment today is changing rapidly, especially as the pandemic impact varies by country (and by state in the US). Our COVID-10 Barometer has been measuring this impact and we have seen brands act accordingly, from changing their messaging to pausing advertising. A believable brand is one that addresses consumer needs in an authentic way. The work we’ve done around COVID has demonstrated that consumers expect brands to show (and message) support for their employees as well as their consumers. When it comes to building trust and being “believable” — your messaging is core.
  7. Transparency in values. Today’s consumer expects brands to be values-driven. This is a fundamental change from 20 years ago when a large portion of consumers didn’t want brands to comment on social issues. Expectations shifted as Millennials became more of a revenue generator. At AOL, we were a values-driven brand, specifically around gender diversity. Our internal work- around areas like pay equity, women’s advancement — matched what we did externally: we produced award winning documentaries about women’s equality, we championed to have a woman on US tender. On the business side, we invested in gender diverse start-ups and did small things like ensure every speaker panel was diverse. This transparency about who we were was thread through our products and services; it helped keep the brand in competition with Facebook and Google.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

Any brand that is authentic and consistent always wins my heart. There are so many! My favorite is the often touted and loved Coca-Cola. Their key attributes — community, happiness, youthful interaction and sharing — are visible in all of its advertising. There is not one ad they place in market or one sponsorship that doesn’t ladder up to these attributes. Coca-Cola knows who it is and ensures all its consumer touch points reflect that identity.

The best has to be Glossier, the unicorn and much beloved makeup brand. They are completely authentic to themselves. They know who they are and who their customer is — and they hold true to both. Glossier made a few critical decisions to build their beloved brand, starting with customer centricity. The brand itself grew from understanding their customer. The founder Emily Weiss started a blog called Into the Gloss and paid close attention to what her readers were saying. This engagement allowed her to see where traditional beauty brands were missing the mark with consumers. As I understand it, this type of customer listening is key to the brand today.

Glossier also test ideas within their consumer base. Many people falsely think that brand is all logos and visual identity. In reality, strong branding is something that threads through everything within a company — especially the products. Co-creating and ideation by engaging their consumer base has led to their core products.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

I have two schools of thought.

  1. Measuring brand can and should be performed the traditional way — brand tracking, assessing brand health, measuring advocacy, and understanding where you stand against the competition. This is obviously different than direct sales, but vital when thinking about brand. And particularly in times of change, it’s important to measure your brand on a monthly (and even more frequent) basis.
  2. At its core, brand is the key to increasing path to purchase velocity and driving sales. However, the lead time is longer and it’s messier to measure. Organic traffic to your sites, whether someone clicks on an ad or word-of-mouth; there are reasons these happen — and it’s all brand related. Why do people pay a hundred dollars for a white T-shirt instead of twenty? Softer KPIs that are associated with brand ultimately all tie back to sales. You must set realistic expectations and understand you may not see increased sales the moment a sponsorship or experiential campaign kicks off. The reason consumers choose your product over another comes down to brand and the type of relationship you want to have with your customer. Especially if you are in a commodity business where product and price are on par, your brand is driving that sale.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

It’s impossible to separate social media from any digital efforts. Regardless if a brand is focused on it (and I don’t know of a single brand that is ignoring it!) social is where conversations are happening about your brand. From recommendations to customer service inquiries, social is now at the forefront of branding. Social is the place where authenticity and consistency play out in real time.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

Set boundaries. During my time at Yahoo, I was overworked. I slept with my BlackBerry (yes, BlackBerry) under my pillow and was answering emails at 2:00 a.m. I was on flights to the West Coast once a month (even once on Christmas Eve). To add some balance, I started carrying two devices and only one had my work email on it. This looked ridiculous, but when I needed time away, I could physically stop myself from answering that blinking red light by not carrying my work phone.

I don’t work Saturdays (unless event related). And I tell my team the same — which gives them permission to not work Saturdays. If something is urgent, my team knows they can text me, but usually that makes people evaluate what is really urgent. My work phone goes away Friday night and comes back on Sunday.

Give your team (and yourself) time to do something creative. At AOL I budgeted for the team to take off one day a quarter and do a non-work related activity together. We were in different countries, so each country could do something creative and fun. It ranged from museum day trips to painting classes. It’s important to make time for yourself and jump start the creative process.

You are 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.

This is difficult to answer, but I would want to focus on social justice. Each individual person should feel empowered to ask questions of their HR team and their management around diversity and inclusion. Don’t be afraid to walk into HR and ask about the maternity and paternity policy. Brands have the power to change the world. Literally. And some brands need a nudge in the right direction. Asking HR and your executives — in townhalls, in emails, in meetings without ambushing them!– helps hold brands accountable. People want to do the right thing — but sometimes it takes a push. The change may not happen quickly, but it will happen eventually if enough people keep asking questions.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I don’t have a quote, but a philosophy change. I’ve always been good at scoping my role and my team’s role. Marketing is a department where odd end responsibilities can find their way on to your and your team’s plates. It’s very easy for other departments to view the Events team as the people who should be scheduling lunch for a sales team. Or the marketing team as the people who should update a presentation deck. So, I became very good at defining my team’s role. But I had a change in philosophy midway through my career that started at Citi and really picked up at AOL. When asked if I could do something such as take on extra responsibility, my response would be, “Yes, and…” It’s a shift where I no longer said no to things. Now I take on more — — and the “and” part could be where I ask for more resources, time or to arrange priorities. Or it could be “yes — and I want more responsibility.” It’s what’s led me to such an interesting career. Not many people I know have launched brands and lead acquisition efforts or have deep experience in B2B and have led a direct-to-consumer initiative for a major financial institution. I secured these opportunities because I changed my mindset from “that’s not my job” to “Yes, I would love to — and here’s what else I would like to do.”

Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this.

I’m going to cheat a bit and ask for a few people. I am quarantined right now, so I would love to see anyone face-to-face! I would love to have lunch with my former managers from AOL, Erika Nardini (now CEO at Barstool Sports) and Allie Kline (now founding principal at LEO DIX). I love these women. Smart, powerful and hugely influential on my career.


Michele Morelli of Toluna: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sandra Hannon of Solve.Care: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

I believe it’s important to have a clear strategy mapped out and to be able to articulate to my remote teams and other team members how and when they are expected to contribute and allocate actions accordingly. It’s human nature to be occupied with the day to day business of one’s own location, so the responsibility is on me to ensure that my words and actions drive home the importance of the overall core plan. This is whether they are in India or Kyiv or elsewhere. I use an online project tool called Asana to allocate and track our actions and hold at least one check-in weekly to see how people are, to understand what their weekly priorities are, and offer my support where needed.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Sandra Hannon. Sandra is a Human resources professional with a special interest in employee engagement and talent development. She has proven experience in the devising and implementation of HR Strategy.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

“I was born in Youghal, Ireland. I moved to the Netherlands in the nineties, but five years ago we nipped across the border to Antwerp, Belgium for no other reason than our love for the city. It’s compact, crammed with gorgeous golden topped Renaissance-style buildings, delicious food, and delightful people. We feel very lucky to live here. Our home is only 30 minutes from Brussels airport which has been really useful given the amount of international travel my work demands. In the past decade I’ve been directly involved with a variety of industries, such as engineering, supply chain, and now healthcare technology.”

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

“Relocating to the beautiful city of Kyiv, Ukraine in January 2020 for my current role as Global Head of HR has proven to be one of the most interesting chapters of my career. My monthly rotations were disrupted due to Covid-19 in March, so I chose to stay with my team and ride out the storm from there. Now the restrictions are lifting, making it possible to contemplate my aerial commutes again.

Kyiv during Covid-19 was a busy and interesting period for our company. Bucking the trend, we continued our recruitment drive and hired new talent, with the objective of completing major development projects such as the Global Telehealth Exchange, as well as delivering a brand-new network to the market, Team.Care Network, in an expedited fashion.”

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

“Different experiences trigger stress for different people. My advice is to understand what triggers your stress in the first place, so that you can consider how best to counteract and eliminate the tension before it builds. I am a little introverted, so I need time alone to recharge my batteries. If I feel stress, it’s because I have allowed myself too little time to decompress. So to counteract this, I book down-time, and treat it like all my other appointments in that I don’t allow myself to cancel or double-book. Also, every two years, I take a holiday on my own to completely indulge myself and work on my ‘bucket list’. For example, last year I went to Uruguay to horse-ride with gauchos, and a few years before that I did a magical train trip all around Japan.”

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

“I have worked and managed remotely since 2008. My first international team was relatively small and spread across America, Singapore, Canada, UK, and the Netherlands. Later on, as the scale increased, it became less about managing directly and more about getting stuff done for my part of the business by working with the respective CEOs for Global Mobility, Reward and so forth. I rather enjoy the excitement of working across time zones. I have always been an early bird, and, fortunately, I have inherited my mother’s legendary energy levels, so picking up with the East early and wrapping up with the USA late in the evening has always suited me very well.”

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

“Firstly, I believe it’s important to have a clear strategy mapped out and to be able to articulate to my remote teams and other team members how and when they are expected to contribute and allocate actions accordingly. It’s human nature to be occupied with the day to day business of one’s own location, so the responsibility is on me to ensure that my words and actions drive home the importance of the overall core plan. This is whether they are in India or Kyiv or elsewhere. I use an online project tool called Asana to allocate and track our actions and hold at least one check-in weekly to see how people are, to understand what their weekly priorities are, and offer my support where needed.

Secondly, I want to know my numbers, so that I have clear optics on what is really happening on the shop-floor with individuals, teams, or, indeed, an entire country. I make sure I have a dashboard of meaningful metrics that help me to recognize when something is amiss. I’m not just talking about financials, but relevant operational HRM numbers that inform me and my team as to trends in attrition, illness, regrettable losses, lead times in hiring and so forth — all of which guides our subsequent actions.

Furthermore, I make a real effort to understand the mood on the ground. I also keep a keen eye on key developments pertaining to new laws that we may need to respond to from a HRM standpoint — for example, tax laws in the UK, or managing contractors in the USA. I also stay abreast of any important personal employee updates that I should acknowledge or signal to the CEO.

With regards to culture, I’ve found it imperative to appreciate the unique nuances of the cultures of the different countries that I am working with. I am a huge fan of Geert Hofstede’s work in this regard to the extent that I have his app on my phone! I’ve made a habit of using the app when interacting with my global colleagues. Communication is less direct here, so there is a greater need for me to ‘read between the lines’ and dig a little deeper to understand how people really feel about matters. But also, my colleagues are very modest in relation to what I consider outstanding achievements, so I try to keep my ear to the ground. I want to know about and recognize their accomplishments.

I have worked from home for many years and know how blurred the boundaries can become between work and home. I was hopeless at taking proper breaks or finishing on time. My previous manager who was immensely hardworking was a firm advocate for employees taking ‘me time’. She was the one who recommended that I take the dog out for a walk at lunchtime, and I learned quickly how productive I could be after a proper break. So I now keep a firm eye across the organization and look out for people working much longer hours than they should. More often than not, we find out too late that someone has unhealthy working habits, so I really try to look for the clues early on to combat the issue. I also ask about work habits during my team one-to-ones; I make sure to ask how people are feeling and offer my advice if I feel that some people are overworking.”

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

“I have been a disciple of Marcus Buckingham for many years and found his guidance in relation to feedback very helpful. I understand now that that very word ‘feedback’ induces such high levels of adrenaline that the recipient is forced into ‘fight or flight’ mode. This mutes the other parts of the brain, so that the person can only absorb certain strands of information. In other words, focusing on people’s shortcomings or gaps does not enable learning; it can often impair it.

This is why Buckingham uses the term course-correct instead. So, when I feel the need to give feedback, I really make an effort to instead pay attention to my peers and colleagues and coach them on how to course-correct to perform better. This means that I first have to make a concerted effort to see the world as they see it, and from the position they see it, and then (and only then) advise them on how to adjust from where they are to improve.

I insist on having all cameras switched on for all team interactions. I like to see faces, smiles, see who is joining in or not and react accordingly or pick up in private with a certain person if I feel that they need some extra attention.”

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

“In my opinion, emails are a mistake: the most effective conversations in this regard are two-way and in-person. But if that is not possible, then I connect with the person to focus on specific behavior and desired results. So rather than writing ‘Your presentation needs to be more high-level’ I might say, ‘I found it difficult to understand your objectives or the context’ and give them specific suggestions for them to consider in a next presentation. And when I see improvements, I am equally specific about what I observed. It goes without saying that, for such important emails, I read the email from the perspective of the reader to ensure that it is both kind and constructive.”

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

“One size does not fit all. We are mindful that parents can be shy about coming forward to share their specific needs, so we create a trusting environment where people can organize themselves around their family rhythm and work for the best possible outcome for both. At Solve.Care we have encouraged our staff to adjust working times where needed to better sync with their family dynamics. One of our managers has young children, so he has staggered his working day to start earlier. He then takes a 2–3 hour break midday to play with his children, and then he works later in the afternoon/evening than he normally would have done. It’s a win-win. He gets valuable time with his children, and we get additional service outside of our ‘normal’ working hours. Our global workforce has really benefited from this kind of latitude.”

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

“We remind our people not to sweat the small stuff. Kids are going to make noise during your zoom calls, so let’s just roll with it and laugh. We’ve had an assortment of pets and children make a cameo appearance on our team meetings during the quarantine which has reminded us that we were all in the same ‘quarantine boat’. We’re doing our best to make it work. We’ve tried to be especially mindful of new joiners. As a growing company, Solve.Care hasn’t had any sort of let up on hiring. We have had 15 new people join us since the ‘quarantine’ began. HR operations did a great job of supporting our managers with the coordination of all the L&D activities associated with new joiners. Our buddy-system did the rest to help our new people successfully navigate the organization.”

You are 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. 🙂

“Put a little cash aside each year and donate to a small local charity. One of our family’s favorites is a Dutch charity called Ambulance Wens Ambulance Wish that fulfils the dying wishes of terminal and immobile patients. The simplicity of these wishes is simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting. This week for instance they featured the last wish of a gentleman who wanted to see his cows one last time and was photographed in his barn, or a lady who wanted to feel the sand on her toes at the beach before she passed. I read one of these messages each day before I go to work, and I’m reminded of the important things in life.”

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never walk past an empty belly. As a young child, I saw that my parents did what they could to help the needy. They never gave cash, but they always gave food and preferably a hot dinner to anybody that needed it. I was with my Dad one day when he brought a poor man into the chip shop to buy him a meal. I recall the man asking my Dad if he could ‘possibly have a bit of fish with the chips, Sir’, and my Dad responding with tears in his eyes, ‘of course you can, son’. That was forty odd years ago, and I still get a lump in my throat thinking about it. My wish is that we will be able to similarly influence our son to give generously and to care about others.”


Sandra Hannon of Solve.Care: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Improv training with NYC police officers” With Actor Terry..

Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Improv training with NYC police officers” With Actor Terry Greiss

…Lately what’s been exciting me most is this project we’re calling To Protect, Serve and Understand. We bring seven New York City police officers and seven civilians, all of diverse backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and points of view, for 10 weekly workshops of four hours each. The first part of every workshop is a communal dinner prepared and served by a community of cooks that include Irondale audience members, staff, supporters, et.al. We sit at large tables and eat together, talk about the week, whatever. Then I’ll usually throw a provocation into the mix. Unfortunately it is often from a daily news story about police-civilian violence, misconduct, controversy. That heats up the conversation and after about 20–30 minutes we break the conversation and start to improvise. We play theater games, which in spite of their name are really very sophisticated experiential learning exercises designed to tap into intuitive knowledge that we already have, use skills we didn’t know that we had, and learn to communicate more fully, more authentically. The games help us know if the message we’re sending is landing the way we want it to or is it being misunderstood or miscommunicated. And also, most of them are fun to do so we get people who come with a pre-determined antipathy to each other to PLAY together and by doing that, they start to see each other as people.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Terry Greiss.

Terry Greiss is a native of the Bronx and has been an actor for almost 50 years, performing a range of roles from Brecht and Shakespeare to ensemble-devised work. He is the co-founder of Brooklyn’s Irondale Ensemble Project where he the Executive Director as well as a member of the acting ensemble. He has performed in more than 60 roles with the company, and is a creator of most of Irondale’s original works and education programs. He has conducted hundreds of workshops in public schools, prisons, theaters, professional training programs and community venues. Terry was the Founding President of the Network of Ensemble Theaters, and sits on the Board of Directors for the Downtown Brooklyn Arts Alliance. In 2008, at the invitation of the US Embassy, he was invited to lecture and teach improvisation in Russia. From 2016–2020 Terry travelled the US as an Improvisation Instructor for the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science and Alda Communication Training teaching scientists and STEM workers how to effectively communicate their work to various audiences, using theatrical improvisation. In 2008, Terry and Irondale opened the Irondale Center, created out of the ruins of a nineteenth century Sunday School in what is now the the Brooklyn Cultural District. In 2015, in reaction to the Eric Garner murder, Terry created one of the company’s most important programs to-date, To Protect, Serve and Understand an improv training program for NYC police officers, designed to enhance communication skills and build empathy between cops and community residents. He is a graduate of New York City’s HS for the Performing Arts and Sarah Lawrence College. He lives with his absolutely amazing wife Vicky Gilmore and their son Liam in Brooklyn.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

A series of fortunate accidents which I will try to summarize but underlying the journey was and is a firm belief that theater is a truly transformational art form and perhaps the most human of all the arts. It seems like the path my life has taken has been designed to constantly reaffirm this belief.

As a young actor, I had the great good luck to be hired buy Edgar Rosenblum and Arvin Brown at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven Ct. Long Wharf was one of the most important theaters in the country at the time and it was quite a coup to land a job there. And it started out as a bit of a fantasy job. LWT had just built a second stage and they were trying to figure out how to maximize its use. So they hired 4 young actors who would create work that would go to schools, offer workshops to other community organizations and be an accessible theater. In fact, that’s what they called us: The Access Theater Company of the Long Wharf Theater. There were not a lot of bookings that we were responsible for at this point. So most of our time was spent in the rehearsal room and since we would be asked to play to so many different kinds of audiences we figured that we’d better learn to improvise. So, we got copies of Viola Spolin’s masterwork, Improvisation for the Theater and started on page one. We spent that year mostly rehearsing, doing some performances in schools, a prison, senior centers and on the LW main stage. It was a great year if you love process, and we all did. The job was supposed to last for 5 seasons. It didn’t. Funds were cut after our first year and we were cast to the four winds. But…the work we had started at LWT had a deep affect on all of us. Especially Jim Niesen and Barbara Mackenzie-Wood. Much of what we started to learn that year: the importance of and ensemble and how to build one; the importance of improvisation and in particular theater games, as created by Viola Spolin, not only as an actor-training tool but as a way to release the creativity of every human being; the use of theater as an educational tool and the idea that there is (or should be) no separation of art and education. After Long Wharf released us we kept the school improv show alive ourselves. (We needed the money). Jim started directing instead of acting. The three of us decided that when we worked together we had a better time and made better theater than when we didn’t. For the next several years we kept talking about having our own company, making our own mistakes. And then one day in February 1983 we just did it. We are still doing it.

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

I’m too old so there isn’t one most interesting and I’ve probably forgotten a lot of them but among the interesting ones is sort a a “Strangers on a Train” scenario. In 1989 armed with a duffle bag, press kits and a credit card, the company decided to send me to Europe for 5 weeks to attend festivals and try to make international connections for future touring. I was on a train from Calais to London and I noticed a very attractive woman sitting across the aisle from me — it’s important to let you know that this happened 3 years before I met Vicky. She was looking over at me and I was casting probably not so furtive glances at her. Finally she leaned across to me and said in a very strong Russian accent, “Please. When does train come to station”. I looked in my Eur-Rail time table and told her. I asked if she was Russian, and told her that I had visited Russia during my college years. She then said, “In my country,I am actress”. Well…I was beginning to think that some higher power orchestrated this and I said, “In my country, I am…actor!” How’s that for a seductive comeback line? She had never been outside the former Soviet Union before this trip and I happily agreed to be her guide in London, which I didn’t know very well. We went out two or three times, saw some theater and on the last night she said, “Terry…your company….my company…we must work together”. I said “Sure!” And we parted. Several weeks later after I had gotten home from my pilgrimage, a very official document arrived from (then) Leningrad, inviting Jim and myself to Russia for “talks” and a possible future collaboration with the Salon Theater of St. Petersburg. We had no idea that what we were launching was a collaboration that lasted almost 10 years, included two full company tours to Russia and the former Soviet republics, and a month-long collaboration in New York. There are probably 20 other “interesting stories” that have to do just with this crazy partnership, but I will say, they were damned good actors. I loved working with them, and that young woman? She’s now a US citizen a fabulous acting teacher and she appears on dozens of TV shows and films. She plays a great Russian spy!

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Well I mentioned one in passing. I don’t think there is any real separation between art an education. That’s why I’ve always shied away from the term “arts in education”. We don’t say science-in-education or math-in-education. The arts are as integral. Also any work of art represents an educational process for its creators and it probably reveals something new to it’s audience. I’m not talking about pedantic theater or art, but any good art will and should do that.

The other principle or philosophy comes from a theater game called the mirror exercise, which sounds simple but it’s not. Two people face each other and try to create the illusion of a mirror, one leads and one reflects. The leadership keeps passing back and forth between them. Eventually, they don’t even know who is leading. And that’s the idea. One leads best by following. One communicates most effectively by focusing on the other person. It’s never about you. It’s always about the other. The best improvisers will say that they go on stage thinking my partner is a genius and also, that it’s my job is to make him or her look good.

We learned some of this while doing improv shows in elementary schools. We would invite one of the kids on stage to improvise with the company and all we were thinking about was to make the child the hero. He or she has to come out of this as the star. Our own cleverness, “talent”, personality was only valuable in the service of that goal. That’s a pretty good life lesson in general, I think.

A third “philosophy” is based on something Viola Spolin said. I think she is one of the most important theater teachers of the 20th century. Her book is never far from my reach. She said that what we think of as “talent’ may simply be one’s ability to confront and use their direct experience. When we do that on stage people say — -hey that actor is quite good.

Have I over-answered this question?

Ok. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”?

You know, I really love my work — all of it: acting, teaching, even (at times) fundraising for the company. But lately what’s been exciting me most is this project we’re calling To Protect, Serve and Understand. We bring seven New York City police officers and seven civilians, all of diverse backgrounds, ages, ethnicities and points of view, for 10 weekly workshops of four hours each. The first part of every workshop is a communal dinner prepared and served by a community of cooks that include Irondale audience members, staff, supporters, et.al. We sit at large tables and eat together, talk about the week, whatever. Then I’ll usually throw a provocation into the mix. Unfortunately it is often from a daily news story about police-civilian violence, misconduct, controversy. That heats up the conversation and after about 20–30 minutes we break the conversation and start to improvise. We play theater games, which in spite of their name are really very sophisticated experiential learning exercises designed to tap into intuitive knowledge that we already have, use skills we didn’t know that we had, and learn to communicate more fully, more authentically. The games help us know if the message we’re sending is landing the way we want it to or is it being misunderstood or miscommunicated. And also, most of them are fun to do so we get people who come with a pre-determined antipathy to each other to PLAY together and by doing that, they start to see each other as people.

Midway through the the workshop series we ask everyone to go off and interview someone they are not. Cops will interview other civilians and vise versa. These interview subjects are not part of the workshop group. The participants then try, as best they can, and with our coaching, to BE that person, to tell their story using only their words, gestures and body language. For a few minutes they “walk in someone else’s shoes”.

During the last week, we meet four times. We take all the ingredients that we’ve mixed up in our stewpot and shape it (in 2 rehearsals) into a show, or really a public showing that includes the conversations we’ve had, the interviews we’ve done the songs we’ve sung together (singing is vital). Sometimes the audience even watches us have dinner on stage and the show starts there.

Every workshop series has been wildly different, every one has been revelatory to me and my colleagues in this venture: Rivka Rivera, Michael-David Gordon and Lucy Winner. It’s a truly gifted and dedicated team.

How do you think this will change the world?

Let me begin my answer to this question with a piece of poetry by Rumi, a Sunni poet:

“Out beyond the fields of right doing and wrong doing there is a field. I will meet you there”.

I don’t think we’ve ever been in a more polarized climate than we are right now…this minute. It’s actually pretty scary. We have lost the ability and maybe even the desire to understand each other. We shout opinions across the aisle. We congregate with our “tribes”. We stay in our bubbles and we begin to feel hatred towards people who are not us or who do not think the way we do. If we could just learn to really listen and while we’re doing that keep the focus on the other person, what new ideas might emerge. There is nothing in the world that cannot benefit from clearer, better communication. It doesn’t mean we have to agree with each other but unless we learn to hear each other and understand each other — yikes! So I think the basic tenets underlying this program can indeed change the world because the can change how people relate to each other.

The fabric of civilization breaks down when law enforcers and the people they are sworn to protect and serve cannot trust each other enough to cooperate on keeping that civilization in tact. That’s where we are now. We need to go somewhere else. Let’s go to Rumi’s field.

With the knowledge that you may edit this I would like to end this answer with another poetic quotation from my friend, a brilliant contemporary poet Marc Kaminsky, from his stunning book The Stones of Lifta

“Our only hope is to sit together at the site of loss

And tell each other’s stories of that night”

That perfectly sums up what this project is about.

Keeping “Black Mirror” and the “Law of Unintended Consequences” in mind, can you see any potential drawbacks about this idea that people should think more deeply about?

Sorry I don’t know those references but I’ll give it a shot.

As I have come to realize, the line between working with the police department and working for the police department is a thin one and must be trod so carefully. Our program is not meant to sanitize or advertise the good-heartedness of the NYPD. However it can very easily be misrepresented and misunderstood as “copaganda”. (I hate that word.). We have to work with the NYPD or we wouldn’t be able to train their officers. We need their endorsement of the program but it does not mean we need to (even inadvertently) cover over the systemic racism that pervades the department and our country as a whole.

We also have to be increasingly aware of the implicit biases we as facilitators bring to the workshops. No one is free of these and it is only through increased awareness that we can not let them influence our work.

I need to make one thing very clear. This program is not therapy. Neither myself nor any of my colleagues are qualified to do that. This is ultimately a theater project. We use the skills we have as theater artists to accomplish the goals stated above and pave a road toward deeper understanding.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

This started because of the anger and sadness I felt as I watched the Eric Garner tragedy unfold in the nightly news almost six years ago. I kept thinking that what I was really witnessing was a lot of missed communication signals. Body language, verbal cues, emotional messaging, all we’re being ignored or just not noticed and a man lay dead at the end of it. In a fit of brazen good-Samaritanism, I wrote a letter to then Commissioner William Bratton. Never expecting it to be read by anyone except an assistant’s assistant, I said that I didn’t know how cops were trained but I thought that they could all use an improv class or ten. The skills of the actor/improviser, seemed essential to being able to effectively communicate with and de-escalate potentially dangerous interactions between officers and civilians. I touted our 30 year history of working in this field, licked a stamp and mailed it. Two days later, I got a phone call from 1 Police Plaza requesting that we come in for a meeting about a pilot program. That’s how it started. Be careful about the letters you write. They may end up changing your life.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

First you need willing participants. People, and I mean police departments and community members must be willing to come to the table. This is incredibly hard work. Serious play. And you need have that buy-in.

Then you need a national Swat — Team of artist/facilitators. Artists who are versed in the skills of improvisation and actor-training, who know how to run a rehearsal AND can also facilitate difficult conversations.

We are currently planning a pilot “Train-the-Trainer” program for the summer/fall of 2021. It would be a call for artists (and perhaps some police academy trainers) to take part in a six-day boot camp where they would be immersed in the TPSU process. The idea would be for them to go off and start programs in their home cities with their local PD’s. We at Irondale would mentor them through the first series and if it was successful they would be certified to continue the work. We are also planning to create online resources: videos, blogs, articles, etc. so that TPSU trainers can continue to educate themselves as they conduct workshops.

The “elephant in the room” of course is funding. We’ve applied to the Department of Justice for funds to pilot the train the trainer program, but it’s William Barre’s Justice Department so my expectations are not high. We will keep looking. And who knows, we may get lucky sooner than later.

We also need more attention paid on a national basis. Documentary filmmaker Hava Beller (In the Land of Pomegranates) is anxious to make a feature length documentary on the work we’ve already done, but again…money is the issue.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Half of all the people will think you are doing this for all the wrong reasons. I’ve actually had people write nasty online comments saying that we were shilling for the cops. We were liberal do-gooders who were trying to get attention. I’ve even had a workshop participant (a cop) who on the last night of the final performance said to me “until tonight, I thought you were a fake. I thought you were doing this to bring attention to your theater company. After tonight, I don’t think that anymore”
  2. This was going to be a lot more demanding than any other program we’ve done so far. Between recruiting, planning, teaching, evaluating and fundraising I’m probably spending 20–30 hours a week on average on this project alone. I need time to learn my lines. I’m still an actor.
  3. This would test everything I ever believed about why theater is important. There are days when this is such hard work that you begin to doubt its worth in relation to the problems of the world. That’s when I hear the voice of my colleague, co-facilitator and friend,Michael-David Gordon saying “trust the process”.
  4. Yes, this is enough! When you hold this project up against the magnitude of the ills troubling our country, I keep wondering whether the affect on 14 people at a time plus the maybe 200 others who see the performances, will that make any difference at all? I have come to realize that it’s ok to make change a little bit at a time. Yesterday an officer alumni of the program wrote to his Chief, on his own volition, that this program changed him as a police officer for the better. Other officers have written to me about how it has improved their policing with community members, improved their communication with spouses and partners. The people who are changed by experiencing this program pass it to their families, their communities and with their vote. They are the ones who can or will change the world.
  5. I wish they’d told me that some a____ole cop was going to choke George Floyd to death 5 years after Eric Garner was put in a choke-hold. No story here. Just so much work to be done.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

I think I’ve mentioned a few. The best leaders are also excellent followers. If you have to do something that requires a team, and for me, that’s the best kind of work to do, be sure to choose people who know more than you do and have skills that you do not and then trust them explicitly. Take risks. It’s easier to apologize than to ask permission. Be willing to have your mind changed, even about your most long-held beliefs. When a door opens, walk through it. If you need to get out you can, but it may only open for a brief period of time.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

At a time in our country’s history when we are so rigidly polarized, and mistrustful of the “other” To Protect, Serve and Understand™ is an intensive 10-week workshop program that builds deeper understanding and trust between communities and police using the transformative power of theater. It convenes police and civilians in a professionally moderated, immersive “empathy through improv” training that culminates in a unique public performance which respectfully examines the experiences of law enforcement and non-law enforcement alike. Participants gain practical skills that ultimately can help reduce police-related violence, and have the potential to save lives.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Facebook -Irondale Ensemble Project @irondale center or

To Protect, Serve and Understand (TPSU)

Twitter- @Irondale Center

Instagram @Irondale Center

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Big Ideas That Might Change The World: “Improv training with NYC police officers” With Actor Terry.. was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Debora LaBudde of MEMO: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years

I have always been a supporter of entrepreneurship and helping individuals to think bigger. I have always enjoyed meeting new people, learning about what they do and often hearing from them what they wish they could do. Often times, people feel they can’t pursue something new out of fear or uncertainty; sometimes just having this conversation and asking a few questions is enough to help someone to feel inspired, think bigger and go after a new goal. It’s a very powerful thing that can change someone’s life.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing Debora LaBudde.

Ms. LaBudde is the founder and CEO of MEMO a retail technology company serving the luxury goods and fine jewelry industries. Prior to founding MEMO, Ms. LaBudde was founder and Managing General Partner of Envoi Ventures, a closely held venture capital fund making investments in seed and early stage companies in the life science and technology sector. Earlier in her career, Ms. LaBudde was Director of Business Development for Bausch & Lomb, Inc. where she was involved in over a dozen successful M&A and licensing transactions for the company. She was also a co-founder and head of business development of a venture capital backed B2B ecommerce/supply chain company spun off from Bausch & Lomb. Ms. LaBudde has served on the boards of several early stage technology companies and has been an active advisor to numerous start-ups, establishing The Entrepreneurs Network, a non-profit training and networking organization for technology entrepreneurs. She previously served on the Advisory Board for Syracuse University’s Newhouse Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship and is a frequent speaker and panelist on entrepreneurship and early stage investing. Ms.LaBudde received a BA in Economics, Magna Cum Laude, from the University of Rochester and an MBA from the William E. Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My early career was as a corporate finance executive, and I later ran a closely held venture capital fund where I worked with a number of young innovative companies. Jewelry was a personal passion of mine, but identifying an opportunity in the market undoubtedly came from my experience in looking at other industries and market opportunities.

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

I have had a varied career working for a public company doing mergers and acquisitions, founding a non-profit organization to assist entrepreneurs, running a venture capital firm and now starting my own company, MEMO. The idea to start a company in the luxury and fine jewelry industry came to me just over 20 years ago while I was working as a corporate executive, and I worked and did research on my business plan on nights and weekends for several months. My career then took me in a different direction, and I put my initial business plan on the shelf. I learned a lot about entrepreneurship, investments and running a business in the years that followed, and although I didn’t pursue the business until many years later, my passion for the original concept stayed with me. When the opportunity presented itself again, I knew I was ready.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

During a meeting with a potential investor, when I was raising capital for a new venture fund, I realized that I can’t make assumptions about other people. In the past, I had met with several prominent individuals, but on this particular occasion, the investor was very quiet and barely asked any questions. I interpreted that to mean that he had no interest; it impacted my presentation and rattled me a bit. My voice cracked, and I was noticeably off of my game.

I really beat myself up for not being able to perform well in the meeting, and it continued to bother me for a while, impacting my work and productivity in the days that followed. I realized, however, that I need to try to learn from disappointing meetings instead of feeling bad about them. In this case, I realized that the individual was actually just quiet and perhaps even somewhat shy, and what or how I presented wouldn’t have changed that. Armed with this new information, I reached back out to him several years later on another venture, and we’ve actually stayed in touch since.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

MEMO was one of the first websites to uniquely offer a luxury home try-on service for fine jewelry. We recently launched and are continuing to add new features to an interface, so other brands and retailers can now offer our white glove service on their own websites. While having access to fine jewelry and other luxury goods with a home try-on service may not appear to be helping people in a significant way, the service we offer removes a number of existing barriers that women often face while purchasing luxury products and provides the luxury of shopping for high value goods in a secure, efficient and enjoyable way in the comfort of their home.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Working during these very different times of COVID-19 has taught us all that sometimes some things are out of our control. Understanding that — and staying more flexible, open, and positive about changes that occur in our lives, both personally and professionally — can alleviate stress and even expose new opportunities for growth.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

A number of people have helped me throughout my career — in many cases opening doors for me to new opportunities or allowing me to learn by their example. When I first considered launching MEMO, however, a top jewelry designer met with me over a number of months and gave me feedback on the original concept and insight on the industry. Each time we met, usually over coffee, I would share my latest research on the market and my current thinking with respect to our business model or go-to market strategy, and each time the designer would provide constructive feedback and some words of encouragement. Although she was functioning as a very early and valuable advisor to me and the company, she never asked for anything in return for her time.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I truly feel that with MEMO, we have brought some goodness to the world by delighting our customers and removing the barriers to discovering and purchasing fine jewelry. Personally, and because I’ve been fortunate to have had many rich career experiences, I always look for opportunities to help others or share my experience or network, to the extent it can be helpful to them.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

  • A further proliferation of ecommerce — with so many brands building or augmenting their own ecommerce capabilities, particularly through the pandemic, the number of online options available to consumers will continue to increase. Retailers will need to understand what they can uniquely offer consumers to set them apart and both attract and retain consumers.
  • AI-driven personalization — while data-driven personalization of the consumer shopping experience already exists, new, even smarter forms of personalization should be expected and explored as new retail shopping technologies provide additional rich data streams.
  • Humanizing the retail experience — with the explosion of retail technologies and digital experiences, retailers must find ways to humanize the customer experience — how, when and where the consumer desires.
  • Humanizing the brand — similar to humanizing the retail experience for consumers, in order to be successful, retailers need to be transparent about their goals and values and have their actions and interactions with clients reflect this at every touch point.
  • Curated online experiences — while the number of online shopping options continues to grow, it will become increasingly important to create curated experiences to engage consumers and assist with product discovery and purchases. This will also allow retailers to further differentiate themselves and present a unique point of view to their consumer offering.

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 have always been a supporter of entrepreneurship and helping individuals to think bigger. I have always enjoyed meeting new people, learning about what they do and often hearing from them what they wish they could do. Often times, people feel they can’t pursue something new out of fear or uncertainty; sometimes just having this conversation and asking a few questions is enough to help someone to feel inspired, think bigger and go after a new goal. It’s a very powerful thing that can change someone’s life. If there was a way to change someone’s attitude, allow them to become a better version of themselves, or impact their future even through a chance meeting simply by asking a few questions or providing supporting advice, I think the good that could come would be endless. We often hear people talk about giving back, but regardless of the stage of your career, everyone has the ability to #liftup another person.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow us on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @MemoJewelry

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!


Debora LaBudde of MEMO: The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Big Ideas: “Sports storytelling as a vehicle to help heal & empower” With Filmmaker Dexton Deboree

Instinct. Integrity. Unwavering commitment. Unyielding vision. Relentless pursuit of making a difference, inspiring and empowering the world through storytelling. I gained these ideals through sport, and those building blocks define my life, my path, my success, my understanding and processing of failure and my fulfilment in life.

As a part of my series about “Big Ideas That Might Change The World In The Next Few Years” I had the pleasure of interviewing Dexton Deboree.

Dexton Deboree is part visionary, strategist, content pioneer, diversely talented Writer/Director/Producer and creative hybrid.

He has worked on such multi-faceted projects as Grammy-nominated James Bond’s “Quantum Of Solace”, Emmy-winning Branded Content special “Yes, Virginia”¸ and award-winning BRAND campaigns for Jordan Brand, Nike, Major League Baseball, Wilson and Major League Soccer, among others.

He Wrote, Directed & Produced the award-winning Feature Film, “Unbanned: The Legend of AJ1” which premiered at Tribeca and now streams on Tidal, on Hulu and most Digital Platforms around the world.

He is currently in post-production on a Docu-series with SMAC & Believe Entertainment, in production on a docu series around a professional athlete and in development on a number of scripted and unscripted films and tv series in partnership with athletes and co-production companies on the forefront of sports and culture.

Dexton Co-founded Content Agency Los York and is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of Falkon — a creative content company born at the intersection of Advertising & Entertainment.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you please tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

It started with a powerful poem that just showed up out of nowhere when I was in college. After I wrote it I kind of woke up and my whole world changed. From that point forward I was on a mission to bring words to life in visual storytelling, transferred to film school and the rest is history.

Can you please share with us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Though I’ve always been a writer, I spent a lot of my career as a producer, EP and on the business side. Somewhere mid-relationship with Jordan brand while I was still the account lead, the brand asked me to write a short film celebrating the Hare Jordan — the 20th anniversary of the ad campaign that pre-empted Space Jam with Bugs and MJ. Months later after hearing nothing about it — they invited me to a VO recording with the voice of Bugs Bunny. When I walked in the room someone introduced me as the director, sort of accidentally, I didn’t miss a beat, step up, sat in the director’s chair in the sound booth and directed the session. And from that point on, I was a writer and director for Jordan brand and never looked back. So my very first piece as a director ever was a short film for Jordan, directing Bugs Bunny with Warner Brothers and Amhad Rashad in a studio and it all just snowballed from there. Similar to that poem I believe fate stepped in and laid out its plans for my destiny much more than I plotted it all out and made it happen.

Which principles or philosophies have guided your life? Your career?

Instinct. Integrity. Unwavering commitment. Unyielding vision. Relentless pursuit of making a difference, inspiring and empowering the world through storytelling. I gained these ideals through sport, and those building blocks define my life, my path, my success, my understanding and processing of failure and my fulfilment in life.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now move to the main focus of our interview. Can you tell us about your “Big Idea That Might Change The World”? How do you think this will change the world?

There’s a few. But I think more than anything, it’s this idea of using storytelling, and more specifically sports storytelling as a vehicle to help heal, empower communities and inspired future generations to either stand up, speak out, fight for what they believe in and take real action to push for change. Sports has ALWAYS held this power and we’re at a point that it’s the biggest genre of culture at large and has the widest reach across the globe so these stories through the lens of sport have never been more impactful or held the ability to truly help change the world. There are some things in the area of filmmaking — across content that I’ve been developing since COVID hit that have allowed me to remain actively in production even during complete lock down that really hint at great innovation and the resulting impact on people’s time, finances, pandemic agnostic and far more environmentally sustainable long term and far beyond Covid’s presence.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this idea? Can you tell us that story?

In sports storytelling, it came about during the making of Unbanned. I went into it of course knowing that looking for the truth to the mystery or real definition for the ZIETGIEST of both MJ and his Shoes was not going to be as obvious as most people previously explained and far deeper than a surface explanation. But what I found really unearthed this idea of just how impactful the sports superhero ended up being on an entire generation and community of people. Empowering and inspiring every young black boy with the hope and conviction that they too could fly, or at least stand tall, walk proudly, speak up and just BE who they are and find greatness and fulfilment within that was just such a profound concept and truth. Many other truths emerged as well but that simple and profound truth really further focused my own life and my mission to tell stories that really matter and truly impact the world.

What do you need to lead this idea to widespread adoption?

The world simply needs it. With so much hardcore news and real stories rolling out that are negative or reminders of hate and prejudice and tragedy we need an even balance of really inspiring and empowering stories that educate people on true history, teach them by way of example, inspire them by way of powerful examples leading lives and actions worth taking inspiration from and finally illuminating and amplifying people and moments that truly deserve to be celebrated, while also furthering ideas and examples of people and moments that blazed trails before us and thus instill in us the knowledge and belief that we can do it too.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

ALWAYS BE PRESENT — It’s something I’ve had to learn over time but BEING present and really conscious of every moment — good and bad — is the most fulfilling part. And I can say there were times coming up that I was so focused on my destination that I missed some of the journey. And even the hard times, the struggle, the rejections and the failures, all of it was life and alive and so much to gain from.

TRUST YOUR GUT — Coming up it’s common to look up at those that have gone before you or are in a place you want to be, or have achieved things similar to what you want to achieve — to consider them the experts and you the novice. I always used to assume that everyone knew so much more than I did, that their success or accomplishment meant they were smarter, wiser, more experienced, more talented than I was. But over time I’ve learned that that’s not true and that true instinct and personal authenticity is as valuable as experience and real wisdom. Wisdom and instinct are really very close cousins and come from the same place which isn’t always book knowledge or perfect tangible proof or logical experience.

KEEP THE FAITH — Trust in the universal order of things is really essential to the long and winding road of life — but it’s really exaggerated in the realm of content and entertainment since logic and consistent progression can sometimes be very misleading or even uncertain and really kind of jump around in fits and starts that is a strange mix of talent, divine timing, social climate of the audience, ingredients of the market and just alignment on ideas and agendas across so many factors. Rather than riding the wave of ups and downs or creating false narratives of what something MEANS, just keeping the faith that the path you’re on, even if full of unexpected turns and unrealized expectations is all very naturally part of your path.

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF NO MATTER WHAT — Similar to the above but more specific to really taking things personally, rejection, failure, a lack of appreciation or validation for ideas, are all easy triggers for people to abandon their self-belief under the guise that the “proof” states they aren’t worthy, good enough, smart enough, talented enough or right about an idea. And other’s opinions are never the ultimate and final judge of any of the above.

KNOW WHO YOU ARE — I’d say one of the greatest keys to success I’ve learned is that the more you actually know who you are — good, bad and indifferent — the more aligned you are to your purpose, your calling, your destiny and your true offering to the world and the more you’re aligned to that the more your life conspires to make it so.

Can you share with our readers what you think are the most important “success habits” or “success mindsets”?

Somewhat repetitive to the above but I think above all it’s always maintaining a champion’s mindset — this unwavering commitment to persevere, to triumph and to really find fulfilment in the game along the course of it. I think that fundamental sports ideal has been the bedrock of my life. I became a high school wrestler as a sophomore in high school. I was too late to the sport, to tall and too skinny, and too uncoordinated to ever be a great wrestler. But I found my place on the varsity team as the guy that could outwork anyone and thus, I drove and motivated the team by my sheer work ethic. I was the fastest guy on the team, the most conditioned and could outlast anyone in any test of endurance which is a huge element of wrestling. It was that foundation that allowed me to later implore that same discipline to writing, to training as an everyday practice and to tackle life via a mantra I came up with quite a number of years ago that I’m always training, preparing, eating, and playing in the sport of life — where life itself is a sport, I’m an athlete within it and I’m committed to being the very best I am capable in my sport. That has really served and guided me most of all.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dextondeboree/?hl=en

Website: https://www.falkoncontent.com/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Big Ideas: “Sports storytelling as a vehicle to help heal & empower” With Filmmaker Dexton Deboree was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Melinda B Wolfe: Why Diversity Is a Driver of Innovation

Melinda B. Wolfe: Why Diversity Is a Driver of Innovation

…First, diversity is a driver of innovation, fueling fresh and unique perspectives. By bringing a more diverse team to the table, companies leverage collective intelligence for more effective problem solving. Diversity is not only about race, gender, or sexual orientation; we all bring something different from our experiences and background that can be harnessed for better outcomes.

As a part of our series about “How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Melinda B. Wolfe.

Melinda Wolfe has served as Chief People Officer and led talent initiatives with a passionate focus on diversity, equity and inclusion at companies including GLG, Pearson, Bloomberg, American Express and Goldman Sachs. Across industry, she has joined leadership teams to optimize organizational design, culture and human resource priorities, while driving outcomes for employee engagement, productivity and profitability. Ms. Wolfe began her career in public finance at Merrill Lynch where she managed billions of dollars of project finance and public power transactions for public and private sector clients.

Ms. Wolfe has held the chief HR role at private, private equity-backed and public companies, all with global reach and each at critical inflection points in their size and evolution. She has partnered with CEOs and leadership teams, as a thought leader, coach and operator to achieve organic growth strategies, integrate powerful acquisitions and downsize through divestitures and contraction of challenged businesses. She has worked with company boards and board committees on succession planning, executive talent acquisition, and alignment of competitive compensation programs, focusing on compliance and regular reporting of people practices. As a company leader, she has transformed HR processes and systems and encouraged a sense of belonging and community to deepen culture and increase retention of employees in regions across the globe, particularly Millennials and Gen Z. Additionally, Ms. Wolfe has overseen Social Impact and Corporate Social Responsibility efforts that have been a centerpiece of employee engagement efforts.

In addition to her work in the private sector, Ms. Wolfe holds several leadership positions in the non-profit sector. Currently, she chairs the board of the Zana Africa Foundation and serves as a board member of Auburn Seminary, Echoing Green and the Center for Talent Innovation. She previously served on the NYC Mayor’s Commission on Women and on advisory boards for several academic institutions including the Dalton School, Barnard’s Athena Center, Duke University, Washington University and the School of Public and International Affairs at Columbia, where she also taught as an Adjunct Faculty Member.

Ms. Wolfe is a frequent speaker at conferences on a range of subjects including talent management, and diversity, equity and inclusion. She regularly facilitates teams across sectors on strategy and execution of business plans and coaches emerging leaders on career considerations. She received her undergraduate degree from Washington University and her graduate degree at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She resides in Manhattan with her husband Ken.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share your “backstory” with us?

My career has not been linear — it has been a winding course I continue to follow to this day. Growing up in a homogeneous setting, I was always drawn to the rich melting pot of urban environments — cities such as St. Louis, Washington DC, Boston, L.A., and finally, New York City. I wanted to be in the midst of their vibrant energy, surrounded by diverse communities, and part of an effort to make them even more livable. When I finished graduate school, I sought opportunities to fulfill this passion and pursued work in the public sector — but the options turned out to be limited because of the political environment at the time. Ironically, I pivoted and started working for the private sector in a position that addressed the financing needs of cities and states. Following a winding course, however, I found myself landing a role 15 years later — in the same company doing something very different — leading the company’s diversity efforts. Moving from the transactional to the strategic to become deeply connected with the subject matter and to have the ability to make change. Diversity became the focus of the second chapter of my career, anchored by a passion for impact, community, and the power of the workplace to transform peoples’ experiences.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

My most interesting stories come from the power of mentoring and the life changing transformations it can lead to. While a mentor can have a major influence on her mentee, I’ve been equally impressed and moved by the power a mentee has to enable me to understand new perspectives. The world of mentoring is mutually satisfying and paying it forward has lifelong effects.

Many people I’ve mentored in the early stages of their careers have advanced and are now looking for advice on leadership and business strategy. Yesterday, I was mentoring an associate — today I am coaching an executive — it’s wonderful to see how a mentoring relationship can bloom and evolve. A relationship like this, sustained over time, is mutually beneficial for the mentor and mentee. For me, it has been another path to recognizing my strengths by sharing my stories and experiences.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

The work that I do spans corporations, small companies, and non-profit organizations. The focus is on developing company cultures that foster an environment of collaboration, communication, and leadership to drive the business forward. At the center of this work is a value on diversity, equity, and inclusion in all parts of the talent pipeline and across business practices. I thrive on learning what makes a place tick and helping a leadership team rethink its culture.

For example, I’m working with a company that’s redesigning its performance management strategy to enable its leaders to consider performance and potential in completely new ways. I’ve helped them to think about what they need to know about their people — what questions they should be asking to unleash talent, skills, and greater productivity. The talent conversations have been transformative for the company and the leaders, who are discovering a new and rewarding depth in the potential of their employees.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

I find all of my work exciting for the unique aspects each project offers. Currently, I’m working with two emerging Silicon Valley startups. Both have great aspirations and innovative concepts: One is creating a platform to build community and reinforce culture; the other is using virtual reality (VR) to help illuminate and eliminate unconscious bias.

In the first case, the business is going beyond survey questions to assess engagement — they are measuring how people are using their time in employee resource groups, community service activities, and learning opportunities — all of which contribute to corporate culture. In the second project, I am very excited by the potential for using VR to give people a deeper understanding of unintended bias and the cost of microaggressions in the workplace. The VR technology is a full sensory experience, putting the user in the center of the action and getting people engaged in more effective learning. This is something you simply can’t get by looking at a screen and going through an online teaching module.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

I would say to them it’s critically important to build up the capability of lower level managers who are on the front lines working directly with employees and customers. Employees are looking for their managers to lead. In early stage companies (and larger ones as well), managers with little tenure have a dearth of experience in providing guidance, honest feedback, and direction. Companies need to teach and model great leadership practices. When founders and CEOS are overly focused on productivity and bottom-line results, they can overlook the need to invest in their people.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders about how to manage a large team?

The events of this moment have two profound consequences for managing large teams. One is the importance of establishing a truly equitable workplace in which all people feel that they belong. A diverse workforce can power up a business though it requires wisdom, constant learning, and a willingness to work through differences. We must live in the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and relentlessly demonstrate our commitment through programs, communication, and ACTIONS.

COVID-19 has also taught us lessons that are crucial to successfully managing a workforce. We have seen many ways that people can work productively — at work and at home. Teams have learned how to collaborate without having to be next to each other. Managers can see people working hard — even when they are working remotely. This has and will change the way we work. And, though I continue to believe that face-to-face contact and community building are important, I expect that managers have come to understand that being flexible in their approach can engender greater engagement and productivity.

Ok. Thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. This may be obvious to you, but it is not intuitive to many people. Can you articulate to our readers five ways that increased diversity can help a company’s bottom line? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Diversity practitioners have been espousing the business case for diversity and inclusion for years and progress has been slow, however, many enlightened leaders have seen the value of a diverse workforce manifest in their bottom line. There are numerous academic and consulting analyses, which demonstrate that companies with more diverse leadership teams report higher revenues and greater profitability. There are many reasons behind this.

First, diversity is a driver of innovation, fueling fresh and unique perspectives. By bringing a more diverse team to the table, companies leverage collective intelligence for more effective problem solving. Diversity is not only about race, gender, or sexual orientation; we all bring something different from our experiences and background that can be harnessed for better outcomes.

Secondly, if a company aims to hire the best talent, diversity and inclusion must be a core value and evident at all levels of the company. When thinking about employers, prospective hires look at the composition of the company, especially the senior team and assess whether the culture is place where they can thrive. If they don’t see people like themselves and a culture of belonging, they will be skeptical of their long-term prospects and less likely to consider an employment opportunity.

Another way diversity contributes to the bottom line is by creating greater customer alignment. It’s a big miss to have products that are not designed by the people who will be using them. Having employees who mirror a company’s customer base will better address consumer needs, most simply leading to better products and greater success.

Lastly and most reflective of the current state of our country, I believe companies have a moral obligation to change the systems of power and decision making that prevent everyone from having an equal shot at success. Over the past year, corporations began to give voice to their responsibility to uphold key values and to foster an environment of belonging for all. Until then, these important principles were overshadowed by a laser focus on the bottom line. In the current environment, we are being called to task on systematic and institutional barriers to progress, creating an unparalleled opportunity to build more diverse and equitable workplaces. The resulting changes could mean greater pay equity, increased representation at the top and in the promotion process for women and men of underrepresented groups. Companies will be stronger, more effective — and more profitable — when they fully recognize the value of diversity, mandating an equitable, inclusive workplace.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

This is a profoundly important question to me. I’d like to think that the efforts I have made in many companies, along with other committed individuals and teams, have helped to change the culture of companies, influence those in power and allow for greater opportunity and equity for employees. That has been rewarding but change has been too slow, and I hope that we can leverage the momentum of this period to transform our workplaces.

On an individual level, I am firmly committed to serving as a mentor, connector, and influencer for those with fewer opportunities and resources, to create mutually rewarding relationships and “pay it forward”. Because this is important to me, an area of great personal pride is the work I do in the non-profit sector, as a volunteer, an activist, and a board member. I have been very deliberate about how I spend my time — across issues of social and reproductive justice, women’s empowerment, social entrepreneurship, education, and workplace equity — locally, nationally and globally. I have used my “treasure” to financially support organizations that are making a difference, and also my time and skillsets to help them thrive and succeed. The theme of diversity and inclusion runs through all these efforts because all workplaces, from government to non-profit to for-profit, can and must improve their cultures.

My experiences in nonprofit organizations have sharpened my skills and made me a better professional. They have provided new challenges and problem-solving opportunities, all of which have contributed to my leadership abilities across sectors and businesses.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?

“Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” ― James Baldwin

This quote resonates with me fully and feels profoundly relevant to the moment we are living in.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?

First, I am grateful to my husband, Ken Inadomi, who’s been supportive throughout my career. He has been a champion of all my activities in both the profit and nonprofit sectors and a thought partner and a true inspiration. In balancing the obligations as a mom, a daughter, and a community member, having his support has been critical to my success.

Secondly, in thinking about my career, I’m ever grateful to Doreen Frasca, a colleague at Merrill Lynch who became my boss and then my champion. Doreen helped me make the transition from investment banking to diversity strategy advocating and sponsoring me at the highest levels of the organization. She continues to be a role model as a woman entrepreneur.

Thirdly, I’ve had a community of women who have helped me in my career, either supporting me as a parent, supporting my leadership, or helping me build my network. Many of these people have been friends or colleagues. Within this circle of virtuous generosity, equally, my mentees have been a critical part of my success.

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, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂

At the moment, I would relish the opportunity to sit with Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative, a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. I am so moved by his brilliance, commitment, and tenacity, and the impact he will continue to have on our country. The work he has done through his advocacy and writing, and the institutions he has set up in Montgomery, Alabama to address the systemic and structural racism has been transformational.


Melinda B Wolfe: Why Diversity Is a Driver of Innovation was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr. Jamie Rife of Purposity Has Created A Platform For People To

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr. Jamie Rife of Purposity Has Created A Platform For People To Help Their Neighbors In Need

Get involved. Just do something. This doesn’t mean you need to leave your job and dedicate yourself to homelessness, but there are a lot of ways for you to make an impact whether that impact is time, money or skills. Go volunteer (if you’re able). Donate an item via Purposity or any other way that makes you feel good, or lend your professional expertise by joining a nonprofit board. There are tons of ways to make an impact right in your community.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jamie Rife, co-Founder of Purposity and Author of Journeys out of Homelessness: The Voices of Lived Experience

Dr. Jamie Rife is co-founder of Purposity, a non-profit platform that connects users to critical, physical needs in their community so they can help their neighbors in need. Prior to Purposity, Rife spent over 15 years in public education. Most recently, she served as the State Coordinator for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth at the Colorado Department of Education. Before relocating to Denver, she spent 12 years in a metro-Atlanta school district as a director, school administrator, Homeless Education Liaison, and classroom teacher. Rife conducts research on poverty and homelessness and is the co-author of the recent book Journeys out of Homelessness: The Voices of Lived Experience. She earned her Ed.D. in educational leadership from Liberty University, M.Ed. in educational administration and policy from the University of Georgia and completed her B.A. in Spanish and sociology at the State University of New York College at College.

Can you tell us a bit about your personal background, and how you grew up?

The short version? All brothers (I’m a complete tomboy), a single mom who instilled in me the importance of education as her only daughter (thanks, mom), and, sufficed to say, a backstory that gave me the opportunity to build a lot resiliency, grit, and a strong sense of purpose.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

There is. For me, it’s personal. Homelessness is a wide spectrum of experiences and living situations. It’s a spectrum I’ve spent some time on, and I can tell you it’s awful. It’s an experience that cuts deeply, and I want to do everything in my power to ensure others don’t have to endure it.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

It’s a combination of a lot of factors, the primary of which is the rising cost of housing in those cities. My hometown, Denver, was just listed #2 in the nation for gentrification (not in a good way), and affordable communities are disappearing overnight. Couple this with stagnate wages, the rising cost of healthcare, disappearing safety nets, the burden of higher education, plus systems that breed racial inequality, and the nation is seeing sharp increases in homelessness in many major cities. Also, this is no longer an urban issue. It’s an everywhere issue. As individuals are displaced outwards from cities into more affordable housing markets, smaller communities have also seen significant growth in their homeless populations. Many of these communities still haven’t recovered from the Great Recession, and with the economic impact of COVID just now beginning to unfold, homelessness in towns across the U.S. will see even more staggering increases unless we take immediate action.

That being said, homelessness has been an issue for a very long time. In some ways, we are just getting better at understanding the breadth and quantifying the crisis as our ability to collect meaningful data improves. In fact, with the right resources, awareness and will, veteran homelessness has actually decreased by 50% in the last 10 years. This is encouraging news for many of us, but we still have a lot of work to do.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

There’s not really a “typical” progression. Rather, it’s the combination of a lot of factors, including an economy that only works for some, an unexpected illness, the loss of a job without a safety net, the result of escaping domestic violence or other family conflict, a struggle with mental illness or substance use, and perhaps most importantly, the racial inequities of many of our systems including criminal justice, child welfare, and others that disproportionately affect people of color.

Most of the individuals experiencing homelessness don’t have a safety net or social network capable of helping them through difficult times. This is referred to as network impoverishment and is the reality in which many of those without a home have spent their entire lives. The majority of Americans can’t afford a $400 unexpected cost, and if you don’t have a network to whom you can reach out to in unexpected times, then often the path to losing housing is a straight line.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

The reality is, there is not a single zip code in the U.S. in which minimum wage can support market rent. These places simply do not exist. Plus, if an individual is experiencing housing insecurity, more than likely they do not have the resources to easily move to another city. Additionally, many people have family, friends, employment, and support networks in their current city. Leaving those behind for more affordable housing oftentimes simply trades one set of problems for another. Social networks are incredibly important to all of us, and for those living in unstable situations, a social network can be the difference between surviving and not. For example, what if a parent relies on extended family to care for their children while they work or attend school? Moving to a more affordable city simply means they’ll be trading lower rent for higher childcare costs. The same is true with transportation. In more affordable communities, there often doesn’t exist the infrastructure, such as public transportation, on which so many rely to get to work.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

A lot of people ask me this question. My answer is always the same. Make a decision on what you think is the right way to respond. Ultimately, you have to live with you. My husband and I both work in homelessness and even our responses are often different. Sometimes I carry nonperishable items in my car on with me to hand out. He may carry resource lists and how to contact his agency. One thing we both do — treat people with kindness, dignity, and recognize that this is a human being in front of you. Too often homelessness dehumanizes those it affects and desensitizes the rest of us. Fight that urge.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

There’s not really a “best” way to respond. Here again, I encourage you to decide for yourself what you feel is best and what you’re comfortable with. You have to live with you. I will say this, if you do choose to give someone money, be ok with how that person chooses to spend the it — don’t judge.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

My work is but a blip in the sea of the larger response to this crisis. There are thousands of people all working together to make homelessness brief, rare and nonrecurring. That’s what we mean when we say we want to end homelessness. They’re the ones on the front lines, the ones seeing and feeling the impact of homelessness first hand. They’re the ones advocating for the rights and the resources needed to make this crisis history. It’s an honor to be able to support them through the work I do, and they’re the ones making the real impact.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

This has complicated an already complex issue. The full effects of COVID-19 will continue to unfold for years to come. What I can say about COVID is the guidance on remaining safe all rely on one thing — housing. Sheltering in place, socially distancing, practicing good hygiene are all privileges of those that are housed. For those among the homeless community, COVID-19 contributed the dangers and disparities already inherent in their everyday lives. Many of those living without a home are doing so due to some sort of chronic health issue and/or are senior citizens (one of the fastest growing subpopulations of unhoused). This, coupled with their inability to literally follow guidelines to stay healthy, is detrimental to so many experiencing homelessness. Additionally, so many of the nonprofits that work with those experiencing homelessness rely on volunteers to operate, the majority of which are retirees. With COVID-19, we’ve seen drastic decreases in the available number of volunteers to ensure our nonprofits can continue to serve those without homes.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

A lot of the past five years of my life have been spent examining my purpose. Thankfully, I’m at a place in my life where I have the privilege to spend time doing. I’m blessed. One thing that makes me proud is helping provide a platform and megaphone for those that are either experiencing homelessness or those who have. Let’s be real — if you want to know about homelessness, take some time to get to know someone who’s been through it. They’re the real experts.

With that, the writing of Journeys out of Homelessness fills me with a sense of pride and purpose. In the book, nine individuals share their journeys through, and in most cases, out of homelessness. My coauthor, Don Burnes, and I spent nearly two years working with the contributors to help craft and refine their stories along with many of them who also shared how they believe our system can be improved. If you’re truly interested in the topic, give the book a read. All proceeds are being donated to nonprofits that serve those experiencing homelessness, so in reading it, you’re not only expanding your knowledge but doing some good.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

I get a little teary-eyed when I think back to all the amazing people with whom I’ve had the opportunity to share this journey. Perhaps one of my favorite stories was one shared with me by a school social worker. After walking off stage for a keynote at a conference last fall, this school social worker made a beeline towards me, with a very intentional look on her face, stopping me as I made my way to the back of the room. She shared that her school district had recently begun using Purposity and she’d gotten one of her first shipments, a pair of shoes for a sixth-grade boy. She called him to her office to give him the shoes, handing them to him, still in the shoebox in which they had arrived. Bewildered, the boy looked up at her and asked, “Are these for me?” She responded by saying that of course they were for him and that someone in their community had sent them to him at the school. Awestruck, he asked a question that will stick with me forever. “Well, can I keep the box too? I’ve never had a NEW pair of shoes.” She said every time she saw him in the hallways for weeks afterwards, he’d smile at her and show off his new kicks. I think sometimes in the complexity of some of the issues we deal with, it’s easy to forget how big of a deal something really small can be, particularly to a child. It’s hopeful to think that we all can do just one little thing that collectively we can have a large impact.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

  1. Here’s an easy one — start using person-first language. What’s that mean, you ask? Instead of saying “homeless people” (it hurts to even type those words), consider using “people experiencing homelessness” when talking about this issue. Homelessness is an experience. It’s not a defining characteristic. How we talk about this issue matters, and it literally costs nothing to make this change.
  2. Question your assumptions on homelessness. It’s so much easier, and less vulnerable, to continue to believe the stereotypes on homelessness — that it’s the result of personal choices or bad decisions. It’s a defense mechanism that keeps us distanced from having to realize that it could be any one of us that ends up without a home, but this wall of defense we keep putting up is one of the barriers we’ve erected to solve this issue
  3. Get involved. Just do something. This doesn’t mean you need to leave your job and dedicate yourself to homelessness, but there are a lot of ways for you to make an impact whether that impact is time, money or skills. Go volunteer (if you’re able). Donate an item via Purposity or any other way that makes you feel good, or lend your professional expertise by joining a nonprofit board. There are tons of ways to make an impact right in your community.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

Only three? Well…I guess I’ll need to be precise. It’s so interesting to me. Legislation on homelessness is often done in isolation of its causes, meaning we legislate and appropriate funds to combat homelessness itself as an outcome versus addressing its root causes. Homelessness is the result of systems working together. If we want to end homelessness, we need to shut off the in valve, not just drink from the firehose on the other end. I’d like to see more efforts focused on addressing these systems, instead of just focusing on homelessness. So, if you’re asking which three areas I’d like to see reformed, I’d suggest starting with those systems that feed directly into homelessness like criminal justice, child welfare, and healthcare.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

Large amounts of coffee…and a strong sense of purpose.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

I don’t hope. I know. Several cities have already ended certain forms of homelessness, such as veteran and chronic homelessness. My belief is that if it’s possible in one city, it’s possible everywhere. We just need the collective will to make it happen. Don’t believe me? Check out the amazing work the nonprofit Community Solutions is doing not just in the U.S. but around the world to help communities end homelessness.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Prioritize yourself. This sounds so incredibly counterintuitive to many of us who work in human services. We’ve somehow gotten to a place where we idolize burnout and working long hours. This isn’t healthy. To bring your best to this work, you have to make time for yourself and fill your own tank.
  2. You can’t win them all. This has been one of the hardest for me, and one of my dearest colleagues gave me this advice early on. You literally can’t save everyone and sometimes have to make some very, very difficult decisions. Give yourself grace in these situations.
  3. That’s probably my third one — give yourself grace. I think one of the best things therapy taught me was to stop myself when that voice of self-criticism starts creeping out into my thoughts and ask, “Is this something I would say to a friend?” Many of us in this work tend to focus on our perceived shortcomings and it stands in the way of our growth.
  4. Ask “why”? One of the easiest traps to fall into is not asking why things are done the way they’re done. Question every process, every day and make sure the way you’re doing something is the best way to do it. If not, progress can’t be made.
  5. With that, seek progress, not perfection. Don’t wait for the perfect answer to do anything, just keep assuring you’re making progress. If you wait for perfection, you’ll never move forward.

You are a person of enormous 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. 🙂

Start by helping your neighbors. If we each begin making an impact close to us, collectively we really can change the world, one corner at a time.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.” — Brene Brown

For the longest time, I’ve sought to shut away vulnerability, seeing it as a weakness, particularly as a female leader. When I started to open myself up to vulnerability and reframe it from a weakness to a tool, there was an internal shift. It’s one that has given me peace, a stronger sense of self, and allowed me to lean into my creative side. For me, vulnerability was the birthplace of Purposity and so many of the other amazing things in my life. It’s made my personal relationships healthier, my marriage stronger, and helped develop me into the leader I am today. There’s nothing more exhausting than fear of being vulnerable and trying to lock it away. If you’re still fighting that fight, consider taking some time and doing some work to tackle that demon (start with Brene Brown’s work on the topic). You’ll be happier and healthier for it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Hey, hey Brene Brown. Feel free to reach out with some dates and times that work for you. I’ll send out the calendar invite with a Zoom link.

In all seriousness, if you don’t have Brene Brown in your life, you need to get some. Her work on shame and vulnerability (paired with some intensive counseling) have changed my life and allowed me to own my story instead of it owning me. I’ll always be grateful for this gift.

How can our readers follow you online?

If you want to make a difference, don’t follow me. Follow Purposity:

Instagram @purposity

Facebook @purposity

Twitter @purposity_

If you prefer dog photos, cat cameos, and an occasional update on homelessness, give me a follow on Instagram or Twitter.

Instagram: @jamie.rife

Twitter: Jamie_rife


Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Dr. Jamie Rife of Purposity Has Created A Platform For People To was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Irina Papuc of Galactic Fed: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

It’s important to always remember the positives when you give out constructive feedback, and in a remote working environment, this becomes even more important, because at the end of the day, a written message is often all people have to make an impression. It’s important to start off a feedback email with words of appreciation and gratitude. They are, after all, a wonderful addition to the team, and we appreciate their work overall.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Irina Papuc, co-Founder & Managing Partner of Galactic Fed, a multinational, fully-remote marketing agency with employees all around the world.

A physicist turned digital marketing leader, Irina brings a unique view to her work as a data-driven growth marketing expert. Irina co-founded GalacticFed to provide clients a better solution for on-demand, scaleable, growth marketing teams. Previously she led SEO teams at Toptal, a global online services business, and has built high-powered virtual teams for hyper-growth Bay Area companies. Irina has created performance marketing strategies and solutions for brands such as Shell, Descript, Tenfold, and HVMN, among many others.

Irina’s specialty is providing bespoke, highly scalable email marketing and link-building solutions, as well as designing and operationalizing full SEO programs at any size and scale for her clients.

Outside of digital marketing, Irina is an academically trained anthropologist with a physics degree, having briefly worked at CERN in particle physics before moving into the digital marketing world.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I’ve worn a few hats so far! To quickly sum it up, I studied physics, worked briefly at CERN, graduated in the aftermath of the 2007 recession, concluded that office life was not for me, bought a one-way ticket to Taiwan, lived there for a year and taught English, then saved up enough money to travel a year overland from Thailand to Romania (my roots). Once I returned to the states in 2014, I fell into marketing when browsing the web for remote work opportunities, and it stuck like a well-fitted glove. I fell in love with all aspects of SEO while joining (and eventually leading) the SEO program at Toptal, a global tech startup specializing in the talent economy, eventually moving on to co-found Galactic Fed.

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

Marketing has taken me on some pretty remarkable business trips. I’ve had the pleasure of dipping into ethnographic field research (something tied to my graduate background in anthropology) while doing marketing. For example, for one of our undisclosed clients, I had the pleasure of spending a day washing cars in Texas “undercover” while learning the ins and out of user behavior related to this activity!

All in all, marketing puts you in contact with some of the most interesting people in various industries, fields, and walks of life. You never know who walks in through the door!

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Offer unlimited paid time off, and encourage your team to actually take time off. Many companies implement this policy, but the team doesn’t actually take time off! Set the precedent and don’t ping our e-mail your co-workers on the weekend. Help prevent “Slack burnout” (constantly checking Slack) by encouraging team members to designate “deep work” time when they are not checking Slack. Encourage some healthy competition within the org that emphasizes health and wellness, such as a company-wide walkathon, or recipe exchange. Make sure team members who are expecting or recently gave birth take the necessary time off to rest and focus on their family.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve never worked a day in a physical office. My entire career has been remote, and it began in 2015. So, 5 years total to date managing remote teams.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Communication — it’s hard enough as it is to communicate effectively in a traditional team setting. Once to take this to a remote environment, you often have little more than a few specs, Slack messages, and perhaps a brief call or two to convey the expectations and the end goals. Daily communication is the cement that holds the team together, and at Galactic Fed this extends over multiple time zones and continents.

Building trust — it’s important to build a team that trusts one another and their managers to deliver on their promises day in and day out. That reassurance of trust fuels the team to show up every day and give 100%.

Tracking productivity — with a team spread over multiple time zones and continents, it can get a little tricky to track productivity, even with a team of carefully vetted, motivated self-starters.

Team morale — It’s really important to sustain and cultivate a healthy team morale.

A unified company culture — whether your company is domestic or international, it’s vital that leaders find common threads to unite the org in a unified company culture.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Communication — encourage the team to follow certain protocols, such as making themselves available in Slack during normal US work hours Monday to Friday, and responding within a set amount of time. Encourage the team to practice over-communication, that is, assuming that what reads as a clear text to the writer does not necessarily provide all the context to the reader. Give your colleague a chance to ask questions in a Q&A doc, and answer them promptly. Set up brief calls when needed to quickly untangle any misreads.

Building trust — With a remote environment, building trust is largely about setting and living up to expectations with your team. Make sure to maintain clarity around the core areas that matter to your team, such as project expectations, pay rate, payment timelines, and status updates on projects. Make sure your team has a platform to voice their concerns and have them addressed.

Tracking productivity — we track productivity for all our team members, and our preferred reporting is a combination of internal solutions and tools like Toggl. It’s really about finding what preferred tech stack works with your org. We also recommend weekly sync calls across departments and task forces.

Team morale — we recommend calling out weekly wins of members of the team, and recognizing them for their individual contributions to the team.

A unified company culture — we recommend encouraging team-wide competitions, and onboarding the team in a unified way of working together and producing results, in our case the Galactic Fed Way.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Great question. It’s important to always remember the positives when you give out constructive feedback, and in a remote working environment, this becomes even more important, because at the end of the day, a written message is often all people have to make an impression. It’s important to start off a feedback email with words of appreciation and gratitude. They are, after all, a wonderful addition to the team, and we appreciate their work overall. It’s also great to call out some things they have done exceptionally well in recent times, for this information is as important as the feedback itself, it forms a more comprehensive picture of what they bring to the table. Once this is laid out, I would go ahead and share the constructive feedback, taking care to include why it matters to the success of the company overall. Finally, I like to include a step by step action plan for how we can help set up the team members for success, e.g. how we can help them with training, etc. to reach and surpass the challenge.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Honestly, I usually avoid giving constructive feedback over email. I much prefer a more interactive platform, such as Slack, to give the person receiving the feedback opportunity to interact with me in real time, so it feels more personal, like a real conversation that goes back and forth.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Try to avoid getting into the routine of working out of bed, in your pajamas. Instead, it’s really best if you designate a special room that is private and quiet for doing work. Make this your office, and treat it just like any normal co-working space. Minimize distractions, keep healthy snacks and water on hand, and consider what will pop up as your video call background, as it could distract your co-workers. Or enjoy the Zoom backgrounds that are all the rage now. Having this space that is devoted to just work time will help you achieve better work-life balance over time, and “keep work at work” so to speak, even as you work out of your home.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

I can share an example from COVID-19 times. Now, with everyone social-distancing at home, it’s important more than ever to get in some exercise, and a bit of friendly competition never hurts! We launched a Galactic Fed Walkathon across the whole company last month, to much fanfare. We set up teams, and some friendly competition to see who got in more steps on their pedometers. A little friendly competition is always good!

You are 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. 🙂

To echo Zach’s response, Zach and I would love to see more entrepreneurs and founders focus on building companies that have a social purpose or positive mission. That has been our biggest focus lately.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Short cuts make long delays.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring This resonates in so many life situations, especially in business. From building and nurturing relationships, to planning a new department, to hiring a stellar senior-level engineer vs. a n00b, short cuts make for very long delays indeed.

Thank you for these great insights!


Irina Papuc of Galactic Fed: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future Is Now: “Software That Allows Paramedics To Track Trends And Patients” With Daniel Frey

The Future Is Now: “Software That Allows Paramedics To Track Trends And Patients” With Daniel Frey of FieldMed

There is no better feeling knowing you were able to impact someone’s life in a positive way, whether that is by delivering a baby or by being the one that turns a very bleak medical situation around and saving someone. I thought that was something that I gave up when I retired as a firefighter.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Daniel Frey.

Daniel is the co-founder and vice president of business development for FieldMed, the first-ever dedicated community health software platform designed for community health programs nationwide. Through this software, community health professionals can go beyond regular patient data to track in-depth information and trends to deliver better, more cost-effective patient care.

For the past 25 years, Daniel has served as a firefighter and paramedic, and he recently retired in 2019. During his time as a firefighter, Daniel helped to start and serve as the education coordinator for Best EMS and oversaw 14 fire departments’ education programs. In 2013, he was one of the creators of the Community Health Program in McKinney, Texas and worked as a Community Medic there for 6 years.

Through his time serving as a paramedic and firefighter, Daniel saw firsthand the drastic need for community health programs and partner software in cities, fire/EMS departments and hospitals around the country. He understood the impact that accurate and accessible data could have on these programs, and through this, he helped found FieldMed. FieldMed offers a patient-first software platform that empowers community health programs to provide better in-home patient care and improve tracking and reporting of valuable, actionable patient data and trends.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I had been a firefighter and paramedic for 19 years when I helped develop a Community Paramedic/Mobile Integrated Health program for McKinney, Texas. This was a new way of taking care of patients, and there was no software to track or report the treatment, so we were using paper forms, spreadsheets, and whatever else suited us at the time. I spent several years writing down how I would like the reporting to look on a legal pad, thinking of ways that we could develop software that would be efficient and helpful, but would also improve patient care. I was fortunate to meet the owners of Graphium Health, a leader in anesthesia reporting software, and we formed a partnership to create FieldMed, a cloud-based, intelligent Community Health software program.

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

As someone who worked as a firefighter and paramedic for 25 years, I never dreamed I would be in this position now. I have worked very hard to become a subject matter expert in my field, but I am a pretty humble person. It has been incredibly interesting to do television interviews, see features on me in magazines, and online articles, while also traveling around consulting and speaking as an expert in community paramedicine/mobile integrated health. The interesting part about that for me is that people actually want to hear what I have to say.

Can you tell us about the technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?

We believe that real breakthroughs happen when we can digitize all data that is coming through paramedics in an easy way that isn’t a burden on the users in the field. We want them to focus on providing care, not learning new software. We are working on creating many features that we think will help with this, including allowing patients to communicate and provide feedback to providers before and after visits, new mobile applications to minimize the workload on the front-lines, as well as an entirely new analytics platform that will provide deep access to all of their data so that community health programs can understand exactly what the status is and how they can help even more people in their communities.

How do you think this might change the world or healthcare industry?

In the past, paramedics in the field had very limited tools when it came to reporting and tracking patient data and their own results with caring for patients. Our software allows paramedics to do all of the patient reports, but it also tracks trends and patients so that paramedics can grasp where problems continue to pop up for patients, patients who are improving and more. Our software also offers telemedicine capabilities which is something that has been all but non-existent in the paramedic world. Paramedics can now get a physician’s eyes on the patient to help the medic directly in the field.

Can you see any potential drawbacks about FieldMed’s technology that people should think more deeply about?

As far as the technology, I truly do not. Being a medic in the field for many years and using cumbersome software, I wanted this designed for ease of use so medics could concentrate on patient care and not what buttons to click next.

Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?

Yes, there was! CP/MIH programs are constantly having to pull their data to show program success and sustainability. One day I was asked by my Fire Chief to get a report ready to present before the city council the next week. I spent the next several days pouring through just over 12,000 EMS calls one-by-one getting the data I needed. Right then and there I decided there had to be a better way to do this, so I started looking to find that answer, and here we are.

What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?

Whenever someone demos our software they are very impressed with the ease of use and how they can tell it was designed by medics with what medics need in mind. We want to continue to get our name out there and reach as many potential clients as we can. When we do that, the software will speak for itself.

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

Actually, there are three people that I owe where I am to — Ron Lockard, Randy Barker, and Daniel Dura, my three business partners. Being a firefighter and paramedic has always been a passion and not a job you do if you are ever wanting to be financially independent, which is why we all typically work second jobs. Starting a software business was a monumental task. I reached out to several people and finally found Ron, Randy, and Daniel. Randy and Daniel are part of Graphium Health, and after several meetings we decided to form a partnership and created FieldMed. I say I owe where I am now to these three gentlemen because they believed in me and my vision and took a big risk on me, that is something that does not happen to people every day and I am eternally grateful for it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I am a veteran and a former first responder, and I have lost several friends to suicide. One of my passions is helping organizations that provide counseling and education on PTSD to reduce the suicide rates for veterans and first responders. I also work to grow Community Paramedic/Mobile Integrated Health programs with my knowledge through consulting. I believe everyone should have access to healthcare at some level and CP/MIH programs reach under- insured people to help them manage their healthcare. I want to have programs available for these people no matter where they live, so I consult to help start these programs regardless if they are using our software or someone else’s free of charge.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  • How much work actually goes into running a company — I put in so many more hours now staying up late nights and long days then I did in my last career as a fire fighter. There are no days off!
  • The difficulty of selling your product — I had this crazy illusion that “if you build it, they will come”, meaning I believe so much in our software that I thought everyone that saw it would be lining up to purchase it. After I did my first demo and the potential client stated that they absolutely loved it but were not ready to purchase it at this moment, I learned two things — that this is not going to be as easy as I thought and that the sales pipeline is important.
  • The stress of being an owner — I am used to dealing with plenty of stress from the fire service, and I actually embraced the stress. When things were going downhill either during a fire or a medical call, I took pride in being the calm one that could get the job done. The stress of making sure the company succeeds and that I can pay the bills and keep jobs for people is a different kind of stress, but it is the kind of stress that is helping us succeed.
  • About the Comradery — In the fire service, you become very close with the people you work with; our lives can literally be in each other’s hands. I really was worried about missing that comradery when I retired to do this. What I did not know was how close everyone with FieldMed and Graphium is. Our lives may not be in each other’s hands, but we all want to see each other succeed and be the best people we can be while growing this company together.

The Satisfaction — There is no better feeling knowing you were able to impact someone’s life in a positive way, whether that is by delivering a baby or by being the one that turns a very bleak medical situation around and saving someone. I thought that was something that I gave up when I retired as a firefighter. With that being said, when we go to market with a new vertical or have some new update that improves our software, I know this is going to help the medics in the field do their job better and more efficiently to help people in a positive way, I get that feeling of satisfaction in a new way!

If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

This is an easy question, I would continue to do what I have been doing since 2012, promoting community health through community paramedic/mobile integrated health programs. There is such a vast amount of people out there that deal with mental health issues, are un or under insured, are elderly and live alone, do not have access to things like medications or transportation, or just do not understand how to take care of themselves properly because they were never educated about there medical issues. CP/MIH programs help bridge that gap and provide services these people could not get otherwise.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite Life Lesson Quote is “The wishbone will never replace the backbone by Will Henry. Throughout my life I have had to work hard for my accomplishments, whether that was in the military, the fire service, or in my current life with FieldMed. I believe if you want anything in life and want to be successful at it you need to have the backbone to take risks and work hard to achieve that success. If you sit around wishing for things to happen without making them happen for yourself, you will spend your life sitting around wishing!

Some very well-known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

Community Health Paramedicine is critical for the healthcare industry now more than ever. With the ability to treat patients directly in their home, reduce non-emergent 911 calls and save cities/departments thousands of dollars, these programs can have a huge impact not only on EMS programs, but ultimately on patients. And while these programs do amazing work, they need software to reach their true success. They need software to track unique data points and patient trends, efficiently and effectively. FieldMed does just that in a format that is familiar and comfortable for paramedics.


The Future Is Now: “Software That Allows Paramedics To Track Trends And Patients” With Daniel Frey was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Kate Barrand of Horizons for Homeless Children is helping to…

Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Kate Barrand of Horizons for Homeless Children is helping to make sure that the experience of homelessness does not define the trajectory of a child or parent’s life

I had many opportunities as a child to overcome my challenges. Why should I receive that when so many others don’t? I want to do everything I can, personally and professionally, to make sure that other children have access to a childhood that sets a strong foundation to make the next generation better than the last. Children are our future and they all deserve the opportunity to thrive.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kate Barrand, President and CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children.

With a vision for a better future for children experiencing homelessness, Kate took over as CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children in 2015.

Within her first five years, Kate has enriched the organization’s programs through innovative partnerships with leading edge providers in early childhood development while at the same time transforming internal business processes to create a more financially sustainable organization. Simultaneously, with the help of her Board of Directors, she has raised over $20 million to build the Edgerley Family Horizons Center that will transform the education, health and well-being of at-risk children and families in Boston.

Kate’s passion for helping children and families experiencing homelessness has been and continues to be a meaningful part of her entire career and life.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your personal background, and how you grew up?

Mine was not a garden variety childhood to be sure. I spent most of my formative years outside of the United States in the Middle East, Africa and then Europe traveling with my family as my father was an intelligence officer with the CIA.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

In the early 1980s, I became aware that there were children and families experiencing homelessness all across Massachusetts and they were literally invisible to most people. These were families who, for one reason or another, had lost one of the most fundamental aspects of life — a place to call home. It seemed wrong to me on so many levels, given the wealth of both our nation and our state, that I committed myself to make a difference. It’s my belief now, as it was back then, that all children deserve the opportunity to thrive, and these children and their parents deserved our support. I started supporting Horizons for Homeless Children more than 20 years ago as it was the only organization devoted to serving the needs of children experiencing homelessness. After several years, I became a member of the Board of Directors where I served for 15 years. When I retired from the Board, I became a volunteer in Horizons’ Playspace Program, going into shelters each week to play with the children. Five years ago, I took on the role of CEO.

Homelessness has been a problem for a long time in the United States. But it seems that it has gotten a lot worse over the past five years, particularly in the large cities, such as Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco. Can you explain to our readers what brought us to this place? Where did this crisis come from?

Massachusetts has the unfortunate honor of leading the way when it comes to the rise in family homelessness. Since 2008, Massachusetts has experienced some of the highest increases in family homelessness in the country. Homelessness is a complex issue with many causes. Every family’s experience is different but the challenges families face include housing affordability, access to employment, job training, affordable child care, racial disparity and domestic violence. Homeless families make up more than half of the homeless population in our state. It is currently estimated that 20,000 children under six experience homelessness each year in Massachusetts alone, but they remain largely invisible for two reasons:

  • Parents don’t sit on a street corner with their children, the vast majority of homeless families will typically choose to live doubled up at a relative or friend’s house when they’re displaced for as long as they can. Some end up living in cars for periods of time, as well.
  • Massachusetts is a ‘Right to Shelter’ state, which means the state or municipality is required to provide temporary emergency shelter to every man, woman and child who is eligible for services, every night. 66% of shelter residents in the state are families. However, it is important to note that the vast majority of the homeless family population in our state do not make it into the shelter system but remain in unstable living situations with their children.

For the benefit of our readers, can you describe the typical progression of how one starts as a healthy young person with a place to live, a job, an education, a family support system, a social support system, a community support system, to an individual who is sleeping on the ground at night? How does that progression occur?

There are a myriad of causes of family homelessness but, commonly, working families in our state barely have enough money to cover their daily needs (food, heat, housing and health expenses). Working at the minimum hourly wage of $12.00 in Massachusetts, a wage earner must have 2.3 full-time jobs or work 91 hours per week to afford a modest one-bedroom apartment and have 2.8 full-time jobs or work 113 hours per week to afford a two-bedroom apartment. All it takes for a family to fall into a housing crisis is a modest illness, the breakdown of a car or any number of small things that cause a parent to lose their job or income for a short period. Many of the homeless we encounter are also women fleeing domestic violence where they may have literally left in the dead of night with their child and only the clothes on their back.

A question that many people who are not familiar with the intricacies of this problem ask is, “Why don’t homeless people just move to a city that has cheaper housing?” How do you answer this question?

Boston is a great example of how this problem persists. We are a tale of two cities with the most staggering wealth on the one hand — according to Forbes, Massachusetts is in the top five states most billionaires call home — and yet overwhelming poverty on the other. There has been an explosion in luxury condominiums being built all around the city and yet the median income in Boston is $65,000. The MIT Living Wage calculator says that a single parent with two children would need to be making upwards of $75,000 to have, what is considered, a livable wage. Why homeless people don’t move to a different city is an interesting question — but why should they have to move? This is their community, the place they grew up and where their family lives. Perhaps better questions we should be asking are, “why have we not done better by our urban communities?” or “why are we not investing in their prosperity?”

Horizons is currently building the Edgerley Family Horizons Center, which is a significant investment in the Roxbury community and is part of a unique public and private partnership that will bring essential services and over 400 jobs to the diverse Boston neighborhood.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

You will not pass by a homeless family on the street typically because most parents don’t subject their children to being exposed in that way. The family homeless population is largely made up of single mothers with one or two children and it’s typical for such a family to spend months ‘couch surfing’ with their children, staying with relatives or friends for as long as possible. Alternatively, they will be found sleeping in cars or, in winter, camped out at hospitals in emergency rooms where they seek refuge from the cold. This is a challenging period for children as young children under six make up a large majority of the children experiencing homelessness, and, at that age, a child thrives on routines. Routines provide children with a sense of safety — it helps them learn that the caring adults in their world will provide what they need.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

Our primary focus at Horizons is to make sure that the experience of homelessness does not define the trajectory of a child or parent’s life. Our early education program serves children experiencing homelessness year-round using trauma informed approaches to ensure that children who leave for kindergarten are fully equipped for success. We provide 80% of the children’s daily nutritional needs so family resources can go elsewhere. We work with parents on goal setting and creating a strong foundation for their family’s future financially, emotionally and practically. Our parents are strong, hardworking and resilient people — we just try to help them find the space and resources to get back on track.

Finally, for children living in family shelters, we are the only agency in the state focusing on the experiences children have in the shelter system. Over 50% of those children are under the age of six and, therefore, are in the most important period in their brain’s development — we want to make sure they have the resources at hand to support their brain’s healthy development. Children learn through interactions with people and things, so we have built playrooms in 93 shelters across the state and we staff them with over 1,000 volunteers who educate and play with the children each week. During the pandemic, we have taken our program virtual and distributed tablets to children in shelters preloaded with a year’s subscription of educational content. Our volunteers are also running virtual play periods for the children, providing a much-needed break to parents who are otherwise the only source of entertainment at this time.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

The pandemic has hit our families in devastating ways. We have had to transform all our services to a virtual mode. In a recent survey of Horizons’ families, 82% have been left unemployed as a result of the pandemic and have, in some cases, been in shelter rooms alone with their children for long periods of time without any relief. Shelters are not designed to have residents on-site day and night with limited access to food and other vital resources. The shelter system had to be in full-on disaster relief mode, which is different than their typical focus of helping families find housing. While we were forced to close our childcare facilities, our team worked tirelessly to support our families who were struggling more than ever. 90% of our families reported food insecurity and difficulty providing for their families’ basic needs at the beginning of the pandemic, so Horizons’ Family Advocates stepped in to distribute gift cards, diapers and food. The gift cards were the easiest way for families to purchase necessary goods at local stores and bodegas.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

In March of 2021, we will open the new Edgerley Family Horizons Center. This new state-of-the-art, early education and family engagement facility will provide families and children experiencing homelessness throughout Boston with comprehensive resources to support their needs. In our early education center, we will serve 30% more children, have dedicated spaces for our children to develop their skills in STEM and art, and the building will feature a beautiful library. Onsite we will also have a family medical service adjacent to our program where families can access full-service family medicine and behavioral health services.

Without sharing real names, can you share a story with our readers about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your work?

We serve more than 175 children in our early education programs and thousands more children living in shelter across the state each year. In the fall, we have the opportunity to empower one of those child’s parents by literally giving her the stage to share her story firsthand. At our last Women’s Breakfast event we got to know Leticia, a young woman who was a survivor of domestic violence and found herself pregnant with twins. Her strength and willingness to work hard to build a life for her family, coupled with Horizons’ commitment to her and her boys, have them on a strong path for their future. I can’t wait to hear from our mom (or maybe this year it’ll be a dad!) at our next Women’s Breakfast coming up in October this year. Angie Thomas who wrote ‘The Hate U Give’ will be the keynote speaker and it’ll be a fantastic opportunity to learn more about how racial disparities intersect with homelessness.

Can you share three things that the community and society can do to help you address the root of this crisis? Can you give some examples?

I was recently reminded of a quote by President Franklin D. Roosevelt: “The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” We have too many families in our country who are struggling to provide for their family’s most basic needs. This is because the average American worker has not had a raise in decades relative to real purchasing power. We need to increase our minimum wage and focus on providing employment with a living wage. We need to establish more support for our workers at the lower end of our socio-economic system, many of whom are working hard and still can’t meet their family’s needs.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  • Increase Massachusetts’ investment in affordable housing. Without housing options, we will continue to see an exodus of the working class from our cities. Affordable housing isn’t a disincentive to working, it makes upward mobility possible.
  • Invest as a nation in universally accessible childcare. We need a significant federal investment in early education so that it is accessible to all families at a reasonable cost. Massachusetts has the highest average cost for childcare of any state in the country, putting tremendous financial pressure on working families. Giving more children access to high quality early education is important so parents can work, and it will also address many of the racial disparities we see in our country. The return on investment in high-quality early childhood programs ranges between $4 and $9 in benefit for every dollar invested in early learning programs for low-income children. When a child has a strong foundation for learning when they first arrive at kindergarten, their life outcomes are substantially improved.
  • Reimburse educators receiving subsidies based on capacity, not daily enrollment. Currently in Massachusetts, the state reimburses providers as if they were a variable cost business while 85% of the cost of early education is fixed. If a child is absent we don’t get paid. Providers bear the brunt of the challenge as we can’t send a teacher home because a child was sick or eliminate the cost of that child’s seat, meals or other supports because they are absent. If providers were paid properly like other state infrastructure investments, it would allow us to compensate our teachers at higher and more appropriate levels.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going?

I had many opportunities as a child to overcome my challenges. Why should I receive that when so many others don’t? I want to do everything I can, personally and professionally, to make sure that other children have access to a childhood that sets a strong foundation to make the next generation better than the last. Children are our future and they all deserve the opportunity to thrive.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Well, I have at least two. One thing people asked me was why, at my age, did I want to work this hard? I guess I wish I had really listened to them and understood how all-consuming this work really is, but I have no regrets. Working for the benefit of others gives me deep personal satisfaction.

Also, I was not aware when I first discussed the CEO opportunity that the strategic plan included building a huge new facility that would bring all our programs together under one roof — for which I had no background or experience. We figured it out, and, if I can say, did a brilliant job with a center that brings to life a shared vision that will address our little corner of the world with excellence. What has made this a success is something that I learned in the private sector and have frequently used successfully — understand your weaknesses and hire experts when you need them. I have surrounded myself with many gifted people who are experts at what they do — my job is just to get out of the way and let them do their magic.

You are a person of enormous 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. :–)

To pay all workers in this country a living wage and encourage more creation of affordable housing, even if that means building tiny houses in our urban environments. All people deserve to have a place to call their own even if it is tiny — it’s a place to call home. During this pandemic, I think most of us have recognized, more than ever before, what a refuge home is and should be.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Because we traveled a great deal in my childhood, I learned how hard it was to be the one that did not quite ‘fit in.’ I was the person who looked different, or was the new kid, or the outsider. This experience taught me to always emphasize inclusivity — inviting all to the table or the discussion and valuing the diversity they bring. You have a richer life experience if you surround yourself with the many, not the few.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I think it would probably be Barack Obama — I have always found him a rather extraordinary human. His priorities are the same as my priorities in many cases and I liked the way he managed his time and interests while in office. He focused on the right issues such as universal healthcare — it’s always been a no brainer to me, the country needed it and it’s helped a lot of families that are in poverty.

How can our readers follow you online?

I’m always connecting and interacting personally on LinkedIn and can be reached there or on Twitter.

  • LinkedIn: Kate Barrand
  • Twitter: @KateBarrand

Make sure to also follow Horizons on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where we share stories about our work and the families it touches.

  • Facebook and Instagram: @horizonsforhomelesschildren
  • Twitter: @HHCTweets

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis: How Kate Barrand of Horizons for Homeless Children is helping to… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Danny Prussman of Germ Nerds: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

It’s so important that you think many steps ahead. It’s easy to think you can build a solid business by filling a current need, but greater opportunities can be found when you consider the ripple effect on what’s happening today and figure out what the needs might be a year or two from now.

As a part of our series about the 5 things you need to know to successfully start a company remotely, I had the pleasure of interviewing Danny Prussman.

Danny Prussman is the Chief Operations Nerd and co-founder of Germ Nerds (www.germnerds.com) , a new company dedicated to creating solutions that enable people to navigate the current changing world with confidence. As Chief Operations Nerd, Prussman is responsible for all facets of business operations, including finance, administrative duties, processes and procedures, sales and technical support. Always one to gravitate towards innovation, creativity and opportunity, Danny has a proven entrepreneurial acumen track record and over 10 years of experience driving sales growth in the consumer/lifestyle and cannabis industries.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

My backstory is extremely diverse. I’m a Marine Corps veteran and served in the first Gulf War. I attended my undergraduate studies at University of Florida with a degree in business and Emerson College for graduate school in film and television production. I got started in the film industry in Los Angeles and quickly realized that being a production assistant wasn’t for me, so I started my first company which was a visual effects and motion graphics studio. Once I got a taste of entrepreneurship, there was no turning back. Germ Nerds is now the seventh company I’ve either founded or co-founded since then in various industries.

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

Navigating the intricacies and ambiguities of the cannabis industry has been by far the most challenging and in turn, the most interesting journey. Scaling a business is tough when you’re attempting to find a happy medium between what an unclear law requires a label to say and how each individual retailer interprets that same law, or drawing a balance between maintaining enough inventory for growth with the ever-changing legal landscape that can make all your inventory worthless nearly overnight. At one point, we had to destroy hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of finished goods because regulators decided to tighten regulations. That’s painful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was working for a large publishing company and one day on the elevator, I mistook the CEO for one of the advertising sales guys (in my defense, they looked like they could have been brothers.) I was giving him props on a presentation the advertising guy had given at a company meeting a week prior. The CEO took the compliment without correcting me, although I did detect some confusion in his eyes. After walking away, I realized what I had done and felt terrible but couldn’t stop laughing at the memory of the look on his face. I learned two valuable lessons that day: First, be sure who you’re talking to before you speak and second, when someone makes a mistake like that to you, be as gracious as this CEO was to me.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders who are interested in starting a company during a ‘down’ economy, whether it be a pandemic or recession?

It’s so important that you think many steps ahead. It’s easy to think you can build a solid business by filling a current need, but greater opportunities can be found when you consider the ripple effect on what’s happening today and figure out what the needs might be a year or two from now.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team, but starting a company from the ground up is a different hurdle, especially due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tell us about your experience with managing remote teams and more details how and why you decided to start a company in the middle of a pandemic.

We all have experience working remotely, but I didn’t have a lot of experience managing a team remotely. It definitely posed some unique challenges. Starting a company in the middle of a pandemic was the last thing any of us wanted to do, but we were compelled to do it. If we could have created our launch product, the nrd., and given it away for free, we probably would have, but the economics did not allow that. Creating a company was really the only way to get the device out to people in a fast and efficient way.

Tell us about your company that was started completely remotely. What does the company do and tell us about your first product launched and what was your motivation for this product?

Germ Nerds is a startup that was born out of necessity and ingenuity sparked during the COVID-19 pandemic. Going to the supermarket, taking the elevator or walking the dog was such a challenge. We needed something that could help us navigate this new virus-filled world more confidently. The first Germ Nerds product is called The nrd. It’s an antimicrobial silicone guard to protect your hands from coming into contact with germs when handling everyday things like doorknobs, elevator buttons or crosswalk signals. It even has a conductive tip for using touchscreens like at self-checkout at the supermarket. When you’re done using it, magnets hold the unit closed to keep the working surface contained until you’re able to disinfect it.

What made things more interesting for me was that when we put our heads together, we found answers to not only our current predicament, but to all kinds of sticky germ filled situations we found ourselves in even before the pandemic. We realized there’s a market out there for people that want to avoid germs in public spaces by using new and innovative solutions.

Starting a team remotely can be very different than when you can come together and brainstorm in person. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding building a new company remotely? Please include an anecdote for each.

The five main challenges to starting a company remotely are: 1) Nuances in communication; 2) project management; 3) design iterations; 4) logistics; and 5) fund raising. These five challenges all pose their own unique challenges when working remotely. With tools like Slack, Gmail, Docusign and Monday.com, Germ Nerds was able to achieve quite a bit without being in close proximity to one another. To this day, a few of our founding team still haven’t met each other in person. Zoom helped to initially build culture, although as time goes on, video becomes less important and, in some ways, less desirable.

Probably the largest hurdle was the extended time it took to get things done due to the quarantine. With everyone working remotely, suddenly something as simple as getting a signed bank letter to open a merchant account became impossible. So, getting creative and finding alternative paths to the desired outcome became imperative. Convincing people to rewrite their rules because of extenuating circumstances became daily occurrences. Product development was quite a challenge as well. Sharing designs between engineers in different countries, getting each version produced and in front of all stakeholders, gathering feedback and moving on the next iteration poses a lot of logistical challenges.

Starting a company, designing and engineering our first product and bringing it to market in 60 days under those constraints is unthinkable, but somehow the team managed to get it done because we were on a mission bigger than us. We were bringing a much-needed product to market that was desperately needed in these uncertain times.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

Have patience, be flexible, get creative, live by your to-do list, be tenacious and celebrate achievements along the way.

Conflict: In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of working remotely is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

I completely agree, and it’s one of the most frustrating aspects to working remotely. Nuances are out the door. I’m still trying to figure it out myself. I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve and say exactly what I think without much filter. Given the current climate and how fragile everyone is, I think we’re all doing our best to work on this and be sensitive to everyone’s individual situation and needs, and provide feedback in the most conducive way possible.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

I’ve found that email is much easier than over the phone. With email, you have time to read and re-write. I find that when you have constructive criticism, it can often be received more effectively when you preface it with what you like about the subject at hand. Also, I find people are open to receiving feedback when presented in a manner of inviting collaboration and showing that you’re open to brainstorming on the subject so that everyone wins.

Some of your establishing team you have worked with previously on location. What have been some of the benefits of working remotely? What digital tools did you use to keep everyone updated and in sync?

For majority of my career, I have not worked on location with anyone on the Germ Nerds team, so we are in a very unique situation. Working remotely allows me to send and receive information quickly and increases my productivity and efficiency. I can have one on one phone or slack conversations with the appropriate stakeholder, exchange information I need quickly and get on with what I was doing. The only problem with this is siloed communication which can result in the need to repeat myself more than I might need to if we were all in one place. Multi-person messages in Slack can help with this. Other tools that are contribute to remote work productivity are Gmail, Docusign, Monday.com and Slack. Shift is another great tool that allows me to keep all my email and productivity aps in one window.

Let’s talk about vendors, as I imagine finding them and then getting a product actually produced during a pandemic was quite challenging. What are you suggestions for finding viable vendors? How was your experience working with third party vendors different from pre-pandemic days? What expectations or processes did you have to adjust or change?

I cannot stress enough how important it is to build a strong team and leverage their strengths and connections. For Germ Nerds specifically, we were very fortunate to have an experienced and knowledgeable team, so we were able to leverage existing relationships with pre-vetted vendors for all but our 3PL partner. Then, for connections you do not have, leverage your extensive network to gain reliable references. For example, we received a highly recommended 3PL partner from our trusted sources.

How did you create your company culture remotely? What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

The Germ Nerds culture is super important to us. In the beginning, it was easy to align on the values of the company over Zoom. We were also able to delineate roles and responsibilities so we could all stay in our respective lanes and empowered each other to do what we each do best. The founding team members all run other businesses and we specifically carved out our free time to build Germ Nerds because we’re all passionate about helping people. That passion is visceral and permeates our culture now.

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. 🙂

If every person out there committed to contributing to a charitable endeavor on a regular basis, the world would be a better place. It doesn’t have to be with money: It could be time, education or resources. Donating is a powerful tool, as it helps others and it helps you. Teaching our kids to do the same would perpetuate the good in the world. We’re all very busy helping ourselves, but if we committed a percentage of our time and/or money to a charitable endeavor, the world would be so much better for it.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote is “You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time, so choose your friends wisely.” At the point when I heard that quote, I was spending time with people that were hindering my potential, but I didn’t see it. The person that told me the quote became my mentor, and this quote changed my perspective on everything.

Thank you for these great insights!


Danny Prussman of Germ Nerds: Five Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Stacey Ross Cohen: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

Investing time, money and resources into building a brand is not a luxury — it’s a requirement to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Branding is an art and science and when done correctly, it builds trust and credibility. Consumers make purchase decisions based on an emotional connection with a brand. In order for someone to engage or buy something — they need to know, like and trust the brand. It follows that to gain trust, companies need to build a relationship with the customer and demonstrate the brand’s benefit or value.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Stacey Ross Cohen.

Stacey is an award-winning brand professional who earned her marketing stripes on Madison Avenue and at major television networks before launching Co-Communications, a full-service PR/Marketing firm with offices in New York and Connecticut. Stacey is also co-founder of College Prime, a company that provides social media and personal branding training to high school students to succeed with college admissions, internships, and beyond. She is a Huffington Post and Thrive Global blogger, TEDx speaker, and has been featured in Entrepreneur, Forbes, Crain’s, Sales & Marketing and other leading national media. She holds a B.S. from Syracuse University, MBA from Fordham University and recently completed a certificate program in Media, Technology and Entertainment at NYU Leonard Stern School of Business.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

After college, I worked at an ad agency in HR which closely aligned with my “then” career objectives and education. I became mesmerized with the ads adorning the office walls and would constantly ask the creatives and account execs for the “why” behind the concepts. I realized that this was my true calling — to bring words and images to life that tell a story. I moved on to take a position at CBS/FOX Video in the international marketing division and was lucky to have an amazing boss and mentor. Much of my day was spent gazing at spread sheets analyzing past performance and forecasting — which I found interesting but lonely. I’d somehow always find my way to the PR department to find out what exciting campaign they were working on — e.g. screening of a Mick Jagger video at a downtown hot spot. The PR department was eliminated and the woman who headed it up started her own agency, and upon chance meeting, she asked if I’d like to chat about a job opportunity. I was hired as a Senior Account Executive and CBS/FOX became my main client. PR was foreign to me and there were no You Tube videos or internet at the time. I just figured it out and quickly became the owner’s right-hand person. I saw the good, bad, and ugly of running an agency and this learning was priceless for starting my own agency. I started Co-Communications, a full-service PR/Marketing agency in 1997 in a spare bedroom of my house with no lofty goals — just to “do it better.” Our team of 15 incredibly talented individuals create high-impact communications program’s for diverse clients in real estate, education, healthcare, professional services, non-profit and hospitality.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I was managing the press at a world premier video screening for the Boston Celtics at Boston Garden when I worked with CBS. When an attendee approached me, I assumed he was there to cover the event and directed him to the press “pit.” A sales rep from the company elbowed me and whispered Stacey, “That’s the Boston Celtics’ coach.” I turned 10 colors of red but the coach and I became quick friends. Lesson learned: Research the key players prior to covering events

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Make Yourself Perfectly Clear™ is more than a tagline — it’s our credo. We’re steadfast in our belief that clarity leads to better results, and we use that thinking to power campaigns that help clients improve their marketing impact. As an award-winning marketing, PR and design firm with offices in Connecticut and New York, we help clients across a diverse range of industries strengthen their brands, ramp up their marketing and grow their share of voice. In partnership with our clients, we build brands, promote thought leaders, and leverage marketing to generate leads. All of this starts with clarity. And we “walk the talk” with our brand — — from our transparent business cards to our website which highlights our unique value proposition: clearly strategic, clear results, and clearly creative.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Co-Communications recently started working with Vincent Aspromonti, Regional Franchise Director for Aerus, a US-based manufacturer of air purifiers. The company’s patented ActivePure® technology works 24/7 to rid circulating air and both hard and soft surfaces of most pathogens. ActivePure® works by circulating a dry form of hydrogen peroxide in the air so it is odorless, tasteless, all natural and completely safe. In university and laboratory tests, the ActivePure® system has been proven effective against both DNA and RNA viruses, such as H1N1 (swine flu), H5N8 (avian bird flu), and MS2 bacteriophage. This technology has been proven to destroy over 99.9% of RNA viruses.

In addition to following all of the CDC guidelines such as handwashing and disinfecting frequent touchpoints, this client’s offering is particularly timely as many homeowners and businesses — including restaurants, doctor’s offices, salons, nursing homes, and more — are looking for an added layer of continuous protection.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Branding and advertising both fall under the marketing umbrella and work as a cohesive unit toward building the company’s image and driving revenues. Branding is the process that defines the identity or essence of the company and differentiates it from its competitors to carve out a unique market position. Branding goes much deeper than the company name, tagline, trademark or logo — and includes brand strategy, mission, core values, vision, identification of target audience(s), and key messaging. A brand is a promise of an experience and delivers a clear message, builds trust, and connects with customers on an emotional level. And establishing brand standards to ensure consistency through all touchpoints is the icing on the cake! Advertising is used to promote a brand’s products or services to a targeted audience through various channels to build awareness and ultimately influence and activate the consumer to make a purchase or do something. Ads are produced in many formats including print, digital, broadcast (commercial/ infomercial) and billboard. Advertising costs vary based on frequency, reach and specific channel — internet, television, newspapers, magazines, outdoor (e,g,, bus, sporting arena), and movie theatres, etc.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Investing time, money and resources into building a brand is not a luxury — it’s a requirement to thrive in today’s competitive environment. Branding is an art and science and when done correctly, it builds trust and credibility. Consumers make purchase decisions based on an emotional connection with a brand. In order for someone to engage or buy something — they need to know, like and trust the brand. It follows that to gain trust, companies need to build a relationship with the customer and demonstrate the brand’s benefit or value.

Branding creates both customer and employee brand ambassadors. These advocates are priceless as they will share their love of your brand and positively influence their network (who already trusts them). This, in turn, introduces new people to your brand who can also plug your offerings. In the workplace, branding creates a strong culture and increases employee’s productivity — — with the added benefit of attracting and retaining talent. Brands need to make certain that their employees feel that they are an integral part of the company and fully understand the company’s mission and purpose. Branding is most effective when it is consistent and clear in delivering on the brand’s promise. You can’t just turn up the volume and walk away. You need to have a steady drumbeat with the right message to the right audience. It begins with trust and seamless customer experience. When done right, you can reap many benefits — rewarding partnerships, customer retention, new clients/business opportunities, and revenue growth.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Focus on building relationships over revenues. Consumer-centric brands which invest the time to understand their customer’s concerns and needs will profit in the long-term. This strategy is particularly important during the pandemic as shifts in consumer behavior are profound. Brands need to communicate with empathy, clarity and address changing needs in real time. They need to get inside their target audience’s mindset and ask “How can we help?” which will result in deeper customer engagement and connection post pandemic. At the end of the day, people often make decisions based on their trusted relationship with individuals, not a business entity. Nike is an example of a brand that puts a premium on customer experience which has been the driving force in growing its direct to consumer business. Nike prioritizes loyalty through their free NikePlus membership program (180 million members and growing) with enticing benefits (access to music, guided meditation, fitness classes, exclusive products, sporting events, etc.).
  2. Humanize your brand. It’s all about personality — showing your customers your authentic self, beliefs, passions and leaving corporate and robotic jargon on the sidelines. Humans don’t want to connect with a logo — they want to relate with other humans and experience that “personal touch.” Transparency (e.g. responding openly and timely to social media queries) also needs to be in the mix. By owning up to your mistakes, your customers will respect your honesty which enhances brand trust. Giving customers a glimpse of the people behind the business is a powerful way to humanize a brand. An example of a brand that exemplifies this is Zingerman’s, a family-run business based in Michigan which consists of eight businesses including a full-service restaurant, mail-order, bakehouse and more. The brand gives its employees a voice who in turn, want to work harder for customers. Their brand personality shows through at every touchpoint from the packaging to their social media posts to their service. I have personally ordered baked goods from Zingerman’s — and without fail — receive a hand-written thank you note with a specific mention of the purchased item — — “I hope you enjoyed the lemon poppy seed coffee cake.” It doesn’t get better than this!

3. Highlight social proof. What others say and think have a powerful influence on our purchase decisions. In fact, approximately 95% of customers read online reviews before making a purchase decision. The bottom-line is that positive online consumer reviews of a brand’s product/service activates sales. Social proof comes in various forms including testimonials, reviews, ratings, follower counts, influencer endorsements, subscribers, fans, etc. Brands leverage social proof on their website and social media channels to optimize “the love” and further influence customers. I can’t think of a better example of social proof than Amazon. Amazon provides product reviews and ratings (based on one to five stars). If you are researching a desired item and come across one that has 4.8 stars and 2,500 (mostly positive) reviews, it has an excellent chance of landing in your shopping cart!

4. Develop content that’s relevant (and platform-appropriate): Good is not enough — you need to create remarkable content to capture your audience. Whether you develop articles, blog posts or videos, the content needs to be shareable, engaging and actionable. Brands need to take the recipient’s mindset into account: “What’s in it for me?” Dove is a winning example of branded content done right. Dove’s campaigns challenge beauty stereotypes and feature women of all ages, shapes and sizes. Their content emphasizes that the real beauty of women is skin deep and revolves around projecting a positive body image and self-esteem. Their content is inspirational, empowering, and relatable to their main target — women. And their consumers are evangelists — frequently sharing their love for the brand.

5. Take action and “DO GOOD” “Doing good” needs to be in the DNA of every business now more than ever. Socially responsible companies are particularly important to Millennials and Gen Z purchasers who support companies that have a purpose that they admire. Brands that “do good” are perceived in a positive light and also attract and retain like-minded talent. The brand that first comes to mind is TOMS, a company that led the way in the social impact space with it’s one for one business model — — giving away a pair of shoes for every pair sold. And donating 100 million pairs of shoes since inception is only the beginning! TOMS giving model has recently evolved and expanded their giving portfolio to support organizations facing today’s most pressing issues.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

I’m a huge fan of Southwest Airlines. Much of their brand success is due to their employee-first culture and CEO Gary Kelly, who has been instrumental in propelling Southwest’s growth. Gary believes that their people set the airline apart and in “hiring for attitude and training for skill” to perpetuate an already-strong culture. Employees are recruited/hired to match the company’s three core values: warrior spirit, servant’s hear and Fun-LUVing attitude. We can all agree that happy employees make for happy customers. And studies validate this — — employees with high job satisfaction are generally more productive, engaged, and loyal to their companies.

The CEO as a brand asset is more important than ever. Not too long ago, CEOs were sequestered in their ivory towers, far from the spotlight. But today, the CEO is the face of the company. They must be visible internally, externally, and virtually. When the individual at the helm has the right image and reputation, they impact everything from boosting the company brand to forging emotional connections with employees, investors, customers, and media.

And this is what Gary exemplifies. I had the opportunity to interview Gary a few years back. Gary sees part of his duty as rallying employees around an inclusive culture. Gary’s leadership style can best be described as collaborative — — he knows that he alone cannot be Southwest’s brand ambassador and believes in “The Power of We” and encouraging them to embrace the company’s mission: taking care of customers. This philosophy is built into everything from internal emails to advertising and social media. The encapsulation of the brand was succinctly shared by Gary: “When I describe service, I’m not talking about first class or frills and amenities. Our people serve our customers as if they were guests in their own home.” It doesn’t get better than this!

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

Brand building campaigns require richer metrics than advertising. While both impact the bottom line, advertising does not move the needle without a brand building campaign. Branding is foundational work and needs to be in place before an advertising program is launched. Metrics used in branding campaigns include website traffic, social media followers/engagement, earned media, blog shares, search volume data, community reach, back links, video views, etc. Measuring brand awareness is both an art and science and can be complicated. It’s important to outline specific goals and benchmarks before launching a campaign in order to identifying key metrics. Based on the campaign results, brands can retrack the campaign to optimize for conversions and sales.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

Social media amplifies the brand’s voice and is an essential part of the marketing mix. It allows for a two-way dialogue for the brand and customer to interact directly — — creating real human connection. Having a strong social media presence allows a brand to develop loyal fans, business/influencer partnerships, generate leads, increase website traffic, gain customer insights, build thought leadership and more. Content should reinforce the brand and be relatable and relevant to the target audience.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

You are 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. 🙂

#cando — — be a problem solver, not a problem spotter and continually challenge yourself

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Wayne Gretsky’s quote “Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been” is my all-time favorite. The need to be one step ahead in business has never been more important. If you continually look in the rear view mirror, you’ll soon be obsolete. Marketing is an art and a science and requires us to anticipate trends and be nimble to change a campaign’s direction in real time. Our client’s appreciate and benefit from the constant flow of forward-thinking ideas and technology that we bring to the table. And the pandemic has certainly required flexibility and then some!

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Richard Branson. I saw him headline a session a few years ago at Forbes 30 under 30 conference in Boston and I could have listened to him for hours….maybe days! He is incredibly insightful, funny, inspirational and authentic.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Stacey Ross Cohen Socials:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/staceycohen4
https://facebook.com/StaceyRossCohen

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/staceycohen2

Twitter: handle — @StaceyRossCohen
https://www.twitter.com/StaceyRossCohen

Instagram: handle — staceyrosscohen

https://www.instagram.com/staceyrosscohen/

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Stacey Ross Cohen: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With David Josephs of daVinci Payments

Try not to get too lost in what is directly in front of you. Keep in mind that we are in the most dynamic sector of the global economy. Every day there are hundreds of millions of moments of truth when a consumer is paying someone for goods or services. If we can do something to improve each of those moments, even in a small way, we can have a positive impact that adds up to an awful lot.

As part of our series about the future of retail, I had the pleasure of interviewing David Josephs.

David is a pioneer in the open loop prepaid space, having previously led prepaid business at J.P. Morgan Chase for close to 10 years. He also held leadership positions within Chase Card Services and First Data. For the last five years prior to joining daVinci, David was at Visa where he served as head of Debit and Prepaid in North America, led Product Delivery for Merchants and Acquirers in Europe and also led Visa’s emerging push payments business (Visa Direct) in Europe.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I started in the public sector as a legislative assistant to a Member of Congress and a U.S. Senator and migrated over to the business side of healthcare. That ultimately led me to treasury services at Bank One in Chicago. JPMorgan Chase bought Bank One, and it was there that I focused on different types of card payments and processing, which eventually led to my experiences at Visa.

I’ve worked in various cities in the US as well as overseas. Every job responsibility, client served, technology I’ve been exposed to, all that I’ve learned and the mistakes I’ve made have prepared me for my role at daVinci Payments.

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

Right after Hurricane Katrina I was sent down to Texas to help support one of the sites where refugees from Louisiana were sheltering. We were tasked with distributing prepaid cards with disaster relief assistance that would enable people to get out of the convention center where the refugees were placed, enabling them to access temporary housing and food assistance. There were thousands of people there, regular folks whose lives were completely shattered by the storm and its aftermath. They had to flee their homes with no possessions, no money and just the clothes on their backs.

We noticed that a lot of the kids were playing with surgical gloves the staff had transformed into balloons. When we asked the FEMA staff why there were so many glove balloons floating around, they responded that they were the only toys the kids had. A few hours later one of my teammates appeared with hundreds of little stuffed animals, games, and coloring books. She had mobilized a team to drive all over Dallas, explaining the situation to retailers. The stores all donated the toys for the kids.

I have never forgotten what it was like when she brought in those toys. The children were delighted, it put huge smiles on their faces and helped reduce some of the burden of their pretty challenging circumstances.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?

I was working on a new kind of payment product that did not exist. We designed it quickly and were in the process of building it over the course of only a few months. Having started in January, we were targeting to launch in early July. It was in April, very late at night when the head of product operations looked up from what he was doing and bluntly said, “You know, we aren’t set up to bill for any of this,” and then he went right back to what he was doing without missing a beat. We were creating a payment product that would generate new revenue streams, but we were so focused on the product up to that point that we had not planned for how we would actually receive the service fees.

Aside from his hilarious dry delivery, it really brought home to me the importance of defining the big picture and how crucial it is for everyone involved to have a voice and share their opinions. By the way, we did figure out how to bill for the product before it was launched.

Are you working on any new exciting projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’ve recently completed the “Future Of Payments” market research study that had a surprising finding:

When you ask people how they want to be paid, they are already thinking about how they want to spend.

This shift in behavior reveals that people want to receive payments that can be used through a variety of form factors like contactless, mobile wallets and pay apps. We are using those insights to create new ways to pay virtually that can be spent more easily and securely through this giant transition to online mobile-first payments.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Try not to get too lost in what is directly in front of you. Keep in mind that we are in the most dynamic sector of the global economy. Every day there are hundreds of millions of moments of truth when a consumer is paying someone for goods or services. If we can do something to improve each of those moments, even in a small way, we can have a positive impact that adds up to an awful lot.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

Honestly, there are too many to mention. At every step there have been people who have provided guidance, support, and sometimes just a good kick when I needed it.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Broadly defined, financial technology empowers and betters the lives of virtually everyone — providing needed assistance in urgent crises, delivering wages faster, helping people buy and sell to make a living.

The industry I am fortunate enough to work in is constantly innovating — driving easier access to funds, making payments more secure, creating new form factors for sending and receiving payments. When you think about how many people use electronic payments every day, even small, incremental advancements in security, speed or reach can impact and improve hundreds of millions of lives.

Ok super. Now let’s jump to the main question of our interview. Can you share 5 examples of how retail companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to shop?

Five-year predictions are always somewhat risky, but here goes;

1) Virtual shopping will become more lifelike, fun and gamified — trying on clothes, test driving a car, buying items for an apartment or a house — consumers will “experience” much more without having to go to the store.

2) As a counterpoint to #1, in-person retail will become much more special. What once was a shopping trip will become more personal and customized for the time and setting. This will be particularly true on our main streets and key retail districts.

3) Like it or not, AI will make more decisions for you. It won’t just reorder the same products over and over, it will assist you in understanding your preferences, propensity to try, what you deem a good value and even order for optimal freshness, and usability.

4) Greater value will be delivered through even greater transparency that reports not just what other people think of a product or service, but how each product stacks up to your personal preferences for sourcing, community of origin and what differentiates it from other products.

5) Paying will be more effortless, contactless and secure. Card payments will remain fundamental, but the form factors are going to be very different. Enhanced biometric verification, voice, physical implants and even someday — way out in the future — maybe brainwave directed payments. Elon Musk, whom you’ve interviewed, has already invested to make many of these happen.

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’d institute a thirty second rule for conversation and thought, inverse to the five second rule for food. Instead of “it’s okay to eat if it’s less than five seconds” we could establish “just think about what you heard for 30 seconds before responding or reacting. Put yourself in the speaker’s shoes for half a minute, then respond.” Across a wide enough population, those little half minute blocks could build the foundation for an entire tower of understanding.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Linkedin –

https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-josephs-046418a/ and

https://www.davincipayments.com/research-studies/

is where share our research.


The Future of Retail Over The Next Five Years, With David Josephs of daVinci Payments was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Chrissa McFarlane of Patientory

It is okay to not stick with your original plan just as long as you are growing and learning in the career field of choice. It will all fall into place.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Chrissa McFarlane Author, Future Women/MedTech Expert

Chrissa McFarlane is the CEO of Patientory, a global currency and population health management service that regulates and secures patient data. Named as one of the top women “leaving their mark on the medtech field” by Becker’s Hospital Review, Chrissa launched Patientory in December 2015 after seeing the need in the market for a more personalized and secure population health management solution. She’s an entrepreneur with a passion for creating cutting-edge healthcare products that transform the face of healthcare delivery in the US and abroad. She brings over 10 years in the healthcare industry conducting research and managing teams. She holds notable international published research in healthcare and has helped create breakthrough digital health companies that have provided services to companies such as Tumblr, Blue Apron, Casper and Meetup. McFarlane has brought her firsthand experiences to her debut book, Future Women: Minority Female Entrepreneurship and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Era of Blockchain and Cryptocurrency. At Cornell University, Chrissa worked with organizations such as the United States Department of Agriculture-Robert Holey Center for Agriculture and Health and Cayuga Medical Center. Named as a Finalist for the Medtech Insight Award for Entrepreneur of the Year 2018, under McFarlane’s leadership, Patientory Inc. has received accolades including Top 5 digital health solution in the world for empowering patients, alongside multi-million dollar revenue companies; and it is named a 2018 Globe Award Winner in International Trade by the U.S. State of Georgia.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the story of how you decided to pursue this career path? What lessons can others learn from your story?

I’ve been in the healthcare industry since starting out doing microbiology research in high school. Eventually, this led to me pursuing a pre-medical degree and deciding to explore business applications in healthcare. It is okay to not stick with your original plan just as long as you are growing and learning in the career field of choice. It will all fall into place.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We recently finalized our blockchain enabled health information exchange with our partner. This now gives the PTOYMatrix, our blockchain network, the capability to aggregate data from 90% of the US population.

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

My parents! They inspire me everyday. As immigrants, they’ve accomplished so much through hard work, which I emulate everyday.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

1. Transparency and Immutability

2. Anti-corruption (ex: land titles)

3. Financial and social access (banking/medical records)

4. Accessibility for the masses: can used by anyone regardless of race or class

5. Increased earning potential: ownership to the individuals, which gives them ability to receive compensation for their data

What are the 5 things worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

1. Slow adoption: decreases credibility of companies in industry

2. Lack of user-friendly applications

3. Slow speed of policy/regulations

4. Bad actors in the space decrease credibility of companies

5. Variable cryptocurrency prices

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

By providing inspiration and the ability to open up my company’s doors to underserved students in the form of internships.

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

1. Build a support system (advisors/mentors)

2. Join a community

3. Leverage experiences of other women founders

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

Acceptance and awareness. Going into the blockchain industry as a CEO/Founder, I was oftentimes met with criticisms that often questioned my authority to be there.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

Here is a quote I mention from my recently published book Future Women: Minority Female Entrepreneurship & The Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Era of Blockchain & Cryptocurrency: “Little Girls with Dreams Become Women with Vision.” It has motivated me to take risks such as starting my own company in an industry majorly dominated by men.

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. 🙂

It would be one that I am pursuing now. Encouraging minority and underrepresented women to pursue positions of influence and leadership in business.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ChrissaTanelia

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/chrissamcfarlane/


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution, With Chrissa McFarlane of Patientory was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Georgette Pascale: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team”

Lead by example and make sure that your employees have passion that you are nurturing. People need to get inspiration from wherever they can, and will bring that inspiration back into the work that they do.

As a part of our series about the five things you need to successfully manage a remote team, I had the pleasure of interviewing Georgette Pascale.

With two decades of experience in PR including corporate, healthcare, e-commerce, music, technology, travel and consumer, Georgette believed there was a better way to do business than the traditional brick and mortar agency model. In 2005 she launched Pascale, a virtual communications and digital marketing agency.

For 15 years, Pascale has worked in Health Care Professional and patient-facing PR and digital marketing, connecting and educating the global healthcare community through insightful conversations and fresh perspectives. With ever-present optimism and drive, Georgette directs her team to achieve unparalleled results for the wide range of Pascale’s healthcare clients spanning the globe.

Georgette holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology. In January 2020, Georgette acted as the keynote speaker and moderator for the 2020 Reputation Strategy Summit. In 2018 and 2019, she was selected as a speaker at the Vanguard Forum for Healthcare Leadership. Georgette has been named one of PharmaVoice’s “100 of the Most Inspiring People”, one of Vision Monday’s “Most Inspiring Women” and OWL’s Catalyst of the Year, along with being the former President of OWL: Advancing Diversity in Leadership.

Georgette lives in Fairfield, Connecticut with her three children, dog and a myriad of other animals. She has combined her passion for people and love of boxing, holding a position on the Boxing is Love board, among other not-for-profits she’s involved in. She enjoys traveling, having a good laugh, and connecting people.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I was interning at a PR firm years ago when I realized how much I enjoyed the communications industry. I’ve always been passionate about connecting others and facilitating conversations, so it all just clicked for me.

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

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Lead by example and make sure that your employees have passions that you are nurturing. People need to get inspiration from wherever they can, and will bring that inspiration back into the work that they do.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I have 17 years of experience. I managed a remote team for two years before founding my own remote company Pascale, which I have now managed for 15 years.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

The biggest thing is understanding this is scalable for every business. It can be more difficult for a bigger business to adjust to every person but in some way you have to make things individualistic and realistic to each of your team members. Everyone on my team has their own personality and their own preference on how they want to be communicated with. Virtual work definitely has a learning curve, and requires a test period because it isn’t for everyone.

Based on your experience, what can one do to address or redress each of those challenges?

You need to have a mission or goal that your team is aware of and working toward. You can hire like-minded people through an authentic interview process where you lay out your vision, your expectations, and what your company is all about.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

Giving feedback doesn’t differ greatly remotely versus in person. The key to good feedback is preparation. You should always have an agenda ready for the employee to view before. Plus, if you meet via Zoom or Skype, you can achieve the same clarity and directness you’d have face to face. Remember everyone works differently, deal with them specifically and listen to their feedback — this is crucial!

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

It is always important to acknowledge that you are understanding and digesting the other person’s point. Rather than discussing over email, you can let them know that you will be in touch. Just setting up a quick 15 minutes to discuss can be super productive. Keeping things succinct is key.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic. Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

Be honest with each other about what you expect and see what works best. Look at the situation as an advantage and opportunity rather than an obstacle. It isn’t one size fits all, so trial and error can be the best process. You have to see what works best for you individually, as there is an emotional quotient here considering everyone is so different.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Stay in touch as much as you can. We have a private Facebook group we call ‘The Pascale Piggyback’ where we share our most recent updates and I post our weekly ‘Scoop’ videos to check in with the team and acknowledge the accomplishments of that week. Acting like you are in an office can be super helpful and making the effort to see each other as much as possible can create connectedness. With this year as an exception due to the pandemic, Pascale meets every summer as a team for a fun meeting to hang out in person and grow the company’s goals.

You are 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. 🙂

It sounds silly, but I would tell people to be kind. I tell my kids this everyday. It is such a simple thing that can solve so many problems. It really is what the revolution should be, along with educating yourself. By being kind and educated, people are able to gain a greater understanding.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

My favorite quote from my dad is “Make everyday a masterpiece.” I try to live my life by this everyday, and look for positivity in every moment.

Thank you for these great insights!


Georgette Pascale: “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team” was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Craig Gorsline of Avanade: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team

Think about how to create common experiences, regardless of time or place, such as team activities that can be shared. Perhaps, a team challenge for fun. Celebrate news of wins and completion of team projects. Publicly praise team members when appropriate and make sure no one is forgotten.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Craig Gorsline of Avanade.

As Chief Growth Officer, Craig Gorsline is responsible for driving the Avanade strategy end -to- end across the business. As part of his portfolio, Craig leads strategy development and execution, global sales, industry programs and ecosystem development, innovation, and product incubation, as well as emerging technology and client experience. Integral to that work is his global leadership responsibility for Avanade Advisory and his work with Accenture and Microsoft to align Avanade’s focus on innovation and emerging technologies around the world.

Founded in 2000, Avanade is a joint venture between Accenture and Microsoft (majority-owned by Accenture). They are the leading provider of innovative digital and cloud services, business solutions and design-led experiences delivered through the power of people and the Microsoft ecosystem. They employ over 38,000 people across 25 countries.

Previously Craig was President, Co-CEO and Chief Commercial Officer of ThoughtWorks, a global technology firm with a digital engineering focus, where he was accountable for driving revenues of more than $500 million in technology and consulting services.

Craig holds a degree in criminology and psychology from Simon Fraser University and an MBA in digital technologies from Royal Roads University.

Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. What is your “backstory”?

I was born and raised in Victoria, Canada and started my tech career in Vancouver, as a software tester. My ambition was to become an attorney, but I responded to a want ad looking for a software tester, hoping to make some extra money, and ended up loving it, so made a detour into technology.

Over the next few years, I worked for a boutique technology consulting firm and eventually as a senior executive at JPMorgan Chase in the Treasury Services Technology Group. In 2005, I joined ThoughtWorks, a global technology firm with a digital engineering focus, and stayed there for 15 years, in sales leadership and then served as the company’s Chief Commercial Officer and co-CEO. ThoughtWorks was an invigorating place to be and I believed strongly in its culture.

When the company was sold to a private equity firm, I joined Avanade. I had followed Avanade over the years and knew that it too valued the highest quality of technology innovation and was committed to fostering diverse and inclusive teams. The two companies shared commitments to entrepreneurialism and courageous values, so it was a good fit for me.

It’s been quite a journey, from a degree in criminology and psychology to my current role as Chief Growth Officer at Avanade, but I love that every day is different and the work satiates my curiosity and desire to innovate, problem-solve, and change things for the better through technology.

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

Travel has always been an integral part of my roles. Before the pandemic struck, I had spent most of my career on the road, averaging around 300,000 miles a year. In fact, this four-month stint has been the longest time I have been home in my career — and in my marriage. On one trip, from LAX to Sydney, Australia, I ended up boarding with the Rolling Stones. It was Mick Jagger, on the far right, Keith Richards, and me. Starting a 16-hour flight completely star-struck caught me off-guard, but that is what I love about travel. You never know what is around the corner or who you will meet.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early in my career, I was given the opportunity to lead the team preparing a business development proposal for a government agency. Not only did we prepare a comprehensive proposal, we made sure it looked great — fancy and glossy, eye-catching. We were proud of the response. Of course, the government has very strict protocols for proposals — and our proposal was disqualified because it wasn’t printed on both sides of each page. Who would have thought? I missed these fine print directions, which was a painful mistake but makes for a lighter story nowadays and a lesson learned!.

The lesson I learned that day was an important one: details matter. Even the best work can be tripped up if you don’t pay attention to the details.

What advice would you give other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive and avoid burnout?

Make sure you thoroughly understand and fully agree with your company’s vision and values. They will get you through good times, bad times and long days. Without that strong attachment to a company’s purpose, people can lose their way or engage in behaviors that don’t align with those values.

When our CEO Pam Maynard stepped into the CEO role, one of the first things she did was formalize

Avanade’s company purpose: to make a genuine human impact. It’s what inspires all of us to look beyond the technology to the actual human impact of the work we do. Like making it possible for doctors to provide treatment plans for four times more cancer patients than before. Or making it easier for veterans to access the services they need. That purpose is more important than ever now as we live through a global pandemic — people want to feel like they are making a difference; that what they do matters. And graduates and interns want to work for a company that cares about more than its bottom line, one that provides opportunities to leave this world better than it was before.

Part of that in the last few months has been making sure our employees around the world are equipped to work remotely. Avanade is one of the leading deployers of remote working technology for businesses globally. But we also practice what we preach. Remote working has been a part of our culture for many years before the Covid-19 pandemic. We also put a large focus on creating and demonstrating a culture that truly values a healthy work/life balance, even if right now we are mostly at home. We have enabled a culture where it is acceptable to turn off your phone and unplug from your technology to recharge without feeling guilty. Right now, even though we are not traveling as we might have in the past, we are encouraging our teams to take their vacation time, because we know how important it is to take time off so you can come back refreshed and invigorated.

Another example of the power of this philosophy is the company’s decision to give all employees the afternoon off on the day of George Floyd’s funeral. Our CEO encouraged everyone to take the time to read, reflect and educate ourselves about the day’s calls for social justice. Giving thousands of employees the afternoon off was a courageous act, and it reflects how we at Avanade work every day to live our values.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Some companies have many years of experience with managing a remote team. Others have just started this, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Can you tell us how many years of experience you have managing remote teams?

I’ve managed remote teams for all of my 27-year career. From its roots as a software consulting company, Avanade was launched as a largely virtual company 20 years ago, so we have vast experience working remotely and managing remote teams. We have roughly 38,000 people working for us across 25 countries. Our teams are spread out across time zones, so we know the benefits of remote working and the collaboration it creates. As I said above, we are also a leading deployer of remote working technology. For years, we have been helping clients around the world implement remote working and adapt to the change and benefits in workplace culture it brings. Because we have the benefit of Microsoft technology, our teams are as used to speaking with colleagues on the other side of the world daily as they are talking with family members in their own homes. Effectively managing remote teams is an integral part of leadership at Avanade.

Managing a team remotely can be very different than managing a team that is in front of you. Can you articulate for our readers what the five main challenges are regarding managing a remote team? Can you give a story or example for each?

Provide access to collaboration technology: At the core of our ability to work effectively from wherever we are is access to the required technology, everything from platforms and applications to network performance. Regardless of your industry, companies seeking to empower remote employees have to provide a base level of tools and capabilities that allow their people to get their work done.

In March, many organizations were forced to accelerate their remote working technology very quickly. For example, in the United Kingdom, the National Health Service needed to rapidly provide its 1.2 million users across 16,000 separate NHS organizations access to Microsoft Teams to enhance their collaboration capabilities. Avanade, Accenture, and Microsoft worked collaboratively with the NHS to rapidly implement Teams in a matter of days, allowing clinicians across the country to better share information.

Update protocols for conducting routine business and team-building: With our years of experience, we have become very good at conducting business via conference calls. That includes everything from high-level company strategy sessions, when there may be 100 or more people around the world collaborating to build that strategy together, to companywide update webinars, when thousands may join live and ask questions.

Since the pandemic, we have paid particular attention to developing ways to keep our people engaged and connected. We don’t want anyone to feel like they are on their own or without help if they need it. And people across Avanade have been inventive about staying connected, as well, everything from virtual happy hours to karaoke sessions.

One particularly inventive program is Avanade Radio, which operates 18 hours a day every Friday on Microsoft Teams. It’s a way for colleagues all around the world to connect on different topics. There have been sessions on business topics, such as our go-to-market strategy and the latest protocols for working remotely with our clients, to keep delivery standards high, to book reviews and wellness topics.

For companies whose employees may not be as familiar with working remotely, some ideas that might be helpful:

  • Create a support network and assign remote working champions to help colleagues understand how best to work from home within the context of their role.
  • Use video as much as you can — seeing people can make a big difference.
  • Use online meetings to also do fun events, such as virtual networking in the evening or at lunchtime.

Adapt leadership skills to suit the environment: During the pandemic, we have made it clear to our managers and career advisers that our people come first. Checking in with each employee to be sure they have the support they need is the most important thing we can do, both for our employees and our clients. This is the time to focus more on outcomes than on the hours worked. Pay attention to how engaged team members are; increase your level of empathy and trust. At Avanade, we believe that if we deliver for our employees, they will deliver for our clients — and that has been true. We have continued to deliver high-quality projects for our clients around the world.

Be prepared to manage the increased number of cyber-attacks that may surface: A greater number of remote workers also means a larger number of targets. We’ve seen this first-hand with phishing attempts. Drive awareness and take precautions and increase internal awareness campaigns. It’s important to make it easy for staff to report and resolve security issues. Our asset protection group has a centralized system so employees can quickly and easily report any concerns, questions, or issues.

A top security concern is a successful phishing attack, so we have focused our education programs on anti-phishing awareness. Our IT security team randomly sends out messages designed to look like phishing attempts. It’s become a game with employees. If they correctly report one of the tests to the phishing system, they are congratulated. If they miss a certain number, they’ll be steered to anti-phishing training.

Maintain or increase productivity: This may be the time to look at re-engineering the way your organization delivers products/ services remotely. For example, we helped develop a way for doctors to consult with cancer specialists remotely, a change that allowed the specialists to help four times the number of patients. We’ve helped engineering firms implement virtual reality systems that have made it possible for repair specialists to perform an equipment repair at a distance.

At Avanade, we’ve used workplace analytics to look at the impact of the pandemic on the business and help individuals adapt to working from home every day and continue to be productive, even while dealing with more stress outside of work. We want to encourage good management skills, so we keep an eye on how often career advisers are checking in on those they advise. We are looking for positive outcomes, so we keep an eye on the number of hours an employee is working, in case we need to encourage them to take a break and avoid fatigue.

To improve productivity, consider subsidizing higher bandwidth and quality of service solutions. Most network issues start at home, so provide guidance to employees on the best Wi-Fi home network solutions and technical advice on how to structure the most efficient home network.

In my experience, one of the trickiest parts of managing a remote team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. If someone is in front of you, much of the nuance can be picked up in facial expressions and body language. But not when someone is remote. Can you give a few suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee?

At Avanade, this is also something we are very familiar with. My advice:

  • From the onset, work to create a relationship built on trust. Establish an environment that is conducive to respectful conversations.
  • Stay true to your company’s values. At Avanade, our goal is to be sure our employees feel inspired, confident, and cared for. That sets the tone for our performance and management discussions, no matter how delicate.
  • Coming from a place of respect, base your feedback on evidence. Video is ideal for these types of conversation so that you can see the other person, but when it’s not possible, be sure you are actively listening, as well as talking.
  • If there are performance challenges, agree on a way forward that will work for both of you. Together determine next steps.
  • Continue communicating as you work through the challenges.

Can you specifically address how to give constructive feedback over email? How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

To be honest, my advice is to avoid using email to provide feedback. Not all channels are created equal. Over email you can’t adjust the tone of what you want to convey, based on the other person’s reaction, if need be. It’s tempting to include others and the impulse to “reply all” can be a strong one, so before you know it, you could end up in a conversation that is far from the one you hoped for.

With the tools and technology, we have available today, a real-time conversation is so much better and easier. Most collaborative tools have a chat function. You can ping your colleague and ask for a call or chat on the fly and at the click of a mouse. It is more personal, saves your inbox, shortens your to-do list, and allows you to get more done in a shorter amount of time. Similarly, I would say that lengthy debates shouldn’t happen over IM, no matter how convenient. Pick up the phone or set up a Teams call. And, of course, it goes without saying that delivering any performance feedback must be done in real time and one-to-one.

Can you share any suggestions for teams who are used to working together on location but are forced to work remotely due to the pandemic? Are there potential obstacles one should avoid with a team that is just getting used to working remotely?

If a team is used to working together already, they have a baseline, which is a huge advantage. Having common experiences and in-person interactions as a foundation is a plus right off the bat. As you adjust to working remotely, don’t lose the personal chit chat completely- find ways to connect via IM as a team or start calls with personal check-in questions like “how was your weekend?” or “how are you feeling today?” It’s important for the team leads to set expectations on availability and hours for the team so that they can set boundaries working in this new way and so the team can continue to trust each other’s work commitments.

What do you suggest can be done to create a healthy and empowering work culture with a team that is remote and not physically together?

Think about how to create common experiences, regardless of time or place, such as team activities that can be shared. Perhaps, a team challenge for fun. Celebrate news of wins and completion of team projects. Publicly praise team members when appropriate and make sure no one is forgotten.

There is a mental health aspect to all of this. Staying mostly at home is hard work. Plus, many of us don’t have the support that we usually have — schools, daycare, elder care — which means that we’re trying to juggle work and home life simultaneously. At Avanade right now, teams in some countries are able to be out and about more than others. Be aware and respectful of the challenges each team member is dealing with. That’s why our approach is, “we’ve got your back.” Sometimes the most supportive thing we can do is encourage a team member or the entire group to take a day off to recharge.

One thing we do liberally is celebrate the ways we are helping frontline workers and our communities in this time of crisis, whether it is the pandemic or community social justice stress. At Avanade, every employee has eight hours of paid time a year to volunteer for a cause that is important to them. Through the end of this year, we have uncapped those hours so that folks on the bench or others who can spare some time are able to support projects that help others and their communities right now.

You are 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?

I would look for ways to democratize content, everything from literature, art and history to music and research findings. Access to learning, to higher education would open the world for tens of millions of people.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

As a true Canadian, it would be remiss of me not to have some reference to hockey in here, so I’ll quote the great Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100% of the shots you never take. Step up and lean in, go for it. Get off the sideline and into the fray.”


Craig Gorsline of Avanade: 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Manage a Remote Team was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

F.A.T.E, From Addict to Entrepreneur, With MJ Gottlieb of Loosid

F.A.T.E From Addict to Entrepreneur, With MJ Gottlieb of Loosid

Addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or cancer. You can’t wish it away. You need to get treated in order to get better. It’s not your fault that you are addicted. You are genetically predisposed to a condition that only a spiritual program of rigorous honesty and action can resolve.

You are not alone. You will soon find out that by asking for help, people who were previously afraid to ask for help will have the courage to follow your lead. You will save your life and save countless others without even knowing

I had the pleasure of interviewing MJ Gottlieb the Co-Founder & CEO of Loosid, a groundbreaking new app that makes it easy to find new friends, dating, fun sober events and destinations, and groups in your community that promote sober living. MJ has been sober since March 2012, but began his first attempt at sobriety in the late 1990’s. He invariably found his way back into addiction for one main reason… to him, sobriety simply wasn’t fun.

In 2017, MJ began developing the Loosid app to offer millions of people in the sober community access to fun experiences and a place to connect and find support. He also wanted to create a full suite of recovery tools for people to connect and get help at a moment’s notice. He knew the stigma so many have reaching out to people and knew that the best way to provide that connection was through the one thing that people are never without — their phones!

In addition to starting Loosid, MJ also owned and operated six businesses over the last 23 years. Clients have included: Fubu, Phat Farm, Samsung America and lists of others in the sports, clothing, media and entertainment industries. He is also the author of How to Ruin a Business Without Really Trying, a book written for the aspiring entrepreneurs of our next generation on the most important things NOT to do when starting and running a business for the first time. The foreword to the book was written by Shark Tank’s, Daymond John.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you describe your childhood for us?

I grew up in downtown Manhattan. I had two wonderful caring and loving parents. One thing that stood out was they were very overprotective and wanted to insulate me from any harm. I was told the world was a dangerous place.

While I now realize this is only because they deeply loved me and wanted to protect me, it put me in tremendous fear of everything. I couldn’t open my mouth. I was too afraid… until one night, around 14 years old, I found alcohol and suddenly everything was OK. From that point forward, I could speak to anybody, so long as I had alcohol in my system.

Can you share with us how were you initially introduced to your addiction? What drew you to the addiction you had?

I was invited to a house party in Soho. I remember finishing that first drink and instantly wanting another, then another. I was instantly transformed. I was better looking, I was the life of the party, I was wittier, I was smarter, everyone wanted to be around me… or so I thought. I was no longer in fear, I felt no danger. I had found the solution.

What do you think you were really masking or running from in the first place?

I was running away from fear and from the mental scars of being bullied and picked on. All the negative experiences of fears and resentments were weighing me down so heavily that I had to use substances to escape the pain building inside of me.

Can you share what the lowest point in your addiction and life was?

I was babysitting my sister’s 4 children, one who was in a crib, one was barely 2 years old, one 5 and one 7. I drank a bottle of Mount Gay Rum and passed out. When I came to, my sister and her family left their own home and went upstate to get as far away from me as possible. Luckily, none of the children were harmed, however, the event itself was enough to push me in the right direction.

Can you tell us the story about how were you able to overcome your addiction?

I was fortunate enough to have lost everything. There was not a person left in the world I could turn to as I had destroyed every relationship. I had lost my business, lost my friends and had run out of people to borrow money from to feed my addiction. I knew I had two previous legal charges so I was not going to break the law to feed my habit.

I crawled back into the recovery rooms I hadn’t been to in 5 years and said the three words no addict wants to say, “I need help.” It’s no coincidence that the 3 words no one wants to say is the same three words that will save their life. That, however, requires you to let go of your ego. I was completely broken so there was no ego left, just an empty shell. Recovery is like a glass of water. If you come in with dirty water filled to the rim there is no room for clean water to come in. The only thing to do is empty your cup voluntarily or involuntarily. I had involuntarily emptied my cup.

How did you reconcile within yourself and to others the pain that addiction caused to you and them?

In order to reconcile anything within myself or others, I needed to learn about the disease. I learned that addiction is a genetic bullet and was not my fault. I was not a bad person trying to be good but a sick person who needed the guidance of how to get well. It is a disease just like any other. The beauty of the disease is that unlike others, you can put it in remission on a daily basis by working the program.

This allowed me to forgive myself. It was then time to mend fences and clean my side of the street. I made amends to my sister, to my parents and all the people I had harmed. I told them I am sorry for what I did and to please let me know what I could do to make things right. It is important to never make excuses for why I did what I did. That is something I was taught that has been very important in my recovery.

When you stopped your addiction, what did you do to fill in all the newfound time you had?

I threw everything I had into recovery. I had lost everything so I had nothing else to do which was a blessing. Mind you, it was very humbling to live the life of George Costanza at 41 living back home in the same room I grew up. I took meetings in detoxes and jails and tried to carry the message of recovery everywhere.

Additionally, my father had a stroke shortly into my recovery and I was able to be of service not only to him, but to my entire family. The same person who used to tell me I was going to put my mother in the grave now would say ‘what would I ever do without you.’ This is one of the greatest gifts of recovery.

What positive habits have you incorporated into your life post addiction to keep you on the right path?

A person I met in recovery early on who was very dear to me and is responsible for saving my life used to tell me if you get the gift of sobriety and don’t give it back, you are a shoplifter. This is how I live my life. I shouldn’t be alive. I have an obligation to give back what was freely given to me. Service keeps you sober.

Can you tell us a story about how your entrepreneurial journey started?

The mother of someone I was helping was looking to open up rehab centers as her family has been ravaged by addiction. We became very close, like brother and sister. I started helping to advise her on these acquisitions.

One day, I was telling her we simply could not open up enough treatment centers in the world to help even 1/100th of 1 percent of those suffering from addiction. Even if we were to open 1,000 treatment centers we could maybe help a few hundred thousand people per year. I said to myself, the math simply didn’t add up. There are over 300 million people worldwide suffering from alcohol abuse alone. If you add those struggling with other substances, the numbers are beyond staggering. I told her if you want to help all those people, the only way is to leverage the power of digital and bring them all into one place. We also wanted to help the entire sober community as well, which in the US is 23+ million people.

We also wanted to create a platform that welcomed anyone who was sober for any reason or anyone interested in being sober.

In order to attract people to become sober, I knew it was critical to show people how much fun it can be when choosing to live a sober life. This is why we created such a comprehensive platform that incorporates sober dating, travel, events, and groups with all the different ways to engage and interact and, most importantly, have fun.

We also needed to offer immediate help for those struggling. For this reason, we built a suite of recovery tools for anyone in need of community support as well as over 14,000 treatment centers and Tele Help Guides offering professional help, that a member can query based on their location.

What character traits have you transferred from your addiction to your entrepreneurship. Please share both the positive and negative.

The biggest I can think of is I do absolutely nothing in moderation and I am never satisfied with myself and I never will be. That’s probably my greatest flaw and strength. That being said, it allows me to move the goal post further than others. If you look at the creation of Loosid, the truth is, I had no interest in saving 1–200,000 people, I wanted to save the world.

I chase helping others with their challenges the same way I chased drugs and alcohol. There is no stop button on me. No off switch. The only time I will ever be satisfied is if there is not a single human being left on Earth suffering from addiction. There also must not be a single homeless person, no racism, sexism or social injustice. I think I have a long journey of dissatisfaction ahead of me.

Why do you think this topic is not discussed enough?

There’s a saying, those amongst us no explanation is necessary, those not amongst us no explanation is possible. People see numbers but they don’t feel the numbers. It is necessary to tug on the heartstrings of the public. In order to do that and get a true understanding of what is going on, speak to an addict like me.

Speak to my partners Zhanna and Kirill, who can tell you how their entire family has been ripped apart by this disease. This is actually the main mission of Loosid. To grow the largest platform in the world for the sobriety and addiction community. To grow so large that people can’t turn their heads and our voices must be heard. We can then create change. Change laws. Change clinical models. Track success metrics and throw out all the models that aren’t working. There is so much we can do. I challenge people to get on the front lines with me because we need all the help we can get.

Can you share three pieces of advice that you would give to the entrepreneur who is struggling with some sort of addiction but ashamed to speak about it or get help?

Addiction is a disease. Just like diabetes or cancer. You can’t wish it away. You need to get treated in order to get better. It’s not your fault that you are addicted. You are genetically predisposed to a condition that only a spiritual program of rigorous honesty and action can resolve.

You are not alone. You will soon find out that by asking for help, people who were previously afraid to ask for help will have the courage to follow your lead. You will save your life and save countless others without even knowing

How can our readers follow you on social media?@MJGottlieb
@loosidapp


F.A.T.E, From Addict to Entrepreneur, With MJ Gottlieb of Loosid was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Kimberly Rice: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’

Accept that you are perfect, just are you are, today. We are all unique beings, no two the same. As a young girl, I struggled with curly, unruly hair. There were no products for “my kind” of hair. I’ve had more hairstyles than 10 people combined, as I attempted to control the curl and frizz. Fast forward several decades — — today, I am the envy of women and many men for the beautiful locks of luscious, auburn hair that I have…same hair that found the right products. We ALL have that uniqueness inside of us.

As a part of my series about “Grit: The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success” I had the pleasure of interviewing Kimberly Rice.

Kimberly Rice has been a changemaker her entire life and personifies grit, in innumerable ways. Daring and adventurous, she was that girl who would prove a teacher and boss wrong when they said something could not be done. Before it was chic, Kimberly’s motto was and is: “I can. I will. Watch me”. This is her mentality in all aspects of her life.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path.

Story telling is where it all began. I have traveled the world and experienced so many fabulous adventures that I love to share through storytelling. That’s the personal genesis. I leveraged this to drive my love of public speaking, which instigated my corporate communications then business strategy career. I learned to use my voice, tone and non-verbal cues to draw applause at delivering the morning announcements to my 12th grade English class. Throughout college and post-graduate jobs, I honed these skills that lead me to legal marketing in Philadelphia (where I served as Chief Marketing Officer for three law firms for nearly 20 years).

In almost every instance, I served as a corporate spokesperson for large and mid-size law firms, before starting my first business KLA Marketing Associates. Now, I speak up and stand out for our clients as well as for women professionals who often haven’t found their voice.

Can you share your story about “Grit and Success”? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Hmm, let’s see. Through numerous severe vehicle accidents, medical procedures and other precarious situations, I came close to dying three times. Surviving, spending months recovering and learning to live again certainly provided opportunities to build and strengthen my resilience and grit.

Given various familial circumstances, I have been self supporting since I was 19 years old. I alone was responsible for making my life work, beginning in my sophomore year of college until present day. I lost my dad when I was 19 and my mother moved 2,000 miles away from where I grew up. The phrase “If it is to be, then it is up to me”. I learned how to be a survivor, resourceful, self-reliant and resilient in those years.

Separately, when I was 27 years old, I moved 500 miles away from the life I’d always known to make a new life for myself….I had no job, no connections, no computer, no internet, no iphone. Every single day for months, I searched for a job, networked my eyeballs out and created a new life for myself. That further strengthened my resilience and grit. To say I have experienced “no” more than most would be a vast understatement.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Having a “drive” begins with a deep belief in oneself, which I have (I grew up with an iron-strong mother as a role model). Then, the “drive” is strengthened through faith in something or someone greater than oneself. I was raised in the Southern Baptist Church, attended church and Bible study multiple times a week for many years.

I know that the Universe has a purpose and a plan for my life, talents, gifts and abilities. These experiences lead to an all knowing that I am here on this planet for a purpose, which is to uplift, empower and equip women professionals to develop the career of their dreams by charting their own course. That is my passion aligned with my purpose.

The deep sense of knowing took decades to cultivate and strengthen.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

Based upon the experiences and practices above, I came to know how extraordinary I and my gifts and talents are, all here to serve a purpose. The phrase “Yet, I persist” describes my drive, my tenacity, my never-ending persistence, in service to others.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

1. Accept that you are perfect, just are you are, today. We are all unique beings, no two the same. As a young girl, I struggled with curly, unruly hair. There were no products for “my kind” of hair. I’ve had more hairstyles than 10 people combined, as I attempted to control the curl and frizz.

Fast forward several decades — — today, I am the envy of women and many men for the beautiful locks of luscious, auburn hair that I have…same hair that found the right products. We ALL have that uniqueness inside of us.

2. Stare down the Comparison Gremlin. When you lack confidence in yourself and abilities, you look externally, to your left and right, for approval and validation. With my curly hair and weight issues, I did not see anyone like me. I literally had to grow up to grow out of the need to conform.

As the saying goes about shattering the glass ceiling. I don’t try to shatter the ceiling, I build my own ceiling. According to Dr. Seuss “Why should we fit in when we are designed to stand out”? That’s my motto. I am very different then most, and I have learned to embrace these differences, knowing that they make me uniquely me.

3. Stand confident in your own worth. I’ve worked in a male-dominated industries for my entire career. I’ve struggled to have my ideas and voice be heard and considered. I’ve been at the receiving end of male condescension and marginalization, just because I’m a strong woman. My life changed when I dug deep to build my confidence (underscoring my self worth) and set boundaries of what is acceptable behavior from others. I’ve learned that we teach others how to treat us based upon what we are and are not willing to tolerate. I no longer suffer fools. I respect and value myself too much.

4. Be kind and loving to yourself, every day. To borrow the phrase, “No one promised you a rose garden”, meaning, the path to success, fulfilment and wealth may not be a bed of roses — not always the easiest path. That’s where all of my pieces of advice are relevant and timely. We must continue to move forward, do the work and surrender the outcome, knowing that it WILL come.

Over the years, I have developed uplifting and soothing self-care practices — — thrice daily meditation, stretching, regular massages and skin treatments and time away from the office to feed my soul, exercise my body and challenge my mind. Success does not come at the expense of one of these, though there will be different combinations, on any given day.

5. Never, ever quit. Over the years, I’ve witnessed highly capable and accomplished individuals (mostly women) give up on their dreams because they were unwilling to do the work required, remain consistent and persistent in pursuit of their goals/dreams despite not seeing immediate results. My motto: “I am positively expecting, ready to receive and manifest into my life great results, regardless of what I may see in front of me today. I know that the Universe is re-arranging itself right now for my greater good”.

6. Be Grateful in ALL things. I deeply believe that all things happen for a reason (though I may not understand it, at the time) that there are NO accidents and everything that does happens has a divine purpose, for the greater good.

As I have developed my attitude of gratitude, more goodness flows my way. I keep a Gratitude Journal, write down three things I’m grateful for every day, with a deep knowing that gratitude is the highest vibration in the Universal Laws.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Though I have always been self-driven and motivated, I have received encouragement along the way.

  1. My mother set a high bar for me to achieve. She required that I always do my best, even when I didn’t feel like it.
  2. Kathleen Cashman — my business coach — has always believed in me with whatever vision I have had for my life and business. She has lent her relevant business experience to guide me along my journey.
  3. My husband — Tim Rice who believes and cheers me on, no matter what.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

1. I have shone a light on female rising stars through my various volunteer work with the Girl Scouts, Center for Family Services, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and other non-profits which focus on uplifting and empower girls and young women

2. I have coached thousands of women professionals across the globe to recognize their true value, to re-claim their confidence and to dream big. Everything is possible if you can dream it.

3. I facilitate a global virtual women business owner Mastermind program to educate and equip women to build and grow prosperous businesses while re-claiming their lives.

4. I host two podcasts (available on over a dozen podcast platforms) on which I showcase individuals whom are making positive change in their lives and in the lives of others. (CHANGEMAKERS and Secret Sauce Marketing Tastings).

5. I have published over 400 articles, blogs, vlogs, books, e-books and video series on The Confident Woman, The Rainmaker Roadmap and How Women Can Create the Career of their Dreams by Charting their Own Course. I speak frequently before business and women professional groups across the globe to spread the message of hope, to embrace our magnificence and unique brilliance.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, we always have projects in development.

Given the current virtual environment, my team and I are transitioning our CHANGEMAKERS business accelerator program to online. Much of the components were already designed to leverage the “freedom of time and location” and we are up leveling it to create world class experiences for our members.

Specifically, we are leveraging the conscious engagement approach to create a high touch experience in our high tech world to further advance our members’ desires and visions to create the careers of their dreams by charting their own course. We teach and empower women across the globel to embrace their magnificence and step outside their comfort zone, since that is where the magic happens.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

1. Create an environment of collaboration among your team.

2. Empower everyone to work in their zone of genius realm.

3. Develop processes/systems to build a process-driven business

4. Delegate as much as possible so that you, as the leader of the firm, can function in your unique brilliance as much as possible.

5. Avoid taking yourself and your business too seriously. This is, after all, the classroom of life. Have fun with it…learn, embrace the divine re-direction and trust that everything will work out for the greatest good.

You are 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. 🙂

In light of the fact that the number of women on the planet is nearly 50%, we should assert our powerful voices in every aspect of our lives — — personally, professionally, in our families, communities, governments, and across the globe.

As former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton famously said, “Women’s rights are human rights and human rights are women’s rights”. Until women stand confidently in their worth, embrace their power and space in the world, they will truly never achieve their dreams. It is my and CHANGEMAKERS’ mission to advance this cause, beginning with young female children to senior women. We deserve to be heard, recognized and valued, if not for ourselves for the generations that will stand on our shoulders.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

1. You teach people how to treat you — — too many times, particularly when I was younger, I allowed others to disrespect and mistreat me, which adversely impacted my self esteem and self worthy. As I grew and learned better, I have made different choices. I no longer allow myself to be disrespected nor mistreated.

2. Hope is not a strategy — I know that I, alone, am responsible for my life, its choices, its destiny. It is by taking small steps every day that I advance my dreams and vision.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Kimberly Rice LinkedIn — https://www.linkedin.com/in/kimberlyalfordrice/

CHANGEMAKERS — https://www.linkedin.com/company/wearechangemakers

KLA Marketing Associates — https://www.linkedin.com/company/kla-marketing-associates

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.


Kimberly Rice: Five Ways To Develop More ‘Grit’ was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.