Simon Kardynal Of Trench Leadership: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Simon Kardynal Of Trench Leadership: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be empathetic: It’s easy to be a leader when the team is cohesive and the company is healthy. It’s when things start to break down, or the leader the leader becomes personally or professionally stressed, that leaders need to exercise their emotional intelligence and be empathetic of their teams concerns and feelings, even if the leader doesn’t agree.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Simon Kardynal.

Simon is the host of Trench Leadership: A Podcast From the Front that brings together diverse and passionate leaders to support and inspire emerging leaders. Through conversation and story-telling, Simon and his guests talk everything from workplace culture to hard chats to personal leadership brands, offering advice, insight, and practical tools to new and leaders-to-be.

Simon’s journey to becoming a podcast host started back in 1994 when he joined the Canadian Army as an infanteer. Later on, Simon joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as an aircraft structures technician, and it was in this trade when he would eventually begin his formal leadership journey by being promoted into the first levels of leadership in the Canadian Armed Forces command structure. In 2011, Simon became an aircraft maintenance superintendent and he began to switch his leadership focus from the tactical level to the strategic and institutional levels.

In 2021, Simon completed a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University and he has undergone many formal and informal leadership training programs.

It was during his graduate studies when he was introduced to ‘new to him’ leadership principles and practices and where he embraced the concept of heart-brain-centric leadership. He also realized that to be a truly passionate leader, he needed to follow his own passions, and so, in January 2021, and with 26 years of service, Simon retired from the RCAF as a Master Warrant Officer.

Simon spends his time running more often, riding his motorcycle (never enough), and flying airplanes as often as his budget and the weather will allow. But most often, Simon can be found in his office, building connections with like-minded leaders as he creates content for his podcast.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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 covered portions of my backstory in my bio, but I’d like to expand on how I came to making a podcast. There are two instances that led to me becoming a podcast host.

The first is that I watched the movie, Knight and Day, starring Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz. In the movie, the two stars are travelling in an airplane and Cameron Diaz says something to the effect of, “Someday I’m going to take a trip along the coast”. It was Tom Cruise’s response that really struck me, and sticks with me to this day, he said, “Someday. That’s a dangerous word. It’s really just a code for ‘never’”. I remember thinking that while I loved being in the Canadian military, I was no longer living into my passions, and that I was living a ‘someday’ lifestyle. And so, I started looking at my options.

The second point was when I began to create the associated knowledge product (AKP) for my graduate degree. I knew I wanted to create something fun and intriguing, but also make ‘it’ look and feel professional. I had already started toying with the idea of making a podcast and so I decided to create a 3-part podcast mini-series that highlighted my research with the goals of finding out if I could make a professional sounding podcast, and also make something unique for the listener.

Once I realized that I could actually make a decent sounding podcast, things moved pretty quickly, and here I am with 18 episodes released, doing this interview for you fine folks.

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’m reminded of the time when I was a brand-new Master Corporal (the first leadership level in the Canadian Armed Forces Chain of Command), and I had a team of three people. I was still figuring out what it even meant to be in charge of people and shortly after I arrived at the squadron, the unit was going away for an exercise. During the exercise preparation, one of my team members and myself received an email from the supply section telling us to ensure we had our equipment at the supply section in time to pack the equipment. To me, this seemed like a very obvious thing to do, especially consider one of my team members had been part of many exercises with the squadron.

So, I sent the email to my direct report with text something along the lines of, “I’m sure you already know this, but make sure you get your s&^t in to supply right away!! AHAHAHAHHAHAHA!!!”

Except….. I didn’t click forward, I clicked reply.

I can tell you that it didn’t take long for me to get a phone call and get called into my supervisor’s office to explain myself, getting told quite often that I was a leader now and there were more expectations on me. I was profusely apologetic and I learned two things in that moment.

First, I realized my influence as a leader transferred into everything I was doing and said, including emails.

Second, I learned to make sure that I was sending my now-always professional emails to the proper person.

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?

This is a great question. There are so many people I’d like to recognize, but for me, I’d like to talk about the first leader I had in my first unit with the Canadian Army, then-Master Corporal (MCpl) Rick Nolan. When I arrived at the battalion fresh off of my basic infantry course, I was posted an infantry battalion, and a standard platoon. My section second in command (2IC) was MCpl Rick Nolan. It’s important to side bar for a moment and explain that I was an immature 20-year-old who thought he knew everything and that I didn’t need to have things taught to me because “I knew it all” and I didn’t fully comprehend I had started a ‘real’ career. I wasn’t a bad soldier, but I wasn’t living to my potential either, and this is where Rick comes in.

As time went on, my little mistakes, and more importantly, my cavalier attitude to my job started being noticed and I was beginning to develop a poor reputation with my peers and superiors. After one particularly poor performance, Rick pulled me aside and he didn’t chew me out, or yell at me, berate me, or try to make me feel small. Instead, he chose to talk to me, to help me understand what I was doing and why I needed to pay more attention to me and my surroundings. He highlighted my strengths and he made sure I knew my failings. Now, many people are probably thinking all of this is common sense, and for the most part it is, but… this happened in the infantry (a traditionally macho environment), in 1994. Things were different, how we did things was different. Rick was my first real mentor, he didn’t give me the answers to grow up, but he pointed me in the right direction, and when I started to stray off track, he would get me back in line again.

Rick’s leadership has been an integral part of my leadership journey. I’ve blended my leadership approach with parts of what I took from Rick, and made my own leadership flavour, and now I have a podcast where I hope to mentor and coach emerging leaders at the beginning of their leadership journey as well.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When I first started my podcast, I wanted to help emerging leaders by providing advice, inspiration, and practical leadership tools. My podcast continues to focus on these points for each episode, but as the show has evolved, I’ve realized that I also want to help people understand leadership without passion limits their vision.

The reality is that anyone can be in charge, but it takes passionate leadership to create a vision that will inspire your team. And so, I try to bring guests and topics that provide advice for emerging leaders, that will give the listeners practical leadership tools as they navigate their leadership journey, but mostly, I want to inspire leaders, to let them know they are not alone, that they are making a difference, that mistakes and triumphs are all part of their journey.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I’d like to talk about when I started my new job after I retired from the Canadian Armed Forces. I now work as a contract manager and I joined the company in January 2021. I also happened to join the company right in the middle of a COVID-related lockdown. I had to make connections with dozens of people without being able to physically meet them. And this was hard.

In lieu of actual meetings over coffee or lunch, I had one-on-one teleconference calls, but most importantly, I created a bi-newsletter. In the newsletter, I offered information about my passions, my focuses for my position, how I could help them, and how they could help me. I also added fun information about the company and I added biographies of people from other divisions within the company. I did all of this with the goal of creating team cohesion by showing everyone my human side and then hopefully building a sense of community even though we couldn’t come together into one room. And this worked. I know the newsletter worked because I received many notes and calls thanking me for finding a way to bring people together although we were all separated.

My learning from this example was how I was reminded that team cohesion doesn’t need to be an over-the-top action or complicated in its nature. Team cohesion comes from being genuine in our desire to want to bring the team together.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I think everyone considers giving up when things get tough, it’s part of our evolutionary fight or flight instinct, but it’s what we decide in those moments that defines us.

My motivation to get through challenges is partly because of my personality type. I’m the type that sees a challenge as something that won’t beat me. I’ll put my head down and keep working until I’ve defeated the issue. This part of me is great when I need to have laser focus on a task, but it also has its disadvantages because I can get so focused on the challenge that I can lose sight of the other things around me. Striking a balance between the two has been, and continues to be, one of my challenges.

As for what sustains my drive, part of it is that I’ve matured, evolved, and I’ve learned to acknowledge my accomplishments. And so, when I’m struggling about whether or not I have the capability to do something, or feel I don’t deserve to be in the same group as others, I’ve learned to remind myself of the fact that I HAVE made important accomplishments in my personal and professional career. I DESERVE a seat at the table. I’m smart enough to solve the problem. When I remind myself of these things, it motivates me to keep driving forward. In short, I look to inspire myself, and in leadership roles, if we can’t inspire ourselves, how can we inspire our team?

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Communication.

Nothing is more important than talking to your team. Even if the talk is to tell them that you don’t have time to talk. Any information is better than no information. When times are tough and the days are long, teams will look to their leaders for inspiration and that comes in the form of talking to your team, communicating to them how things are going, telling them what’s working, and if things need to change and why.

And it’s the ‘why’ of things that absolutely must be explained. In this information-rich world, team members will fill the information voids left by leaders who are ‘too busy’ to talk to their teams. If we don’t provide the why, your team will assume the worst-case scenario, whether or not that’s the case. So please, talk to your people, keep them informed and everyone will get through the challenging times.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

In my opinion, the best way for leaders to boost morale or to inspire and engage with their teams is to ask them what they feel would do all of these things. Now, the argument could be made that leaders should already know their people, and I won’t disagree with this statement, but the thing is, when times are tough, people and teams tend to want different things to engage and inspire them. And so, the best way to know what your team needs is to ask them, and then you, as the leader, can provide it. If they want a pizza party, get out your wallet. If they want to throw a pie in your face, wear an old shirt to work. In short, hear what your team wants in troubling times and then make it happen, because that’s leadership.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Be honest, professional, and empathetic. Most people can tell when they’re being handled, especially during a difficult conversation.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Flexibility is the key in unpredictable times.

I think the best leaders can do is make their plans, remembering to be flexible when the plans change, because plans will change. Helmuth von Moltke said it best, “No plan survives first contact with the enemy”. In this instance, unpredictability is the enemy, but as long as leaders are expecting their plan to change, then they are more likely to be flexible to making adjustments.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Companies need to be honest and transparent. Do you remember when I talked about the information-rich worlds we live in today? Well, the same concept rings true here as well. If there are challenges, people will want answers, and in the absence of corporate information, they will either make their own answers or believe whichever information suits their personality.

The thing is, it’s very easy to be honest and transparent when things are going great. Most people love to give and receive good news, but it’s how leaders act during the hard times that define the make-up of companies. Talk to your people, be empathetic to their concerns, and truly hear them. Respond to their fears and concerns in a transparent way, and don’t leave people hanging.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Information Blackout: I touched on this point earlier, but I’d like to expand upon it. Teams look to their leaders for a show of strength during difficult times, and information is power. So, if the leader isn’t relaying information of any kind, or if they are hiding in their office while the company is reeling from the challenge, the team will assume the leader isn’t leading, and this will build resentment, anger, and confusion.

These issues can be overcome by talking to your team. Tell them the answers are coming, and most importantly, when the information arrives, share it, even if it’s tough news, keep your team informed.

Pre-emptive Panic: How many of us have seen or had a leader that hit the panic button before there was a need to panic? In fact, these leaders are often the cause of panic in a team, because as I mentioned in the first point, your team is looking to you for strength in leadership. If you’re running around with your hair on fire, your team will assume they need to as well, and I think we can all agree that a team with flaming heads is not ideal to defeat a challenging situation.

So when you feel the stress rising, go away from your team, take a moment (and there is always time) and re-centre yourself. Once you’re ready, go back and lead your team like the amazing boss that you are.

Too cool for school: Guess what? You’re not cool just because you’re the leader, and it’s REALLY important not to lose sight of this. Now, I’m not saying that leaders shouldn’t be confident, I’m suggesting that leaders need to be themselves and take the lead in a way that is natural to them while not losing sight of the fact that their success is directly attributed to their team.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

I’d like to offer two strategies.

First, I do my best to stay calm. I know this is much easier to say than do, but as a leader, your team is looking to you for how they should react during difficult times, so when I begin to feel the spiral happening because growth targets aren’t being met, I step away, I take a breath, and I stay calm. I recommend leaders say it out loud when they are beginning to spiral, “Stay calm”.

Second, I don’t make knee-jerk reactions. Difficult times are often turbulent in nature and leaders feel the pressure to make decisions quickly. And so, I’ve learned that during these fast-moving challenges, I try to take the time to ensure I have all of the information before I make a decision. Sometimes taking a little longer to ensure leaders are fully informed saves the company time and money in the long term.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be empathetic: It’s easy to be a leader when the team is cohesive and the company is healthy. It’s when things start to break down, or the leader the leader becomes personally or professionally stressed, that leaders need to exercise their emotional intelligence and be empathetic of their teams concerns and feelings, even if the leader doesn’t agree. I’m reminded of the time I was a Basic training instructor and I had a candidate request to speak with me. I could tell the candidate was very dejected and upset just by the way they came into my office. The person sat down and proceeded to tell me that they were in financial jeopardy and that this was causing them significant stress, and that was why they weren’t performing as well during the daily training. My response was to tell the candidate that it was their responsibility to fix their own financial problems and it should not be affecting course performance. The candidate almost broke down in front of me, and I sat there, blankly staring back at this person, completely unempathetic. It wasn’t long after that moment when I experienced some challenges and I noticed a decrease in my performance. I went to my supervisor to apologize for my poor performance and their response was to tell me to suck it up and get back to work. I was appalled, how could my boss not empathize with my plight? And then I remembered the complete lack of empathy I had for the young private who was asking for the very same consideration I had been looking for.
  2. Communicate: Talk to your team during hard times? No kidding, but it’s not just about informing your team, it’s also about HOW you talk to them. For example, don’t rush through meeting points and then run out the door muttering about being busy. Stay and talk to your team, make eye contact with every one of them. The thing is, your team is looking to you for leadership and if you appear panicked and frazzled, they will assume this is how everyone should be feeling and acting. Also, know yourself and your communication style. For myself, when I’m excited or passionate, I tend to speak very quickly and wave my hands all over the place, using gestures to emphasize points. I’ve always thought this was a good speaking habit of mine as I could really nail a point home, but what I learned many years ago was that these gestures, during tough times, also gave some people the sense that I was overwhelmed, or even angry. It took a very brave junior team member to tell me that this was the message I was sending. Ever since then, I’ve gone out of my way to ensure I read the room and pay attention to how an audience is reacting to my presence, and I adjust accordingly. Now, I’m not suggesting that leaders have to change who they are; rather, I’m offering that leaders can feel the vibe of their team and adjust their presence to communicate more effectively and efficiently.
  3. Roll with the punches: Leadership is about being flexible to constantly shifting targets, and it’s never going to change, so when you have to adjust your plan, I recommend stopping for a moment, take a breath, and when you’re ready, and only then, engage with the shift…… and don’t forget to communicate the ‘why’ of the changes to your team (Are you seeing a theme in this article?) Instead of me offering a story for this point, I’d like to offer that the reader thinks about a leader or boss they had that didn’t communicate changes to them. What did you feel? Frustrated? Confused? Upset? Now, how could you communicate in a way to avoid these feelings with your team members?
  4. Honesty is key: This point is another that should be common sense, but the reality is that during hard times, most often the news isn’t great and it can be easier to use a little white lie to avoid another confrontation. But…. if the leader gets caught, their credibility is destroyed and team cohesion will definitely suffer at the worst possible time. So, for this point, my advice is to be professionally honest. Deliver the news with a professional calm, one that gives an air of confidence, empathy, and understanding. Do you remember when I mentioned your team will look to you for leadership? Being honest is one of those leadership moments. They are looking to the leader to be honest and understanding. I’m reminded of a time when my team leader brought us together after a particularly difficult work week. We had spent most of the week working on a time-sensitive project, only to have to change everything at the last moment, causing many expletives and long hours. When it came out that we had to change our focus, our team leader let each of us vent, and when it was their turn to speak, they told us point blank that the required changes were needed because they had made a mistake in understanding what was required of us. They apologized for the what lay ahead, but that we needed to achieve our goals, and then the leader brought out a case of beer (We’re Canadian after all) as a good-faith token. None of us liked having to redo our work or stay late, but at least we knew why, we accepted it, and we moved on.
  5. Be kind to yourself: You are going to make mistakes. You will forget some things. Some of your decisions will negatively affect others. And you know what? That’s ok. Leaders have a tendency to think they need to be perfect all the time with all of the answers, and the fact is that we can’t, and won’t, be perfect. And when leaders make mistakes, they tend to be extra hard on themselves. But by acknowledging the irrefutable fact that we will make mistakes, maybe leaders can be kind to themselves when the mistakes happen.

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

My favourite life lesson quote is, “Let’s see where the river will take us, but someone has to steer the boat.”

Earlier, I talked about the importance of being flexible. Well, the truth is that I wasn’t always very flexible. If I had a plan, I wanted to it to go just as I laid it out because I believed that making changes meant I failed as a leader to take into account every detail. It wasn’t until many years later, and many mistakes, to finally see that being adaptable wasn’t weakness, it was actually strength.

So, this quote reminds me that we can make plans and even build in some room to allow for changes, and also that someone has to be the leader to get us back in the right direction when things go sideways.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can find out more about me and the podcast at www.trenchleadership.ca. The web-site provides helpful leadership advice, links to all of the episodes as well as my Clean Water Initiative of trying to ensure that everyone has ready access to clean drinking water.

Trench Leadership: A Podcast From the Front can be found on all of the popular (and quite a few less mainstream) sites. New episodes are released every Monday at midnight.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Simon Kardynal Of Trench Leadership: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meriem Tamarzizt Ganneau Of KLAIM: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Meriem Tamarzizt Ganneau Of KLAIM: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Enjoying every moment of the growth path. Journeys and not only mine can be considered bitter, hard, exhausting on the short term only when we think about the long term, the whole picture, look back at our paths, only then we feel proud of our achievement and re-energize for more… it is very similar to the marathon, no matter how exhausting it is, while looking at the arrival and the goal, makes the pain delicious and forgettable.

Meriem Tamarzizt is a Co-founder of a Fintech Healthnet Startup based in the UAE, that is specialized in healthcare insurance claims financing. Prior to that she was a Senior Consultant for Mercer Investments. She has been in the MENA region for the last 6 years.

Meriem has more than 15 years of experience in corporate strategy consulting working at a leading consulting firm (McKinsey Paris office) and as a free-lance consultant in India, Libya, Tunisia and KSA on various types of assignments: development or restructuring of established businesses, launch and boost of startups.

Meriem also has more than 5 years’ experience as a Structurer (for Structured Credit) at AXA Investment Managers where she was exposed to the LBO market, and where she acquired corporate finance and financial modeling skills. With an experience across multiple industries, including and not limited to Retail, Food, Leisure, Professional training, Transportation, Asset Management, Meriem brings a Strategy and Finance background summarized by the following projects:

  • Restructuring a retail branch of a listed company, by setting up a 5-year strategy plan and supervising its implementation (including HR, Finance, Processes…), negotiating and closing an exclusive distribution agreement with an international brand.
  • Developing an investment strategy for two conglomerates, supervision, review, and assessment of new projects’ progress.
  • Defining the strategy, launch and development of a professional training academy.
  • Raising equity investment for a startup business after having defined and developed the product, built, and expanded a profitable business in two years.
  • Defining and developing an SME Leveraged Loans platform, structuring CLOs (funds of LBO debt) and defining the investment strategy.
  • Assessing and redefining national investment policies for road maintenance in Sub-Saharan African countries.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

If you look at my LinkedIn profile you will notice that I have an unexpected and original, maybe for some people even a non-consistent, type of profile. Let me tell you that I have spent the last twenty years of my life living in 8 different countries, worked in all of them across more than 20 organizations, set up 5 companies, have been a member/ co-founder of 3 NGOs, and always felt I should do more, especially to lead and execute sustainable change.

From the day I started looking at the world with the eyes of a woman and from the moment I realized that women leadership in my family, my school, my neighborhood, and my country is OUTSTANDING, I understood that I needed to contribute and be a strong leader in my “home countries”. Even more so if I wanted to be the next Al Kahina, including to be able (mature enough I’d even say) not to impose to others what I would not accept for myself!

It has been ringing even more true since I had my two kids. I realized that my mission is to make a difference in other people lives, to bring change and lead transformations. To be that person people look at, not just for sharpening their hard skills but as well for being a ‘people’s person’, who will listen, advise, reconcile, connect the dots, help and push for collective sustainable success.

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?

Mistakes are not always funny but most of them are good memories and lessons, and pretty much all worth to learn from.

When I have started my career, we were at the dining hall with some colleagues whom I have shared my views on our project, in a very bold and direct manner. I was not conscious that some risk department colleagues where on the table next to us. They have heard everything, and on the following week, during the risk committee meeting even though my answers/ideas were not presented, the committee members (that I have recognized by then) considered some of my ideas but pointed out that projects technical matters should not be discussed at the public spaces! My face turned red, and the lesson was learned forever.

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 to everyone I met in life, even to odd people who made me grow by simply making me realize all what I should not or do not want to do in life.

Mainly I would like express my utmost gratefulness for the father I’ve had when growing up, who was a communist in the capitalism era, who constantly reminded me that sharing the cake with others is important, who was well educated , cultured and invested in my education ; who tirelessly pushed me to read, discover and appreciate different cultures. I was and still am lucky to have such a father/mentor/friend, with a progressive mindset, who supported me to go further, to push my boundaries and get all what I wanted.

Then the second person who changed my life was my physics professor, Dr. Samia Charfi, the daughter of a well-respected female leader in Tunisia, herself from parents well educated who stand up for their values and gave so much to their country. She is the one who encouraged me and supported me for my application to a worldwide renowned Military Engineering school in France, not my type of school (or so I thought😉).

Last, life gifted me with a man who always supported me, whose objective was to take care of me and our kids while I am doing my ‘maximum’ to have impact. He is my husband, who always supported my crazy initiatives, never criticized the output of any of my projects and startups (I have set up at least 5 companies, out of which 2 are still alive), a model of resilience always looking at the positive side of situations.

And to be here answering these questions made me realize that I have had many ‘deceptions’ but I have always met the sunshine which enlightened the tunnel and somehow made the journey better, men and women who you should be having around you to see the light

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I do believe that the recent years had been awakening for humanity and I hope more leader would think purpose before anything else. I completely agree with the statement that “purpose driven businesses are more successful”, and it is starting to be backed-up by data.

In addition, I do believe that today more than any time before, it is our mission as leaders to make every business purpose driven, to lead and drive the change toward sustainability in many aspects. In fact, if we as leaders, we can grow our community including through publishers like you, we can build a humanity consciousness and drive the change, through the positive values we endorse, through our management style…, then we are having a better impact, supporting the transition, and making it sustainable.

All organizations I have (co-)set up had been for a purpose.
The latest being KLAIM, a Healthcare Fintech Insurtech. We enable healthcare providers (hospitals, clinics, doctors…) to focus on the most important, our beloved ones lives and health, while we take care of their cash flow matters.

Last, I believe in performance measurement that needs to change everywhere, it is no more the stock level, the dividends distributed… but as well the sustainability, equal opportunities, the socio-economic impact, the long term… which need to be considered in our performance reviews.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Let me describe one of the most difficult experiences where I have worked on the restructuring of an almost defaulting retail business. It is a very painful exercise where you know that you would not be able to retain everyone because the market itself is changing.

In my analysis of the business and the restructuring strategy, I have dedicated the longest time working on and with people. The analytics about the sales points even though new to me were not that complicated, but firing dads made me sleepless.

I have decided I needed to do it meticulously: interview them, give them small projects to evaluate their creativity, spend time with them to understand their strength, speak to them about their dreams, understand their background, their family situation to be able to take the right decision with them on the way forward. The most important in such experiences is to be ‘wholehearted’ leader (Berne Brown voice) because some of our decisions will change radically some families’ lives. I believe it is very important to put yourself in the shoes of the person whose job might be cut, feeling that pain makes you think twice about the decision, make you as a leader being innovative in the way you advise some people on training or new orientation.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I have spent the last 6+ years in Saudi Arabia. Saudi is home for us now, a very attaching country where the energy is special, as many of you know, it is the holy place for 1 billion people. At the same time, it is a “special” (challenging to say the least) environment for women even though it is changing very rapidly. There were days (and still are) when I think I just want to be in NY, London or Paris, where things are more predictable and closer to the ”standard/normal”.

And then I ponder; what is normal? Does it exist? Am I nostalgic? Why not make the place I live how I want it? That makes me stick more and recharge with good energy.

Why? Because I feel my place is here to be able as a Muslim woman to help driving the change in that country that is consciously changing to make Muslims of the world change, not only in their attitude towards others, but to embrace new technologies, lead innovations, invest in their people, reduce corruption, build a better future for the new generation, think sustainability, empower women …

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Leaders need to be close to their teams, needs to consult them and include them in their decisions during the challenging time. Being aligned on the decisions made would ensure other team members own the implementation of these decision. In addition to that, resilience is very important during challenging time as no market, no competitor, no customer… will react as expected. Leaders should show reactivity and trust to its team members in order to inspire them, to push for initiatives in order to adjust gradually the plans.

So to sum it up, wholeheartedness and resilience.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

In uncertain times, you have to first think about you, if you are ready and re-energized no matter how things look: difficult, complex, invisible, unpredictable … You will be unstoppable.

My advice is to first have some good time at the gym, and/or practice meditation (eg full mindedness) or yoga, a healthy and tasty diner coupled with a good discussion with someone you value most (can be your husband, best friend…). Once you digest information and get the right energy it is very important to engage in an open discussion with your team from heart to heart, to make sure you test your assumptions with them, get information from them and solve problems as a team.

They will then own their part and engage in reaching the collectively set goal. Overall be honest and humble, but firm on the principle and show commitment to the team.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Our interactions with colleagues, counterparties and customers are more and more digital but I still believe that nothing is better than a face to face especially when some important or difficult news need to be communicated or discussed. More importantly is to be able to say “I don’t know” when we don’t have the answer.

I reckon the bottom line is being truthful and compassionate.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

As Winston Churchill once famously said: “plans are worthless, but planning is everything”.

The plan of a leader is not to have a plan. Unpredictability and change are confirmed to be the unique constants these days. Leaders need to look at the mid to long term strategy and overall goals all together; then with their team draw the path to reach them with agility. It looks cliche but in today’s world I don’t see any full-fledged detailed 5y plan working smoothly… They may even stymie creativity & problem-solving skills, limit the teams’ resilience, lower ownership of the goals and reduce commitments.

However, the process of planning is quite useful, in order to identify risks, and develop SMART goals. I’d argue that in most cases, a succession of short-term plans is more efficient. Which is one of the core premises of the agile methodology.

I have personally discovered the Agile Methodology while discussing with some friends in the tech sector and got trained to become an official ‘agility coach’. Since then I have adapted and adopted it in my personal and professional life. 3 years before COVID I had suffered from anxiety and mental stress caused by my fully fledged personal plans that I was not able to pursue/achieve. I thought at 40 years I would be a manager on a financial service trading floor, wearing my Louboutin in London or NY, whereas I realized that my life was not there. I have fought so much back then to get out of Saudi but was not able to find suitable options, my various plans failed to some extent.

Following a therapy and some coaching sessions (Kudos to Myke Celis, a fantastic support I will never thank enough) I have discovered that I needed to let go of these irrelevant and outdated plans; which do not turn out to be very useful, especially in the region where I work and live. Since then, I have appreciated not to have such limiting plans, to adjust my life to new changes and embrace change, while keeping my integrity and values strong. Life is a journey, and good will come!

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

I believe the number one principle that can help guide a company through ups and downs for me is taken from nature, leader shall be the bull, brave enough to run through the storm and not waiting like cows for the storm to pass.

For our Fintech we signed sales agreements with a free trial until a D date on which we should implement the features customers desperately needed to run their businesses. We have discovered only two weeks prior to the D date that it would not be delivered on time for multiple reasons; among these, the fact that the data on which the algorithm had been working was not reliable. That means a lot in terms of income delayed, cash flow projections and will impact the whole sales team forecast without forgetting the damage that will be made to our start up image.

As a leadership team we have decided to spend time with the teams (tech, sales, and business development) to measure the impact on the company, go back to the market, talk to our customers, explain our issues, and face their disappointment. But we felt that was the only way to do it, being truthful and clear.

Being confident about resolving the problem was the most important decision of the leadership team.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The three most common mistakes I have noticed during difficult time are usually directly linked to the management style:

  • Weak and non-confident managers will always try to protect themselves, shift the blame and even possibly fire those who did the job, to cover themselves.
  • Some keep doing the same thing, thinking that the market will adjust or come back to what it used to be not realizing that things will never go back to the old normal, thus they miss questioning themselves & evolving.
  • Being not inclusive nor collaborative, eg a top down decision making process, without consulting members of the organization no matter how senior they are, how skilled they are or no matter the position they have. The ivory tower syndrome…

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Acceptance of who you are. After the 2008 crisis, we took the decision of having a child. At the same time, I had to leave my job in investment/finance to move to India. Once there, I started working in a startup and enjoyed being a wife, a mum, and an expat… However, after few years I realized that even though I have been active and working hard I was not in London or NY, the cities of bankers I had always dreamed of. But life is a journey; which is far from over. I believe that good will come! Accepting seeming imperfections and changes is also about accepting others, the circumstances under which we leave, appreciating every team success no matter how small or insignificant we think! People at ease with themselves usually make good leaders in the long run.
  2. Building a high aptitude to resilience, adapt to any type of incident, accident, culture, environment, and people. For those for whom COVID was a life changer, for me it was a continuity of my resilience path. It made lockdown days the best period of our family life. To be able to work long days as consultant and co-founder of a startup while being with my kids and husband. Resilience to COVID was not more difficult than leaving Libya with two kids, water and biscuits. In fact, back then I had to escape the civil war, leave my husband behind, in a dangerous country. While on the evacuation boat, I dreamed of the success of the Arab Spring revolution and I trusted change leaders…
  3. Driving change in an agile manner. When we moved to Saudi, I started restructuring a company. While working during the prayer time I was caught by the religious police in the street which at that time was not something acceptable, especially if caught with other (male) Westerners in the streets, not fully covered body, and head … After the choc I have again adjusted to the new environment and enjoyed working and driving change in local organizations, being part of big transformations, where fully fledged plans never work, because every day is full of surprises and change is the only constant in life.
  4. Sticking to my values. Being a conscious leader, who scores each business decision and project against her and the organization’s values (on which each employee aligned), makes the business sustainable, inclusive, and co-owned by the rest of the team members. A major part of the managers and organizations though assess projects and decisions against financial KPIs, deliverables and timelines and forget that the company’s values are as important when we would like teams to own and deliver these projects.
  5. Enjoying every moment of the growth path. Journeys and not only mine can be considered bitter, hard, exhausting on the short term only when we think about the long term, the whole picture, look back at our paths, only then we feel proud of our achievement and re-energize for more… it is very similar to the marathon, no matter how exhausting it is, while looking at the arrival and the goal, makes the pain delicious and forgettable.

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

“And we must not walk, but run, fly towards perfection” Maddalena de’Pazzi

Life is too short to watch it go, I have and will always be flying looking for the best for me and others!

How can our readers further follow your work?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/meriem-tamarzizt-ganneau/

Klaim.ai

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Meriem Tamarzizt Ganneau Of KLAIM: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… 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 Tina Chu Of Cabital

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t think, act. There has never been a better time for women to be part of the blockchain and crypto industry. The industry is realizing the impact of diversity, both on the community at large and on companies’ bottom line. There are now huge opportunities to solve interesting social and inefficiency problems at a global scale. This opportunity, combined with the momentum to build a diverse workforce, makes it a truly exciting time to be part of the industry.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Tina Chu, VP of Marketing and Growth at Cabital, a leading digital assets wealth management platform. Tina Chu is an award-winning marketing and growth leader with a customer-first mindset backed by leadership experience in top tech companies including Tencent, Expedia and Nokia, and Klook. She has led global teams to drive user growth for major products at both Tencent JOOX (SEA #1 Music Streaming app) and Klook App (Asia’s largest online travel agency). She won two times best mobile marketing award by Marketing Magazine while at Expedia.

Tina’s work spans across Asia Pacific and European regions. She is well-known as an expert on empowering women through digital content marketing campaigns. She has co-chaired the Wharton Women in Hong Kong Organization since its inception, and served on the committee for Wharton International Business Conference in Hong Kong. Tina holds an MBA from University of Pennsylvania’s prestigious Wharton School of Business School.

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?

When I decided to choose my career path, I had four things that I was seeking.

1) Optimise growth and learning opportunities for myself — I wanted to grow and learn more than ever.

2) I cared more about having the right team and being in a healthy culture over the name of the company or my title.

3) The impact of industry impact, how I could shape a better world.

4) Whether it could fit my personal life commitment.

A tip I have for young people is to not turn down any recruitment calls just because you didn’t know much about the industry.

There is a funny story behind how I joined Cabital.

Cabital’s Co-Founder & CEO, Raymond Hsu, who is a long-time acquaintance of mine, called me one day to share an opportunity with me.

I was pretty much ready to turn it down because I didn’t understand what he was talking about when he started using a lot of crypto jargon like dex, cedi, Stablecoins, APY, and fiat.

He told me how much he needed someone new on board who was knowledgeable about crypto currency technology. I found myself more interested when talking about how Cabital’s product can help those new to crypto find their footing.

I didn’t think too much and accepted the job offer and decided to give it a chance, something new, a new chapter in my life. That’s the beginning of my crypto journey — my self-perceived weakness is part of the main reason on how I got hired.

I would also guess he would not be so confident to make a bet on me, the industry outsider, if I am not referred to by one of his trusted networks, so the power of reputation is proven.

I hope this story will inspire people who are interested but not sure whether to take a step because of self-doubt.

The blockchain and cryptocurrency sector requires a lot more talent in order to advance.

Always be open-minded, and you never know where life may lead you to.

Can you tell me about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

One of the projects we’re working on is how to solve the fiat to crypto on-and-off ramp problem.

We have some industry benchmarks showing that less than 1 out of 5 people purchase crypto with fiat successfully.

As a growth leader, to be able to work on an innovative on-and-off ramp fiat solution that can give the consumer a great journey is exciting and worthwhile.

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 am very fortunate that in my career path, I have met many wonderful people who have helped me, both men and women.

However the fun fact is women are disproportionately represented in the tech industry — but many women have really helped boost my career with great advice, help and friendship. And one of them I remain as lifelong resources and mentorship.

Anita, who was my two-time boss in my career, hired me with a blind trust — first when I moved to a new location and with serious school debt, she hired me for a new job scope.

The second time she hired me came with a promotion, even though I was 6 months pregnant. It’s great to feel someone who always has faith in you, and these are the people who you want to work with — caring but strong people.

What are the 3 things that most excite you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

I think the blockchain powered web 3.0 is going to be game changing and will transform finance, gaming, insurance and every area on the Internet.

I witnessed 10 years ago when mobile internet took off in China and how the country leapt past the rest of the world as more Chinese people acquired cell phones — making payments and communications fast and easy for everyone in the nation.

It reminds me of all those moments where our universe was just being opened up to explore with ease through smartphones or other devices…or even something as simple yet powerful like the Google search engine which changed everything because before its inception people were relying solely on libraries full books stored away from them at their homes, but 20 years later, everyone with an internet connection can access all information of all time.

Crypto high-yield saving products are great news for passive income investors like me.

I’m a working mother who spends time scaling Cabital and building the team — so I have two full time jobs, motherhood and building Cabital. So when I learnt that with stable coins I would generate high yield income, I was very keen to get into it. This is why I put most of my money into it.

What are the 3 things that worry you about blockchain and crypto? Why?

I am a believer that blockchain and crypto should go mainstream, the following would prevent the pace of evolution.

The crypto industry is still in its infancy, but it faces many challenges. Scammers can easily ruin the trust that players are trying so hard to build for themselves and others by pretending they have something valuable when really all there is nothing more than waste time or take your money with no return on investment.

Lack of transparency in certain projects. This lack of transparency contributes in which institutions and insiders capture outsized returns while retail investors take more risks, get worse pricing. Many of DeFi is funded by venture capital and other professional investors, so I think the industry as a whole should do better.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

The next generation is the key to a better society. I have been working with my schools in giving youth career guidance and life coaches, sharing what it was like on their path so far as well. As a tech industry professional, I have seen that new technology can be exciting but it is also very disturbing too. In my humble opinion, I think traditional education systems might fall behind to prepare the coming generations for this digitalized world we live in today! So my goal has been to stay connected with young people and, providing life or career advice (depending on their ages)to give some inspiration on what they want from life.

I am also big on mentoring, especially towards women in the workforce. I created the Hong Kong Chapter of Wharton women’s community focusing on women empowerment and charity support, because I felt the career women’s life challenges are quite different.

I remembered when I was at one of the companies that I was the first pregnant woman /woman executive, many female colleagues reached out to me privately and started sharing some very personal struggles of balancing work life with me despite us barely knowing each other. That’s when I realized that’s because those young women didn’t have many role models who seemed to solve the complicated puzzle of work-life balance as career women; mothers in charge — it all came together for them… Naturally, coaching other women on how to navigate through their own complexities became my thing!

As you know there are not that many women in your industry. Can you share 5 things that you would advise to other women in the blockchain space to thrive?

  1. Don’t be afraid to share your opinion. Your voice would be different but matters. This is a young industry and sometimes it feels like a boy’s club. Women in the blockchain are likely to be underrepresented. Women should believe that industry are better off with women’s participation and voices. This industry NEEDS women’s voice, this is the industry where 70% of the audiences are male now but women are catching up quickly. The blockchain industry needs women, and not just to meet the surging demand for good talents. Diverse, inclusive workplaces are 11 times more innovative than non-diverse organizations.
  2. Help other women, Redefine the typical mentor-mentee relationship. Many women take a traditional approach and meet with someone monthly at Starbucks or another coffee shop; this doesn’t work well when we’re all busy juggling our professional responsibilities plus covid’s lifestyle ! If you need help reaching out: send LinkedIn messages (or cold emails) expressing how much value your company will bring if they were working together on projects, or just simple advice. You would be surprised how many hires or strategic resources I gained from cold-outreach or spamming my networks in social media.
  3. Don’t think, act. There has never been a better time for women to be part of the blockchain and crypto industry. The industry is realizing the impact of diversity, both on the community at large and on companies’ bottom line. There are now huge opportunities to solve interesting social and inefficiency problems at a global scale. This opportunity, combined with the momentum to build a diverse workforce, makes it a truly exciting time to be part of the industry.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the blockchain industry?

Women leaders should be encouraged and actively participate in the media/social media to share their own stories. Being able to hear other successful women in the industry discuss how they got involved in this ‘unusual’ space helps other women who want to learn more or get involved in how to do so.

Blockchain has many people from both male dominated industries like technology and finance — it’s important to make space for these valuable voices in order to gain deeper understanding on how best we can help them grow by supporting companies led by women founders with less funding.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

At the inauguration ceremony during the preterm of my MBA, our dean shared this quote with us and that message carried throughout my professional life.

Consider two years from now, one of your classmates names 3 people whom they want to party with on the left side of a blackboard and he also names three more who would make good business partners on the right side of a blackboard. Ask yourself: which side do you want to be on?

This question has become my work principle in any environment I find myself working in — it’s been what drives me everyday towards success!

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. 🙂

Achieving a women-friendly work environment in the start up industry is not easy. Crypto and blockchain industries move very fast, which makes it hard for us to adapt our culture as needed vs talented female employees’ work life struggles. I believe industry insiders would recognize the importance for companies to create an environment that ensures talented women want to stay or return to the workforce but whether the necessary efforts are being made, I am curious. Hence, it would raise my hands to support not just start a movement but figure out the best solution to let the women stay and thrive.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow Cabital LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram accounts, we are planning to launch a series of women talk crypto content.

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


Wisdom From The Women Leading The Blockchain Revolution with Tina Chu Of Cabital was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Jack Butcher Of Hagerty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Jack Butcher Of Hagerty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep checking for tunnel vision and pathological certainty. Often, the first issue or solution isn’t always the right one to pursue. In COVID, we ran experiments. We found that the first approach often morphed into something else, something better and more effective. We kept checking our experiments and adjusting them. We did this with trading partner communication and engagement. It resulted in deeper relationships even during COVID.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jack Butcher, President of Hagerty.

Jack is President of Hagerty, leading its global risk & insurance services businesses. He is also a member of the firm’s Executive Council and serves on the Board of Directors of Hagerty International Holdings, Ltd.

Prior to his current role, Jack was Senior Vice President of North American Markets at Hagerty, leading the build-out of the company’s regional strategy. Before joining Hagerty, Jack’s over 33-year career includes leadership positions in the commercial insurance and commercial transportation industries. As a Managing Director at Marsh & McLennan (Marsh, Inc. and Marsh & McLennan Agency, LLC), Jack led a number of Marsh’s businesses in Baltimore; Washington, DC; New York; and Chicago through growth and operational performance improvements. In his role as Executive Vice President & COO at TransForce in Alexandria, VA, this emerging-growth company saw a period of early-stage venture capital raises and rapid organic as well as acquisition growth. Today, TransForce Group is a leading provider of education, employment, and safety solutions to motor carriers across the U.S. and Canada.

Additionally, Jack has over twenty years’ experience as an advisor, board member, and investor to early-stage companies. He serves as a director of a rapidly growing insurtech firm and is an Advisor at a venture capital firm. In addition to his for-profit advisory work, Jack serves on several not-for-profit boards.

A magna cum laude graduate of the University of Richmond, Jack attended multiple executive education programs at the Harvard Business School. He actively serves his local community as a first responder and is an avid mariner and car enthusiast.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

Thank you for having me here. Coming out of university, I was (and remain) insatiably curious about the world and about business. A mentor told me to search for jobs where it was my business to be an expert in other people’s business. That left me interviewing with one U.S. intelligence agency, with banks and with insurance companies. Since I needed a job, I took the first offer I received which was from a commercial insurer. Since then, I’ve enjoyed a fun and rewarding career across three different industries — in a start-up, a Fortune 500 company, in turnaround assignments, and in thriving high-growth enterprises. I’ve been a very lucky guy.

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?

Funny now…but not-so-funny then. I have always enjoyed studying businesses and teams within businesses — understanding what makes them tick. When I was about a year into my first assignment and full of all the answers, my boss and I had a disagreement about a structural decision he needed to make with my input. Equipped with case studies and foundational textbook proof of my case, I went into his office, one day, with a textbook to show him how right I was. His reaction can only be described as animated (and loud). It was not at all funny at the time, but even to this day, he and I remain very close friends and we laugh about that. What did I learn? A few things: First a “tie-breaking” point with your boss generally goes to your boss. Second, the world does not operate in a tidy, textbook-like fashion. Third and finally, don’t wave a book around in someone’s face and expect it to be well-received. It’s funny to reflect on that hamstring pull, and I’m glad I learned those lessons early in my career. Unfortunately, many don’t.

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?

I would go a step further and suggest that “no one can achieve success without a lot of help from a lot of different people along the way.” The best leaders I have worked with and studied have surrounded themselves with and listen to smart and insightful people. For me, these were my bosses, my peers, people who worked for me, my personal ad-hoc “personal board of advisors.” These are the folks who write a success recipe. Insights and advice can come from unorthodox sources as well. When I was 25, I made the occasional visit to a local shoe-shine stand. As time went on, I didn’t go for the shine anymore, I went for perspective. “Butch the shoeshine guy” was 92 years old and had more energy and lifetime experiences and hard-knocks than I could imagine: A battle-hardened US Navy World War II veteran with 26 grandchildren. He was one of the happiest, most outgoing people I had ever met. He was happy to be alive and had led a tough life. He was loaded with sound advice and life perspectives. Some of his gems: “Remember, no one gets there on their own.” And when I was complaining about something at work, he’d quip: “Hey! Always remember, you’re one of the lucky ones.” And I’ve never forgotten that. The point is, great insight and perspectives comes at us from unexpected sources, be alive to them all.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

We have always been entirely purpose driven — mission driven. Our mission is to “save driving and car culture for future generations.” That remains the centerpiece of the investments we make, the people we hire, and the initiatives we undertake. It’s not a simple slogan. We live it: For example, we teach hundreds of teenagers how to drive manual transmissions each year (on our fleet of collector cars…and they love it!). Our employees have access to an automotive restoration program, where they restore a collector car and get it on the road. We have committed millions over the years to preserve automotive heritage and history, including the creation of the Historic Vehicle Association (now part of Hagerty Drivers Foundation,” whose signature effort is, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Interior and the Library of Congress, annually adding vehicles to the National Historic Vehicle Register, which documents the invaluable history of our automotive past.) The net effect of all these efforts? It brings passionate people to work every day to serve our members and partners who share the same passion for the mission, and they feed off each other.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I would start by making an important distinction, here, between uncertain times and difficult times. Uncertainty is simply a daily reality — the environment business operates in and leaders lead through every day — it’s a constant and has been omnipresent long before I got into business and requires us to continually learn and evolve as leaders. Difficult times, on the other hand, are episodic and can range from moderate problems and challenges up to stock-price moving or organization-threatening crises. These times are [hopefully] not a constant, but leaders better be ready to confront them along that spectrum at some stage of their tenure. They are also learning opportunities, but not always in the most pleasurable sense.

I’ll focus on one crisis that befell an organization I worked for. The company became the subject of a regulatory investigation which caused the stock to lose over $9 billion of market capitalization over just two days. Employees were fearful and preparing resumes, clients were uncertain and seeking alternative providers, plaintiff lawyers were lining up, and competitors were licking their chops over all this. It was a business crisis by any definition. In the ensuing weeks and months, we overcommunicated with our stakeholders. We were transparent with what we knew and what we were doing to cooperate in the investigation, what we were learning from it, and what we were doing to fix it. It took several years to resolve and to demonstrate that our deeds matched our stated intent. Particularly in the early hours and days of the crisis, it was vital that we didn’t fill the air with “corporate-speak,” or quixotic platitudes about how all was going to be OK. Early-on, it was uncertain, and we were honest with employees about that. The unvarnished truth was not easy for them to hear at the time, but they trusted we were dealing plainly with them even if it was hard to hear. Over time — a long time — we earned back the confidence of regulators, pride of employees, trust of clients and approval of shareholders. That brand is very strong today.

In a crisis, it’s important to move toward the sounds and sights of chaos and fear, then lead honestly and steadily through it. It’s what leaders do.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Give up? No. Strangely, the opposite happened. I found exhilaration, energy, mounting fortitude, and determination as we waded more deeply into the crisis together. To me, it’s easier to lead when things are going great. However, leaders (and strong leadership) are most relevant when things are tough and uncertain — when people need steady and thoughtful direction and action. I also learned so many things from what the company asked me to do during this time, and it opened-up job promotion opportunities I never expected as a result. So, yes, giving up would have been easier, and I would have never forgiven myself.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Several are vital, but if I picked just one: Steadfastness. If the pilot is freaking out, what will the passengers think? If you are steady, mindful and focused, you will make better decisions, engender greater confidence, draw more people to you and to help, and you will lead more mightily through the hard stuff.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

A few things are important in my view: First, be authentic. People need to see you as human. They will test you to see if you are the “real deal” or a pretender. Next, be honest. People sense it when someone tries to sell them false security and unbounded rah-rah platitudes. Don’t misunderstand me, I am by nature an eternal optimist and I signal that. I believe good things can happen if you do the right things. That said, when people are uncertain or even scared, they are searching harder to find real humanity and truth in their leaders.

During the early days of COVID, things were uncertain. I was asked on a “townhall-style” employee call: “Can you guarantee we will get our bonuses this year?” My answer: “No. I can’t guarantee that.” There was silence. But after that call, I got dozens of emails and calls from people thanking me for my honesty and for not trying to sweet-talk them into a false comfort. The good news: business recovered and we were ultimately able to pay those bonuses.

Next, communicate frequently and transparently — and don’t stop. Finally, stay on-mission. Napoleon Bonaparte, when asked about the secret to his military prowess, said simply: “If you set out to take Vienna, take Vienna.” Be true to your purpose in the first place. Your team will so appreciate that the purpose they joined endures. If people can go home at night knowing they can trust that what you tell them aligns with what you do, chances are they’ll be back tomorrow. Employees and customers, alike.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Be straight. Don’t dance or sugar-coat. Just go there. Borrowing from Churchill, he said that if you are going through hell…keep going. He was right. Power through the issue and get to the punchline. There will be time to fill in the background and answer questions later. But “soft” or indirect messaging is not the stuff of leadership.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Leaders have no choice. The future is and has always been uncertain — since time immemorial. That’s what they pay us for. Great leaders who embrace and leverage uncertainty are always in high demand. Thriving and growing in an unpredictable world is a hallmark of great leadership. How many predicted 24 months ago that the entire world would close for months on end. Who was ready for that? Yet, look at the amazing adaptations so many organizations made. From proprietors to Fortune 50 companies to hospitals to airlines to your own businesses. So many were able to adapt and overcome. It was inspiring. The evolution of nature and of business tells us that it’s not the mightiest of species that survive, rather it’s the most adaptable.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Stay fiercely on-mission and true to your culture. Over these past two years we’ve seen cultures pressure-tested. Some galvanized and grew, while others sadly shattered. It’s been a fascinating study to watch and learn from the ones that flourished.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

It’s not fun to talk about, but it is vital to talk about. There are many, but, sure, I’ll pick three. First mistake: believing your past success will automatically carry you through. Pathological certainty is hubris and it’s dangerous at any moment, but particularly in difficult times. Second mistake: discounting threats and risks and failing to plan “what if” contingencies for them. Finally, I see teams grasp at “silver bullet” thinking — the idea that if we “just do this one thing, we’ll be fine.” I rarely see a business challenge or a surgery or a flight go well because of just one thing. It’s always a mosaic of interdependencies that weave together to drive a positive outcome. Jim Collins talks brilliantly about some of this in his book “How the Mighty Fall.”

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Again, stay on mission. As we saw these past months, if market conditions are tough for you and your enterprise, they may be tough for your customers and partners as well. After you have focused on the well-being of your own employees, stay close to customers and partners. Be there for them. Stay focused on helping them overcome their challenges. Stay close to their needs and keep innovating for them. Keep trying, as Steve Bezos puts it, to invent on their behalf. These are the moments your stakeholders are most likely to lean on your mission and value it, so its needs to remain sturdy.

These times also remind us to stay close to KPIs and remain open to new ways of operating. For my company, an example is that we learned about and modified new ways to utilize physical spaces/offices and who needs to be in those spaces and when. We also learned how to communicate more broadly and more efficiently by leveraging technology and building new rhythms and habits.

Ultimately, don’t wait until things get back to “normal.” Across my lifetime, things have never gone back to “normal.”

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Confront reality. Never waste a crisis. When COVID hit our organization, we admitted openly to our team members in the moment that we were unclear about the path of the pandemic and where it was going to take us, but that we were positioning for a number of possible outcomes. They believed what we told them going forward because we didn’t try to do what too many organizations do by trying to create false security. No one at the time in the world of business knew how this would all unfold. But here is what I did know: If you shoot straight with people and are transparent with where you are — together — and share what you’re doing about it, they will trust you more. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, we kept planning for contingencies — long lockdowns, prioritizing ongoing operations, reducing non-essential operating costs. A word about the term “non-essential.” At no time are people non-essential. Too many leaders don’t get that. We went after non-people operating costs and found new methods of getting things done more efficiently. By doing that, we did not lay-off or furlough anyone. The wonder of crises — they make you a better and smarter leader for your organization, if you don’t waste the moment.
  2. Surround yourself with diverse and candid counsel. Our team gathered in the early stages of the lockdown and we traded ideas about how we needed to react and adapt. We invited-in cross-functional points of view beyond the core team to generate more creative ideas. Cyrus the Great (the famed first leader of the Persian Empire circa 550 B.C.) had a powerful saying: “Diversity in counsel; unity in command.” I love that. You need diverse voices and perspectives around you all the time — including people who do not agree with you. “Creative abrasions” are the best scrapes to get. You debate, decide and do — together. You move decisively as one. When people see that, it strengthens their trust in you and resolve to stand fast and work with you.
  3. Communicate reality and steps you are taking — frequently. One result of COVID was that we launched new rhythms of team communications — weekly video and routine live “townhalls” that will survive well into the future. We also created a “What’s Up Doc[ument]”. The What’s Up Doc is a monthly compilation of one-page summaries from each leader in the organization, shared across to every other leader. It includes a quick-hit summary of what’s up? What’s next? And what’s stuck or standing in your way? Originally intended as a triage approach, it’s now a routine status summary we use to help each other out. We are more connected to a more distributed workforce than ever. During the lockdown, we also launched an intensive (and fun!) member [customer] outreach campaign that engaged our team (who appreciated the distraction) and it created new dialogue with customers, partners, and prospects at a time when they, too, appreciated the outreach and care (they were anxious, too, so it created an affinity experience with them.) The results? We initiated more collaboration and new paths of revenue growth that were not anticipated. Check in with your stakeholders — relentlessly.
  4. Use both a microscope and a telescope. In virtually all times of turbulence or crisis, our teams needed to keep watch for signs and signals of near-term performance and change. The microscope (constant customer and partner contact plus a watchful eye on KPIs) helps there. As a colleague says: “operate in the weeds.” The telescope keeps one eye on the mission and the horizon. I have found that in troubled times, near term noise can drown out or distract a team from the main mission and take an ear off the long-term track. When that happens it creates brand confusion, blindness to emerging trends and more trouble. Once you are satisfied that your mission is still relevant in the marketplace, double-down on it, and scan vigilantly for emergent trends.
  5. Keep checking for tunnel vision and pathological certainty. Often, the first issue or solution isn’t always the right one to pursue. In COVID, we ran experiments. We found that the first approach often morphed into something else, something better and more effective. We kept checking our experiments and adjusting them. We did this with trading partner communication and engagement. It resulted in deeper relationships even during COVID.

Can I add a 6th? Lather-rinse-repeat, even outside of tough times. These are habits and disciplines for routine times too.

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

Picking one is the toughest thing you’ve asked me today. I love so many, but here’s one: “If you never ask questions, you be seldom correct, but never in doubt.”

This one ties together so much of what we’ve talked about today. Particularly in turbulence, it’s easy to get tunnel vision, or hunker down. Under stress, leaders can fall prey to withdrawing into what they already “know” at the expense of reaching out for what other people or the market knows. Of course, a leader is ultimately accountable to decide and take action, and it can’t all be about “group think.” What I’m talking about, here, is that pathological certainty trap we discussed earlier. I am surrounded by really smart people, and shame on me if I don’t seek their counsel. Also, keep listening hard for the quiet voices. Sometimes they’re the ones that know the unforeseeable will happen. So, listen to the data, the marketplace, stakeholders and voices loud and quiet.

That quote speaks to me in uncertain times and in all times.

How can our readers further follow your work?

I hope we can follow each other’s work. I have much to learn from your readers. We all seem to confront the same opportunities and challenges, simply in different contexts. I try to share concepts and learnings (and hard lessons!) with business colleagues and peers on LinkedIn. I also have the privilege of spending time with other organizations where I can trade ideas and approaches with leaders. I wish all your readers good health and good fortune. Thank you for having me.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Jack Butcher Of Hagerty: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Helena Cisneros Of Engage3: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Helena Cisneros Of Engage3: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Not being afraid to hire someone that can do something better or quicker than you. Support them and help them grow. We need to be humble and not afraid to promote and put a spotlight on team members that are excelling. Let them grow organically at their pace & beyond your expectations or intended roles.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Helena Cisneros. Helena is a retail industry expert in competitive pricing operations and customer success and currently serves as Enage3’s Senior Vice President of Data Operations & Mentorship. Her background in retail management, including ten years at Target, provided Helena with insight into customer relations, store services, signage, planograms, price changes and vendor relations. Helena moved into retail data management with Comparative Prices International (CPI) beginning with data acquisition operations. She joined Engage3 as part of the acquisition of CPI in 2012. With more than 19 years of experience between CPI and Engage3, Helena is responsible for all in-store pricing data operations while maintaining the company’s high set of service standards for clients and partners.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

My retail career started with Target. I found a passion learning the different functions & operations of their store. I was hired to answer the phone. Within two weeks, moved into the store’s HR office. After two years, I became intrigued with the backroom and the Price Change team. I did everything from planograms to signage. Unloading freight, logistics and how the backroom is managed. This led me to taking over charge-backs, which are a key driver of profitability for the store.

Eventually, I became intrigued with how the floor was ran. I was given an opportunity to become a Health & Beauty team lead, which included setting end caps and price checking local competitors to ensure we were pricing items fairly. Over time, I then was able to tackle different departments such as Toys and Housewares.

I was moved to managing the front end a while later. We hired hundreds of cashiers through the holidays, at which point running a strong training program became a key requirement. That’s where my passion for training and team building first came into play.

Over time, I made my way over to work for CPI — Comparative Prices International where I became responsible for expanding our network of data acquisition auditors. This was a great opportunity to build upon my newly discovered passion for developing talent. I did that for several years and moved over into Account Mgmt. We ran a very tight, scrappy crew. A lot of potential for growth but we weren’t prepared to make those investments directly. Our owners made the strategic decision to sell CPI to Engage3 at that point.

Engage3’s flagship product, ShoppingScout, was a shopping application that helped consumers manage their shopping trips with the promise of helping them save up to 40% on their groceries.

In 2015, however, Engage3 had a tremendous pivot from a consumer app to B2B. We went from a very large team down to just a handful of us. As a function of the team’s incredible thoughtfulness, hard work, scrappiness, and conviction, we built Engage3 out to where we are now: working with 5 of the top 10 largest global retailers, making it into Inc. Magazine’s list of fastest growing companies 5 times in a row, and growing to 130 teammates and counting, not including our network of auditors.

I suppose my leadership style is best characterized as leading by example. I don’t expect people to do things I can’t do myself. Leading with that, I earned a lot of respect from my team members. I understand as a manager that I might not have the talents or experience a lot of them have, but I do know how to put people together and build energy. With that, we can all partake in a very productive product/workflow with leading people that way.

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?

Back in 2014, our current CEO, Edris, was in a business development role supporting our Founder, Ken Ouimet. Edris was heading to Los Angeles for a friend’s event. He kindly offered to help with a price check while he was down there to save someone else on our team the trip and because he wanted to learn how the process worked.

He recruited a few of his friends who were also attending this event to go into the store to help him with the data collection with the impression they would finish in just a few hours.

It ended up taking them the whole weekend to finish the price checks and they ended up missing the event they all traveled in for! Edris will be the first to tell you that he is not great at conducting in-store price checks himself, but what it helped me realize is that everyone has different strengths and the importance of incorporating that into resource planning.

Another funny side note is that Edris’ friends who helped him with the project actually joined Engage3 in data science and business development roles later — so the work, while difficult, clearly intrigued them!

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 and my son, who both also work for Engage3. There’s a story from when we did our pivot years ago that we only talk about once in a while. One of our clients required us to complete a massive set of in-store scans across multiple stores in markets across Indiana. The three of us flew & moved to an Extended Stay hotel room together for 3 whole weeks to ensure these projects were completed on-time. The dedication that they provided inspired me to push further and do more. To this day, I’m very grateful how supportive they are of my career and to their commitment to Engage3 and their teammates.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

My husband and my son, who both also work for Engage3. There’s a story from when we did our pivot years ago that we only talk about once in a while. One of our clients required us to complete a massive set of in-store scans across multiple stores in markets across Indiana. The three of us flew & moved to an Extended Stay hotel room together for 3 whole weeks to ensure these projects were completed on-time. The dedication that they provided inspired me to push further and do more. To this day, I’m very grateful how supportive they are of my career and to their commitment to Engage3 and their teammates.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

When we were pivoting from a B2C to a B2B model back in 2015, there was considerable uncertainty regarding how we were going to support our customers with less than 10% of the team we previously had. Despite how stressful that was, we had no choice but to figure it out. Instead of hiding away in a corner and trying to figure out how to solve some of our key problems on my own, I opened it up to the total team with complete transparency. I’m big on talking through solutions as a team and thankfully the team was able to come together and figure out how to ensure our customers received what they needed in time to run their businesses due to everyone coming together, tapping into their broader networks, traveling across the country at a moment’s notice, and generally supporting each other to get our projects done.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I’ve always put work before my own health and eventually my health became a factor in requiring me to take some time off. One thing I hugely appreciate is that it was my teammates who pushed me to take the time I needed off and then gave me the space to do so.

My teammates were also the reason I came back into the company as quickly as I reasonably could. Finding the balance between work and health has made me a stronger person and it’s one of my goals with my new role, which includes “Mentorship”.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Creating as much stability as possible for the individuals on our team despite what’s going on.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Interacting with the team and participating in the tasks that they’re challenging with. Bringing them together as a single unit and leading by example.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I think transparency is key to my success when building relationships with clients as well as team members. You’re not catching them off-guard when you’re honest and up front by including them along the way. When you run into issues, if you’re being honest & transparent, it doesn’t catch them by surprise when you have a difficult topic to discuss or bridge to cross. This is true for both co-workers and clients.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Continue forging ahead and gather ideas from the entire team. Everyone’s ideas when they come together are a key to our success. When we hire talent, we hire people that have more experience in different areas than you might have. Hire people more talented and experienced than you. Come together and push forward.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

For me, it’s taking care of the team. Supporting them in their growth and taking care of them. Put the team first and they will guide us to the next steps.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Spending money carelessly or frivolously. Not supporting team members through challenging times. Not believing in your company’s purpose or goals (everyone needs to be aligned for a common purpose). Also, by having leadership micromanage its employees.

Be frugal yet smart about how you spend money when going through turbulent times. Spend extra time & support your team through the rough patches. Be there as their sounding board and listen. Allow team members to prosper and grow with guidance and not micromanaging their tasks. Allow people to grow and not constantly on them telling them how to do their job rather than letting them evolve and become supportive team members. Believe in their capabilities.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We used a Land & Expand strategy. Engage3 benefited from a very good client-base from the acquisition of CPI. It allowed us to build credibility within the market and grow within the accounts we had. Comparative Prices was strictly a data-collection company, however we had more offerings as Engage3 when it came to analytics and broader competitive intelligence and price optimization solutions. Focusing on what our customers wanted and needed and growing with them was a key part of our growth. It helped us build relationships with clients. Many clients had team members that moved on to other businesses within our market. Based on good experiences working with our products and team, they often brought us in to help them address their new business challenges. In turbulent times, building those relationships with our clients and their employees allowed us to continue to grow

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Making sure you have a solid team foundation. Building the right team is key. As mentioned earlier, we proposed a risky pivot that our Board of Directors eventually approved. But that’s when the hard work of executing the pivot plan began: we had to condense our team of over 65 employees at corporate down to a handful. We had to do whatever it took: take significant salary cuts, ask family members for help, work with our vendors on our payment schedules to buy us more time. It’s very rare to find a group of people with that level of dedication and the key to our success was keeping solid team players that were committed to each other and the company. No role or task was considered mundane or beneath these key players. Ultimately, we wanted to get to a point where we could rehire the earlier team back, which we were fortunately able to do for quite a few teammates.
  2. Not being afraid to hire someone that can do something better or quicker than you. Support them and help them grow. We need to be humble and not afraid to promote and put a spotlight on team members that are excelling. Let them grow organically at their pace & beyond your expectations or intended roles. I was able to do that on multiple occasions during my career. It’s very rewarding to see team members progress and succeed with increased challenges. The company is able to flourish when this happens. Like Henry Ford said: “The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”
  3. Not being afraid to be transparent with your clients and creating partnerships. We’re a retail analytics company yet we had to be creative to navigate uncertainty & challenging times. We experienced this greatly when COVID began. We struggled remaining in the stores when COVID hit but it’s what the clients wanted desperately to see what was happening in-store with pricing, product selection, inventory. We created partnerships with other companies to ensure we had stability with a larger pool of people. We had a team able and willing to follow PPE guidelines and often times had to jump through hoops to remain in-store. Our competitors had to shutdown for a few weeks and we rose to the occasion. We were able to access key locations where others could not and we did it while minimizing risk to our team members, stores & customers. Our PAA team followed protocol, signed in, did temperature checks, wore masks and gloved up. We were able to maintain nicely and our in-store staff was able to provide for their families with the work being asked for. We were pleasantly surprised at our success when others seemed to fizzle out.
  4. Never expecting someone to do a task or goal you can’t do yourself while continuing to not be afraid to hire teammates who are better than you at the job duties at hand. I believe I earned a lot of respect by my peers and co-workers by my willingness to work on hard problems with them. By also digging in and helping on even the smallest tasks to get things done. We allow everyone a chance to lead and take ownership of their part. It doesn’t matter who gets credit. Let’s just get the work done. Thinking back to store scans, I would get out and test the equipment myself to verify that it ran smoothly and help set an example. We were setting the bar and expectations using myself as a guide. I wasn’t the fastest. I wasn’t the slowest. But the point is that we showed that no one is above any task and that we’re all a team working towards a common goal.
  5. Sometimes it helps to run lean. Set high expectations for a smaller team but make sure to reward them for their performance. This is a much better approach in my mind than hiring many people and having to let many go, as I’ve seen many other companies do. I feel this approach helps with morale. Everyone is participating for the common goal. Keep the performance rhythm going. Letting them know that they’re appreciated is key. At Target, you tend to flow through a lot of people. I would build a roster of cashiers, but rather than shooting for 110, I would shoot for 98. At the end of the season, I was able to keep more. They showed appreciation and it also allowed them to be more accountable to their shifts. Try to avoid having “just a body” to fill a role. I really tried to build relationships & trust with our cashier team. Having a solid scheduling plan with people you can depend on makes a world of difference. It can help with the bottom line in many cases too.

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

“A good thing about telling the truth is that you don’t have to remember what you say.”

I’m very open about everything. I try to live by this and often overshare sometimes!

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can keep up on role changes and watch our team grow on LinkedIn. My new focus will be mentoring and helping build career paths for our team members so I would welcome interested candidates to reach out.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Helena Cisneros Of Engage3: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Annie Sloan Of The Host: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Communication is key. Try to get back to your guests as quickly as possible. They will be happier to have the info they need right away and ultimately leave a better review. And always be fair and nice when responding, even if your guest isn’t being so pleasant.

Many people dream of becoming an Airbnb host but don’t know where to start. In this series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host” we are interviewing successful Airbnb hosts who share lessons from their experience about how to run a very successful Airbnb property. As part of this series I had the pleasure of interviewing Annie Sloan.

Annie Sloan is the CEO and cofounder of The Host Co., a company that adds the mini-bar and concierge to Airbnb’s. She and her co-founder, who met as directors at HGTV, are professional Airbnb hosts as well as frequent travel companions. Annie hosts guests in Oakland and Joshua Tree, California.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”?

I am a life-long traveler and have spent a cumulative five years on the road. A good deal of my travel has been work related, as I worked in TV and film for many years. In the states, I was a director and writer for HGTV shows Curb Appeal, Landscape Smart, Designed to Sell, and more. I’m also an Airbnb host and I have supplemented many of my international travels by hosting. I’ve had such incredible life experiences as both a frequent host and guest — from clubbing in Turkey to dancing the night away in Brazil, to finding secret beach parties in India and so many more exciting and unforgettable times.

What led you to first start becoming an Airbnb host?

I’ll be straight up about this… the money! The first time I hosted was in my apartment in San Francisco. I was headed to Central America for a few weeks and looking for ways to supplement both my rent and trip. Many short-term rental platforms like to say that hosts are in this to meet new people, to make friends. And, while this is certainly true, most hosts that I know started as a way to make extra income. I like to look at hosts as small business owners first and welcoming friends second.

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

I’ve got hundreds of interesting stories. Not only from my own properties, but also from the 9,000 hosts in The Host Co. community. Some of my favorites… a guest stealing a chandelier and replacing it with a cheaper one. Guests asking if the drawer pulls can be changed before they arrive. And my favorite: a text message from a guest asking, “Can I take my cat in your pool?”

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?

One of my major mistakes was leaving out lots of everything. I’ll never understand how on earth two people can go through a Costco-sized bottle of dish soap or six months worth of toilet paper in a weekend. Or a cord of wood in a night! Do they stay up all night roasting something? I learned that you should leave out enough for people to use, but not too much or it will go to waste (or in the trunk of a car).

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen people make when they first start hosting with Airbnb?

Photos are everything! Make sure you style the home and take killer photos, even if you hire a photographer because the photos sell your listing. People are buying into the pictures. So even if you have to move things around a little to look good in a photograph, do it. Guests won’t be bothered if it doesn’t look exactly the same when they arrive.

Some beginner hosts make too many rules or put up too many signs. People want to feel welcomed and not accused of a bunch of stuff they didn’t even do before they arrive. So build trust by trusting your guests and put your info in the manual, not posted all over the house.

If you can get any repairs done or buy new furniture before you list, do it. Hosts often assume they can improve over time. While, yes, you can to an extent, if you don’t start off strong, you’ll have to shut the house down and take new photos when you make the improvements later. Plus, the sooner you invest, the sooner you’ll make more money. From the get go is a wise choice!

What are some of the things that can be done to avoid these errors?

(Answered above.)

Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the Airbnb experience? In your opinion, what makes you different from the rest?

Our company adds the digital mini-bar, gift shop, and concierge to short-term rentals. We bring the amenities that guests are missing from a hotel and created a way for hosts to make extra money from every booking.

I mean, imagine you’re a guest the morning after Coachella and your Airbnb is already stocked with Advil and Gatorade. What a value-added service! As hosts, we know that guests REALLY want to buy items out of our rentals. And as guests, we know that added items makes a stay much better.

Our digital stores are different from anything that has come before because, first, they are free for hosts. There’s no subscription or downloads, just an easy-to-use store that takes 30 seconds to shop in and check out. Second, our stores recommend local items, like handmade ceramics or local artisan honey, that can be shipped home. We are able to support and boost local community makers and connect them with tourists who might otherwise miss their stuff.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you share “5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host”? Please share a story or example for each.

Communication is key. Try to get back to your guests as quickly as possible. They will be happier to have the info they need right away and ultimately leave a better review. And always be fair and nice when responding, even if your guest isn’t being so pleasant.

Stay in your own Airbnb at least once every few months to understand what it’s missing, what’s broken, and what you can add to improve the guest experience.

Get a good cleaner. This person can make or break your Airbnb. They’re not only your eyes and ears on the ground, since they’re in the space every few days, but they can also help get supplies when they’re low and assist guests when you can’t be on site. Plus, a thorough cleaning will keep complaints down and ratings up.

Study the market. See what your competitors are charging and what amenities, such as a hot tub or firepit, you need to boost your rates. Don’t just blindly follow the suggested pricing of your platform, actively find out when festivals are coming, add multiple night minimums over holidays, and charge more at first. Then lower your price as it gets closer to the date and you haven’t booked.

Read your reviews. Your guests will tell you what’s working and not working but you have to stay on top of reading the reviews and taking them seriously. You may think your guest said the heat didn’t work because they couldn’t figure it out, but you may be wrong. And then how many guests are going to be cold before you can actually get someone out there to fix it?

You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that someone’s idea of a “perfect vacation experience” changes about every few years. I have two small children so my current perfect vacation experience involves daily spa treatments and not cooking anything for an entire week. But high on my list of other vacation experiences: horseback riding in Mongolia, seeing the Northern Lights in Finland, and riding the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia.

Can you share with our readers how you’ve used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Something that often comes as a surprise: the majority of short-term rental hosts, both in the US and abroad, are female. And, many are over 40. In fact, the fastest growing demographic of hosts is women over 60. Our stores enable hosts to make as much money from selling items as they can from booking their place. Imagine a grandmother who can finally sell her grandkids handicrafts that guests always ask about, but the grandmother didn’t share the same language or currency as her guests. Our stores make sales possible in minutes, with no barriers.

Our core mission is to bring upward financial mobility to hosts around the world. Airbnb is in 220 countries and, in many of these, even a small amount of extra money can make a big impact.

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 am so lucky to be living my dream, supporting makers around the world, and building a global business that is working towards women’s economic equality. It’s been a wild and winding path to get here, and I’ve learned that it is often the smaller, less flashy things that end up making the biggest difference

How can our readers further follow you on social media?

Join our community of 10,000 hosts over on Instagram. We’d love to see you there!

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

Thank you! This was super fun!


Annie Sloan Of The Host: 5 Things You Need To Become A Highly Successful Airbnb Host was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Adam Smith Of Niche Website Builders: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Adam Smith Of Niche Website Builders: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Plan ahead. Always having a 6 and 12 month plan is critical. If you as the leader don’t know where you want the company to be, then how will the team know. Share that plan, and make everyone feel included and working toward those objectives. And then when you hit them, make sure you share the successes.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Adam Smith.

Adam Smith is a highly accomplished digital marketer who is vastly experienced in building and managing six-figure sites, with a passion for content websites in particular. Adam had been running his own 6-figure portfolio of affiliate and content websites for many years before starting his thriving agency, Niche Website Builders in 2019. Niche Website Builders is a leading agency specializing in the production and development of outstanding quality content and done-for-you niche sites. They help other affiliate and content marketers grow their sites through professionally created content and manual outreach link building. As the company grows, they look to regularly develop new services which will eventually allow them to become the go-to, one-stop-shop for niche websites and content publishers.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

Yes, of course! So a number of years ago I had heard a lot about Affiliate websites and how they could be a great way of earning passive income. My first real success came when I purchased a site from Empire Flippers while I was working full time at a marketing agency. I worked in it in the evenings and weekends for around 7 months before selling it for more than my yearly salary. I realized I needed to do more of this and I asked the agency if I could drop down to 3 days per week so I could spend more time on my sites. However, they said no so I quit and jumped in with both feet. Long story short, over time I built out a portfolio of sites, some of which I “flipped” for more than five figures.

However, I was always struggling to find reliable freelancers to help me with the different aspects the site needed, like content writing for example. I was actually talking about my struggles on a Podcast when my now business partner, Mark, heard me and we connected, basically to moan about our shared frustrations. We came up with the idea of building our own team that we could use for our portfolio of sites and basically as soon as we did that, we realized that other site owners like us were in need of the same thing, so Niche Website Builders was born in 2019!

In two years we’ve gone from a handful of staff and myself and Mark to a multi-million dollar company with over 150 employees. All of which we did through a pandemic from opposite sides of the UK.

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?

At the very start of the business we hired 2 people. They were the first employees of the business. One of them is still with the company almost 2 years later. The other lasted 1 day. Looking back I have no idea how I managed to get one hire so right, and the other so wrong. I’m not sure if it was excitement about employing our first staff, but I can see that I had overlooked some red flags in their interview — the guy showed up with a pull along cart filled with magazines he claimed to be published in, which were older than he was. It makes me laugh to think about it now, but I probably should have seen that as a warning sign right from the get go.

Going forward we made sure that both me and Mark interviewed staff until we handed that process over to our staff. This allowed us to both have insight and give feedback to each other. If you don’t have a business partner, then I would recommend getting another team member on the call with you.

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 believe lots of different people helped at different times. However, my wife was incredibly supportive when I said I was quitting my job to work on my sites full time. She was also supportive when we started the agency and has really taken up the mantle of looking after our child while I worked some crazy long hours. Without her, this wouldn’t have been possible.

Also, my business partner Mark. While I have worked in an agency before, he has actually run a traditional agency in the past. So his experience there has been invaluable. Also the fact that we can lean on each other’s skill sets has been super helpful.

Interestingly, we have only ever met each other in real life a handful of times. The company truly is remote-first and that includes us.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

This is a great question. Our primary purpose was to build a company that we would love to have work on our own portfolio of sites. This meant building expertise for each department so that we could offer a service far above and beyond what the competitors offer. We have executed on that plan with great success and are now seen as expert thought leaders in our space.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

As our business has essentially started just as the pandemic hit, obviously, so many people were going through difficult times and being able to offer remote employment to hundreds of people during these difficult times has been fantastic. However, as we were starting our agency right from the start as a remote company, that came with a number of immediate difficulties.

First and foremost, as a remote-first company that is growing rapidly (literally hiring dozens of people per month) it’s hard to build and maintain company culture so that everyone feels comfortable, respected and appreciated.

We didn’t get everything right in the beginning, simply because our team grew so quickly, it was hard to implement policies and procedures on the fly. But, what we made sure we did was listen to the team about these concerns and challenges and implemented several things to help.

We put in an additional management level so that every member of the company has a 1–2–1 every two weeks. This means they feel heard, and also have a safe space to share concerns and also ambitions. As soon as Covid restrictions were lifted slightly, we implemented a bi-monthly in-person team meeting, so everyone gets a chance to meet their colleagues in real life. We have also developed a clear path for progression for each department, with a huge focus on internal professional development and internal promotion so now everyone has a clear goal to work towards and opportunities for career progression.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

We almost gave up straight away! Initially our idea was to build expertise around keyword research, formatting and uploading and site structure — but we were going to outsource the actual content creation. I had been using an agency for my own website content for some time and was generally happy with it. We reached out to ask if they could handle additional volume if we were to start a service — and they said yes. We opened our service and took around 200,000 words of orders in the first month. The content we received back was horrible, non-native English and was totally unusable. We had to close the service while me and Mark edited the content to an acceptable standard (which basically meant rewriting the content).

At that point we realised we needed to build and train our own team of content writers — and we now have the capacity to create around 7 million words per month.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Staying calm, and listening to your team. Hear their challenges and propose solutions — be that amending processes to reduce their workload, or hiring in new members of staff to help. Also leading by example — several times over the last 12 months, when things have been challenging, I have jumped back in with them and rolled my sleeves up to help. Finally, maintaining a positive attitude — it’s extremely easy for negativity to spread throughout a startup, especially if it’s coming from the top. If you approach every challenge with a “we can fix it” attitude, that naturally spreads down.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Share with them future plans, and also celebrate past successes. We have just had our first in-person team meeting and we spent half of the day showing where we have come from, celebrating business successes, celebrating customer successes and how our work has changed their lives and finally celebrating internal successes such as customer feedback and promotions. We also laid our our plans for 2022 and what we are implementing to continue our growth — and what that means to them — typically more recognition and room for progression.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

We use both Slack and Zoom. Both have their place for sharing information, but I think the personal touch of a video call is much better than a Slack message where intention or meaning can be misinterpreted.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

You can build predictability in a business — we have done this through a reliable marketing engine that we are comfortable will deliver us new customers monthly. We have also structured our business where around 1/3rd of the revenue comes from subscriptions. We have just introduced 6 and 12 month contracts (in return for additional services) to lock in customers for longer periods. These things build in a level of predictability and allow you to plan and scale with confidence.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Similar to above really — stay calm and work through any problems that come up. Having a business partner really helps with this as you work together to come up with solutions. However, as our senior management team has grown we also rely on them to come to the table with ideas and solutions too. So I guess the number one principle is to build a network around you that can help work through any ups and downs.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Stop marketing. One thing we have always done is push on the marketing front. If we are too busy, we scale our staff vs stop marketing. If we are having issues with delivery, then we fix that ASAP vs stop marketing. I think if you want a reliable marketing engine then you need to have it always on.

Become complacent. Always be innovating with your current service or exploring what additional services you can offer. One of the main things that sets us apart from our competitors is the fact we are continually adjusting our SOP’s to reflect what’s working best NOW. I see lots of competitors offering services based on old and outdated strategies. We are also continually launching new services that complement our core offering of content and links. Doing this means we become a 1 stop shop for customers vs having to use us for content and someone else for a different service.

Doing both of these things is hard when things are going well, and even harder when things are difficult. However, they are super important for future growth.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We have been very fortunate in that the pandemic has had little impact on our business. We were really only a couple of months old when Covid started. However, as mentioned above, I believe that’s because we have built a strong marketing engine that is constantly working for us. We have built and control 2 Facebook groups, we have a weekly podcast, we work with influencers in the space so they are continually talking about us, we sponsor relevant email newsletters that our audience read, we are visible in other communities sharing our knowledge. All of these things aren’t necessarily traditional marketing channels, however our customers comment “I see you guys everywhere” — and that’s because we are literally everywhere they hangout via different media channels.

Also, having a subscription aspect to the business really helps with stability. It gives you the opportunity to plan ahead and invest with confidence. We haven’t figured this out fully yet — around 1/3rd of our business is on a monthly subscription. However, we are just introducing longer term contracts which should give us even more stability in the future.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Lead by example.

As mentioned above, there have been several times during busy periods or difficult projects where I step in and work with the teams. Not only do the team members appreciate that, but it’s also a chance for everyone to learn. I’ve imparted new knowledge gained and also learnt lots from the team about how they do things.

2. Plan ahead.

Always having a 6 and 12 month plan is critical. If you as the leader don’t know where you want the company to be, then how will the team know. Share that plan, and make everyone feel included and working toward those objectives. And then when you hit them, make sure you share the successes.

3. Build financial stability.

Building financial stability in a start up is hard. It has to be planned and executed similar to how you would a marketing plan. We knew we wanted to build in a layer of stability through payment up front for all work, and also adding a subscription service. As the business has scaled, we want more stability which is why we are now rolling out 6 and 12 month contracts. Having this stability allows you to hire, build and grow with confidence.

4. Market.

You should always be driving forward marketing. It’s paradoxical that people stop marketing when that is the time they should actually be pushing it. We have had many growth spurts over the last 2 years, and it’s felt unnerving to be pushing marketing when the team is near full capacity for example. However, it’s much easier to scale the team than it is to stop marketing, and then deal with a quiet period of time afterward.

5. Innovate.

It feels very unnatural to be innovating or launching new services in uncertain times. However, the main reason we have been able to grow so quickly (and become the market leader) is because the competition didn’t innovate. We found an untapped market that was hungry for new and better services. We are extremely conscious of this and are always innovating or looking to launch complimentary services. We don’t ever want to be in the position where a new entrant to the market offers something better and we lose ground.

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 really have a life lesson quote, but I do have an internal mantra which has helped in difficult times — “lean into the pain”. I use this whenever I am in a difficult situation and it helps me feel comfortable in that awkward moment, wanting to feel more of it and working a solution to get out of it.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can follow our website here: www.nichewebsite.builders

You can follow our podcast and YT videos here: https://www.youtube.com/c/nichewebsitebuilders

Or you can reach out on: team@nichewebsite.builders

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Adam Smith Of Niche Website Builders: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Michael Timms Of Avail Leadership: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Ask for Feedback Before Giving It. Improvement feedback is sure to land badly if the person giving it never asks for feedback themselves. Leaders must demonstrate that feedback is a gift or everyone else will question your motives and associate it with punishment.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michael Timms.

Michael Timms is a leadership development consultant, author, and speaker specializing in succession planning and creating accountable cultures. His latest book is How Leaders Can Inspire Accountability.

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 studied Human Resources in university because I wanted to help people become better leaders. However, when I began working in HR I quickly realized my job was mostly hiring, firing, compensation and benefits — not leadership. Throughout my career as the head of HR for several companies, my bosses got progressively worse. My last boss was the ultimate micromanager and destroyed my self-confidence. I was miserable. I didn’t want anyone else to feel the way my boss made me feel. That is when I decided to start my own leadership development company, Avail Leadership, to help organizations create a culture that fosters real leadership. That was about seven years ago.

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

I quickly found a niche in succession planning because few organizations do it well. The first step in leadership development is to identify the few leadership behaviors that have the greatest impact on people and results and then make those behaviors the criteria for promotion to leadership positions. For each client organization, I facilitate employee focus groups to reverse engineer their organization’s success stories and isolate the leadership behaviors that led to them.

After doing this for several years, I noticed that one leadership competency was mentioned virtually every time: accountability. Since making this discovery, I identified the specific leadership behaviors that create a culture of accountability and have been sharing this framework with anyone who wants to improve their leadership impact.

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

This may not be the most interesting story, but the most impactful story to me personally is that as I began researching and teaching the principles of accountability to others, I naturally began experimenting on my family. I discovered that the principles of creating a culture of accountability at work also apply at home. My children now get their chores done and get out the door on time without me nagging or getting angry at them. They also have far greater confidence in their abilities and our home is a lot more peaceful than it used to be. Not only do the principles of accountability make you a better leader, they also make you a better parent.

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 don’t think this qualifies as a funny mistake, but I can certainly smile about it now. The first time I spoke to a group of CEOs, I was terrified. So terrified, in fact, that I couldn’t sleep a wink the night before. My heart was racing all night long. The next morning, I shared my message and did a good job. I ended up getting a large client from it and I was referred to speak at other CEO groups. CEO peer groups became my number one prospecting and revenue source.

That experience, and many others like it, have reinforced one very important life lesson: if you don’t regularly do things outside your comfort zone, you’re not growing.

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

The number one thing any manager can do to help their employees thrive and avoid burnout is to meet one-on-one with each direct report every week or two, and make sure to include a wellness check-in about once a month as part of your regular one-on-one meeting. One-on-ones should be regarded as sacred time for employees to get what they need from their manager to be successful. I say sacred because they are critical to creating a culture of accountability and to employee wellness, and because they should only be canceled or rescheduled for a true emergency or illness.

A wellness check-in is where the manager asks about their employee’s life challenges and interests. The purpose is to a) stay in touch with your team members’ whole self, not just their work self, b) to demonstrate that you care about them, and c) to allow you to help relieve stressors in their lives before they escalate into crises that blindside you. Take time to ensure your people are happy, engaged, and healthy, or nothing else you discuss will matter much.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

My definition of leadership is Leaders elevate others to achieve a common goal.

This simple definition highlights the two most important purposes of leadership: 1) help those you lead achieve success, 2) deliver results.

Most people in leadership are so focused on the second purpose of leadership that they end up grinding their people to achieve results. That is not leadership, and it is not sustainable.

This definition of leadership also puts a leader’s two most important deliverables in their proper sequence. Employees will not come up with innovative solutions or engage customers unless they are engaged. It is a natural sequence of events that we are reminded of every time we hear the safety demonstration on flights. The flight attendants instruct us to put our own oxygen mask on before attempting to assist others. Employees needs must be met first before a leader has any hope of executing their strategy.

Here is an example of what I mean. A manager at a client organization who we’ll call Olivia was coordinating a team that had just been given a new service offering they were supposed to provide to their clients. They were overwhelmed and concerned with the news, so Olivia spent most of the meeting presenting all sorts of ways to solve their concerns. She could tell they left the meeting frustrated. Upon reflection, Olivia realized that she prescribed the solutions before she gave them enough opportunity to discuss their feelings and concerns. So she called another team meeting and started off by acknowledging that she screwed up and then apologized to them. After they got over the initial shock of a manager admitting a mistake, Olivia gave them time to express their concerns without jumping in to solve them. Not only did they leave that meeting in a much better frame of mind than they had the previous meeting, they delivered the new service offering far better than they would have had Olivia not demonstrated true leadership and called the second team meeting.

Ok, now let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

I have had people reporting to me most of my career. However, unlike my experience in industry, now the people who report to me in my consulting business are remote workers.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

First, it is critically important to provide a steady stream of what I call “reaffirming feedback.” This means managers must tell employees what they are doing well every single day. This is because behavior that gets praised gets repeated. We are all addicted to the chemical dopamine that is released in our brain when we are praised. We repeat behaviors that we have been praised for because we instinctively want another dopamine hit. Furthermore, you never want your employees to wonder what it takes to please you.

It is also critically important to provide improvement feedback because you get the behavior you tolerate. This is as true at home as it is in the office. If you don’t address a problematic behavior, you should expect it to continue and get worse. Unaddressed poor behavior tends to get worse because employees take their manager’s silence as tacit approval.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

1. Ask for Feedback Before Giving It. Improvement feedback is sure to land badly if the person giving it never asks for feedback themselves. Leaders must demonstrate that feedback is a gift or everyone else will question your motives and associate it with punishment.

2. Give Improvement Feedback Via Video Conference, Not Email. Providing feedback by phone is less preferable, but can work if necessary. Research has shown that email has a low social presence, which means the sender and receiver feel less real to each other. This can lower inhibitions making it more likely that you may write things in email that you would never say to someone’s face. Furthermore, employees are more likely to perceive emails more negatively when they come from their manager.

3. Begin With A Question, Not A Statement. Managers are rated four times more effective at providing feedback if the manager listens to the other person’s views before providing it. You might say something like “Can you tell me about the process you followed when you did this?” Asking about the situation in question allows the other person to share important facts you may not know about.

4. Share Your Observation, Not A Conclusion. Most feedback methods encourage the feedback provider to prepare a monologue. This is the number one reason why feedback fails. Feedback is a dialogue. You do not have a monopoly on the truth. All you have is a perspective, so make sure to state it as such. You might say something like “At the last team meeting, it appeared to me that you were dismissive of others’ suggestions which seemed to shut down the discussion prematurely.” A clearly stated observation includes the a) context, b) specific behavior, and c) impact.

5. Ask For Clarification. Your perspective may not be 100% correct. After stating what you are observing, ask them for their perspective to get all the facts on the table. You might say something like “Did you intend to shut down other people’s comments or was there something else going on?” If you give others the opportunity to share additional facts with you before you make a conclusion, you might learn something that changes your perspective. You’ll also avoid looking like you are jumping to a conclusion.

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

Small issues can be dealt with over email such as “Can you please give me a heads-up next time before you book me for a same day meeting.” Managers can also provide improvement feedback over email when an employee has submitted a document for their review. It works because the employee is expecting critical feedback. Of course, the manager’s response should always begin with what they like about it, otherwise the employee will think their manager hates every word of it.

Important feedback, however, should be given by video conference or phone.

Effective leaders hold regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings with each of their reports (via video conference for remote employees) to review assignments and ask their employees what they need. This is a perfect opportunity to point out what went well the previous week and to provide improvement feedback.

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

Improvement feedback should usually be provided as soon as possible. Otherwise, the facts get fuzzy and debatable and the person receiving the feedback will likely question your motives. “Why didn’t you tell me this two weeks ago?” they may wonder. They may conclude that you’ve been holding a grudge against them for weeks.

As stated earlier, the soonest advisable time to provide improvement feedback is the next time you speak to them on the phone or via video conference.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

Great bosses show up in support of their employees, not in judgement of them. This means that they give their employees the benefit of the doubt and give them a chance to explain themselves before coming to conclusions.

Earlier in my career, I was in a meeting with my boss and another manager where we listened to an employee explain how she was wronged by another employee. After we heard her story, the other manager and I were ready to pull the other employee in and fire him on the spot. My boss urged us not to come to any conclusions until we heard the other employee’s story. We begrudgingly agreed to hear that out. When we listened to his story, he shared some information that the complainant conveniently left out of her story. Although we found that the male employee was more culpable than the complainant, he kept his job and reformed. Firing him would have been a mistake.

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 am trying to inspire a movement right now to encourage everyone to increase their level of personal accountability. Not only will doing so make you a better leader, a better person, and will improve your outcomes, but your example will also motivate others to take more accountability themselves.

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

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”

― Colin Powell

This quote reminds me that failure is our best teacher. If you don’t acknowledge your failures, you can never learn from them.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

I write articles for my blog on availleadership.com/blog. I also share articles I’ve written for other media outlets on my blog as well. I encourage you to sign up and give it a try to see if these articles help you to improve your leadership influence.

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


Michael Timms Of Avail Leadership: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Victoria Pelletier: “Here Is How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diversity creates sustainability. An organization that draws its leadership cadre and workers from a diverse pool of talented people, will have the fortitude to weather attrition. If you do not prize diversity, your talented people will move on to organizations that do.

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

Victoria Pelletier is a senior executive with over two decades of corporate and board experience in strategy, operations, growth initiatives, M&A and business and talent culture and development.

Victoria is also a published author, an in-demand public speaker and regularly appears on national television and radio. She is a visionary leader with a passion for innovation, creativity and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion. In fact, Victoria has won both the 2020 Mentor of the Year award from Women in Communications & Technology AND the 2019 HSBC Diversity & Inclusion in Innovation Award.

An inspiring professional with impeccable credentials, Victoria is a trusted voice among peers and emerging executives.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I can describe my background in one word: Atypical.

I didn’t “arrive” at the top by leveraging the advantages of pedigree, Ivy League education, or connections. My rise in the corporate space was made possible by my growth amid many challenges. I was raised in an abusive home by a parent who fought addiction. Often, I was neglected. At other times, I was on the receiving end of my mother’s rage. When I was finally plucked from my childhood home with nothing but the teddy bear in my arms, no biological family members wanted me.

When you come of age in an environment devoid of love and support, you can give up on yourself or learn how to love and advocate for the person you see in the mirror. I chose the latter. My drive to be relentless in work, love, and purpose is rooted in my resilience. When you raise yourself — and really learn how to scrap along the way — nothing can stop you. Nothing.

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?

I think I’ll call this moment “Brand disloyalty.” When you work for the “four letter shoe icon,” it’s understood that you wear their apparel in the office. One morning, I strolled into work wearing my new outfit from “name any other retailer.” I was however styling a new pair of shoes from my employer. The looks I got from my colleagues immediately communicated their dissatisfaction with my new threads.

The lesson? If you make it to one of the top companies, or any firm you hope to be around for a while, you need to be a champion of their products and services. Period.

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

One of Nelson Mandela’s sayings resonates with me these days… May your choices reflect your hope. Pretty powerful, isn’t it? While Mandela is no longer with us to provide a lot of insight about the meaning of the quote, I think it’s safe to say he was speaking from a place of personal experience. The bad stuff can imbitter you or better you.

I learned at a young age that my future — by default — would be a lot healthier and happier than my childhood. When you go through some rough stuff, it seems especially important to have a vision for your life that extends beyond the short term. I remember a rough patch earlier in my life when I was doing a lousy job balancing work, family, and selfcare. Simultaneously, I was trying to survive a very tumultuous relationship. At some point, I asked myself, “Victoria, is this where you want to be in five years?” That’s the kind of question that will lead to the reprioritization of some things. I decided then and there to build a future for my family and me that that would be healthier and happier than the current iteration. That’s choosing hope.

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?

I’m often asked this question and I always have the same answer: Not just one person. I think the examples, wisdom, and mentorship shared by many people I’ve met on the journey have helped me succeed. That’s a good way to live, don’t you think? Carry the best of the people around you forward. I hope I provide this to some of the young professionals I work with too.

Interestingly, some of the most influential people we meet in life are those who showcase terrible examples of leadership, crisis management, planning, etc. The “messes” teach us what not do if presented with the same scenarios. Bad leaders taught me a lot also.

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

The great companies craft an impeccable corporate vision and live it. I’ve always worked for companies I believed in; companies whose visions aligned with my own, and when they no longer fit my purpose and my core values, I left.

The company I work for today not only lives by an impeccable vision but has faith in the employees that bring the vision to life. I am thrilled to be part of an organization that understands that the human element is essential. I feel valued. My commitment to family is valued. My organization gives me the space to honour the personal commitments that keep balance in my life.

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

These days I do a lot of work around corporate purpose, social impact and much in the DEI space. I’m working with several clients define their “why” — their corporate purpose and the social impact they want to have in, and on, the world. I’m working with CEOs and their leadership teams to define and embed purpose into the very fabric and DNA of their organizations. This includes a very robust discussion about, and the strategy for what DEI looks like in the practical realm. How do we recruit with an eye toward diversity? Do we just talk about equity or actually nourish it in our organization? Is inclusivity more than a buzz word for the people on our teams?

As I continue to articulate and execute DEI in the settings I operate and consult in, I am confident, and that data supports it, that both individuals and the larger organization and its stakeholders will benefit.

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

Homemade cookies? Mine are good, but I suspect you are looking for a different kind of goodness.

I think one of the most helpful things I can do for the world is to leverage my story to encourage young people who are trying to navigate their own challenges in life. I think that every young person on this planet is entitled to take a shot at their dreams. Too often, home environments are other external influences prevent really talented and thoughtful people from having a good shot at a good life.

I try my best to be a mentor to those who are trying to rise from their challenging circumstances and make a real go at a great life. If my story of overcoming can help someone else, it’s worth sharing.

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.)

The obvious one to me is creativity. Diversity gives birth to creativity. If your teams are filled with team members from a variety of backgrounds, orientations, etc., they will bring their varied and colourful perspectives and ideas to the job. I know of several dating website organizations who started hiring many more seniors to understand how their platforms could reach widows and widowers. How’s that for innovation through diversity?

Diversity mirrors the context. In 2021, most communities are diverse. If your organization is homogenous, your context — your community — will know it and be quite suspicious of what you do and who you serve.

Diversity creates sustainability. An organization that draws its leadership cadre and workers from a diverse pool of talented people, will have the fortitude to weather attrition. If you do not prize diversity, your talented people will move on to organizations that do.

Diversity is linked to empathy. In an organization that champions diversity, a host of perspectives is heard and hardwired into organizational ethos. What does this mean? Well, consider the organization that promotes equity by giving queer women opportunities and supports to lead. This kind of organization will understand that LGBTQ individuals still deal with a lot of discrimination and bullying in the broader context. This organization is now better equipped to support the members of team dealing with ugliness outside of work. Empathy is a hallmark of a healthy organization.

Diversity is right. It’s ethical. If we can’t champion diversity in our organizations, we need to question why we are associated with the organization in the first place.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Empathy is the key to helping your employees thrive. Get to know their stories; give them some insight into your story also. Every member of every team wants to know they are valued by the organization. This begins and ends with a personal connection.

If you empathize with your employees, you know when they are stressed, burned out, grieving, anxious, etc. If you know about it, you can respond to it. The pandemic has shown us that that people are willing to sacrifice income and job stability if the wellbeing of loved ones is at stake. Empathetic leaders are proactive in supporting the members of their teams so that they don’t have to make these kinds of sacrifices.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Trust the people you hired to work with you. Even now, there are authoritarian types out there who are unwilling to share power, delegate, or give the members of the team space to experiment, succeed, falter, and grow. If you are trying to do it all yourself, then you are not leading.

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 🙂

The Vice President of the US. VP Kamala Harris is an inspiring leader whose best days of leadership are still ahead of her. I’d love the opportunity to hear more from her directly one-on-one.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn or my personal website: www.Victoria-Pelletier.com

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Victoria Pelletier: “Here Is 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.

Making Something From Nothing: Cheryl Poldrugach Of Panic Aide On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Keep in mind that many people are out for themselves, and they will take advantage of your fear and ignorance the first chance they can. I trusted a few along the way from an attorney who tried to change my LLC into his name to a manufacturer who wanted to water down my product.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Cheryl Poldrugach.

Cheryl Poldrugach is a former broadcaster and marketer who has more than twenty-five year’s experience. Directing local, regional and national media relations, event planning, marketing, branding, community relations and corporate sponsorships for top tier clients across the country. Cheryl has represented everyone from Fortune 500 companies to many major reality TV stars and Country Music Artists.

With all her outward success, Cheryl had a dark secret, she had suffered from panic attacks since college Cheryl had managed to always hide how she was suffering from panic attacks. Fast forward 30 years and not only was she still battling panic attacks so was her son. Recently she discovered that her daughter started having panic attacks in middle school. School counselors confirmed that panic attacks are a daily occurrence for many children that age and Cheryl felt called to action. She walked away from her lucrative business, seeking the best and brightest scientist, doctors and formulators in their fields to develop a natural product to give some portable relief when anxiety and panic are on attack. The result is Panic Aide. Every bottle sold will benefit mental health charities with 10% dedicated to helping fellow sufferers.

Cheryl is a native New Yorker but after 30 years in the Dallas area she is now a true Texan. She earned her Bachelor of Arts in Broadcasting and Journalism from Evangel University in Missouri. Cheryl is married with four children.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

Thank you so much for the opportunity, I am so happy to be a part of this interview. I grew up in NYC in a Sicilian household with 2 older brothers and a big family with food and fellowship at the core. When I was 12 my mom, stepdad and brothers moved to Texas. It was a big change but adapted and made our life down south.

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

Going on one more round, when you don’t think you can that’s what makes all the difference in your life. — Sylvester Stallone

Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts. Winston Churchill

I have 2 quotes, one to remind me to keep fighting one more round, and one to remind me that failure is not fatal. Life can kick you down, others can kick you down as well, but getting back up and fighting another day is who I am.

With panic disorder I have had to pick myself off the bathroom floor in the fetal position to get back to work and sometimes that is easier said than done. But when you focus on the positive and the fact that you CAN do it has been a fire I keep lit inside.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

To keep with my get up when you have been knocked down theme, it would be Rocky. No matter what came his way, he got back up. He kept his eye on his why — winning the belt and becoming the best and that is what I do every single day. I get back up.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

Idea vs. Reality has many steps but the most important one is following through. You must find out all the pieces you need to get from idea to product (or business). The old fashioned 4 W’s and I H: Who, What, Where, Why and How.

Answer those and then get over the fear of not thinking you are able to do it, that you aren’t ‘enough.’

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Start with the domain name always. Does someone own it? Then check trademarks, they are easy to search online.

Once you do those two it is a matter of Google research and look through the top 25 pages to make sure you looked everywhere.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

Once you have this great idea and you are ready to get started here are a few steps along the way to follow.

  1. Buy your domain name, and always the .com unless you are a non profit
  2. Reserve you social media pages before the names are gone
  3. Trademark your name before someone else does
  4. If it is something you can patent start that as well.
  5. Research ingredients you will need and find suppliers. Call all of them and get costs, shipping costs, minimum orders, and lead time. Get samples from them and try your product with each to find the one you will use.
  6. Find a manufacturer that you can trust and work with. This is a tricky step so please interview 3 and ask for references at each. Also, do background research on the owners as well, there can be some shady people and you have to be careful. In case I hadn’t mentioned sign NDA’s with EVERYONE you speak with.
  7. Get product testing done from a third party
  8. Graphic work commences with logos, signage and labels
  9. Get testers more than just your family — you need all ages and at least a 50 so you can get a good test of how everyone likes it
  10. E-Commerce website up, make sure you have shipping station for orders and a payment gateway and then sell, sell, sell!!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Don’t listen to that little voice in your head.
  2. I suffer from panic disorder so mine is much louder than most, but we all let that little voice tell us we can’t, and I have to remind mine every day that yes I can.
  3. I had a group of friends and only 1 out of the group believed in what I was doing and was positive and supportive when most critiqued and nagged. That made me doubt myself, so that is why it is so important to keep positive supportive friends in your circle.
  4. I was down and out a year and a half in. I was lied to from folks I trusted, and to be honest was not sure I can get back up as this wasn’t the first time. That is the time — when you are knocked out and the ref is up to 8 for a knockout — you get back up and fight harder than ever before.
  5. Keep in mind that many people are out for themselves, and they will take advantage of your fear and ignorance the first chance they can. I trusted a few along the way from an attorney who tried to change my LLC into his name to a manufacturer who wanted to water down my product.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

Find a name, buy the domain immediately after you make sure nobody else has done it that is.

Start your research!

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

It is up to the individual. If you feel like you can’t do it, or it’s too much then find a well-respected and trusted consultant.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

Great question. If you get venture capital just remember you have others in your business, they have a say and you will owe them money one way or another.

Bootstrapping is the hard way for sure! It takes a lot longer, and you can’t go as fast but you will know that you did it against all odds.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

My goal still is to talk about mental health and break the stigma, for real. To make others see me and know that I know what it is like to be down for the count and get back up.

10% of our proceeds go to mental health charities like NAMI and Suicide Crisis and Prevention as well but our dream is to start a nonprofit with one goal: have all mental health services and medication FREE for anyone who needs it.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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.

Stop judging others. Like I always say look at Robin Williams, a happy amazingly talented man who put up a great front and was dying inside. We don’t know how others are feeling or fighting for their lives. Simply be nice.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Since Rocky aka Sylvester Stallone has my favorite quote and his movie is my kick in the butt get up and get going he is one. But as far as a woman in business I admire immensely is Lori Greiner. She is amazing how she can scale up and blast things up and everywhere with a click!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Cheryl Poldrugach Of Panic Aide On How To Go From Idea To Launch was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Darshan Shivashankar Of Apiwiz On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The…

Agile Businesses: Darshan Shivashankar Of Apiwiz On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be customer-centric. They become your advocates. They become the stories of your technology and the impact it can have. This means you have to have an outstanding customer experience with support.

As part of my series about How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies, I had the pleasure of interviewing Darshan Shivashankar.

Darshan Shivashankar is the founder of Itorix Inc and its product Apiwiz, which offers a Low Code APIOps Platform engineered to streamline API Lifecycle Management for better Productivity with Governance at scale. He has over 15 years of experience in middleware, integration, and APIs with a deep passion for solving interesting problems.

After completing Engineering Degree in Computer science Darshan worked within Fortune 500 companies like Apigee (Acquired by Google), T-Mobile, Starbucks, Kaiser Permanente where he built and ran successful API Programs.

Darshan can also be found playing cricket, as he owns a cricket club in Seattle.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. 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’m Darshan, and I’ve been working in the software industry for about 15 years now.

I started as a Senior Software Engineer for Puma Group, the third-largest sportswear manufacturer globally. As an engineer, I was responsible for designing and building Puma’s Global Business System. A supply chain project used by various business partners of Puma to share the fulfillment information between Puma, its suppliers, and service providers, and provide near real-time view to its customers and management of order information throughout its life cycle (from inquiry, customer order, purchase order, shipment of goods to invoicing).

Later, I had the privilege of working for Accenture, A Fortune Global 500 company specialized in IT services and consulting. As a middleware developer, I had a chance to work with some of the Fortune 100 customers of Accenture across different business verticals. It gave me an excellent opportunity to design and build complex business workflows using ESB/SOA architecture across various disparate systems. Some of the noted clients I had the privilege to work with were PepsiCo, Vodafone Turkey, and the Ministry of Health & Holdings Singapore.

By 2012 I had realized that traditional SOA suites are costly and take years to implement, mainly because custom code creates a rigid architecture that hinders IT productivity. Companies need an API-led SOA solution that increases development speed and creates a future-proof architecture to be competitive. That’s where my journey with Apigee started, now acquired by Google. Apigee is a global leader in API management solutions. As a solution architect / pre-sales professional, I helped companies from the 100-year-old to the digital native understand and achieve business success and competitive differentiation in the Digital Economy. I worked closely with prospective customers, including business leaders and technology stalwarts (CTO/Architects) from various industry verticals like telco, healthcare, retail, gaming, etc., and leveraged my technical aptitude and drive to envision, determine and communicate how Apigee can best serve their unique business needs.

My next leg of the journey was instrumental in starting Itorix. I worked as an API platform architect across various organizations like eHealth Inc, T-Mobile, Starbucks, Kaiser Permanente as part of their digital transformation journey.

After a decade of seeing different API teams struggling with identical problems, the founders of Itorix saw there was a need for a solution.

However, it’s not simply a question of cherry-picking from the different software tools already in use! It’s also a tremendous opportunity to take it to the next level by enabling a strategic approach.

We built towards the following goal — “One place. One solution. One view of your cross-organizational strategy.” Consequently, Itorix equips businesses in the API economy with the unrivaled capability to execute a strategic vision for managing and monetizing APIs.

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

Initially, when we set out, a lot of time was spent getting the product and market fit right, including time spent with large enterprises, workshops, and pilots. A critical part that we left out in the midst during this time was branding and messaging. We spun up a website over the weekend to establish our digital presence, and it stopped there. After we wrapped up one of our workshops with an initial Enterprise prospect, they were pleasantly surprised at our rich feature set and alluded that our website and the product were out of sync. With our heads deep in Engineering land, this was a wake-up call.

As a result, we spent the next few months starting from scratch, which is how Apiwiz.io was born. In hindsight, it’s paramount to allocate time to make sure product messaging and marketing are done right, as it takes a while to yield results.

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?

You’re only as successful as your mentors and peers. I was very fortunate to have worked and met with some great leaders along my entrepreneurial journey who have always inspired me to take risks and have a meaningful impact in life.

I’m grateful to Chet Kapoor, the chairman, and CEO of Datastax. His passion, the way he is so results-oriented, and how he built an industry around APIs were truly inspirational. He taught us to first worry about the customer and the customer’s problems and not the competition.

And to my mentors/advisors, Anant Jhingran, Co-founder and CEO of Stepzen and Arivuvel Ramu Group CTO Tonik Bank, have been very supportive and instrumental in making this journey successful.

I was also privileged to meet Manish Vipani at one of the Google conferences in 2019. It was one of those moments when I said, “I’m working on this platform, and I’d like to get five minutes of your time.” Those five minutes turned into an effective mentoring relationship over the years, helping me understand, especially, enterprise decision making.

They all have been humble and allowed me to shine in the space and; starting up this organization is a way of saying thank you and showing gratitude for all this help.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

My advice for every startup? Have a firm conviction of your vision. Once you know a problem and how to address that — and there will be some deviations along the journey — but you need that conviction for the long run. Because when you talk to ten different people, they will offer you ten different perspectives about marketing, messaging, your go-to-market strategy and, your valuation. Everyone will share some advice, but it is based on their experiences, not strictly building your business. So maintaining your conviction helps startup founders stay on track.

Let that conviction be grounded in the problem you’re trying to solve. Back in April 2016, I had this idea, and we assembled in a small room, and I drew the problem out on a whiteboard. I asked, do you see this problem too?

As a core founding team, we want to make sure that we saw the same problem within the four people, and we clarified we all wanted to build the exact solution for that problem. And then, in 2017, when we started to build the company and product, we began to share our experiences within our network of building and scaling API programs. We started speaking about our vision to solve that one challenge, but the market was not mature back then.

And that’s where the conviction comes in. We knew that we had to continue to build the product, and eventually, the market would mature, and then we would be the right platform.

So what we decided was, we wanted to build a low-code APIOps platform to enable all the stakeholders within an API program to plan, design, build, and manage their APIs within a single platform. Which reduces the cost and increases productivity by tenfold, making enterprises release business-critical data through APIs faster to market.

The other vision that we shared was to democratize skills within enterprises. The way cloud technology moves, we see a new open-source or a new cloud platform every day, which helps enterprises ship code faster. But then the problem, how do enterprises adapt to those ever-changing needs? That’s why we wanted to build a no-code or low-code approach, where anyone with a minimum skillset can start designing, building, and managing their APIs.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

​​Apiwiz is an integrated low code APIOps platform engineered to streamline API lifecycle management for better Productivity with Governance.

Amidst the ever-increasing rush to develop and publish an API to remain competitive, we see several common issues arise that didn’t exist before. Let’s hear how Enterprises can better manage the value creation of automated customer-centric services by streamlining the process of developing, building, and running APIs through a Low Code approach.

The future is going to be a hybrid cloud. So every enterprise will choose which cloud provider they want to go to or, more likely, have a combination of providers. So what that means is there might be the same API, like the store locator API, that might be deployed in both the cloud containers. We provide an abstracted APIOps platform, where we hide all the complexities of building, managing, and deploying APIs to different runtime platforms. We complement the gateway runtime platform, where enterprises are without vendor lock-in. If tomorrow the enterprise decides to move away from one API runtime to another, the developers within the organization don’t have to adapt to the nuances of the new platform. Because the way you plan, design, build and manage your APIs doesn’t change, you know, irrespective of which gateway or cloud provider you’re working with today.

We know enterprises want to give developers autonomy to build and release quickly, but they also want to make sure they build stable software that integrates. The Apiwiz APIOps platform helps drive your business strategy with a broad overview of cross-company APIs, causing stability and enabling reusability, taking you to market faster while releasing stable software, and helping you monetize your APIs safely.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

The State of the API Economy 2021 from Google Cloud confirms that though digital transformation has been among enterprises’ top business imperatives for years, the COVID-19 pandemic and changing market conditions have increased this urgency. Organizations across the world weathered the pandemic by compressing years of digital transformation into just a few months.

  • 75% of the organizations are continuing their digital transformation journey despite the pandemic.
  • 65% of this group are also accelerating investment in their digital transformation journey.

The application programming interface is the glue of the digital economy.

Google Cloud’s findings identified five key trends in 2021 for API-first digital transformation:

  • Increasing SaaS and Hybrid Cloud-based API Deployments
  • Analytics Expand Competitive Advantage
  • AI and ML — Powered API Management is Gaining Traction
  • API Ecosystems Are Innovation Drivers
  • API Security and Governance More Important Than Ever

Data is the king and provides the context. In this digital world, the way consumers review the data varies from person to person. Still, we want to get the relevant data as close as possible to the consumers to build customer-centric experiences, constantly asking how we integrate applications for certain functionality.

The application programming interface is driving all of that. A whopping 83% of web traffic now routes through APIs. And the most successful companies — like Stripe, who allow your customers to purchase your products at a click of a button — adopt an API-first strategy.

Tell us about a pivot you had to make because of lessons learned?

We had to find the correct product positioning by re-branding and redefining the business model. The company was initially called Itorix — a portmanteau of IT without risk — this is still our legal entity, but people could never pronounce it right. And enterprises tend to be slow in decision making.

So we changed the product name to Apiwiz because we wanted to call ourselves around the developers we’re championing. We needed a name that spoke to them more.

And then that meant moving our messaging and sales and marketing more to speak to that B2C — or B2D — market.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

To be very honest, it’s been challenging. Since we’ve moved our go-to-market model from B2B to B2C, it’s been challenging because there’s a subtle change. Most revenue would still flow through the B2B models, but most developers build APIs. And the developers are the ones planning to monetize them eventually as part of the larger organization.

We examined the platform for aspects that can be immediately useful to developers. We created a Freemium model for the API Design Studio to help the developers reduce their design time and build quality and repeatable API designs that can be used throughout the organization.

That was an excellent way to create new good leads and get better, more rapid feedback. Having developers trying out the platform gave us the view to making the experience better. Because it isn’t just that you are solving a problem, it’s all about how you are solving that problem.

So now we target citizen developers within larger organizations and work first to get adopted within a small, innovative department, following the land and expanding the SaaS model.

Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you started this pivot?

Set a clear path for product positioning. The whole exercise of rebranding to Apiwiz helped distinguish from the competitors’ products and different from brand awareness.

  • Helped positioning by product attribute
  • Helped positioning by the user
  • Helped positioning versus competition
  • Helped positioning by use/application
  • Helped to set by quality or value

Our product pathway hasn’t changed much, but our messaging has.

While Itorix is still the entity name, we’ve changed our product to Apiwiz. We’re a much more product-driven organization with an outside-in approach. We’ve balanced our technical messaging and business proposition and set up a clear and balanced tone and content to cater to each audience. As you can see, our homepage is very much driving developers to sign up and try our platform for themselves.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

Patience. For a first-time entrepreneur, patience and convictions are essential, driving how they steer the change — because change is pretty much inevitable. A startup will always surprise you. There will be ten things you don’t know, so it’s your job to understand the knowledge gap and fill it. You need to roll up your sleeves (proverbially — of course, we wear t-shirts) and be active in every department to figure out what needs to be changed.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

At a startup, you will see a lot of gloomy days before the happy days — it’s a roller coaster, for sure. The founders and even the founding team, and the first set of engineers have to be aligned. And then, the leadership brings in an extra set of cushioning to the groups.

A startup is always about a journey. Keep remembering why you signed up and reminding your team. Talk about: How do we continue to drive towards that?

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

People do question if it’s the right time. I always say the time is always right to do what is right.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Disruptive can work in your favor, or it cannot. It becomes a sort of bubble that you just never know. Many founders have an approach to building an MVP, and then they go and pitch it with a great deck, and then they have this massive valuation, and there is no shortage of people who want to invest. That’s often setting you and your team up for failure.

As a founder, you have to believe in what you’re building and trust your instincts. Back in 2017, we weren’t ready for valuation or investment because the API market wasn’t mature yet, and that’s why we got the wrong valuation. Many enterprises accepted they lacked API governance and an end-to-end view beyond silos, but there was no urgency to solve it. And enterprises operate on a need basis.

When the market isn’t ready, you have to believe in what you’re doing and the need to serve as a founder. Often, when startups don’t get traction from angel investors and VCs early on, they think it won’t work and don’t have a product to show what can be done. So don’t quit your day job right away but still work toward your goal.

We were doing part-time for the first couple of years. I jumped in full-time in 2019. We got traction, but that’s because we were well past the MVP. We were building it. Then we had a paid pilot at a primary healthcare provider to make the use case and validate for founders. And traction creates more traction. If you’re building something new and disruptive, you can’t give up, but you also have to be willing to actually make it.

Ok. Thank you. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be customer-centric. They become your advocates. They become the stories of your technology and the impact it can have. This means you have to have an outstanding customer experience with support.
  2. End of the day, you need to give your team credit. Very important in the culture. When we talk about change is inevitable for organizations, you also need to have the same mindset. Adapt to what the customers are asking and adapt to better ways to ship your product.
  3. This helps to keep your first five to ten employees motivated. These first ten employees define who you are and what you are. And you have to work to be as accepting of a leader as you can be.
  4. Every day I focus on the Why. Why am I doing this? For me, after ten years in the API community, it’s my way to give back.
  5. Sometimes as a company scales and grows, founders tend to stop innovating, and the products dilute, but the founder must always have a balance between running a business & innovation. Yes, many of your leadership roles shift from development to company-building. Still, the founders always have to be grounded in the product, constantly in touch with the product and engineering team. Keep using the product. I do every day, so I know what our developer’s users are experiencing and strive to make it better.

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

My all-time favorite here is Steve Jobs, who said: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”

I hardly have a social life, but I find happiness and socialize at work. The current era is all focused on work-life balance. You should reduce your stress as a startup founder, but you cannot run away from responsibilities. I’m working towards hiring the right talent and working closely with my engineers to talk in their words and languages and understand their sacrifices.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Go to Apiwiz.io — bookmark it or go ahead and try it right now. And let’s connect on LinkedIn!

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: Darshan Shivashankar Of Apiwiz On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

John Reid Of JMReid Group: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

John Reid Of JMReid Group: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Be present: Give people your attention. They are your most important asset so treat them as such.

John Reid is the Founder, President and Lead Designer of JMReid Group, a global behavior change organization specializing in leadership, development, sales effectiveness and skill enhancement. After John survived three bouts of cancer, he decided to pursue his passion for learning and development. John pursued this passion with a belief that people want to get better and can get better, but it is often the manner in which traditional training is designed and delivered that makes this desire for growth difficult.

As the lead designer for JMReid Group, John shifts the design emphasis from models and intellectual property to a learning experience that is relevant to the learner’s real world, taps into participants’ wisdom and is engaging and sustainable. His is a clearly learner-centric approach.

John is the author of Moving from Models to Mindsets: Rethinking the Sales Conversation and the upcoming book, The Five Lost Superpowers.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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’m the youngest of five from Rockville Maryland — and attended the University of Maryland. My first job out of college was with Dow Chemical despite never having taken a chemistry course. I found success as a sales representative because I was wildly curious and willing to be vulnerable. I also knew that people love to talk about what they do — so I let it happen.

My chemical career lasted 16 years with four different firms. I moved up the ladder to a Business Manager role with P & L Responsibility. I decided to make these moves after I felt I learned all that I could from the organization and/or my role.

I was consistently asked to make internal presentations or deliver training, so I started to have a real interest in training and development. The first of four bouts with cancer (sarcoma) led me to transition and take the leap to training and development where I started out as a salesperson.

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 have a funny first starting story — I have later ones!

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?

One of my first managers at Dow Chemical was a leader named Ken Koza. He was a really solid and good human being, and really smart to boot. At the time I had worked for a couple of other managers and was about three years into my career. At that time I was a young bull, full of energy, in a china closet and it had never been addressed. Ken was the first to notice my potential as well as my problem. He used an analogy: I was out in the field on a tractor and I was moving. I had to learn how to form more lines and less random shapes.

Because he was willing to tell me the truth, I felt valued and respected. I valued his ability to perceive and share what I needed to change in order to grow.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

It was more based on a set of principles or values than a purpose or vision. The core principles were in response to what I had seen in the training and development industry. A couple of fundamental wrong-headed beliefs:

  • Their model or content was THE ANSWER.
  • That participants are bad and needed to get to good.
  • The facilitator should be the smartest person in the room.
  • Since the content/model is the answer — design and participant engagement were less important.

So we wanted to differentiate on a couple of principles:

  • Context is King.
  • There is Wisdom in the Room.
  • Design Matters.
  • Learning is Journey.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

My leadership style does not change much, partly because I believe uncertainty has been part of the world we live in since well we all first showed up. However, there are some core principles that myself and my team all hold each other accountable to:

  • Be Authentic.
  • Have a Perspective.
  • Give Grace.
  • Keep Learning.

Beyond these principles, I strive to always be transparent on the company’s performance, be candid and in the moment with feedback, recognize good performance, and strive to make the work fun.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I’ve never considered giving up. My motivation comes from my four kids, mortgages, and doing something I am passionate about. I will say that it helped that we were successful fairly quickly.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

To consistently be in conversation with your team.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Well there is no one-size-fits-all, so you have to get to know your people and what they value. You have to be attentive. Just treating people with respect, apologizing when you are wrong and letting them know they matter. Also giving unexpected perks, like bonuses or adding days off to an upcoming holiday, are always really appreciated.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Communicate directly, and think about the situation almost solely from their perspective. We follow the mantra of “speak respectfully of the past, honestly about the present, and optimistically about the future.”

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Plans, as they say, are useless but planning is everything. My team and I think about where we want to be a year from now and what investments we need to make for that to happen. It’s all about agility these days; trying lots of different things, doing things that are not considered “what we do,” and broadening how you think about your business.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

I am loath to use sports metaphors, but it works in this case. What’s your lifetime batting average? If you are a lifetime >.300 hitter, then you will probably be fine. Your track record matters. You most likely are doing most things right, and the adjustment is not that hard.

It would be a much different conversation if your “batting average” weren’t great. Trusting where you’ve been helps you trust where you’re going.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I have three:

  1. They think they have a cost problem when they have a revenue problem.
  2. Their defined product, service, or business model is fixed.
  3. Irresponsible cash flow management.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

These are a few of the things I focus on in my business:

  • Investing in lead generation and marketing.
  • Deepen relationships with existing clients.
  • Maintaining your sense of humor and enthusiasm.
  • Cutting across industries — again avoid getting to narrow.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

Here are the things that I (and my team) value most in leadership:

  • Be present: Give people your attention. They are your most important asset so treat them as such.
  • Communicate: Always have communication be two-way so you’re in conversation as much as possible. Talk about non-business issues to deepen rapport and trust; care about them as a whole person.
  • Be a good steward: Model what you are asking others to be. Be a person of integrity where your words and deeds align.
  • Reduce stress and anxiety: Be playful and curious; it generates creativity, innovation, and engagement. Give corrective feedback immediately and then let it go. Provide context and focus.
  • Treat your team like owners: Let your team buy what they need to do their jobs to their best abilities. Let them buy a new desk chair or an upgraded phone — if you as the owner do it without a second thought, allow your team to make those same decisions.

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

“You are just a person with a perspective. Look at you and your shiny point of view. Congratulations. Your success and growth will be in understanding others points of view.”

How can our readers further follow your work?

They can visit our website: www.jmreidgroup.com or find me on LinkedIn.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


John Reid Of JMReid Group: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Making Something From Nothing: Gianluca Boncompagni of Guana Equipment On How To Go From Idea To…

Making Something From Nothing: Gianluca Boncompagni of Guana Equipment On How To Go From Idea To Launch

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Always reinvest in the company. This is a good story, but when we started, we were bootstrapping and both of us working on other projects or jobs as we developed the company. Therefore, we didn’t take a penny out for two years. This allowed us to pump back all the profits into it to buy more stock, develop more products so on and so forth. It helped us A LOT.

As a part of our series called “Making Something From Nothing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gianluca Boncompagni.

Gianluca is an entrepreneur and travel enthusiast, that has been able to successfully run his businesses, Guana Equipment and Off Road Tents, whilst living in four different countries. After working in a banana farm in Australia, a construction site in New Zealand, he turned 25 and decided alongside his business partner Karsten Koberg, that there was a growing interest for the overlanding industry. Together they founded Guana Equipment & Off Road Tents whilst living in separate continents. Both are now established brands selling in over 4 countries. Their team has grown to 9 people, all working remotely, but sharing a passion for what they do and believe in: adventure.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a bit about your “childhood backstory”?

I’m Costa Rican, born and raised in San Jose, which is the capital city. I come from a family of 4 siblings, two brothers and two sisters. Both my parents educated us to be ambitious, put a lot of effort into anything we do, and try to be the best version of ourselves.

Ever since I’ve been a kid I’ve had the great chance of traveling, whether that was in Costa Rica or abroad. Thanks to my family I was able to get to know many places, have many experiences and try to learn the best I could from them.

I grew up camping, doing lots of hikes and outdoors trips, and as I grew, I become more and more curious about what was out there: the world.

And so, when I turned 19, I left home to go and study abroad, and what was supposed to be around 4 years of university, became 10 years of travels, adventures and lessons in different places with different people. All of a sudden, I went from Italy, where I had done a degree in journalism, to Australia where I worked carrying bananas up north in Queensland. I worked in construction in New Zealand, and for the UN in Cambodia. Different opportunities came up and I tried to take them. This lead me and my business partner to take a leap and start our own business.

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

It’s funny because this is not exactly a quote I got from a book or somebody famous, but rather from a person I admire a lot. I once heard him say: “I’d go back and do everything all over again”. He was of course referring to his life.

It has been extremely relevant to my life because it taught me that even if we can make mistakes, mess things up, go through rough, rough patches in life, we can learn from it all. The truth is that after I heard what he said, I realized life wasn’t about regretting the bad decisions made, or letting problems drag you down, but rather about learning, growing, and trying to be your best self every single day.

I’ve been working very hard ever since to make my life a better one in all its different aspects: work, health, personal relationships, mental health and even entertainment.

To me it has been about introspective and learning when I made a mistake or took a bad turn, why something negative happened and how I can turn that negative episode into something positive. Once I manage to turn whatever problem I had around, grow from it and be in a better spot or a better version of myself, I can look back at it and say: “I’d do it all over again, because if I hadn’t gone through that, I wouldn’t be a better version of myself today”.

Is there a particular book, podcast, or film that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

It’s hard to pick a book or novel because many have had a great impact. Amongst my favorite you have “La Ciudad Y Los Perros” by Mario Vargas Llosa, “On The Road” by Jack Kerouac and “A Farewell To Arms” by Ernest Hemingway. I think the latter has had perhaps one of the biggest impacts on me, as it left me thinking how everything in life comes to an end.

I guess the biggest lesson I took from the novel was to enjoy the good things, as much as I can, when I have them. Also, learn to understand that all good and bad things come to an end, and then life goes on. I then take those thoughts or “lessons” to try and apply them to my life. Enjoy and live life at the fullest, whether that’s at work, love, or a hobby, but when things come to an end, learn from them, and keep going.

As to movies, “Inception” from Christopher Nolan is one of my favorites. I guess what resonates the most is how Cobb, the main character, has such a hard time letting go and moving on, but at the same time how hard he tries to keep the memory of his dead wife alive. In the end, my take from it was that he managed to let go when he realized he had “grown old together” with her in the limbo, and that was enough. Sometimes, we live or see things and don’t realize how good they are or what we have accomplished. Later, when we look back, we realize how far we’ve been able to go, and what seemed tough or bad might have been good. It taught me a lesson of being present, observing myself and my surroundings, try to understand every moment of my life, live it, cherish it, and learn to move on.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. There is no shortage of good ideas out there. Many people have good ideas all the time. But people seem to struggle in taking a good idea and translating it into an actual business. Can you share a few ideas from your experience about how to overcome this challenge?

I guess if an idea comes to mind, chase it. Do something about it and get going. It will never be a waste of time to chase a dream or an idea, because even if it doesn’t turn out to be “gold”, it’ll leave a lesson or many important skills.

That doesn’t mean you have to be blind or foolish, or not understand when to put an idea to rest, but it does mean that if you procrastinate, or never take a step forward, nothing will ever happen.

Another great advice is to share that idea with a close circle of friends, family or colleagues that you trust and respect, and try to get good and honest feedback. The idea is not to share it with a group of “yay-sayers”, but with people that can criticize it, give you feedback and help you understand if it holds some value.

This will help you get new takes and angles on it that you may have not thought of, as well as working on learning how to sell your idea. If you can sell it to friends and family, then it’s likely you can be able to sell it to more people.

Often when people think of a new idea, they dismiss it saying someone else must have thought of it before. How would you recommend that someone go about researching whether or not their idea has already been created?

Here’s where you’ll need to work hard. Do the research. When we started Off Road Tents we researched a lot. That meant going online and searching for hours and days at the potential competitors, other brands and companies or retailers that were in the industry.

We read countless articles, blogs, watched videos, went on forums to read what people thought and said about the industry and the products, so on and so forth.

We live in an age where Internet gives us almost unlimited access to unlimited information. It’s right there just a few clicks away. My advice is to take time to read and research as much as possible, and start weighing pros and cons, and trying to see where your idea fits in the grand scheme of things.

You may think of a product that’s already been invented, that doesn’t mean you can’t compete. For example, we knew there were already other retailers selling the same products we do, or other brands making tents. What did we do? Well, we ran the classic SWOT analysis, and mapped out the competition and saw where we could compete.

For Guana Equipment we designed a product that had a chance to compete by differentiating a few features and targeting customers that were perhaps overlooked.

The fact that someone else already had your idea or a similar one, it doesn’t mean you can’t make. On the contrary, you can grab that idea that has already been out there, and do something better. Take advantage of it, they already did the hard work of breaking ground, now you can have a head start and improve it.

For the benefit of our readers, can you outline the steps one has to go through, from when they think of the idea, until it finally lands in a customer’s hands? In particular, we’d love to hear about how to file a patent, how to source a good manufacturer, and how to find a retailer to distribute it.

The first stage is research. After the idea, we started, a said before, reading as much as we could, watching videos and just learning as much as we could.

Then, we started testing. For example, my business partner got a tent and started using it to better understand them.

Once you are confident you have done your homework and understand what you want and who you are targeting, it’s time to actually make the product.

I personally started looking for manufacturers in Alibaba. I started emailing quite a few, sending pictures, sketches, and telling them what we wanted and needed. We narrowed them down to a few, I personally flew to China, went to all the factories, met all of them and took a good look at how they worked and their quality control. I was there for two weeks and met with the one we chose, twice.

We ordered a demo, and that was shipped to my partner, he then used it and tested it as roughly and badly as he could to make sure it was good. It turned out it was, so we rolled the dice.

Nowadays, we keep the same strategy: before we bring anything out to the market, we order demos, and test them thoroughly. Once we are convinced, we make more, if we are not, we suggest changes, order more demos and see how it goes.

It’s about your customers enjoying your product or idea, they are the ones that need to have a good experience. Therefore, test, test and test.

I personally once made the mistake of making backpacks without testing them enough or asking for enough feedback. Th4 result was a bad quality product that many didn’t like. Lesson? Get feedback, test a lot, and have others test your products.

It might never be perfect, and improvements can happen with future models or versions, but try to make sure what you’re putting out there is the best possible at the time.

Plus, do make sure you know who you are working with, and keep strict quality control processes, even if that means flying out to wherever you are manufacturing and making sure the quality control is good.

Then comes the hard part: pitching your idea to retailers.

Fortunately, inn this day and age, with social media and the internet you can advertise your own products. Believe in your brand and become the first ambassador and happy customer. Make sure you are proud of what you are selling and be your first fan.

If you believe in it, people will start noticing you and your product. Then, at the beginning you’ll have to advertise it yourself, as well as reaching out to retailers.

The best way is calling them getting appointments and going to show the product in person. Then, go to fairs, expos, and such to showcase them. Retailers and customers tend to go to those events and if your product is good, it can either sell or get a retailer to notice you.

Put yourself and your product out there as much as you can!

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started Leading My Company” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. Look for guidance. It took us too long to look for a mentor or someone to guide us. We had taken many different courses in marketing, product design, management and such, but we needed mentorship. Fortunately, after a few years, through sheer luck we found one that actually was invested and wanted to help us. Ever since, all of his suggestions have helped our business enormously. To give you a silly example, we had a team of 5 people at the beginning of 2020, and we were still using WhatsApp to communicate. It was frustrating, stressful and inefficient, and then he suggested Slack. And just like that, in the blink of an eye, communication was smoother and our lives were better! Look for a mentor, even if it means paying for coaching.
  2. Always reinvest in the company. This is a good story, but when we started, we were bootstrapping and both of us working on other projects or jobs as we developed the company. Therefore, we didn’t take a penny out for two years. This allowed us to pump back all the profits into it to buy more stock, develop more products so on and so forth. It helped us A LOT.
  3. Networking and shows. For 3 years we didn’t attend any expo or industry event. Mistake. Then, we went to our first expo and it was a huge success. Hundreds of people started reaching out after that, it got us exposure. On top of that we met other owners and colleagues in the industry which allowed us to share ideas, watch them, learn from them and improve our products and connections. Plus, thanks to the events we got to position our brand with new retailers. This wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t gone.
  4. As you grow, you will need a team and a capable team. There was a point when it was only Karsten (my business partner) and me. We had grown quite a bit and we needed help. We knew it, but didn’t know how to hire someone, so we just kept pushing back the task and overworking ourselves. Finally, we went for it, watched a few videos online on how to properly conduct a hiring process and we started building a team. A few of our hires have been amazing. Others, not at all. And, we have learnt to let them go quickly, before the employees can either cause trouble to the company or wear you out. They are supposed to be a team that helps you grow, so you must evaluate as quickly as you can if they’ll be an asset or not.
  5. Things aren’t always going to go the right way. Learn to adapt. I wish I knew this since day one. You think once you reach a certain level, things will run smoothly. Well, not exactly. Things can change and quickly. For example, our profit margin was related to the cost of shipping from Asia to America. Costs tripled this year, and that changed our whole year. We realized with such costs, our cashflow was being affected. We could raise prices a little bit, sure, but we needed to rethink. What now? Well, adapt. Ride the crisis, get some money from an investor or a loan, and cut back on areas where you know you can. We cut back in marketing costs, went stronger on SEO and outreach to retailers, and communities of people in our industry. We saved money, but still managed to get exposure and traffic. And, we are still getting as many units done as we need to, just with a lower margin for the time being. It’s been a lesson, be prepared, be open minded and learn to adapt quickly.

Let’s imagine that a reader reading this interview has an idea for a product that they would like to invent. What are the first few steps that you would recommend that they take?

The first step would be to the as much research as you can to understand where will this product fit in the market, what are the potential competitors, challenges, and positive things it can bring to the world.

Then, work on your mindset: patience and resilience. It’s going to be a tiring, yet exciting journey. It’ll mean a lot of work, frustration, challenges and doubts, so be ready. Learn to be patient as nothing is made from one day to another, and learn to get back up when you get thrown to the ground by the challenges.

If you think you have what it takes, you’ve done the research, the next step is to build a demo as soon as you can. You need to be able to collect feedback, so get a demo done, and don’t go crazy spending way too much on it at the beginning. Remember, you will want feedback to improve, no product is perfect the first time you make it.

Invest more into it later, when it’s ready. At the beginning, it’ll take some time, perhaps more than a demo to get it right. Therefore, invest your budget wisely, and take the project as a research and development one.

Give the demo to friends, family and even strangers. Run a survey online through Facebook, or offer to send a few demos out to strangers in exchange of feedback. Get as more data or information as you can. Even advertise it, put some ads out there to see how random people react.

Then, once you’ve collected all that, time to go for it. Don’t waste time.

There are many invention development consultants. Would you recommend that a person with a new idea hire such a consultant, or should they try to strike out on their own?

This is a great question. Personally, I have never hired a consultant. I’ve tried with two products, one failed, one has done well. The first one, which failed, was a badly executed process: little research, little feedback and not enough testing. With the second one, I learned my lesson, and we executed every process properly and thoroughly.

We did consult with friends and family that knew a bit more about certain things: product design, marketing, etc.

That said, I think before you hire someone, you should go through every step by yourself, doing all the work yourself. Only that way will you truly learn how to build something from the ground, how time consuming it can be and the effort behind it. If you eventually manage to put it out there, all the hours spent behind closed doors, will enable you to know your idea from head to toe and be the better salesman or woman for it.

What are your thoughts about bootstrapping vs looking for venture capital? What is the best way to decide if you should do either one?

This is another great question. I’m all about bootstrapping if you are first starting out. In our case we bootstrapped, then we looked for capital 4 years later. That means, we started small, and gave all we could in our spare time. We only invested what we had, and used every penny wisely.

Later, when the business got bigger, we needed a larger investment for us to be able to have more stock, we looked for capital.

I think at the beginning, depending on how ambitious your idea is, you should start bootstrapping, that way you learn to know the importance of every single penny. It also lets you take all matters into your own hands; all decisions are yours.

Later, as you grow, and you need cashflow, you can look for capital, investors, loans, and inject that into the business to take it to another level.

However, if you have a great idea and to execute the operation you need a lot of money, the. Bootstrapping can take way too long for you to materialize what you want. Therefore, it depends on the size and ambition of your idea.

I’m not a big fan of taking someone else’s money until I’m sure I can pay them back, and that means that until we were sure our company was solid and have a good customer base, we didn’t ask for money to take it to another level, as we didn’t want to end up with a debt we couldn’t afford, or a new investor that could have a word in the decisions we made.

Ok. We are nearly done. Here are our final questions. How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

We have been able to build a team of nine people. That means we are giving jobs to 9 people, and most of them in third world countries, which to me makes a big difference as we are somewhat helping other economies grow.

Then, we have also contributed with donations. We like to make a yearly donation, even if it’s not as considerable as other companies might give, to help local communities in Costa Rica. We try to give back a little bit, help the country be a better one.

Then, we have tried to share a few of our lessons or knowledge with other starting entrepreneurs. We have even shared our time and effort by working alongside them so they can grow and improve. We try to have a positive impact on them so they can see their ideas grow faster.

You are an inspiration to a great many people. 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 know how I would call the movement, or how to exactly narrow it down to something very specific: but mental health awareness.

Fortunately, I grew up in a family with lots of love and understanding parents and siblings. Our feelings, ideas, and thoughts were all listened to and given a chance. Sadly, that’s not the case for everyone. As I’ve grown older, I’ve seen many people struggle, whether that’s with depressions, substance abuse, or simply other challenges due to a lack of mental health awareness.

To me, it’s important that throughout your entire life you work on yourself, that means to listen to your feelings, understand your thoughts, reactions, emotions and such. If we were able to have something as simple as more conversations on mental health or emotions, if children had psychology courses at school or more counseling, it might create a world or societies that are much more aware.

Social media has brought people together, but at the same time it can create a fake idea of happiness that you need to have all the time. And I’m sure it’s taken a toll on many.

If we can work on teaching people to listen to themselves, work on themselves and understand their insecurities and strengths, we’d have a better world.

That applies for entrepreneurs or anyone with a job. If you are healthy mentally, or know when to seek help, you will have a much better performance. A clear mind leads to better decisions. We must not let people drown on their problems, help them, be kind and conscious, and always work on yourself, even when you are older.

Lend a hand to others, and lend a hand to your own mind.

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, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Mark Cuban. I’ve always been a great fan of the Dallas Mavericks, and every now and then watch Shark Tank. To me it’s impressive the great balance he seems to have in life. Able to successfully run a sports franchise (although we need to get Luka a better supporting cast), be such a great business man, invest in small businesses and ideas, and have time to enjoy the games.

To me, balance and hard work are two of the most important things in life. It gives me the impression Mr. Cuban has been able to balance it all out. And, I’d like to get a few tips on how to do that!

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.


Making Something From Nothing: Gianluca Boncompagni of Guana Equipment On How To Go From Idea To… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Raj Tulshan Of Loan Mantra: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Raj Tulshan Of Loan Mantra: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Always be available to your customers and clients even if they just want to talk.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan.

Neeraj (Raj) Tulshan is the Founder and Managing Member of Loan Mantra, a financial advisory firm with best-in-class and proprietary fintech, BLUE (“Borrower Lender Underwriting Environment”). Loan Mantra, Powered by BLUE, is next-level finance: a one-stop-shop for business borrowers to secure traditional, SBA or MCA financing from trusted lenders in a secure, collaborative and transparent platform.

After graduating from Ithaca College in Finance, Tulshan began his banking career at Merrill Lynch in New York City. He spent more than a decade in the Currencies, Commodities and Investments Group where he also worked with global asset-backed securities, structured products and principal investments. Here, he also originated and underwrote deals valuated near $25 million and structured Series A and B financing.

When the market crashed in 2008, Raj saw a significant opportunity to fix the fractured lending ecosystem. Soon thereafter, he sought after and completed an MBA from the Said School at Oxford University and began developing Loan Mantra. His goal was to remove the silos that exist between lender and borrower using secure financial technology. Though Tulshan continues to be iterative with his fintech, meeting current demands of both market and borrower, his professional mission and good- natured approach with clients remain the same. In this, Loan Mantra displays its founder ’s proud partnership between best-in-class fintech and top-marks human experts.

Time-and-again, clients turn to Raj because they know he will always pick up the phone and offer unparalleled financial counsel in a remarkably human — even friendly — way.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

When the market crashed in 2008, I saw a significant opportunity to fix the fractured lending ecosystem. I began developing Loan Mantra to remove the silos that exist between lender and borrower using secure financial technology.

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 launched the company in March 2019 at the very time COVID-19 shut down the entire country. We were planning a huge launch party event during the first week of April and could not believe our luck and we are still here today, doing better than ever. This taught us to be patient and not give up.

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?

The most distinctive voice in my head is that of my mother who always reminded me that the sun will come up tomorrow, meaning that whatever difficulty there was in life, don’t panic. Even if you have to take a hit, go with it, face it and walk through it. No matter what, challenging times will pass.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Always be a trusted and available counselor when you’re needed whether it’s a client, prospect, partner, associate, team member, etc.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

One of the best examples of leadership I can illustrate is this. I was standing on the Wall Street trading floor at the exact moment when the 2008 financial crisis hit. All of a sudden, you could see panic in people’s eyes. Many traders froze, others ran to escape, to see how people reacted in that moment was a key defining moment. The leaders were the people that gathered their composure, assessed the situation and started to make phone calls to their teams to provide live updates of what was happening — it’s something I’ll never forget.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

As any entrepreneur will probably tell you, when business is difficult it is hard not to look at your friends who stayed on the corporate side of things and are enjoying maybe VP or executive-level status and all of the perks that come along with this; and wondering for a minute did I take too much of a chance here? But this quickly disappears when you compare how much job satisfaction you get when you are able to make a difference in a customer’s life. There’s nothing else like it.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

To be authentic and communicate no matter how difficult the news you have to deliver is.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Consistent patience and making people a priority go a long way to boost morale. When someone needs your time and attention, give it to them. If you are tied up tell them exactly when you will be available and stick to that time. If someone wants to communicate with you, be present, walk them through their needs, work with them through issues. And a great sense of humor helps!

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

To have direct, honest, face-to-face discussion or phone call conversation so that information can be understood, questions can be asked and any problems can be solved together.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Business leaders who get control of their financial situation now feel much more empowered to make plans for the future, and carry out those plans successfully.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Working with a financial expert to restructure debt, analyze your business processes and reduce expenses can help your business succeed and become more financially stable.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

  • Prop up the same business model vs. Invest in innovation, updates, competitive advantage
  • Hang on to high interest loans/debt vs. Restructure debt now
  • Focus on same customers vs. Diversify your business, customers
  • Paperwork, paperwork, paperwork vs. Optimize digital systems

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Companies that are agile, innovative and responsive are better able to adapt to a difficult economy.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  • Always be available to your customers and clients even if they just want to talk.
  • Many clients of Loan Mantra seek our advice on a variety of things. We try to be a resource for their business and a sounding board.
  • Be trustworthy.
  • We seek to democratize the business of finance to give equal access to financial services that were once only available to large corporations.
  • I receive so many referrals from loyal customers that tell me, I gave your contact information to three people. And those three people contact me and we do business right away. Our customers are really incredible.

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

Failure is not an option. If something doesn’t work, go back and do it again. I actually wrote my thesis on this principle. It could really be everyone’s mantra. At the company, Loan Mantra, we have another mantra, your success is our success. This means that our attention, purpose, and intention are all focused on you, our client. We are your ally to overcome obstacles, bringing peace through uncertain times to achieve your highest goals and aspirations. Your friendly, responsive agent will listen respectfully, and service your account actively through one of three locations in the US. We speak your language whether it’s English, Spanish, Hindi, Bengal, Hospitality, Laundry or Manicure, let us help you today.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Yes, please connect with Loan Mantra or contact me anytime at: www.loanmantra.com, 1.855.700.BLUE (2583) or YouTube/mymoneymantra. on Facebook/Loan-Mantra, https://www.linkedin.com/company/loanmantra.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Raj Tulshan Of Loan Mantra: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Bayer’s Dr Sebastian Guth: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Ti

Bayer’s Dr. Sebastian Guth: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Relate to people on a personal level — be honest and authentic

Relating to people using your head, heart and gut is so important. Human relationships and connectivity inspire people.

Dr. Sebastian Guth leads Bayer’s Pharmaceuticals business in the Americas Region, including the United States, Canada and Latin America. Prior to that, he served as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Bayer’s global pharmaceuticals business. Previously, he served as president and chief executive officer of Bayer Yakuhin Ltd., Osaka, leading Bayer’s healthcare business in Japan.

Dr. Guth started his career in the pharmaceutical industry with Schering AG, where he held senior roles in Asia and the Middle East. He was later appointed head of Strategy and Business Development for Schering’s European business. Following Bayer’s acquisition of Schering in 2006, he served as chief executive officer of Bayer Turk, Istanbul, and was senior representative of the Bayer Group in Turkey.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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’ve been a proud member of the Bayer team for 20 years. As a child, I always had a keen interest in life sciences, and, as I grew older, I was driven by a desire to help save and improve patients’ lives. This mission is personal. As a child, I witnessed my younger brother struggle with a condition that limited his ability to walk, and, years later, I watched my late father battle lung cancer. I saw firsthand how he struggled to understand his treatment options and navigate the healthcare system. From that experience, I recognized the shortcomings in the industry and the need for patient centricity.

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 dad was always my primary role model, and he influenced every aspect of my life. His passing inspired me to help others avoid what he and my family went through. The first and most important lesson his death taught me was to recognize that patients are people. My father was, and continued to be, much more than just a patient — he was a person.

His death had a profound influence on the direction my life has taken during the last 5 years. I saw from my dad’s perspective some of the shortcomings of the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. He was a sharp, well-educated man, but even he struggled to understand the language his doctors used to communicate with him. Thankfully, he had my brother, a physician, by his side to help him translate that jargon into plain language. However, the average person likely doesn’t have access to extra resources to help them understand their treatment options. That experience shone a light on the areas where we, as an industry, have work to do.

My mother also had a significant impact on our family, especially during my father’s illness and death. I’ve never met someone so selfless, strong and attuned to other people’s emotions. I’m so grateful she was there to lead our family through such a difficult time and support us along our journey.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Bayer Pharmaceuticals has a rich 150-year history of helping improve the quality of life for millions of patients around the world. When I joined the Bayer team, I wanted to highlight that our business is all about people — helping people live healthier lives and prolong their lives.

At Bayer, our vision is “Health for all, Hunger for none.” By focusing on this higher purpose, we aim to transcend barriers to health equity and ensure access to both healthcare solutions and nutritious food for all people. Together as one Bayer team, we can advance our vision and improve the quality of life for as many people as possible across the globe while conserving the world’s natural resources.

One inherent aspect of “Health for all, Hunger for none” is the importance of working collectively to meet this challenge. From my experience, building the greatest teams isn’t enough — effective leadership is key. Leaders need to be the glue that connects the talent. Combining talented people and genuine connections makes a great culture. I firmly believe that culture drives engagement, engagement creates purpose, and engagement plus purpose equals performance.

Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

It’s crucial to lead with empathy. To be authentic and human. To be candid and willing to open up to the people who you guide. It’s okay to be vulnerable. Vulnerability makes you more relatable and encourages others to be vulnerable as well.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

A leader must focus on what is mission critical and never lose sight of the end goal. A leader also must be radically human and lead by example. An effective leader should exhibit genuine authenticity and show vulnerability. Often, leaders believe they need to know every answer. But, in reality, the path forward is not always clear. Leaders who recognize their shortcomings, know what they don’t know, and are willing to lean on their teams for help are strong during challenging times because they create environments that value collaboration.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Don’t act invincible. Be relatable. The strongest leaders admit when they are struggling and ask for help. I’ve tried to redefine my self-confidence from a leadership perspective, and part of that is being comfortable in the uncomfortable. I hope my teams leave our conversations with a sense of authenticity, vulnerability and trust. Last, but not least: Laugh. Find the fun in work and recognize that optimism is always a choice.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Focus on goals, both long-term and short-term. Focus on your people and foster a culture that celebrates trying, testing and learning. Innovation enables success, even in an unpredictable environment. Open a dialogue with your teams about the company’s goals and how everyone can help co-create and achieve them. As a leader, you need to set the tone that it’s okay to be comfortable in the uncomfortable.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Stay connected as a team and overcommunicate. Everyone, from C-suite executives to entry-level employees, feels a sense of vulnerability during turbulent times. It’s important that employees believe the whole company is in it together. As a team, we should function as a family and pick each other up whenever needed.

What are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Foster a common purpose, a unifying vision. We’ve seen this in the last 18 months — this unifying drive to help humankind during the pandemic. We saw it personally with our team at Bayer. Last year, colleagues in our supply chain organization continuously worked long hours to ensure a massively important shipment made it to the United States to help patients in need. Having a common purpose builds a deeper commitment and encourages people not to simply show up, but to step up.
  2. Relate to people on a personal level — be honest and authentic. Relating to people using your head, heart and gut is so important. Human relationships and connectivity inspire people.
  3. Be willing to test and learn. I often share that I started my career as a failed entrepreneur. I tested something and I failed but am exceedingly grateful that I took the risk. What I learned from that experience helped me become a better leader. Experiencing failure makes us more empathic and compassionate. It helps us redefine “success” so we don’t let the fear of failure hold us back. Most importantly, it teaches us to embrace change — to keep trying new approaches, which ultimately helps us win.
  4. Be transparent. When I was based in Turkey, the company faced an incredibly tough time due to profound changes in the market environment. The initial inclination was to sugarcoat things, but we decided to go the other way. This was, of course, the right thing to do. I’ve come to appreciate the value of being transparent and sharing the good and the not-so-good. If we don’t bring things into the light, we can’t wrestle them down and they will never go away.
  5. Recognize and reward people. The impact of intentionally recognizing people has become more apparent to me since coming to the United States. The effort to publicly celebrate people whose individual work helped advance a goal can really galvanize a team. It’s credible how a small act of recognition with little to no monetary component can make a big difference.

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

“Optimism is a choice.”

How can our readers further follow your work?

Follow me on LinkedIn to learn more about what Bayer is doing to address unmet patient needs and my point of view on hot industry topics.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Bayer’s Dr Sebastian Guth: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Ti was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Landrian Ashe: “A client’s truth is THEIR truth and their story is their story to tell; It is not…

Landrian Ashe: “A client’s truth is THEIR truth and their story is their story to tell; It is not my role to discredit a person’s history when it’s easier to validate and uplift”

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Validate a client’s experience. A client’s truth is THEIR truth and their story is their story to tell. It is not my role to discredit a person’s history when it’s easier to validate and uplift.

As a part of my series about “Heroes Of The Homeless Crisis” I had the pleasure of interviewing Landrian Ashe.

Landrian Ashe is a San Diego native who currently serves as manager of residential services for Father Joe’s Villages, one of the largest homeless providers in the San Diego region. Landrian works hand in hand with clients experiencing homelessness to direct their path to the comprehensive services the organization offers and to build a positive relationship with them. With compassion and respect, Landrian has led his team to successfully overcome some of the challenging issues the pandemic has brought to the homeless population.

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?

I was born in Key West, Florida and relocated to San Diego at the age of 11. After a couple of years in San Diego, my family relocated again to Los Angeles where I attended Alhambra High School, and Glendale City College in the city of Glendale. After high school, and a couple of years attending Glendale City College, I joined the United States Army. I was stationed at Fort Lewis, WA for two years. Currently, I reside in San Diego with my family.

Is there a particular story or incident that inspired you to get involved in your work helping people who are homeless?

I don’t have a particular story. All I can say is that as a kid I can recall always praying for an end to homelessness. I guess now, I can’t imagine a better way to end homelessness than working in social services for Father Joe’s Villages.

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?

I believe one of the main reasons is the constant increase in the cost of living; especially in the cities that were mentioned. The cost of living continues to rise, as with the cost of gas, food, etc; however, the living wages do not match the cost of living.

In addition, working for social services for as long as I have, I would say that I believe substance use disorder and untreated, misdiagnosed/not diagnosed mental health issues contribute greatly to the issue on homelessness. As an example, I can tell you that many people who struggle with mental health issues do not feel like the medication they have been prescribed works for them; therefore, they chose to “self-medicate” with different street drugs.

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?

As with many of our clients, there are a number of underlying issues a person may be facing. Each person’s situation is unique to them. We have had clients from all walks of life. Some entered homelessness because of job loss, lack of family support, bad luck, severe mental health, substance use disorder and other factors. While there is no common root cause into why or how a person enters homelessness, it is important we understand each individual, their story and their needs in order to help them overcome homelessness and find stability in their lives.

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?

In my experience, I have interacted with clients who leave to cheaper states, but they return to San Diego as they were “unlucky making it work elsewhere”. By this I mean that even when they relocate, some of the clients struggle building relationships, finding jobs and taking care of their underlying issues.

When speaking about homelessness we need to keep in mind that many of our clients have underlying issues which could contribute to their homelessness. What I mean by this is that, although it might not be evident, many individuals experiencing homelessness are fighting their own battles. Many struggle with substance use disorder, mental health issues, past trauma, issues with budgeting, issues creating boundaries, etc. For some people, many of these issues could appear “manageable” or “easy to take care of”; however, for the people dealing with these barriers might not be as easy. This is the reason why I constantly encourage my staff and coworkers to “meet people where they are at”, as we don’t know what kind of battles they are fighting.

If someone passes a homeless person on the street, what is the best way to help them?

First and foremost, being kind. People in general tend to assume homeless individuals “choose” to be homeless. As I mentioned previously, many people just went through a rough patch and, unfortunately, ended in homelessness. No matter your social or economic status, gender, sexual orientation, age, race, etc., we are all human and deserve being treated as such. I understand when people have uneasy feelings about individuals who are experiencing homelessness; however, if they know of any resources where individuals could receive assistance it’d be great if they could guide them toward those resources. Having information is empowering. Most clients on the streets are unaware of what is available to them; therefore, they are unable to seek those resources out.

What is the best way to respond if a homeless person asks for money for rent or gas?

The best response to a client asking for money would be to offer and provide other resources, such as comprehensive career services, supportive housing, healthcare and other services that provide the tools needed to regain independence. Teach them how to fish, so they don’t have to keep asking for fish.

Be aware of what resources are available in your community and what’s the easiest way to access those resources.

Can you describe to our readers how your work is making an impact battling this crisis?

I think being a positive influence in the lives of our clients makes a huge impact. I strongly believe that showing clients compassion and understanding helps them feel heard and more comfortable approaching staff when needed. We are meeting clients at a point in their lives when times are really hard and being supportive helps tremendously. This is the reason why I try to actively educate myself in the different resources in the community available to assist our clients.

We take on a client-centered approach. The work that we do is not your traditional “cookie cutter”. Each person’s situation is taken into account and we work with them to derive a plan to help them resolve their homelessness experience.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the homeless crisis, and the homeless community? Also how has it affected your ability to help people?

Unfortunately, with the pandemic there has been a definite increase in people experiencing homelessness for the first-time in the region. This is due to many people losing their jobs, and housing. Many of those first-time homeless individuals are unaware of the resources and laws that were implemented after the COVID-19 pandemic began.

As a Residential Program Manager, I would tell you that although the COVID-19 pandemic forced us and our clients to adjust to a “new normal” we were able to overcome the challenges presented to us and still serve our clientele in the best way possible.

Can you share something about your work that makes you most proud? Is there a particular story or incident that you found most uplifting?

The first thing that makes me proud is seeing our clients self-resolve their homeless situation. When our clients stay in our program we witness the clients’ drive to become self-sufficient, being able to acquire stable income and being able to leave the shelter program without the need to rely on any financial assistance.

The other item that makes me most proud is building a team of people who have the same goals in mind.

Residential at Father Joe’s Villages is an entry level position and oftentimes the staff that are hired aren’t familiar with working with the population that we serve. As a result, training staff on the resources we have available, teaching them to be culturally aware and gaining an understanding of our agency’s goal of ending homelessness one life at a time, is something that I thoroughly enjoy.

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 could give many stories, but one that comes to mind in particular was an older client that had experienced homelessness for most of his adult life. I recall this client finally getting housed (after years of sleeping on the streets) crying when he realized he had obtained housing. It’s stories like his that keep me coming to work everyday.

Being able to be a part of someone’s journey is an experience that I cherish and success stories like this is what keeps me and my team motivated to do the work that we do.

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. Don’t prejudge — Certain demographics are often overlooked or frowned upon based upon their appearances. By getting to know the individuals, you’ll understand that most of society’s preconceived notions about homelessness are simply not true.
  2. Provide resources — Clothing, shoes, housing, meals, health care, referrals, amongst other things. Whether you’re donating to organizations or directing people to where those resources are located, be sure to make a positive impact in the lives of others.
  3. Provide affordable and supportive housing — More affordable and accessible housing options can help reduce the number of people who enter homelessness, and supportive housing can help those who are experiencing homelessness regain their independence.

If you had the power to influence legislation, which three laws would you like to see introduced that might help you in your work?

  1. Living wages — I feel like we have to be able to pay people a living wage. Paying a living wage would definitely decrease the amount of people currently facing homelessness.
  2. Affordable Housing — One of the biggest barriers for our clients is being able to afford rent. Our agency’s goal for all clients is that they gain income and secure housing. I have seen way too often a client gain employment only to come to a realization that the income they have isn’t enough to afford the rent.
  3. More Funding for Mental Health Resources — More funding to help clients who struggle with mental health and substance use disorders. A significant amount of our clients struggle with drugs and alcohol. I believe having funding to support clients facing these issues will go a long way in helping them get stable housing.

I know that this is not easy work. What keeps you going? Serving the people we serve.

What keeps me going is having an opportunity to positively impact someone’s life on a daily basis. As mentioned prior, I thoroughly enjoy being a part of a client’s journey and watching them exit successfully. Knowing that we provide the clients with the tools needed for success and being able to witness the “fruits of their labour” is extremely rewarding.

Do you have hope that one day this great social challenge can be solved completely?

I am not sure if it will ever be solved completely, but I will fight everyday and continue doing my part to hopefully get there someday.

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. Don’t take things personally. There are times when a client may project their feelings toward you. I may not have done anything personally to them but since I am the person sitting in front of them/interacting with them; I may get the brunt of their frustration.
  2. Boundaries are HIGHLY important. When you’re working in this field, you want to help in every way that you can, and do more for a client than you probably should. It’s important to remember that giving a person the resources and tools to help themself is probably the most effective way to positively affect someone’s life.
  3. You cannot save the world. A person will determine their own story, in their own time. You have to remember that you cannot want something for someone more than they want it themselves.
  4. Don’t take your work home. Work and life balance is extremely important. When I initially came into this line of work, clients’ stories and situations impacted me greatly. So much so that I would often take it home with me. Over the years I have come to learn that this was not a healthy practice. I can now say that I have learned great self-care practices.
  5. Validate a client’s experience. A client’s truth is THEIR truth and their story is their story to tell. It is not my role to discredit a person’s history when it’s easier to validate and uplift.

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. 🙂

Being in the climate we are currently in as a country, I would definitely like to make a positive impact in the social equality realm. I want to contribute to an environment where I can help create a culture of understanding of one another, so that no individual is unfairly treated. Social injustice is a huge issue and something that has reared into a more complex issue.

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

I was always taught to treat people how you want to be treated. I try to practice that in every interaction that I have. I feel like if we did so as a society, the world would be a much better place.

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 don’t have anyone famous that I would want to meet. I believe if I could have a private breakfast with anyone, it would have to be my grandmother. I lost my grandmother several years ago, but she obviously has made a huge impact in my life. There isn’t a day that goes by in which I can’t still hear her, telling me to treat people how you would like to be treated. I would give anything in this world to be able to have my grandmother share that with me again.

How can our readers follow you online?

Unfortunately, I am not on social media. But you can follow the work that Father Joe’s Villages is doing by visiting the organization’s website, my.neighbor.org. Or you can see the latest news from Father Joe’s Villages on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much!


Landrian Ashe: “A client’s truth is THEIR truth and their story is their story to tell; It is not… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

‘CC’s Closet’ and ‘I care about u’: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That…

‘CC’s Closet’ and ‘I care about u’: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Follow your dreams — We were passionate about this cause and it led to something wonderful. Being interested and excited about what you are trying to accomplish is paramount. It is also important to keep in mind that goals are achievable, no matter the difficulty as long as you are excited by them.

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 Sierra Benayon-Abraham.

CC’s Closet is a social enterprise business that was founded by a teen entrepreneur named Sierra Benayon-Abraham with the goal of supporting sustainability within the fashion industry and giving back to causes within the local community. By hand crafting one of a kind bags that incorporate recycled fabrics into the design, CC’s Closet’s products are sourced and produced sustainably, working to raise awareness about fast fashion. Additionally, with each purchase a portion of the proceeds are either donated back to Shining Through, a school for children with autism, Ve’ahavta, a jewish humanitarian agency, or Nova’s Ark, a centre that works with rescued therapeutic animals and children with varied abilities.

I care about u was formed by two sisters, Bailee and Justine Sneiderman, 12 and 15 years of age. The phrase, I care about u stood out as it can help build a community of kindness and support. Their goal was to help the community and as many people as possible, and this was accomplished in two ways. First, the I care about u logo will stand out to people passing by and spark a smile in them. Second, 100% of their profits are donated to food banks to help fight food insecurity.

Together, CC’s Closet and I care about u have collaborated, forming a unique partnership with the goal of combining all their passions into one. They are selling an I care about u sweatshirt, face mask and CC’s Closet handbag that gives back to local charities, supports sustainable products and encourages social entrepreneurism in this day and age.

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?

Both having avid interests in the world of entrepreneurship and social policy from an early age, we felt drawn towards the challenge of innovation and the field of business throughout our upbringings. From running our first lemonade stands at the age of six, donating a small bag of change to local charities within our neighbourhoods, we knew this was what we aspired to do. Additionally, we have both developed a keen interest in volunteerism and discovering the most effective way at supporting local causes. Therefore, after completing some preliminary research, and discovering the phrase social entrepreneurship, it seemed there was nothing more desirable to pursue. We had found the perfect way to combine our two most burning passions into one.

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

To attract new customers and broaden our reach beyond digital sales, we both independently participated in local outdoor craft markets. These markets had a fee to participate and sell our products and other vendors were less socially conscious in their purpose. Thus, we came up with the idea of hosting our own market which would be tailored to our desired social criteria. We plan to begin action with these markets in the new year, and will have other like minded vendors to attract a larger audience.

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

While there have been a multitude of leading philosophies that have guided our lives, and entrepreneurship careers, the three main principles we strive to follow are open-mindedness, believing in yourself, and above all passion. To begin with, open-mindedness has been fundamental for growth in daily life and in our individual businesses. It is the ability to look at situations with a new perspective that ultimately allows for further growth and progress. Belief in oneself is key to being successful when operating your own business, but also throughout daily life in general. Constantly striving to achieve your greatest potential, while recognizing your faults and weaknesses, ensures success and self-preservation. Lastly, and arguably the most important guiding philosophy, is passion. Whatever you choose to do in life, do it because you love it. Because you are willing to put your all into it, and because it is the thing you are most passionate about.

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”?

As teen entrepreneurs, we wanted to make a difference in our community with our mutual interests in business and helping others. Over the past year, we independently built our own businesses, one called “I care about u” and the second called “CC’s Closet.” I care about u is a business that sells masks and sweatshirts with the original logo “I care about u” printed on them. 100% of the profits are donated to food banks to help fight food insecurity. CC’s Closet is a business that hand crafts one of a kind bags that support sustainability within the fashion industry and give back a portion of their proceeds to one of three charitable causes. Recently, we have been working together to form a partnership that combines both of our products and initiatives into one in order to continue to promote social entrepreneurism, sustainable products, teen innovation and giving back to our local communities.

How do you think this will change the world?

We feel this initiative will change the world as it incorporates an extensive amount of different positive aspects that all contribute to inflicting positive change. There is the more apparent element of donating a portion of the proceeds back towards people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, both incredibly important causes impacting our society today. However, there is far more than meets the eye to this initiative. Sustainability among consumers has become a widely discussed topic within the 21st century, and when developing our product lines, that was an especially important concept we kept in mind when finding sustainable sources to produce our products. Similarly, we feel it is especially influential for other young adults and teens to know they are not alone. It can often be frightening, trying to accomplish change as a young child in a world full of successful adults. However, by sharing each other’s stories, and forming partnerships to help support one another, we hope to evoke many feelings of inspiration on numerous generations to come. After all, who doesn’t love a cozy sweatshirt, high quality face mask, fashionable handbag that is made sustainably, gives back to local causes within the community and inspires?

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?

In line with the concepts discussed in Black Mirror and the Law of Unintended Consequences, we feel the only potential drawback would be growth at an unmanageable rate. What we mean by that, is that we currently take great pride in sourcing all the materials for our products sustainably and maintaining a close relationship with our customers. The fear for any business owner is that unmanageable growth is reached and the vision of the enterprise gets slightly faded in the mix. Nevertheless, we are dedicated to the missions we have embedded into the many layers of our company, and are always operating with precautions in mind.

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

Teen entrepreneurs who wanted to make a significant positive impact in society — We couldn’t see anything more perfect than this. Generally when we walk to school, we pass by a few homeless people. Seeing these people, we can infer that they are struggling to feed themselves. When the pandemic hit, we instantly knew that this situation would only become worse. Any steps we could take would help aid the cause, but the idea of how we would take on this task hadn’t fully developed. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to take action. We both formed our own organizations targeted at helping different aspects of this social issue. We were doing well on our own, but knew that working together would make us and our charitable goals have a higher success rate. In this case, 1+1>2 as it allows us to cross promote to each other’s curated audiences.

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

In order to lead this idea to widespread adoption the most advantageous element would merely be the support of others. We believe in the power of numbers, and the most helpful thing anyone could offer us would just be their support and assistance with spreading awareness about the initiative. We would be beyond appreciative if you would just tell one family member, friend, colleague or classmate about our story and what we are trying to accomplish. Everyone’s kind words of encouragement mean the world to us, and we cannot thank you enough for supporting our initiative!

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

  1. Never give up — Perseverance is the gateway to success. The more effort and time put into a task or project, the more you will gain from it. In other words, keep trying even when it may appear that there is no hope. When we first started, we struggled with almost everything. We didn’t even know how to fulfil orders. On days when we received many, it was challenging to keep track of what had and hadn’t been done. If we had quit then, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today. We have seen people wearing our products and we have been able to make our first significant donation.
  2. Follow your dreams — We were passionate about this cause and it led to something wonderful. Being interested and excited about what you are trying to accomplish is paramount. It is also important to keep in mind that goals are achievable, no matter the difficulty as long as you are excited by them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new — As we are young entrepreneurs, we have never had an experience quite like this. Being curious is an amazing tool to possess because it can lead to ideas you may have never even considered. Throughout our journey, we had to follow through on many events that we had minimal knowledge about, but the fear of not succeeding never shone through. We believed that you could even further your understanding of something if you have never done it before.
  4. It’s okay to ask for help — You may not always know all the answers. Although we like to believe that we do, assistance is never a bad thing. Getting insight on what is not working out or could use improvement helps aid your success. When we were stuck, we reached out to family members to provide us with their unique opinion on how to solve the problem.
  5. Knowledge is power — The more that you know about a specific topic or cause can change your actions towards it. It is also important to remember that you learn more every day, and your information continues to grow. As you grow as a person, your ideas begin to further develop and evolve with your ever changing knowledge. Keep learning!

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

The ability to have a strong mindset is especially important when it comes to accomplishing any task. Here are three different factors we try to keep in mind when approaching every situation, and overcoming any obstacles we may face.

  1. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! — Although it may be slightly intimidating at first, never let fear cloud your judgement for further discovery or innovation. It is those creative thinkers that have the ability to invoke real change!
  2. Try not to procrastinate (we know, it’s hard!) — Although you may get told this often, and it isn’t always easy to follow through with, we have learned that trying your best to not procrastinate can prove to be exceptionally beneficial for overall success and even your own mental health. Getting work done in a prioritized order and sticking to a plan will prove to reduce stress levels significantly and help you stay on track in order to achieve your goals!
  3. Everything happens for a reason — While this is sometimes hard to believe, try to keep in mind that perhaps everything happens for a reason, you just may not know it yet. Whether you weren’t pleased with the mark you just got on your most recent math test (for all the students out there!) or your supplier just informed you that your inventory is going to be a month late (for all you business owners!), allow yourself a moment of anxiety, but then take a breath and remember it will all work out in the end.

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 🙂

By joining us, you will be supporting young female entrepreneurs, increasing your own social capital by investing in social justice opportunities, and growing a movement. As an added bonus, you will be helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 by selling high quality reusable masks, and looking great while doing it by wearing a handcrafted one of a kind bag. How could you resist? We have started and developed our own incredible dreams into a reality from scratch as teen female entrepreneurs aiming at making a difference in society. We are trying to create a movement that supports kindness, caring and compassion throughout communities through the unique “I care about u” message, while supporting recycling and the environment, helping fight food insecurity and poverty. You could have a part in this movement. You could have the chance to make a difference. You could tell the world that you care about them.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @icare.aboutu and @ccs_closetco

Websites: https://icareaboutu.ca and https://ccsclosetco.com

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


‘CC’s Closet’ and ‘I care about u’: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Matt Clark Of Corcentric: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Matt Clark Of Corcentric: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Your people are your most important asset — protect them as best you can. We have managed to get through each Black Swan event in our company’s history without doing layoffs or furloughs. This has allowed us, each time, to come roaring out of recessions and has contributed to a tremendous amount of loyalty.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Clark PRESIDENT CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER.

Matt Clark is the President and Chief Operating Officer for Corcentric. He is responsible for setting and steering Corcentric’s strategic vision along with its mission of empowering businesses to do more. His leadership has led to a substantial increase in employees, revenue, and the company’s growing presence in the B2B FinTech space. Since the beginning of 2018, Matt has guided the company through three acquisitions that position Corcentric as a global leader in Source-to-Pay and Order-to-Cash solutions.

Matt is an adviser and guest lecturer for the University of Maryland’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Program, and is an active member of Vistage Chief Executive Group, which provides peer-to-peer mentoring for DC area business leaders. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

Growing up I had a passion for sports and a goal to have a career in sports broadcasting. I went to the University of Maryland and got a degree in Broadcast Journalism. Upon graduation, I hoped to start a career path at NFL Films; however, I was not able to get my foot in the door. Needless to say, I was pretty upset about it. I was then presented with an opportunity to work at a technology startup so I decided I would do that to make some money while I figured out a new plan for my broadcasting career. The opportunity with the technology startup exposed me to all elements of working in a tech company. I had to wear multiple hats (Marketing, Sales, Project Management, Product Management, etc.) and quickly developed a passion for what I was doing. What I thought was going to be a short-term job to make some money turned out to be the catalyst for a career in tech.

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?

In Corcentric’s early days, I was out on the road selling. When I look back on those days it makes me laugh and, in fact, cringe at how naïve and unprepared I was for those meetings. I would walk into a meeting with my presentation and prepared talking points. As soon as the prospect took me off script, I was immediately in over my head and looking for the closest escape hatch. Those experiences were not fun, but they were a wake-up call and a major catalyst for me to be relentlessly focused, each and every day, on developing the skillsets and knowledge required to ensure Corcentric’s success, as well as my own.

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 most grateful for my parents. They both, in different ways, showed me what hard work and putting others before yourself looks like and I have tried to do the same in both my personal and professional life. They were partners, both in business and in life, and I watched them navigate through the highs and the lows. When I was a teenager, we had a family business that went bankrupt. In what were extremely difficult times financially and emotionally, they made sure my siblings and I were well cared for and felt safe. Through hard work over the course of many years, they persevered and bounced back in a major way.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When the business was founded 25 years ago, the vision (and purpose) was to enable companies to reduce the cost of doing business so they could invest in sustainable growth. We saw an opportunity to provide the subject matter expertise and technology at scale that would unlock the full potential of our customers. Our goal continues to be focusing our creative DNA on providing every competitive advantage possible to optimize how businesses purchase, pay, and get paid.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

When the pandemic really took hold in March of 2020, I knew the first “all employee” call was going to be crucial to setting the right tone for how we were going to navigate through the impending turbulent times. In preparation for that call, I remember telling myself to focus on projecting courage, emotional intelligence, and integrity. I knew that if I put those things at the center of my focus that we, as a company, would get off on the right foot to take this journey where the destination was unknown.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I never considered giving up. We were likely better positioned to face the pandemic than a lot of other companies, yet the challenges were still huge. But we persevered. My motivation? The belief in my company and the dedication and hard work of our entire team. That’s what sustains me. They quickly adapted to working from home and working remotely. They balanced work with taking care of their families…becoming part-time teachers and parental care givers and they never gave up on Corcentric or its mission. So, how could I?

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Leaders need to lead with confidence, vision, and positivity. Even during the toughest times, your employees look to you, not only for guidance but also for the signs that, regardless of the turmoil, there is a future to look forward to. You need to pull together the strongest members of your organization and have them work together to develop and enact the steps necessary to overcome any challenge. And you must communicate all of this to the entire organization, so that everyone is on the same page.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Communicate, communicate, communicate. Silence is never good when people are concerned about their future. We were fortunate in that we did not have to reduce headcount and we made that clear to our team. We hold quarterly town halls to let all our employees, worldwide, know where the company is in achieving its goals, as well as setting forward new goals. Each month we name two employees as recipients of our Excellence Awards. These employees are nominated by their peers so, again, we give our people the power to acknowledge one another.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Be as honest and transparent as possible. Trust is the cornerstone of good business and employee relationships. If you lose that, you lose everything. I also believe that people can handle bad news…but you also have to communicate how you are dealing with the issues and what you anticipate the outcome will be.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that predictability can be quickly tossed on its head. That’s why leaders need to expect the unexpected and make plans accordingly. Certainly, you can’t anticipate every Black Swan event, but you can create buckets of unpredictability (weather, disease, environmental, war, etc.) and create a plan for each, one that will hopefully never need to be acted upon.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Your people are your most important asset. My father, who founded this company, and I have always felt that it’s the people that work for you that really make a difference. We treat our employees with respect, making them an integral part of reaching our goals. That may be the main reason that we’ve not only survived this crisis, we’ve actually thrived.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The most common mistake I see businesses and business leaders make is failing to communicate. When you leave a communication void, others will fill that void for you and, unfortunately, often what that void gets filled with is not helpful to the situation. Second mistake…not having a cash preservation strategy. The number one reason businesses do not make it through difficult times is because they run out of cash. Lastly, I often see the mistake being made of not protecting a company’s most valuable assets which are its people. Layoffs and/or furloughs are often the first moves companies make in difficult times. We have always viewed this as a last resort and have been able to avoid any layoffs or furloughs during the Black Swan events that have occurred during our company’s history.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

The simple mindset during challenging times should be “less is more.” Double down on the core areas of your business that you have the best handle on and that you have the highest confidence will be able to provide the financial bridge out of turbulent times. Everything else should be put on the shelf or deprioritized. At the onset of the pandemic, we tried to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and prospects, to think about what solutions we had that would help them best navigate through these difficult times. You must remember that your customers and prospects are navigating the same obstacles that you are and make sure you are not approaching them with anything that is not going to be at the very top of their critical priorities.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Your people are your most important asset — protect them as best you can. We have managed to get through each Black Swan event in our company’s history without doing layoffs or furloughs. This has allowed us, each time, to come roaring out of recessions and has contributed to a tremendous amount of loyalty.
  2. Cash is king — have several contingency plans addressing how you will manage and preserve cash in different scenarios.
  3. Communicate early and often — communicate frequently and make sure you strike the right balance of being confident and encouraging while not hiding bad/negative news. When you deliver bad/negative news, make sure you complement it with what the plan is to deal with it.
  4. Less is more — keep things simple and rally the troops to focus all their attention on the things that will be critical to getting through the tough times.
  5. Focus on operational efficiency — reexamine every aspect of your business model with the goal of reducing operating costs on a permanent basis. When you come out the other side of the turbulent times, costs will stay low which will allow your company’s profits to grow faster than those of your competitors.

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 “Everything happens for a reason; either it’s a blessing or a lesson.” Life both professionally and personally is a constant roller coaster ride. Viewing the ups as blessings and the downs as lessons helps to keep me grounded and helps to keep from getting too high or too low.

How can our readers further follow your work?

https://www.linkedin.com/company/corcentric/

https://twitter.com/Corcentric

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Matt Clark Of Corcentric: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Todd Taylor Of Frog Design: 5 Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We want our brand to carry desirable associations, be memorable and help align people and their actions. Because people naturally respond to stories, the narrative around a brand influences things as diverse as how much you can charge, who wants to work for you or how management makes important decisions. When we think about brand marketing in that context, we can conclude that it is a long-term and a strategic endeavor.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Todd Taylor.

Todd Taylor is Executive Director at frog, a global creative consultancy and part of Capgemini Invent. He holds bachelor and master degrees (MBA) in business and international management, having studied in Canada and Denmark. His background includes two decades as a marketing leader for start-ups, private companies and public multinationals. Before joining frog, he spent six years working with Nobel Laureate Professor Dr. Gerd Binnig and his team dedicated to automating the analysis of spatial data collected from mobile sensing platforms on and above the earth’s surface. Today, Todd works in collaboration with frog’s senior creatives and marketing experts to create content and experiences that help manifest the frog brand promise around the globe. In his private life he is an accomplished rock climber, fitness enthusiast, biohacker and amateur philosopher who is passionate about holistic health. Born on the island of Newfoundland in Canada’s North Atlantic, Todd has lived in Munich Germany since 2004 where he makes his home together with his two daughters.

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’m an MBA by training, but I have always been drawn to marketing for its creative quality. In my bachelor studies I realized that I wanted work with ideas, bring them to life and collaborate with top creative talent. Initially this led me to enter the advertising and communications agency business. I found it stimulating and I had the right attributes for that world, but eventually I wanted to build a brand from the ground up. I took that opportunity with a late-stage software start-up and we built a software product brand that was then acquired three years later by a Fortune 1000 company. In the deal I joined the acquiring company, but the pull to return to the creative industry was strong. I joined frog in 2013 to work alongside best design talent in the world. Today I lead frog’s global marketing organization and I consider it my mission to help manifest the frog brand promise around the world.

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 generally like trying out new things, but that did get me in trouble a few times. I was an early adopter of marketing automation systems, webinar platforms and various other technologies. This was the mid to late 2000s and I was able to create some great results, but there were also failures. I recall an email that was pushed to the wrong distribution list, resulting in thousands of people being simultaneously invited to a meeting with our CEO. It’s funny to think about now, but at the time it really wasn’t. What have I learned? You need to know your superpowers, stay focused on them, and surround yourself with specialists for the rest. I’ve also learned that a 60-hour week is a recipe for failure; you accomplish a lot, but mistakes are inevitable and they can easily erase your progress. Marketing work is on show by its nature and there is nowhere to hide, so you really need to deliver quality and value in exchange for the attention. With all of that said, the greatest successes of my career have come from pushing the limits and taking risks. I suppose the advice there is to use good judgement, but always play to win instead of playing not to lose.

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

I think frog stands out for the exceptional challenges we get to take on together with our clients. They come to us with unstructured problems, significant pivots in their business or future opportunity spaces to explore. The variety of intellectual challenges and the diversity of talent is something special. frog is a creative environment where you can be your authentic self. I really love that; it is a very powerful mechanism for our clients. We see client teams accustomed to corporate environments gradually integrate into the frog way of doing things during a program; they adapt their demeanor, let go of organizational silos and open up to creative possibilities. By then end of a program it is not uncommon for a client to casually ask about joining our team.

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

A recent product from our ventures portfolio that captures my imagination is called Campfire. It’s an augmented reality system for 3D remote collaboration in the design of physical objects and spaces. It’s thrilling. We’ve seen how fast the paradigms of virtual collaboration have changed in the last 18 months and, having witnesses the shift implied for design teams, I fully appreciate how Campfire is positioned to fundamentally change not only industrial and spatial design, but a host of other industries. If you want to see Campfire and other examples from the frog portfolio they can be found at frogdesign.com.

In frog marketing, we have been working on a rearticulation of the frog brand. The work began following our 50th anniversary year in 2019 and took on new dimensions after frog’s acquisition by Capgemini in 2020. The work is grounded in values authentic to frog that connect with the challenger mindset of our clients as they make bold decisions, launch new experiences or businesses, or reinvent their organizations. We’ve been able to manifest this within our storytelling and presentation to position frog for a new era as part of Capgemini Invent.

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?

We want our brand to carry desirable associations, be memorable and help align people and their actions. Because people naturally respond to stories, the narrative around a brand influences things as diverse as how much you can charge, who wants to work for you or how management makes important decisions. When we think about brand marketing in that context, we can conclude that it is a long-term and a strategic endeavor.

Contrast that to product marketing for the purpose of demand generation. In that case we are trying to drive sales by reaching someone who has a need or problem that our product or service can solve. We want to make our solution clear and lead a potential customer to engage with us and eventually to make a purchase. It takes many forms across channels for different types of products and businesses, but essentially it is a more measurable, near-term approach to driving revenue. If you launch a new service, you want customers to know about it and sign-up.

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?

Investments in brand marketing are less focused on influencing revenue this or next quarter, but rather positively impacting business outcomes continually, over time. You want to actively manage what information your brand transmits, how it should make people feel and how you want to influence behavior. To be explicit about those things, you need to invest in building and managing your brand with intention. I like to encourage the idea of thinking in decades; if you want to establish a brand that has some deeper meaning within a culture or for a specific tribe, you need to work with long-term objectives. That said, the investment needs to be in balance with more direct, demand-oriented approaches that support the health of the business in the immediate term.

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. Prioritize meaning.

If the brand is new, you need to really understand the pure essence of what that it should represent to the people who should care. If a brand has existed for a while, embark on a search for truth and be authentic to what is at the heart of the brand. You don’t need too many truths, and in fact, you should rather be ruthless in your focus. You also don’t need to be completely limited by what you find; every brand needs updating to stay relevant. However, if you go deep enough you should find characteristics with enduring resonance. The example here is the frog brand; I personally spent three months examining frog history, interviewing its founder and early employees, reviewing old photos, adverts, presentations and so on to isolate the foundational elements for the brand strategy we have today.

2. Create a compelling brand narrative.

Throughout the evolution of human society, storytelling has been a fundamental way of transferring information among large groups of people. We understand stories and respond to them. Brands are the carriers of ideas, so spend time with your storytelling and make it compelling. If you want to understand more about that, I recommend reading “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harrari. He explains the concept of an “imagined order” within the larger context of the cognition revolution, illustrating the role of a brand in creating a sense of shared identity.

3. Don’t forget your employees.

Your brand is a rallying point that unifies purpose and action and you want your employees to identify with the story. In fact, they should be co-creating it. “Black box” creativity isn’t necessarily a good idea, so get your people involved. Ask them their perspectives, understand what matters to them and activate them as fellow travelers in the journey. When MGM resorts undertook a brand repositioning, they put a priority on employee engagement knowing that their people would be on the front line of expressing the brand. It’s a smart move and one that is sometimes overlooked. You can read more about that example in an HBR article from 2018.

4. You can’t completely control your brand, nor should you want to.

What I mean here is that the social web puts your brand in public domain, so you can’t police it like a corporate comms cop. In fact, you should find ways to help passionate brand fans and content creators to actively engage with your brand. The act of “hacking” IKEA products to reconfigure and adapt them initially happened outside any strategic initiative from IKEA. In time, IKEA embraced the movement and supported it. Of course, there are examples of brands being appropriated for undesirable reasons as well, so you need to pay attention and maintain the integrity of your core values.

5. Don’t be boring.

We are living in a world of sameness where many brands look and sound alike. Conveying emotion should be a fundamental part of your brand’s content strategy, especially when logical appeals trend toward parity with your competitors. Think about a brand like Oatly: they produce oat milk, which I suggest is a relatively undifferentiated product. However, I’m not able to name a competing brand of oat milk off the top of my head. A lot of thought has gone into the concept, positioning, visual design, tone of voice and packaging to create a universe around Oatly and they are clearly intentional in that effort. As a consumer of oat milk, I can say that it has worked on me.

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 personally find Red Bull interesting in its evolution from an energy drink into a media and entertainment brand. It has been so well-executed that it seems natural, even logical, for their audience. Their execution across product, partnerships and content marketing is outstanding. I also admire their ambition to commit to such an audacious business extension. To replicate that, a brand would need to find its own strategic rationale and work with a business ambition that fits. They need to have a clear understanding of their own brand character and deep insights about their current and future customers. Those insights are fundamental in articulating and executing a new mission. At frog we support that process though design research and strategy programs that identify insights and growth opportunities.

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?

In my opinion measuring a brand building initiative is more difficult than measuring demand generation campaigns, and I don’t think many marketers would argue otherwise. However, that doesn’t suggest it is impossible and certainly not that the investment is without value. There are important aspects of running a business that are simply more difficult to measure. Culture is another of those, but few would argue against its value. For this reason, we should avoid the “campaign mentality” and think of brand building as a strategic, long-term initiative and therefore measure results over the long-term. We can observe trends in sales, market share, customer retention and so on; however, we need to accept that we will be working with correlative metrics. Digital platforms are helpful in surveying customers and the market on awareness and perception, implementing social listening and measuring sentiment metrics. Every business is different, so you should really be pursuing an attribution model specific to your company’s scenario. At frog we have dedicated teams specialized in brand development, activation and enablement who go deep on these topics including the enabling technologies.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

frog has a social audience of over 1 million followers and it is an important channel for the expression our brand. Tangibly, social media is essential in recruitment, driving inbound business and keeping a dialogue with our community. We are in an industry where creativity, craft and innovation are essential, and those values translate well to social. With that said, we are looking to push frog toward the leading edge on social media, to be even more exciting and engaging in the future. We’ve started thinking about our digital content marketing through a “social first” lens and will be expanding into new territories in 2022. You can keep up with our progress by following “frog design” on Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram.

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

Mindset is everything. Don’t get pulled into the inevitable noise of an organization; use your power to foster a work environment that prioritizes respect and trust and protect your team when necessary. Make sure to have fun, laugh a lot, play and don’t take yourself too seriously. And engage in regular physical exercise, eat well and meditate; you need to be healthy and focused on your mission to thrive.

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 like to see more people taking better care of their own holistic health; mind, body and spirit. If we take better care of ourselves, we are better prepared to help others, address difficult issues, stay open-minded and bring positive change into the world. We are also better able to let go of our egos and be empathetic toward others.

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

An Aikido Sensei of mine used to tell me “don’t push, don’t pull, don’t think.” It suggests working within a flow state as an approach to martial arts and life. Another Sensei would repeat the value of “acceptance.” It took me some time to integrate the meaning of that, but I’ve come to appreciate that each of us can choose how we engage life, and accepting the circumstances of life as they are presented to you is a great source of personal power.

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. 🙂

Wow, I would be out of my league to hold a dinner conversation with Sam Harris, the American philosopher, but I appreciate his thinking and would love to chat with him.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

It’s probably a little strange for a marketer, but I’m not putting much energy into personal social media. However, you can find me on LinkedIn as tdtaylor and I’d be happy to exchange ideas with your readers.

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

Thank you as well. I enjoyed your questions and hope the responses were helpful.


Todd Taylor Of Frog Design: 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.

Carly Furman Of Nayax LLC: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Carly Furman Of Nayax LLC: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Being honest, yet positive with your team, and also keeping fear in check so we can make clear-headed decisions!

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Carly Furman.

For the past 5+ years, Carly Furman, CEO of Nayax LLC, has overseen all operations for the North American Market and previously worked at Nayax’s R&D Headquarters in Herzliya, Israel where she was the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of all of Nayax’s subsidiary companies. Prior to joining the Nayax family, Carly worked in public accounting and corporate finance, focusing on the biotech, fintech, and real estate sectors. Carly has a BA degree in Economics with an emphasis on Accounting from the University of CA, Santa Barbara (UCSB) and is a registered CPA.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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 am originally from San Diego, CA, and went to school at University of California, Santa Barbara, where I majored in Economics with an accounting emphasis; I also studied at the University of Copenhagen and am a CPA. I started my career in Big 4 public accounting and then transitioned to M&A work in several hi-tech sectors. I always loved to travel and take (calculated!) risks and in 2013 moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, where my husband is from. Nayax R&D is based in Israel, and in 2014 Nayax was looking for an American CFO to help with the acquisition of their largest distributor, who was based in the US. I came on board and hit the ground running! I then also helped establish Nayax Germany, Nayax Italy, Nayax Canada and Nayax Mexico. In 2016 I was presented with the amazing opportunity to head Nayax North America, and relocated to Hunt Valley, MD to assume the CEO role of Nayax’s largest market. It’s been a blast!

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?

Not really a mistake as much as sometimes just not even realizing what you don’t know when walking into a situation. It was my 4th day with Nayax. I travelled from Israel to the parent office of the company we acquired in the US. The receptionist took me into a large meeting room with probably 10–12 seats set up. The acquired company’s former CFO and controller looked at me and asked where everyone else was to help with the 1-week post-acquisition information dump so we could take over the financial operations. I smiled and said, “It’s just me!” I could see the panic in their eyes. I was a bit freaked out on the inside, but got it done. I still laugh when I think about walking in by myself and the expectation was that I would have a 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?

Nayax’s co-founder Yair Nechmad has helped shape my career path a lot. He has given me tremendous opportunity, taught me through example to really trust your team and listen to customers and colleagues, and to say “I’ll get back to you” when need to think about something… you can still be action oriented and agile, yet take a pause.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Democratizing cashless payment acceptance is important to us. We strive for all unattended retailers to be able to power their business through seamless and affordable acceptance of all cashless payment forms.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Well, I do not think there was anything more uncertain than the start of the pandemic! We were all worried about the unknown state of our businesses, keeping our families healthy and learning to work and learn remotely. I’m proud that we pivoted quickly as an organization, learned to support each other and our customers in new ways and that we did not have to do any layoffs or furloughs. That was my main goal.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I have not. I love what I do and working with my team and customers. Challenging times actually motivate me to work harder and find creative solutions.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Being honest, yet positive with your team, and also keeping fear in check so we can make clear-headed decisions!

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Being direct and truthful, but in an empathetic and solution focused manner. I prefer, when possible, to bring up the challenge with a few potential solutions already. Also, facilitating open dialogue is crucial for me. My mom always said to me growing up that “the worst truth is better than the best lie.” I know I feel this way and assume others do too, but to make it constructive I try to always bring a solution to the table if presenting less then desirable news.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

I think being able to make quick decisions, trust your judgement and being unafraid to keep plans dynamic.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Be as agile as possible. We are all faced with tons of individual micro-decisions each day. Of course, some decisions have much greater impact than others, but try and make decisions quickly and based on the best information you have, and if something looks to not be working, trust yourself to make the change.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Listening to customers’ changing needs and pain points and being agile enough to adjust your offering and sales strategy is crucial. Also, trusting the feedback from your team, who is in the day-to-day details, and then helping to formulate a new strategy (when needed) with them is really important to me.

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

“Everyone has had to do everything for a first time.” When making a big career leap it is common to doubt yourself and think “Am I ready? Can I do this?” In times when I have doubted myself, I remember every person has had to do a task or role for a first time. It took time, but I trust myself to know that if I want something enough, I will figure out how to get it done!

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can follow me on Linked In or at www.nayax.com.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Carly Furman Of Nayax LLC: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Lev Mazur Of Quantfury On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Less is more. When there’s less, you get more out of it. Don’t over-explain. In business, try to look at the source and simplify processes.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lev Mazur.

Lev Mazur is founder of Quantfury, a multi-asset global brokerage that delivers unmatched trading conditions of real-time exchange spot prices and zero fees to retail traders around the world (outside of the U.S and Canada). Previously, Lev was a quantitative trader of proprietary capital, forex, futures, commodities, and equity markets. He started in the commodity and forex trading business in 1992.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was born in Russia and immigrated to Israel with my family in my early teens. For as long as I can remember, I was very interested in financial markets and how numbers in those markets work. I saw markets as a constantly moving puzzle, and I was interested in the outcome of the market’s movements. At a very young age, I was influenced by the author, Issac Asimov, and the character in his Foundation book series: Hari Seldon. I was particularly intrigued by the fictional science of psychohistory, which the character Hari Seldon invents. Psychohistory is basically trying to recognize the relationship between patterns of time and certain socio-economic events, and how the outcome of those patterns affects society.

I started to study computer science at Hebrew University and then took a job at a bank where I began trading. I gained experience as a trader, but I was always interested in the science (if such existed) behind speculating in the markets and the predictability of decision-making by market participants. I realized that you need two things to succeed in trading. One is having an advantage to win in this business by seeing things that others don’t. Second, having an understanding of people’s sentiment is like being backstage into what goes on in their decision-making process.

I always understood that psychohistory could be applied to many things. But in the financial markets you can apply it immediately because you’ve got a recurring set of tangibles that affect the markets. These include price movement, earnings, economic or financial news, and geopolitical events. All of what’s happening in financial markets represents the emotions of a significant group of people. You can look at a model. It’s a reoccurring event, but the event is the same. You can have economic news that can be good or bad, but it’s the type of event that is always there to affect the model.

As the years passed, I saw the changes in the retail trading industry, as it became a club of people who are preaching and teaching greed. I saw an opportunity to make money and clean up the industry at the same time, and I set out to offer an alternative way of speculating as a lifestyle choice to promote an intellectual challenge, with unmatched conditions and a better user experience.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

There’s so much that is disruptive, but our major disruption is honesty, and the architecture of the business that’s behind it. Other platforms make billions of dollars by churning and burning their users by selling the idea that trading 24/7 is a way to become a millionaire. They deliver conditions that are not fair by quoting incorrect prices, manipulating prices, or executing the trades in an incorrect way.

The problem in this industry is that there are perpetrators who have zero accountability and bring people in and make them lose everything. That’s how it works. And they do it by cheating and being dishonest. They don’t innovate anything. They sell the dream of making money and it never happens.

We are truly being honest, which no one else does and we are showing that there’s no need to be dishonest to be successful.

We’re providing absolute unmatched conditions trading with real market prices, no fees and commissions of any kind with unmatched support and user experience. We emphasize safeguarding around trading. We’re not trying to make people trade, but if they want to trade with Quantfury that’s okay. We’re not pushing and promoting the idea that by trading you’re going to make millions of dollars and become a millionaire. We believe the right approach is to trade with caution or don’t trade at all.

People should sleep, work, create real value, and then maybe play, otherwise you could create addiction. So, our major disruption, I believe, is being honest. It drives our entire business philosophy, and it is incorporated in everything we do.

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 first started working at a bank in 1993, the bank gave me and two other new members of the trading desk a fake credit line so we could practice trades. In two weeks, we made $82 million in profit trading dollar against the Deutsche Mark. After our success, we were given real capital and proceeded to lose $15 million in our next two weeks and were afraid of losing our jobs. The takeaway is that trading is like a war. No training will really prepare you for a real battlefield and, like in a war, nothing will go according to the plan. Don’t listen to adrenaline and testosterone. I believe that you must go through a lot of pain in trading to be ready.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My biggest mentor was my mother. She always told me that if I see someone who truly loves their profession and puts their everything into it, I must give them the utmost respect, no matter what their profession is. She taught me that decision-making has to start from your heart. Because of her, I knew from the beginning that I had to do what I really liked and believed in, and to be proud of my craft. I also always made sure to surround myself with people who loved what they were doing, and I followed those people to become successful.

Professionally, my good friend and former boss, Dov Asher was the chairman of the board of a mutual fund that I worked at in the beginning of my career, and he took a long time to teach me how to be conservative with my approach to risk-taking. He has been like an older brother to me since then.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

If you’re disrupting an industry by optimizing, making things more efficient, or adding value, like Uber is disrupting the transportation industry, that’s good. An industry doesn’t have to be bad or stagnant for it to be disrupted. It just needs to be brought to the next stage by making it even better. If you’re disrupting by oversimplifying something and creating some kind of Wild West like the “disruptors” in the trading industry today, you’re using the same terminology, but what they’re doing is not good for people.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

Do what you like to do and use your heart before your brain. This is advice from my mother. In your professional life, do what you believe is the right thing to do.

Keep a pulse on things and look at them from a bigger perspective to understand what’s going on. Then, you’ll be better at decision-making.

Less is more. When there’s less, you get more out of it. Don’t over-explain. In business, try to look at the source and simplify processes.

And one more thing, don’t be afraid to come to the wrong decision. Life isn’t only about winning. When you fail, you see who really cares about you.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

There are still so many things to do. Our competitors had many years to get to where they are and we had only two, so even though our growth rate is better, we can’t use the tools that they have because of principles and ethics. We are going to make ourselves much more available and much easier to understand. Right now, we are in the early adopters’ stage. We will make ourselves more available to the mass market globally. We’re just starting.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

As I mentioned earlier, I was influenced by Issac Asimov. When I was in second grade I had read all Asimov books, loving them all really, and specifically being fascinated by Asimov’s Foundation, and the book’s main idea of having the ability to predict the future. It talks about the concept of psychohistory, who some view as an actual science and, of course, being fictional, some view it as a pseudoscience. The book and its protagonist, Hari Seldon, stuck with me. The science fiction that I grew up reading that fascinated me was not rooted in space travel, it was about understanding major events in society through mathematics and the future relationship of computation, human ethics, and morals.

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

There’s an anonymous quote, ”Only those who care about you can hear you when you are quiet.” When you go through some victories, it’s obviously quite noisy around you. However, when everything is quiet, you know who truly cares about you. That also goes with life situations when one is alone and facing many challenges and failures, and then it’s easy to see who really cares about you, by being there for you.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I have some core beliefs I think everyone should follow. Everyone should focus on bettering themselves. There is light and there is darkness in the world, and we have a great responsibility for everyone’s well-being. I would love for people to feel empathy for each other. It’s important to understand and be aware of people’s struggles and challenges, to build solutions, and fix problems. Also, don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, then your ego comes out, and you become more important than what you’re actually doing.

How can our readers follow you online?

On Twitter: @Lev_Mazur, @quantfury

On YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/Quantfury

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Meet The Disruptors: Lev Mazur Of Quantfury On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Luna Santel: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t be afraid to pivot. If something isn’t working — it’s okay to try it a new a way. I was so convinced that hustle was the only way to build a social selling business, because it was the dominant paradigm talked about. I certainly didn’t think talking about manifestation in social selling would be well received. Yet, I saw hustle was literally leading me to the hospital and my body was breaking. I had to make a pivot to allow both actionable steps and what I now call flow.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Luna Santel.

Luna is a former high-school Spanish teacher turned mutli-six figure entrepreneur. She coaches social sellers on how to build a business without the hustle-til-your-adrenals-are-shot-mentality — and design a life that you love. Her passion is helping bridge manifestation practices with social selling strategies, to help your business scale with ease.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

Thank you so much for having me! My story started in the classroom — I loved teaching, but felt myself burning out after several years in. I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and decided to pursue an extra online income stream for a fun distraction. I played around with an Etsy shop, coaching manifestation before coaching was even a thing, and eventually found social selling.

I found myself lit up to serve my audience, and wanted to pour more fuel onto that fire. My first social selling gig did not go as planned, and I ended up leaving that company. My heart was on fire for health and wellness as I was a former candidate for brain surgery. So when I found a company that wanted to disrupt the status quo of social selling, and had the training that would help me with social selling and in marketing my manifestation courses — -I was all in.

Four years later, I’ve left teaching, retired my husband and now teach on how to infuse manifestation into your social selling business.

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 lit my kitchen on fire once on live video. I didn’t even realize it was on fire until my viewers told me! I learned there is no mistake that your soul humans who resonate with you, will not say get or resonate with. No one likes perfection, and the fire of 2019 became an ongoing joke amongst myself and those who would watch my live videos!

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 mentor once asked me if I desired to constantly be working on the weekends — this was back when I was very much steeped in hustle culture. I told her no, and that I wanted to eventually be able to have my weekends be my family time. She encouraged me to begin honoring that in the beginning phases of my business. It was the first exposure to the idea of “slow down to speed up” and it shifted my viewpoint on hustle from the very beginning.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

The vision was to make an impact on my community — and to be the person who an “online stranger” could turn to — I didn’t know exactly who I wanted to serve or how — and I found that wasn’t totally necessary. I knew how I wanted people to feel: welcomed, heard, supported, at ease, inspired. I showed up and still do, share from a space of creating this environment on my social media channels.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Leading through COVID has been and is challenging for anyone who is seen as a leader or holds a leadership position. In the online space, we know that any type of challenge is going to weed out certain people, and that the challenge will allow others to thrive — because some won’t be able to continue. I let our team know this — -hey, this is HARD right now. This challenge (and it can be anything, not just COVID. A move. A diagnosis. A new work schedule) can either be the invitation to grow into your next level, or can be a reason to stop. You get to decide which one. Then from there, I ask how I can best support them.

Not everyone has the same goals. Not everyone wants the same thing — and goals can shift and change. As a leader, you have to be okay with this — that some will simply no longer desire the goal they once did — that their challenge will show them a new desire. As leaders we need to support them, and support those wanting to deepen into their next level.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I have been frustrated, overwhelmed, in tears. Yet, giving up on my business has never been an option. I honestly get surprised at how easily this term is thrown around, yet I understand I’m wired differently than most people. I resonate deeply with Tim Grover’s book “Relentless” and the qualities he describes in his book — -one of which is giving up simply doesn’t register.

A pivot — sure. A zoom out and look at what we can do differently as an organization — of course. A hard look at my own actions to take responsibility and see what I need to pivot and model differently — yes.

Giving up is not an option.

The question also mentioned motivation — I’m not necessarily a fan of motivation because it is short lived. When your vision is big enough, it will intrinsically drive you — even on days when you don’t feel motivated — and those days are coming. I tap in with what legacy I want to leave, what possibilities I want to show can be achieved, what example I am setting, and I move from that space.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The leader is like a thermostat for the room. We set the temperature — we are the calm in the storm that those we lead can choose to tap into. We hold the vision, the calmness, the knowingness of where we are headed in uncertain times. It is our job to articulate this vision and knowingness to those we have the honor of leading.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Remember that you are leading humans, and humans all have a fundamental desire to be loved and seen. Articulating that you appreciate those people you have the honor of leading, acknowledging their wins & what they are learning from perceived “misses”, and their commitment to the process is critical. When people feel appreciated not just by words, but by actions — the overall morale is boosted. Also as leaders, it’s important to stay clear and not become codependent with who you lead as well. Yes, you can show appreciation, love, care and not everyone will be able to receive this, and that’s okay. As a leader, we have to be mindful of our intentions and outcomes. When acknowledging team members, it important to do this with no end game other than saying thank you (with no expectation of you’re welcome) in mind.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

All bad news has some silver lining. I’m a fan of the sandwich method — tell the person something they did well, what you appreciate, etc — then the bad news — and follow with why you appreciate them and that you are there to help them, etc. As a leader, it’s also important to not see situations as worse than they are, but simply as they are, and deliver the news without emotional attachment. This will help as you deliver the news too — when there isn’t an emotional attachment to “bad news” but simply “news” and this is how we are going to pivot/adjust/move into solution.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

The future has always been unpredictable. It always will be unpredictable. We hold our vision, and move. When challenges arise, we move and pivot — -trusting we will make it through stronger. If the future was predictable, the whole leadership journey wouldn’t be half as fun.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

The future has always been unpredictable. It always will be unpredictable. We hold our vision, and move. When challenges arise, we move and pivot — -trusting we will make it through stronger. If the future was predictable, the whole leadership journey wouldn’t be half as fun.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The inability to pivot. Falling into comparison. Believing after putting in X amount of work they should be at X point in their business (entitlement).

I’ve seen these three sabotage several organizations or at best plateau them. They are also mistakes I’ve personally made. If you find yourself in any of these, I always encourage zooming out to the big picture — -how do I need to move differently to expect a different result? How can I study what this person/business is doing instead of comparing myself or pulling away? Am I really committed to the entrepreneurial process or do I expect to get paid like an employee working for an entrepreneur (X work = X result/pay)? Dig deep into your vision.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Yes, it can be challenging. Yet, we know wealth is generated during recessions, during so called “turbulent” times. I would encourage 1) perspective-shifting, 2) what is everyone else doing? How can you do it differently so you don’t blend into the background noise? 3) Focus on serving your niche.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

First, lead from the front — this means that those who you have the honor of leading know that you are beside them doing the work — not just managing. I fell into this in my first organization and off and on in my journey. No one wants to admit or even says “I prefer to manage” — but if you are not modeling how you want your organization to show up, you cannot expect them to do the same. This can even be modeling “hustle” — I was once SO proud I worked through several severe illnesses. It was no wonder I had several team members asking if they should work while sick and then on the verge of burnout! We have to model the “actionable work” and well as the “internal work” too.

Second, show appreciation often. I mentioned this earlier, but acknowledgment is so key. Everyone wants to feel seen, heard, and like they are a part of something greater than themselves. Writing cards and sending notes of appreciation have become a massive part of how our organization recognizes not just achievement, but steps on the journey toward their goals. This awareness came from seeing how much I personally shifted in feeling a “part of” when my own mentors would reach out (or wouldn’t reach out). This morale boost will help create “stickiness” in your organization.

Third, let your leaders lead. This goes into making sure you’re not managing — but it can be scary when leaders go off on their own, and become self-led leaders! There can be a tendency to want to know what is going on or think you aren’t doing your job properly — but a massive part of leading is trusting your leaders to do their job well. The goal is to create self-led leaders who are still contributing and collaborating with the whole.

Fourth, don’t be afraid to pivot. If something isn’t working — it’s okay to try it a new a way. I was so convinced that hustle was the only way to build a social selling business, because it was the dominant paradigm talked about. I certainly didn’t think talking about manifestation in social selling would be well received. Yet, I saw hustle was literally leading me to the hospital and my body was breaking. I had to make a pivot to allow both actionable steps and what I now call flow.

Fifth, don’t be afraid to take risks. I used to try and play it safe and follow the “game plan” — whether that plan was articulated out loud or was unspoken. I ended up blending in with everyone — when you try to serve everyone, you are serving no one. It was a risk to begin speaking to a smaller audience, to begin to speak differently, on new topics, to call out hustle-culture — yet in doing so, I found so many who resonated. In doing so, there were many in our organization that found their individual voice and their niche they are meant to serve. Part of our job as a leader is to go where no one has gone before. We must be brave enough to do this and share what we learn with our organizations.

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

I am a huge fan of Will Smith. In the beginning phases of my business, I would listen to his talk about “Not being outrun on a treadmill.” I knew that there were others more talented in social selling than me. There still are — better at customer acquisition, team building, speaking, you name it — but I would not be outrun. I could be more consistent. I could simply stay on the treadmill, until I “make” it or I die. It’s part of my commitment — there is no option to get off the treadmill. I am on it. And I’m either going to die working toward my goals, or achieve it. There is no other option.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can connect with me on Facebook by searching Luna Ashley, or find me on Instagram or Tik Tok by searching @thelunaahsley

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Luna Santel: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

David Madrid Of Solar Energy Partners: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

David Madrid Of Solar Energy Partners: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Don’t ever forget that every team member is an asset; in some cases, they just have to unlock their potential. Without personal development, you might find yourself recruiting aimlessly, with no retention. It’s not enough to have people on your team if they’re not willing to stay.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing David Madrid.

David Madrid is the founder and owner of recruiting firm HCR “Human Capital Recruiting”, recruiting for multiple solar companies nationwide, as well as a Founding Partner of Solar Energy Partners, currently building sales teams across California, Texas, New Jersey, Colorado, Florida, Nevada, and Arizona.

With 20 years of experience in the sales force, Madrid created Vivint Smart Home building national teams, and the first-ever Airbnb direct sales team, and broke an all-time recruiting record. Over 15,000 smart home systems were sold and Madrid was encouraged to focus on renewable energy.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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’ve been working in sales for the better part of my life: I was an athlete in high school and college, and that was a major priority for me. I stumbled into sales because it gave me the flexibility to pursue my dreams. I never imagined this would be the path I would go down, but it became clear as day. I started out working with Cutco, which taught me a lot about the industry. I flew up the ranks through the years and eventually found myself working with Vivint, where I pioneered an Airbnb direct sales program that would save hosts money by going solar. The program I developed at Vivint was a great success. I’ve been working in solar ever since.

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?

Retrospectively, some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made have come from making emotional decisions. I’ve built businesses with people without really gauging their interest in involvement or understanding that fundamentally we’re just on different pages. Whenever you dive into something, it’s of paramount importance to make sure you’re not just doing it to do it; not everyone will share your vision, and ultimately, that’s okay. Being an entrepreneur is a journey, and sometimes you get paid in experience, not money. In many cases the residual value of experience is priceless.

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 direct sales manager, Steve Croll. He’s been a friend of mine for many years now, but even still I’m not sure if he understands the impact he had on me as an individual. Steve taught me about the fundamental facets of working in sales, and business in general. Because of Steve, I was inspired to believe that we are capable of conquering impossible feats, it all comes down to dreaming big- the things he showed me taught me how to succeed and have longevity as an entrepreneur. I always share this story, but when I was nineteen years old, Steve pulled me aside and told me that I had leadership potential- he had this quote, “The reality of an extraordinary achievement can only be accomplished if you dare to dream it.”, which has been a mantra of mine ever since.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When we started Solar Energy Partners, my partners and I knew that we wanted to do something different. Solar is an ever evolving industry, but what we had noticed really stood out were the nightmare stories that many customers and consultants alike had experienced. I’ve always been a huge proponent of “elevating” ideas. We thought, “How can we make this better?”; that was our approach. Now our mantra is simple: “To offer the best customer and consultant experience in the solar industry”, whether that’s going the extra mile on customer service or making sure that once one of our team members enters the fold, they know what our culture is like, and they feel strongly that this is the last career they’ll ever want to have.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

Over the course of COVID it’s no secret that things changed drastically across the board with all businesses- we knew that as a nascent business we would have to come up with some ideas quickly or the ship would sink. Once the pandemic started to get truly serious, the government was elevating the risk, and we knew that it really was as bad as it could be, we immediately pivoted to more of a socially distanced, digital model- those were uncharted waters for us, so I’ll be the first to admit it was stressful, but luckily we made it through more than successfully, and sustained growth over that period, where unfortunately many businesses did not. I believe in people on a fundamental level, and I like to think I have an eye for talent- I always listen when ideas are brought to the table, which is something that kept us moving and magnifying in those uncertain times. We’re lucky to have a good group of forward thinkers in our leadership within the organization, and as a whole, my partners and I keep an open mind when it comes to ideas. That’s the reason we’re still here today, we’re all dreamers.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

I think it’s only human to second guess yourself- we all have those moments. I’ve always been a fairly focused individual, though and I’ve had my “why” holding me up throughout my life. That being said, the reason why I stay tenacious in moving forward has changed over the course of my life, there’s always been a vision or a dream that’s kept me on track. My past as an athlete taught me that Rome wasn’t built in a day, so I think that inspired this “If you build it, they will come” mentality. I’ve certainly had moments where I’ve thought to myself, “Man is this going to work out or am I just fooling myself”, but then I pull back and think about the people that need me and what I’m building- the legacy of what could be; that sustains my motivation and keeps my head clear in uncertain times.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

A great leader is always going to be looked upon to inspire. During challenging times one must remember that it’s not only them feeling the pressure; you’re only as strong as your weakest link, so the chain must remain unbroken. I believe in people so strongly, I can see the unbridled potential that exists under the skin of most of the human beings I speak to… what it comes down to is enabling that individual to tap into that fountain of potential so they can exceed their expectations and become the best version of themselves. In tough times, when we all feel overwhelmed, it’s up to the leaders to remind their organizations that they can do what they set their mind to and that nothing is impossible, even when it might feel that way.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

It’s always been my opinion that the best way to motivate and engage your team is by leading from the front- if you can show someone that it can be done, they’ll believe they can do it themselves. They say “seeing is believing”, and to be honest, nothing could be more true- a picture or a video is worth a thousand words, but showing someone first hand that you as a human being are capable, and we’re all only human- they could do it too, well, that’s priceless.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

That’s a great question- honesty is always the best policy when there’s nothing that can be done, however, when it comes down to motivation, where there’s a will, there’s a way. I’ve found even in the most testing of situations, people can move mountains, and that’s what great customer and consultant experience is all about- you can’t always make everyone happy, but if it comes down to a net loss situation, then you have to be truthful: that is the only way.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

This all comes down to dreaming and believing in yourself- as much of a no-brainer as that might sound like, it’s true. In the times when you feel like the future could lead into a labyrinth of possibility, you have to hold tight to your dreams and know that wherever you’re going is where you’re gonna be. That process is like a very convoluted chemical equation where it’s equal parts believing in yourself and trusting the process to cause that chemical reaction that leads to the product of your future- the moment you begin to doubt yourself or trust in fear, it’s hard to get back on top. Some of the best advice that I can give: fear is a poison; do your best to be brave and push forward if you really believe in your vision.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Ultimately, there are a number of principles that a company needs to follow to have any essence of longevity- there will inevitably be placid and turbulent times; with the latter, the solution will likely never be the same from instance to instance. A major fundamental that should be followed by any business owner or executive looking for advice would probably be to make informed decisions- sometimes people rely on trusting their gut, which is great if they have the nose for it, but ultimately that instinctual wisdom is a byproduct of experience. The most successful people I’ve ever met are inquisitive by nature and trust cold hard facts: history usually repeats itself, so when you have the knowledge of how something went, you’ll have a better idea of where it’s going. Knowledge is power.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

A lot of businesses find themselves in trouble in objectively difficult times because they’re so set in their ways- you never want to be averse to change. We live in a revolving door- the quicker you realize that and you make yourself flexible, the better off you’ll be. I’ve also found that keeping an open mind and listening to what people are saying from within your business makes a tremendous difference. A lot of companies misstep because they aren’t savvy with what the culture is like on the inside- actively keep an ear to the ground so you know where the winds are blowing your ship. Last but not least, it’s important to keep the momentum going- set your goals and have a vision of where you’re going to be far down the road; ask yourself each and every day if what you’re doing will pragmatically serve you making your milestones, and do everything you can to keep your business from stagnating.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

We’re lucky to work in an industry that’s a commodity- there’s a need for renewable energy, and it’s indifferently the right decision, and the direction things are going, globally. For those that can’t rely on the industry they’re in, in tumultuous times, it comes down to you holding the reins. No matter what you do or where you’re at, you want to make yourself indispensable- this holds true to the business that you pursue as much as your position in said business organization. I’ve always been adherent to the concept of building value. You can do this as a business owner, CEO, self employed individual, or employee. At any point in time, it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself impartially whether or not you’re bringing value to what you do; if the answer is no, it’s time to re-evaluate. If you can make yourself a vital asset, no matter what you do, you’ll never fail. Don’t ever settle for the bare minimum, don’t strive for mediocrity: be essential.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. It all starts with conception, you have to stick with your vision and stay the course, but don’t be afraid to adapt and learn, entrepreneurship is a journey- you have to walk the road wherever it leads. The next point would be to focus on the individuals in your organization; who you’re recruiting, how you’re recruiting, and why.
  2. When the pandemic started, most other organizations stopped recruiting because they envisioned an overall shutdown; we boosted our recruitment efforts, which led to some huge wins for us and the company as a whole. There are a multitude of individuals that work with us now that would have never found their home at SEP had we not made a focus on recruitment in a time when other businesses were more focused on their “now” than the future. I’m also a firm believer in personal development, once you have new recruits it’s crucial to spend quality time with your people with a focus on developing them into their best possible selves.
  3. Don’t ever forget that every team member is an asset; in some cases, they just have to unlock their potential. Without personal development, you might find yourself recruiting aimlessly, with no retention. It’s not enough to have people on your team if they’re not willing to stay.
  4. The fourth point would be innovation. if you’re not innovating you’re setting yourself up for failure- the adage is simple, “adapt or die”: companies and people will inevitably change, the proof is in how flexible you can be when necessity calls for it.
  5. The last thing a business leader should do to lead effectively is put a tremendous amount of focus on training. One of the reasons we’ve been so successful is our spotlight on scholarship within our organization… The vast majority of individuals that join our ranks learned about the business through what we’ve taught them from the top down. Learning from others can open the world up to you, no matter their age group. You have to treat your business and your team member’s experience like it’s a practice: it’s a craft you continue to improve on a day-to-day basis. All of these things cumulatively will lead to a superlative experience within your trade and better business overall.

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

There are so many of them, but the one that regularly speaks volumes for me is from Ronnie Oldham, “Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise, risking more than others think is safe, dreaming more than others think is practical, and expecting more than others think is possible. It is the commitment to high-quality performance that produces outstanding results of lasting value.”. This has been relevant to my life because it’s inspired my belief in going the extra mile, not only for myself but for any person that enters my life. We’re alive for a very limited, inconsequential amount of time. In a universal sense, what’s important is how you inspire people while you exist.

How can our readers further follow your work? ( add social media links, or website)

You can follow us on Instagram @solarenergypartners, find us on our website at www. solarenergy. partners, or follow me on Linkedin.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


David Madrid Of Solar Energy Partners: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Converge: David Ehrlichman’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

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 David Erlichman.

David Ehrlichman is a catalyst and coordinator of Converge, and author of Impact Networks: Create Connection, Spark Collaboration, and Catalyze Systemic Change. With his colleagues, he has supported the development of dozens of impact networks in a variety of fields, and has worked as a network coordinator for the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network, Sterling Network NYC, and the Fresno New Leadership Network. He speaks and writes frequently on networks, finds serenity in music, and is completely mesmerized by his newborn daughter.

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?

My journey to this work starts about 15 years ago, when I was just figuring out what I wanted to do in life. I knew I wanted my work to have a purpose, to create an impact, but the question was how? So, I tried working at a nonprofit. This organization was doing really great work helping people without shelter get trained and find jobs in the culinary industry. They were making a huge difference in the lives of the people who participated in the program, but ultimately, they were dealing with the symptoms of a massive, broken system, rather than affecting the system itself.

That got me curious about how we could create change at a systemic level. I decided to work for a social impact consulting group, Monitor Institute, to learn what approaches were emerging. It was there that I discovered how some organizations were making a much bigger impact not by scaling up their organization, but by scaling out through connections. Rather than building a bigger organization, they were building a network — and not a social network, but a network for purpose. Some organizations were open sourcing their intellectual property and their programs so they could be provided through other groups under their own brand. These organizations were able to drastically expand their impact by putting their mission and their purpose at the center of their focus and scaling out by partnering with others, rather than growing their own organization.

I also learned about more formal networks that were forming to connect many organizations around shared goals. These networks were staffed to facilitate coordination between different organizations so that they could work together to affect the larger system in ways that no single group could by working alone. A case in point is the RE-AMP Network, a collection of more than 140 organizations and foundations working across sectors to equitably eliminate greenhouse gas emissions across nine mid- western states by 2050. From the time it was formed in 2005, RE-AMP has helped retire more than 150 coal plants, implement rigorous renewable energy and transportation standards, and re-grant over $25 million to support strategic climate action in the Midwest.

This was the lightbulb moment for me, and it inspired me to get involved in these types of cross-sector network directly and, ultimately, to dedicate my career to advancing the network approach to collaboration.

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

One of the moments that first inspired me to dedicate my career to this work was when I was in Fresno, California, where I worked for three years as a coordinator for a network that brought together more than forty leaders from across sectors to work together in new ways to help revitalize their community. It was there that I first witnessed the power of networks to connect people across boundaries on behalf of a common purpose. Environmental activists found common ground with developers. The county librarian teamed up with a Spanish-language radio host and the Fresno State business school to offer free citizenship academies in county libraries. A youth group joined forces with both a gang-prevention organization and the school district’s office of community and family services to advance discipline and restorative justice reforms.

It was also there that I witnessed the true power of relationships. Built on a foundation of trust, the network changed the way people engaged with one another. Two advocates, one promoting charter schools and the other supporting public schools, came into the network seeing each other as the opposition. But after taking time to hear one another’s motivations, they began to have more honest and open conversations about their vision for Fresno. From these experiences I saw how it was possible to bring people into a new way of relating and working with one another, and how relationships were at the heart of it all.

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

It’s all about relationships. Even though there might be a lot that divides us, and a lot of things we disagree about, if we can dig deep enough, we will find that there is a lot of common ground between us, and many common values that we share. And we can find those commonalities when we invest in relationships, first and foremost. When people share their stories and connect with one another at a deeper level than they ever have before, it transforms everything about how they are able to work together to advance common goals.

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”?

We know we have to work together in unprecedented ways, and at unprecedented scales. Addressing social inequities, climate change, providing economic opportunity for all… these are issues that can’t be solved by working alone. To address systemic issues we have to work systemically. This means working across organizations and across sectors. There’s no single organization or institution who can do it by themselves.

People and organizations embark on collaborative efforts all the time, thinking they know how to do that. But typically, they are frustrated by the results. Why? What goes wrong? Often, it’s that they’re trying to structure the collaboration like they would an organization, as a hierarchy, with some central authority guiding the work and with people fitting into specific roles to move it forward. And they try to plan it all out in advance, identifying specific, measurable outcomes for the effort before people have even started to work together. But this only works if we already know what needs to do and how to do it.

But complex issues are experienced very differently by different people. People are affected by the issue in different ways, and they’ll see things very differently depending on where they stand. In our work to address complex issues, we can’t plan it all out in advance. Instead, we need to bring different actors together to make sense of the issue, and then to strengthen their ability to share information and resources, coordinate their work, and collaborate together to affect the whole system in ways that no group could on their own. This is what it means to build a network, for impact. The big idea here is that we can and must move beyond the paradigm of command and control and top-down decision making to address complex issues by cultivating vibrant, self-organizing, decentralized networks that have the potential to create real impact.

How do you think this will change the world?

By embracing a living-systems approach to organizing, impact networks bring people together to build relationships across boundaries; leverage the existing work, skills, and motivations of a group; and make progress amid unpredictable and ever-changing conditions. As a powerful and flexible organizing system that can span regions, organizations, and silos of all kinds, impact networks underlie some of the most impressive and large-scale efforts to create change across the globe.

For example, 100Kin10 is a massive collaborative effort that is bringing together more than three hundred academic institutions, nonprofits, foundations, businesses, and government agencies to train and support one hundred thousand science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) teachers across the United States in ten years. Founded in 2011, 100Kin10 recently achieved its ambitious goal and has since expanded its aim to take on the longer-term systemic challenges in STEM education. In another example. the Justice in Motion Defender Network is a collection of human rights defenders and organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua that have joined together to help migrants quickly obtain legal assistance across borders. Throughout the ongoing family separation crisis created by US immigration policies, this network has been essential in locating deported parents in remote regions of Central America and coordinating reunification with their children.

Or consider a network whose impact spans the globe, the Clean Electronics Production Network (CEPN). CEPN brings together many of the world’s top technology suppliers and brands with labor and environmental advocates, governments, and other leading experts to move toward elimination of workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals in electronics production. Since forming in 2016, the network has defined shared commitments, developed tools and resources for reducing workers’ exposure to toxic chemicals, and standardized the process of collecting data on chemical use.

Networks like RE-AMP, 100Kin10, the Defender Network, and CEPN — along with many others mentioned in my book — were not spontaneous or accidental; rather, they were formed with clear intent. These networks deliberately connect people and organizations together to promote learning and action on an issue of common concern. We call them impact networks to highlight their intentional design and purposeful focus, and to contrast them with the organic networks formed as part of our social lives.

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

Most organizations and leaders tend to see themselves at the center of universe, with many potential stakeholders situated around them that they can collaborate with to help further in their mission. However, the essential shift is to see ourselves as part of a larger, interconnected system of different actors and organizations. We are not the sun at the center of a solar system. Instead, we’re one star in a huge, diverse constellation. So rather than putting yourself at the center, put the shared purpose at the center — what is a core issue that many other groups also care about? Then, when you find the purpose or purposes that connect different groups together, work to strengthen the connections and flows of information between them. This is what it means to build an impact network.

Because hierarchies and networks are so different, working with networks calls a different form of leadership, different forms of participation, a totally different mindset — which we call the network mindset shift. This shift can take some getting used to, particularly for those of us who spent the majority of our lives and careers being trained in hierarchical environments like schools and offices.

When you embrace a network mindset, you stop working in isolation. Instead, you turn your focus toward cultivating connections. You start to notice more intently how your efforts are related to others. Rather than trying to scale up an individual organization, you seek to scale out, increasing your impact through collaboration.

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 🙂

To address the challenges of our time, we must embrace complexity and work collaboratively across systems of diverse stakeholders, even and especially when the path forward is unclear. It is not an overstatement to say the future of civilization and the planet depends on it. In our era of complexity, we need ways of working together that span our traditional boundaries. We need collaborative structures that are flexible enough to shift on a moment’s notice, that are resilient enough to withstand turbulence and disruption, and that bring people together as equals to share leadership and decision-making.

Fortunately, whether we are aware of it or not, we have already evolved methods of coordinating actions across many different stakeholder groups: all around the world, impact networks are being cultivated to address complex issues in the fields of health care, education, science, technology, the environment, economic justice, the arts, human rights, and others. They mark the next evolution in the way humans are organizing to create meaningful change. The choice in front of us is clear: either we can let networks form according to existing social, political, and economic patterns, which will likely leave us with more of the same inequities and destructive behaviors, or we can deliberately and strategically catalyze new networks to transform the systems in which we live and work.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can follow me on Twitter at @davehrlichman and on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/davidehrlichman

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


Converge: David Ehrlichman’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Karen Craggs-Milne Of ThoughtExchange: “Here Is How Diversity Can Increase a Company’s Bottom Line”

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Better decisions: A study from Cloverpop says that compared to individual decision makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. One of our school board customers asked students for ideas on how to increase safety for minority students on campus. They received a range of ideas and inputs and the number one idea that they had not considered before, which resonated most with the participants, was the need to install lighting along a path that was mostly used by minority students, on their way back home. This was not something that was known as an issue or solution and asking for diverse perspectives allowed them to make a better decision on how to help.

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

Karen Craggs-Milne is the Head of Anti-racism, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at ThoughtExchange. A proud Kenyan Canadian, Craggs-Milne is a recognized global expert with more than 20 years of international experience promoting anti-racism, diversity, equity, gender equality and inclusion. Karen is also an Obama White House recognized Gender Equality Changemaker (2016), a Global Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Goals (2018), LinkedinGlobalSuperHero (2020) and a Top 100 Canadian Professional (2020). Karen’s passion is to educate and equip others on how to be ambassadors of change in their own spaces.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

I’m originally from Kenya and now live in Canada. What makes my story unique is that I bring an understanding and approach to social justice issues that is informed by growing up at the intersection of diverse cultures, races, languages, religions, etc. My mom is a practicing Jain (Indian) and a pure vegetarian while my dad is an adamant atheist and British colonialist who owned the best steak house in Nairobi. (Bizarre, I know!) I grew up with a black brother and I also have three older white siblings, (whose kids are older than me) from my dad’s first marriage. This complexity taught me at a young age to see the world from many different perspectives. I saw both the benefits of creating space, acceptance and belonging amongst diverse people. I also witnessed and experienced the harm caused when people are judged and discriminated against for being different.

I’ve spent the last 20 years of my career working on this issue globally — doing impactful work with governments, organizations and NGOs. When I discovered ThoughtExchange, I realized that this powerful yet simple and intuitive tool could impact the work that I was doing on social justice issues by giving people a voice in a way that was safe, inclusive, quick AND at scale. It revolutionized everything. I became an instant fan and was determined to find ways to help others benefit from the kind of work that we can do using ThoughtExchange.

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?

I first met the ThoughtExchange team at an event they were hosting. I was invited to be its keynote speaker. At that event, I started with a very provocative question; the kind of provocative that had people almost falling off their chairs because they couldn’t believe that I raised a taboo topic in a ‘professional setting’. I did this intentionally and it worked on two levels. Firstly, it got everyone’s undivided attention and piqued their curiosity. Clearly, I wasn’t going to deliver the same speech that they tend to hear at these kinds of events. Secondly, I got them reflecting on their unconscious, conditioned expectations around this work. Perhaps there IS a way to push boundaries and ‘get real and authentic’ in such spaces after all? This memorable approach enabled me to invite people into courageous conversations about topics and issues that really matter to them. It is very much a part of how I do belonging and inclusion work. Being able to engage diverse people in appropriate and safe ways, while questioning traditional boundaries and notions of ‘what is in’ and ‘what is out’ is at the heart of what I do.

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

My quote is: “Conscious equality is not just what you do, it’s how you show up in the world every day.” I came up with this quote to capture my approach to anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion work. I bring mindfulness and compassion to social justice issues, which tend to be very difficult topics that can be triggering for many. It is very difficult to do this work when we ourselves are carrying heavy pain and trauma. We need to heal ourselves to heal the world. A big part of this work is turning the attention inwards and supporting ourselves so we can create safe spaces for people to share their experiences, to be heard and seen, and for us to move forward together.

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?

I learned a great deal about this work from my father, mother and brother.

  • From my father, I learned that people we love can be deeply flawed and imperfect. I learned to be patient and non-judgmental, especially when I didn’t agree with him on his colonial perspective. I have watched him soften and evolve over time because I didn’t write him off but instead engaged him with gentle respect over time rather than giving up on him all together.
  • From my mother, I learned that you can experience injustice, (she survived an abusive first marriage that almost killed her). Then she had to overcome the cultural stigma of being divorced and the backlash for choosing to marry a white man (my dad). I learned that injustice and trauma doesn’t have to break you. It can make you stronger, more resilient and even more loving and compassionate for others because of it.
  • Lastly, through my brother, I learned that privilege is relative and that it is really important to use the privilege we have to advocate for people who don’t have it or can’t. I remember being six and my mom asking me to bring cake for my brother and I. I purposefully cut a larger piece of cake for him, not just because he was older and bigger but also because I was trying to compensate for how unfair others were towards him. I was practicing the principle of equity before I even knew what that meant. Today I use my relative privilege to advocate for and support others.

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

I LOVE ThoughtExchange. I really do. I say that because this company is based on the principles of doing good in the world and doing the right thing in each moment. And the right thing starts by ensuring everyone is heard and all perspectives are considered equally before taking action.

Our Enterprise Discussion Management platform enables leaders to have deep meaningful, open, inclusive, safe and anonymous conversations with large groups of people. By welcoming everyone’s voice, leaders get access to insights and data that would normally not come to the surface in other processes — helping them do the right thing.

Case and point: My role was created after the CEO ran a ThoughtExchange asking everyone in the company what else we could do to be better allies and advocates for anti-racism, diversity, equity and inclusion. One of the top thoughts that came through was the recommendation that the company create a position, bring in an experienced leader to take on this work internally while also supporting our customers. I’m so proud to say that is exactly what we have done.

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

As a Canadian company we recognize that most of our employees live, work and play on originally stolen indigenous lands. We are committed to supporting truth and reconciliation and are working hard to understand what that looks like for us and leveraging our platform to help us and others to do the same.

We start every company meeting with a land acknowledgement. We have monthly sessions with an Indigenous Advisor, who helps us decolonize our perspectives while thinking about work and life. Most recently, we partnered with an indigenous organization to offer company-wide sponsored learning for all our employees on decolonization. To ensure that the individual learning translates into better company policies, practices and culture, we use our platform to engage in company-wide reflection on what we learned and how we can apply this to our organization. We use insights from our own internal work to also support our customers in similar conversations in their organizations on topics such as how to implement the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 94 Calls to Action. Truly important and much needed work.

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

Social justice issues can be complex and overwhelming to understand or know how to tackle them.
It is easy to get overwhelmed and to think, “this is too big and I (or we) can’t make a difference”.

I use my skills and extensive knowledge in this field to help ‘non-experts’ understand and feel empowered to take meaningful actions that can have an impact. It is always exciting for me when I see how people I work with use their new knowledge and increased confidence to make tangible progress.

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.)

  1. A more diverse workforce: We recently hired an amazing candidate who shared that for the first time ever, they chose not to hide their prayer mat during their job interview with us because they had read about our Anti-racism & DEI (ADEI) commitments and knew that we were increasingly diverse as a company. This matters a lot when you consider that more than 7 out of every 10 job seekers that you interview will decide whether or not you are the company for them based on how diverse you are.
  2. A more socially-minded employee base: According to a 2019 Yello survey, 70% of respondents say they would consider looking for a new job if their employer didn’t demonstrate a commitment to diversity. Having a Head of ADEI in the company communicates that ADEI is a priority for us. We also created an ADEI Council and invited ANY member of our organization to join if they want to support our work. This is because we believe that demonstrating this commitment also requires creating opportunities for others to engage and lead in this work as well.
  3. Better work environments: According to Catalyst’s 2019 report, 60% of Asian, Black, Latinx and multiracial professionals said they feel like they have to be on guard to protect against racial and gender bias while at work. At ThoughtExchange we address discrimination and bias through unconscious bias and microaggressions training, anonymous feedback channels, 360 degree performance reviews, one on one coaching, inclusive leadership work with leaders and more. We are constantly evaluating and updating our efforts to create a truly safe, equitable and inclusive workplace.
  4. Increased profits: When businesses welcome diverse teams and embrace diverse thinking, it leads to higher innovation — and a study by the Boston Consulting Group finds companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue due to innovation. One of our customers used our platform to ask thousands of front-line staff what one product customers were asking for that they don’t currently offer. After receiving and reviewing the diverse feedback, they developed a product that opened up a huge new opportunity for more revenue!
  5. Better decisions: A study from Cloverpop says that compared to individual decision makers, diverse teams make better decisions 87% of the time. One of our school board customers asked students for ideas on how to increase safety for minority students on campus. They received a range of ideas and inputs and the number one idea that they had not considered before, which resonated most with the participants, was the need to install lighting along a path that was mostly used by minority students, on their way back home. This was not something that was known as an issue or solution and asking for diverse perspectives allowed them to make a better decision on how to help.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

Put people first and business outcomes second — and in order to put people first you have to truly care about them and create a safe space to hear them and to take actions that matter to them. That also means that you sometimes must be willing to break or redesign the business model so that people feel they get what they need from being on that team or in that company. The bottom line is that you must be willing to do business differently and must be an advocate for your employees.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Get ThoughtExchange. I’m serious!

I’m speaking as a world leading ADEI practitioner. This is the number one tool anyone with a large team needs to be able to be effective in their role. ThoughtExchange is the only Enterprise Discussion Management platform powered by patented anti-bias technology. Modern leaders use it to quickly gain critical insights and improve strategic decision making. It truly makes a difference whether you’re looking to engage ten stakeholders or a community of 10,000 people.

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 🙂

That’s easy! It would be a dream come true to share a meal with Oprah! Did you know that my friends and colleagues call me the Oprah of diversity and inclusion? LOL. No doubt we would have a lot to talk about!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

If my work resonates with you please reach out and let’s connect! Readers can follow me on LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/karencraggs/, and keep up to date with ThoughtExchange at https://thoughtexchange.com/.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Karen Craggs-Milne Of ThoughtExchange: “Here Is 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.

Accenture’s Shivani Vora On How Diversity Can Increase Innovation

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Diversity as an Enabler of Innovation: Diversity remains a critical building block to unleashing innovation. While the impact of diversity factors alone on innovation mindset is significant, it is much higher when combined with a culture of equality. According to Accenture research, in the most-equal and diverse cultures, innovation mindset- their willingness and ability to innovate- is 11 times greater than in the least-equal and diverse cultures.

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

Shivani leads Innovation for Accenture in North America and serves on the company’s NA Leadership Team. With more than 23 years of international experience in growth strategy and digital transformation, she helps clients unlock new value through digital disruption, human centered design, and emerging technology.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dive into the main part of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you share a bit of your “backstory” with us?

Of course! For the last five years, I’ve been at Accenture where I am a trusted advisor to senior executives and Boards at large global companies and have led multi-year transformation programs to help them return to profitable growth. I currently lead Innovation for Accenture in North America. Prior to joining Accenture, I was Senior Vice President at Orange where I led International Development for the Enterprise business globally, which included both organic growth strategy and M&A.

On a professional front, what I enjoy most is taking hard business challenges and finding innovative solutions using a combination of technology and human ingenuity. I enjoy bringing together diverse viewpoints and multi-disciplinary teams (design + business + technology) to deliver break through results and experiences that fundamentally improve our lives and of those around us.

On the personal side, while I currently live in Chicago, with my husband, our two teenage boys, and a labradoodle, I have also called Paris and Mumbai home. When I am not working, I can be found rock climbing, kayaking or enjoying a long hike with friends.

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?

Yes! In my previous role, I worked out of the Paris office for a few years. As an anglophone from the U.S., I was accustomed to conducting business conversations in English, and continued this practice while in Paris. During my first couple of weeks, I presented everything in English — urging my French colleagues to read and speak back to me in English too. To my surprise, only one month in, my CEO leaned over the conference room table and said “Shivani, it’s been a month…we move to French.” From there, I started taking intensive French lessons and overnight, my meetings went from being 100% English to 100% French.

It dawned on me that with the privilege of being in Paris, came the responsibility to immerse in the culture. While making that cultural shift was hard at the time, it taught me a valuable lesson about flexibility and adaptability. My time in Paris proved to me that change is the only constant, and whether at work or in your personal life, you have to find ways to constantly learn, adapt, and grow in order to be successful.

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

For our tenth wedding anniversary, my husband surprised me with a trip to South Africa. On that trip I visited Robben Island and the 8×7 feet damp concrete cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years as a political prisoner. His journey and the rights he fought for were truly motivational with words that moved me, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

This quote is relevant to my life both figuratively and literally. In Mumbai, when I was 16, I slipped while crossing the street and was run over by a bus. My legs essentially acted as a speed bump, and the bus ran right over both my legs as I lay on the road. While the accident itself was horrific, my recovery was just as grueling, lasting for several years. I started my undergraduate education on crutches and eventually graduated to using a cane to assist me while walking across campus. I remember actively making the decision to continue my education and not let the accident affect my studies. I went on to graduate high school in the top ten in my state (from over 100,000 students).

It’s important to share another lens on the accident, which fueled a depression in me at a very young age. While my friends were living their teenage life, I was confined to a chair and needed help to walk. Thanks to my father, who acted as my personal therapist, I not only emerged stronger from this but also learned how to manage my mental health early in life.

Looking back, the accident and years to follow taught me two things, the first being that life is valuable. I look at life in a different way now, and I don’t sweat the small stuff anymore! The accident also taught me the value of resiliency, which I practice throughout my personal life and professional career to this day. Resilience became one of my “superpowers.” It is something I draw strength from and helps me get stronger and rise up like a phoenix from every challenge I face. Best said in Frida Kahlo’s words “At the end of the day, we can endure much more than we think we can.”

What’s more, I also hold onto one unintentional side effect from the accident — I can now jest with my colleagues, “At our next meeting, don’t bother throwing me under the bus, I’ve already been there!”

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?

This is a tough question because I am surrounded by many role models, but if I had to select just one person, it would be my father. From a very young age, my father had a significant influence on me. He grew up in a household with an illiterate mother, which inspired his advocacy for female education. As a doctor himself, his goal in life was to provide my sister and me the best education money could buy. When I told him that I wanted to come to the US for a master’s degree, I had his full support.

My father also constantly encouraged me to go above and beyond what I thought I was capable of. He used to say, “be a cobbler, but be the best cobbler in town.” He pushed me to work hard and do my best while also striving for that balance between “reaching for the stars” and “staying grounded.” He also believed that as humans, we need to take care of our mind just as much as our body. As a tribute to my dad after he passed, I made a committed effort to deepen my learning on mindful meditation, a practice that he introduced me to years ago. Observing annual silence for at least 10 days as part of the self-observation technique taught through Vipassana, an ancient Buddhist form of meditation, is truly transformational — a practice I continue to this day!

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

At Accenture, we believe the innovation brings about diversity of thought and this diversity, in turn, fuels innovation! By creating a culture of equality and an environment where “out of the box” ideas are heard, Accenture encourages the search for new information and diverse perspectives, leading to better decision making and problem solving. It is this diversity of thought and action that leads to enhanced value for our clients that makes Accenture stand out as a company.

Diversity enhances creativity and, in some cases, fuels creativity. Within our innovation teams, we celebrate different backgrounds and experiences. It adds fresh perspectives and encourages new, creative ways of thinking. A great example of this was this summer’s “North America Innovation Summer Olympics” — an event where we invited US Olympians to join us virtually from Japan to share their views on the role of innovation and diversity in sports. Listening to the ways in which Khalil Thompson and Francesca Russo had to innovate to stay competitive in fencing was motivational. Meanwhile, Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian’s quote on diversity in sport was inspirational, noting, “it’s important little girls see someone who looks like them.”

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

I am most excited about a new research project around innovation culture that we launched earlier this year. The piece will be published shortly. As part of this project, we surveyed more than 1,000 C-level executives at global companies, interviewed innovation experts and performed rigorous economic and statistical modelling along with case study research. What we found is that while companies are spending a lot of time in developing their innovation structures (the processes, tools and technologies that enable innovation), they are not seeing a return on investment from these innovation investments.

The reason, we discovered, is that instilling a mindset and behavior that encourages innovation is as important as providing the right innovation structures. Leading companies create a virtuous cycle of innovation structures, mindsets, and behaviours that work together to hardwire the organization for innovation. Working in unison, they fuel an innovation culture — and this culture in turn ensures strong financial performance and successful execution of a company’s ambition.

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

Influenced by my father, I have always been passionate about providing universal access to education. I even went so far as to make this passion a family affair. Working with my son, we established a program called “Technology in the Park” (TIP). Collaborating with Congressman Danny K. Davis, TIP was established to get kids off the streets and into the classrooms, especially in under-served areas in Chicago.

With support from sponsor companies and local volunteers, we have started to educate the youth in Austin, one of the communities with the highest crime and gun violence in Chicagoland. With a specific focus on teaching Computer Science, English and improving literacy, TIP aims to establish a fundamental educational base to empower Chicago’s youth.

TIP also aims to serve as a feeder into Accenture’s Apprenticeship Program, which works to close the skills gap in the U.S. by providing underserved groups greater access to careers. To date, our program has hired over 1,000 apprentices for Accenture positions across 35 U.S. cities.

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 lead to an ongoing innovation mindset?. (Please share a story or example for each.)

Diversity as an Enabler of Innovation: Diversity remains a critical building block to unleashing innovation. While the impact of diversity factors alone on innovation mindset is significant, it is much higher when combined with a culture of equality. According to Accenture research, in the most-equal and diverse cultures, innovation mindset- their willingness and ability to innovate- is 11 times greater than in the least-equal and diverse cultures.

Diverse and Innovative Culture Starts at the Top: Of the Fortune 500 2021 CEOs, only 41 are women and only two of the 41 are Black. Setting and publishing diversity targets, holding the leadership team accountable and measuring progress are critical steps. Specific to my experience at Accenture, we’ve found that when leaders give employees the resources they need to innovate and the freedom to fail, companies are more successful.

Employee Loyalty as a means to Stay Ahead: A recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey found that nearly 80% of workers say that they want to work for a company that values diversity, equity and inclusion. In order for companies to retain the most innovative talent in today’s competitive workforce, corporations must prioritize diversity at all levels of the organization.

Understanding the Impact of Shopper Behaviors: Retailers’ I&D practices are making an impact on shoppers’ behaviors more than ever. According to Accenture Research, 41% of shoppers tell us that they have shifted at least 10 percent of their business away from a retailer that does not reflect how important I&D is to them. Furthermore, ethnic minorities and younger shoppers report a higher incidence of I&D-driven switching in the last 12 months. To assess consumer values, teams must embrace diverse, innovative thinking.

Reward for Risk Culture: In my day to day, I work with senior executives to shed light on how the culture of the company must change to foster innovation and encourage growth. Oftentimes, simple factors like encouraging employees to take risks leads to new opportunities and creative thinking. What’s more, we know that employees in the most-equal cultures are less afraid to fail.

What advice would you give to other business leaders to help their employees to thrive?

At Accenture, I’ve been lucky to both partner with and learn from leaders who care and follow servant leadership. Leading by example, Julie Sweet and Ellyn Shook are taking concrete actions to close the perception gap and paving the way for other leaders to follow.

When it comes to workplace culture, we are at an inflection point. There is a large gap between what leaders think is going on and what employees say is happening on the ground. Two thirds of leaders (68 percent) feel they create empowering environments — in which employees can be themselves, raise concerns and innovate without fear of failure — but just one third (36 percent) of employees agree. In addition, employees care increasingly about workplace culture and believe it’s important to help them thrive in the workplace (reported by 77 percent of women and 67 percent of men).

Their voices are rising, loud and clear, while a growing number of companies recognize the importance of equality. I call on others to enable a workplace in which risks are rewarded, and diversity and innovation pave the way.

What advice would you give to other business leaders about how to manage a large team?

Businesses have had to pivot fast amid the disruption caused by the pandemic. But it is only the latest disruption in a sea of constant change created, among others, by the adoption of advanced digital technologies, emerging social change, and higher consumer expectations. To beat disruption, leading companies need to create a culture of innovation and inclusion when leading large teams.

Accenture’s Innovation Culture Research analyzed 1.3 million Glassdoor reviews of 287 North American companies with revenues above $3B using Natural Language Processing. The results were used to develop/compute an Innovation Culture Score in the form of an index and then mapped their Innovation Culture Scores to the S&P CapitalIQ revenue of the last 5 years. Our research confirms that companies that foster a strong culture of innovation are rewarded by a higher growth rate and financial performance. The advice to business leaders who manage large teams is to embrace innovation, as it is the main source of disruption — and consequently, the antidote to being displaced.

Leaders can foster this culture of innovation among their large teams and diffuse it throughout the organization by aligning on Innovation’s role in supporting the organizational vision; demonstrating leadership commitment by role modeling and inspiring others to lead the change; encouraging behavioral experimentation and creating a strong reward and recognition program that showcases the ideal innovation mindsets and behaviors.

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?

This is a fantastic question! For a while, I have admired Serena Williams. As someone who is constantly looking for opportunity to learn a new sport or challenging my physical limits, I am inspired by the grit and determination that helped her to achieve 23 Grand Slam titles! She served as a source of inspiration for me when I was training for one of the hardest through hikes I have done in my life — the Selvaggio Blu.

Growing up in Compton, CA, Serena has faced racism and sexism throughout her career and continues to be an advocate for diversity and equality through her role as the Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.

Most recently, I have been inspired by her transparency on the topics of motherhood and mental health. Allowing others the space and grace needed to deal with such topics, which are further amplified due to the pandemic and providing them a platform to share and learn is indeed powerful.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow Accenture on Twitter @Accenture or LinkedIn @Accenture; and you can find me on LinkedIn.

Thank you for these excellent insights. We wish you continued success in your great work.


Accenture’s Shivani Vora On How Diversity Can Increase Innovation was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

CC’s Closet and I care about u: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That May…

CC’s Closet and I care about u: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That May Change The World In The Next Few Years

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Perseverance is the gateway to success. The more effort and time put into a task or project, the more you will gain from it. In other words, keep trying even when it may appear that there is no hope.

CC’s Closet is a social enterprise business that was founded by a teen entrepreneur named Sierra Benayon-Abraham with the goal of supporting sustainability within the fashion industry and giving back to causes within the local community. By hand crafting one of a kind bags that incorporate recycled fabrics into the design, CC’s Closet’s products are sourced and produced sustainably, working to raise awareness about fast fashion. Additionally, with each purchase a portion of the proceeds are either donated back to Shining Through, a school for children with autism, Ve’ahavta, a jewish humanitarian agency, or Nova’s Ark, a centre that works with rescued therapeutic animals and children with varied abilities.

I care about u was formed by two sisters, Bailee and Justine Sneiderman, 12 and 15 years of age. The phrase, I care about u stood out as it can help build a community of kindness and support. Their goal was to help the community and as many people as possible, and this was accomplished in two ways. First, the I care about u logo will stand out to people passing by and spark a smile in them. Second, 100% of their profits are donated to food banks to help fight food insecurity.

Together, CC’s Closet and I care about u have collaborated, forming a unique partnership with the goal of combining all their passions into one. They are selling an I care about u sweatshirt, face mask and CC’s Closet handbag that gives back to local charities, supports sustainable products and encourages social entrepreneurism in this day and age.

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?

Both having avid interests in the world of entrepreneurship and social policy from an early age, we felt drawn towards the challenge of innovation and the field of business throughout our upbringings. From running our first lemonade stands at the age of six, donating a small bag of change to local charities within our neighbourhoods, we knew this was what we aspired to do. Additionally, we have both developed a keen interest in volunteerism and discovering the most effective way at supporting local causes. Therefore, after completing some preliminary research, and discovering the phrase social entrepreneurship, it seemed there was nothing more desirable to pursue. We had found the perfect way to combine our two most burning passions into one.

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

To attract new customers and broaden our reach beyond digital sales, we both independently participated in local outdoor craft markets. These markets had a fee to participate and sell our products and other vendors were less socially conscious in their purpose. Thus, we came up with the idea of hosting our own market which would be tailored to our desired social criteria. We plan to begin action with these markets in the new year, and will have other like minded vendors to attract a larger audience.

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

While there have been a multitude of leading philosophies that have guided our lives, and entrepreneurship careers, the three main principles we strive to follow are open-mindedness, believing in yourself, and above all passion. To begin with, open-mindedness has been fundamental for growth in daily life and in our individual businesses. It is the ability to look at situations with a new perspective that ultimately allows for further growth and progress. Belief in oneself is key to being successful when operating your own business, but also throughout daily life in general. Constantly striving to achieve your greatest potential, while recognizing your faults and weaknesses, ensures success and self-preservation. Lastly, and arguably the most important guiding philosophy, is passion. Whatever you choose to do in life, do it because you love it. Because you are willing to put your all into it, and because it is the thing you are most passionate about.

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”?

As teen entrepreneurs, we wanted to make a difference in our community with our mutual interests in business and helping others. Over the past year, we independently built our own businesses, one called “I care about u” and the second called “CC’s Closet.” I care about u is a business that sells masks and sweatshirts with the original logo “I care about u” printed on them. 100% of the profits are donated to food banks to help fight food insecurity. CC’s Closet is a business that hand crafts one of a kind bags that support sustainability within the fashion industry and give back a portion of their proceeds to one of three charitable causes. Recently, we have been working together to form a partnership that combines both of our products and initiatives into one in order to continue to promote social entrepreneurism, sustainable products, teen innovation and giving back to our local communities.

How do you think this will change the world?

We feel this initiative will change the world as it incorporates an extensive amount of different positive aspects that all contribute to inflicting positive change. There is the more apparent element of donating a portion of the proceeds back towards people experiencing homelessness and food insecurity, both incredibly important causes impacting our society today. However, there is far more than meets the eye to this initiative. Sustainability among consumers has become a widely discussed topic within the 21st century, and when developing our product lines, that was an especially important concept we kept in mind when finding sustainable sources to produce our products. Similarly, we feel it is especially influential for other young adults and teens to know they are not alone. It can often be frightening, trying to accomplish change as a young child in a world full of successful adults. However, by sharing each other’s stories, and forming partnerships to help support one another, we hope to evoke many feelings of inspiration on numerous generations to come. After all, who doesn’t love a cozy sweatshirt, high quality face mask, fashionable handbag that is made sustainably, gives back to local causes within the community and inspires?

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?

In line with the concepts discussed in Black Mirror and the Law of Unintended Consequences, we feel the only potential drawback would be growth at an unmanageable rate. What we mean by that, is that we currently take great pride in sourcing all the materials for our products sustainably and maintaining a close relationship with our customers. The fear for any business owner is that unmanageable growth is reached and the vision of the enterprise gets slightly faded in the mix. Nevertheless, we are dedicated to the missions we have embedded into the many layers of our company, and are always operating with precautions in mind.

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

Teen entrepreneurs who wanted to make a significant positive impact in society — We couldn’t see anything more perfect than this. Generally when we walk to school, we pass by a few homeless people. Seeing these people, we can infer that they are struggling to feed themselves. When the pandemic hit, we instantly knew that this situation would only become worse. Any steps we could take would help aid the cause, but the idea of how we would take on this task hadn’t fully developed. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to take action. We both formed our own organizations targeted at helping different aspects of this social issue. We were doing well on our own, but knew that working together would make us and our charitable goals have a higher success rate. In this case, 1+1>2 as it allows us to cross promote to each other’s curated audiences.

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

In order to lead this idea to widespread adoption the most advantageous element would merely be the support of others. We believe in the power of numbers, and the most helpful thing anyone could offer us would just be their support and assistance with spreading awareness about the initiative. We would be beyond appreciative if you would just tell one family member, friend, colleague or classmate about our story and what we are trying to accomplish. Everyone’s kind words of encouragement mean the world to us, and we cannot thank you enough for supporting our initiative!

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

  1. Never give up — Perseverance is the gateway to success. The more effort and time put into a task or project, the more you will gain from it. In other words, keep trying even when it may appear that there is no hope. When we first started, we struggled with almost everything. We didn’t even know how to fulfil orders. On days when we received many, it was challenging to keep track of what had and hadn’t been done. If we had quit then, we wouldn’t have gotten to where we are today. We have seen people wearing our products and we have been able to make our first significant donation.
  2. Follow your dreams — We were passionate about this cause and it led to something wonderful. Being interested and excited about what you are trying to accomplish is paramount. It is also important to keep in mind that goals are achievable, no matter the difficulty as long as you are excited by them.
  3. Don’t be afraid to try something new — As we are young entrepreneurs, we have never had an experience quite like this. Being curious is an amazing tool to possess because it can lead to ideas you may have never even considered. Throughout our journey, we had to follow through on many events that we had minimal knowledge about, but the fear of not succeeding never shone through. We believed that you could even further your understanding of something if you have never done it before.
  4. It’s okay to ask for help — You may not always know all the answers. Although we like to believe that we do, assistance is never a bad thing. Getting insight on what is not working out or could use improvement helps aid your success. When we were stuck, we reached out to family members to provide us with their unique opinion on how to solve the problem.
  5. Knowledge is power — The more that you know about a specific topic or cause can change your actions towards it. It is also important to remember that you learn more every day, and your information continues to grow. As you grow as a person, your ideas begin to further develop and evolve with your ever changing knowledge. Keep learning!

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

The ability to have a strong mindset is especially important when it comes to accomplishing any task. Here are three different factors we try to keep in mind when approaching every situation, and overcoming any obstacles we may face.

  1. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box! — Although it may be slightly intimidating at first, never let fear cloud your judgement for further discovery or innovation. It is those creative thinkers that have the ability to invoke real change!
  2. Try not to procrastinate (we know, it’s hard!) — Although you may get told this often, and it isn’t always easy to follow through with, we have learned that trying your best to not procrastinate can prove to be exceptionally beneficial for overall success and even your own mental health. Getting work done in a prioritized order and sticking to a plan will prove to reduce stress levels significantly and help you stay on track in order to achieve your goals!
  3. Everything happens for a reason — While this is sometimes hard to believe, try to keep in mind that perhaps everything happens for a reason, you just may not know it yet. Whether you weren’t pleased with the mark you just got on your most recent math test (for all the students out there!) or your supplier just informed you that your inventory is going to be a month late (for all you business owners!), allow yourself a moment of anxiety, but then take a breath and remember it will all work out in the end.

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 🙂

By joining us, you will be supporting young female entrepreneurs, increasing your own social capital by investing in social justice opportunities, and growing a movement. As an added bonus, you will be helping to stop the spread of COVID-19 by selling high quality reusable masks, and looking great while doing it by wearing a handcrafted one of a kind bag. How could you resist? We have started and developed our own incredible dreams into a reality from scratch as teen female entrepreneurs aiming at making a difference in society. We are trying to create a movement that supports kindness, caring and compassion throughout communities through the unique “I care about u” message, while supporting recycling and the environment, helping fight food insecurity and poverty. You could have a part in this movement. You could have the chance to make a difference. You could tell the world that you care about them.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Instagram: @icare.aboutu and @ccs_closetco

Websites: https://icareaboutu.ca and https://ccsclosetco.com

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


CC’s Closet and I care about u: Sierra Benayon-Abraham and Justine Sneiderman’s Big Idea That May… 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: Brandon Alexander of Iron Ox On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: Brandon Alexander of Iron Ox On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Arable land per person continues to fall, and farming intensity has risen to match — depleting soils and creating dust bowls. Meanwhile, the annual amount of freshwater resources per person has declined by more than 20% in the past 20 years. Food production stopped scaling with population years ago, so the more we grow, the more climate impacts we have. Combine this with the projection that we’ll add 2.5B people to the planet in the next 30 years, and the situation becomes beyond urgent. It’s immediate.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brandon Alexander, CEO of Iron Ox.

Brandon does not consider himself an environmentalist. He grew up in a large agriculture family: it was the definition of industrial farming. While Brandon grew up in agriculture, his background is in robotics and machine learning. Eventually, he quit his job at Google and spent 6 months driving around California, talking to farmers of avocados, strawberries, lettuce, almonds… you name it. The problems he saw were systemic: from ploughing land to the abundance of artificial fertilizers, and shipping 2,000 miles. He realized food production is shockingly wasteful from seed to plate, and this waste is behind agriculture’s contribution to global warming. Brandon cares because he is a lover of food, he doesn’t want to give up those salads, and believes if we don’t address the climate impact of food we’ll end up with neither. To do this, we have to rethink the entire food process from the ground up.

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

Every summer of my childhood, I was shipped off to my grandparent’s farm for hours picking cotton, potatoes, and peanuts under the Texas sun, and let’s just say it wasn’t my favorite activity. It wasn’t a surprise to anyone when I decided to pursue a career other than farming, and I found my passion for engineering and robotics during my time at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduation my career in robots and engineering began to take off. I spent years developing technology, making drones and other innovative products I believed could change the world. However, when I learned the technology was being used to deliver burritos and not to directly help the global food crisis, it was a monumental moment. I knew there must be a better way to utilize technology and to feed the future. Little did I know I was learning necessary tools that we use each and every day here at Iron Ox.

There were a few raised eyebrows around the Alexander family dinner table when I announced I was leaving my dream robotics job to become a farmer. But Iron Ox isn’t my grandparents’ farm, and I’m not your typical farmer.

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

Funny enough, the most interesting thing that I’ve experienced since starting my career is learning that in AgTech, not much has changed. Beyond fancy tractors, nothing has changed in the past 60 years. Global agriculture, the thing designed to nourish the human race, is killing the Earth. A quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions come from growing and shipping our food. Even worse, 40 percent of all the food produced in the U.S. is wasted before it hits the grocery store, creating huge amounts of methane as it rots in landfills.

The truth is this: Humans can lower our thermostats, bike to work, and opt-out of long-haul flights. But eating isn’t optional. This means we need to find a more efficient way to grow our food — and we need to do it right now. I found that through farming we can work towards making agriculture carbon negative — this is where Iron Ox was born.

Before harvest, waste is anything that is provided to the plant, but not used by the plant. Today about 70% of our freshwater goes to agriculture, and about 90% of that doesn’t reach the plants. Agriculture’s water waste is unparalleled. Then there’s nitrous oxide from the overuse of fertilizers — one of the most damaging greenhouse gases reaching our atmosphere. And while it’s growing, we’re using immense amounts of fossil fuel-based energy. Food waste as a whole, creates 4.4 gigatons of emissions. This is equivalent to all global road transit: solving just post-harvest waste would have the same climate impact as switching every car to electric.

We need to fix this now. Right now.

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

Iron Ox recently unveiled a first-of-its kind, autonomous mobile robot — Grover.

Grover is not your average farm hand. It can lift more than 1,000 pounds and assists in the monitoring, watering and harvesting of a wide variety of crops.

Grover is a key component of Iron Ox’s broader farming ecosystem, a closed-loop system that optimizes plant yield, reduces growth cycle time and maximizes crop quality. The result is delicious, nutritious, locally sourced fruits and vegetables that currently cost about the same as produce from conventional farms, with substantially lower environmental impacts. The robots work alongside our team of plant scientists, growers and data scientists. Iron Ox grows more with less, leading to less food waste and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.

How do you think this might change the world?

Grover is a durable, hygienic and highly capable autonomous mobile robot that allows Iron Ox to save water, land and energy — while predicting and responding in real time to local consumer demand. Grover tends to a wide variety of produce — while drastically reducing food waste. As I stated previously Iron Ox’s mission is to make agriculture carbon negative through the use of advanced robotics, artificial intelligence and plant science. Grover is a key part in getting Iron Ox one step closer to this mission.

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

At Iron Ox, our AI works hand-in-hand with our team of plant scientists, roboticists, grow teams, etc. to solve for the future of farming.

Arable land per person continues to fall, and farming intensity has risen to match — depleting soils and creating dust bowls. Meanwhile, the annual amount of freshwater resources per person has declined by more than 20% in the past 20 years. Food production stopped scaling with population years ago, so the more we grow, the more climate impacts we have. Combine this with the projection that we’ll add 2.5B people to the planet in the next 30 years, and the situation becomes beyond urgent. It’s immediate.

In a similar way to how solar and wind changed over fossil fuel energy to renewable energy, we need a new category — renewable foods.

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

When I first thought of what is now Iron Ox I headed on a six-month road trip traveling through California to see how automation could tackle the hardest problems facing American farmers.

We found that in the Central Valley water and labor was scarce. Farm work is backbreaking and it is causing younger generations to opt out for better opportunities. The problems didn’t stop there. Pests, herbicide-resistant weeds, and the loss of topsoil from years of tilling the ground was making farming that much more difficult. On and on went the list of farmers’ struggles.

We started our trip thinking we could advance robotics for harvesting, weeding, or other small farm tasks. By the time we pulled the car back into his driveway, I knew that wasn’t going to be enough. This was the tipping point, the moment I realized we were going to have to rebuild the whole damn system with automation and efficiency baked into every bit of it.

So that’s what Iron Ox is doing.Iron Ox grows plants under natural sunlight, leveraging photosynthesis — the 3-billion-year-old process by which plants use energy from the sun to turn atmospheric CO2 into plant biomass, and the most scalable carbon capture technology on Earth.

Iron Ox generates 30x more produce per acre and uses 90% less water than field farms. But our farms aren’t just about doing more with less, they’re also about doing more with more.

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

In order to make people passionate about the Iron Ox solution of solving global climate through food, we need to raise awareness of the problem and challenges of traditional large-scale agriculture. Recently, we had the opportunity to introduce the concept of Renewable Food at the Web Summit in November in Lisbon, Portugal and it was met with great success.

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

We are at the starting point of Renewable Food, raising awareness around efficiency, sustainability and renewability are at the forefront of our strategy and mission. We are excited to unveil more details in the coming months on how Iron Ox will accomplish zero waste through precision farming, make each farm carbon neutral and make the entire operation carbon negative.

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

Renewable food starts with eliminating waste. We have to solve all the environmental variables — energy, water, and land use — in ways that can scale to meet the needs of a growing population. Operating with this kind of precision at scale requires robotics, data science, and plant science, all working together to grow more, using less. Every input needs to lead to the creation of calories. It is a multistep project and the first step is focused on Efficiency — get to zero waste through precision farming.

Renewable food starts by making sure every input, every liter of water or gram of nitrogen is converted to a calorie. And everything that’s grown is delivered to a customer that day. But plants are complex, living things. And to truly understand what they need, We have to be able to isolate each of the dozen variables and inputs at scale. This is where Artificial Intelligence combined with Plant Science and Computer Vision can play a role. With the right systems, we now have tools available to us to process millions of images of plants throughout their life and learn how each one responds to different inputs and even which genetic sequences thrive in what conditions.

Robotics creates a platform to give each plant the attention it needs at scale. We no longer have to sacrifice quality for quantity. And technologies like hydroponics enables precise control of the exact water and nutrients into each plant, regardless of location or soil conditions.

And the results can be powerful: at our robotic indoor farms in the United States, we’ve seen a 90% reduction in water usage and over a 15x yield increase per acre. And while we’ve built these tools for indoor farming, the same principles can be applied throughout the entire food production industry.

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. 🙂

Renewable Food becomes what Renewable Energy is today. In a similar way to how solar and wind changed over fossil fuel energy, we need Renewable Foods to become a new category.

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 don’t have very long to make this happen. At Iron Ox, we think about this exclusively from the standpoint of fresh produce, but it needs to be all types of food. Thankfully, a handful of companies have already started, and more will join. We hope you will too.

How can our readers follow you on social media? — UPDATE

LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/company/iron-ox/

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/ironoxfarms/

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ironoxfarms/

Twitter https://twitter.com/IronOxFarms

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


The Future Is Now: Brandon Alexander of Iron Ox On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Sharon Sullivan Of Lawn Love: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Empower people so they have autonomy and responsibility to make decisions and do their jobs so their work is meaningful. Work to people’s strengths and give them opportunities to help them grow and develop. Coach them and not instruct them.

As a part of our series about “How To Give Honest Feedback without Being Hurtful”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Sharon Sullivan.

Sharon Sullivan is the managing editor for Lawn Love, one of the country’s leading outdoor services providers. She has spent almost 30 years as an editor for newspapers, magazines and websites. Sharon lives in Central Florida with her husband, William, and 10-year-old son, Aiden.

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 graduated from the University of Florida in 1994 after studying journalism. Even though I did a lot of writing, specialized in editing. My first job was at a small daily newspaper in South Florida, where I was a copy editor and page designer. After two years getting my feet wet, I decided to move a little closer to my aging parents and took a copy editing job at a larger daily paper in Central Florida. That is where I made the leap and jumped into my management career. I learned a lot about the newspaper industry, and quickly worked my way up the ladder. I spent 18 years with that New York Times-owned newspaper leading print and online editing, design and advertising teams.

Then, as newspapers around the country were shrinking and folding, and I knew it was time to make a career shift. I moved into sales as a local magazine publisher. In that role I directed the content and editing of the magazine, while also selling prints and digital advertising.

Then one day a former colleague contacted me because he was looking to hire an editor to help direct a team of blog writers for Lawn Love. To me, this was a great opportunity and challenge that I couldn’t pass up. It was getting back to doing what I loved — editing and coaching a team of writers.

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

I think it’s important to work for a company where you believe in and live their core values. Lawn Love has an amazing company culture where they believe in continuous learning.

When I was being interviewed for Lawn Love, my boss said they were searching for a seasoned editor who could create a strong learning environment to help the writers develop and grow. Most of my job is coaching and providing feedback to help them become better, which then helps our company become better.

Even though we all work remotely, we have a lot of one-on-one sessions, training and other learning opportunities. The company has a weekly meeting to discuss what’s happening in various departments and with the company overall. Not many companies offer insight into all the departments and how they operate. This strong belief in continuous learning is carried through at every level of the company and to every employee.

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

Honestly, I would have to say the most interesting story was how I became the managing editor at Lawn Love.

In 2008, I was in charge of hiring a team of 30 editors for the New York Times Editing Center, which was relocating from New York to Florida. One of the editors I hired I kept in touch with off and on as we both moved on to other companies. Then, this past May, he sent me a message and said his company was looking to hire a managing editor and thought I would be a perfect fit. That managing editor position was for Lawn Love. Now, that colleague I hired 13 years ago is now my boss.

That is why it is important to stay connected to the people who make a difference in your life and influence your career. You never know when a great opportunity will come your way!

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?

There were many mistakes I made when I was first starting my career. At my first job we published two different newspapers at once, and we switched stories between editions. Keeping them straight and keeping on top of where stories were placed in each edition was tedious. I ended up running a story twice in one paper and not at all in the other. I can look back now and laugh, but at the time it wasn’t funny and I was embarrassed. The biggest lesson I learned from that was even though you are working in a fast-paced environment, it’s important to focus, pay close attention to the details, and double-check your work.

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

First, you need to have good, honest communication between you and your employees. If they are feeling burned out, they need to be able to tell you they are feeling this way and the reasons why. It may just take some simple adjustments or workflow changes to take the load off of them.

Setting priorities for employees so they have a roadmap will help them feel less pressure to get everything accomplished. If they have some things taken off their plate and focus on the most important tasks, it can relieve stress and prevent burnout.

Variety is the spice of life. If an employee is doing the same thing over and over, it can cause burnout. Give them a special task that challenges them and helps them grow. It’s hard to grow if you are burned out.

And, it’s important to have balance in your life. An employee can’t keep their nose to the grindstone all the time. If they do, they will not be a happy, productive employee. They have to have a good work/life balance.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Leadership is not something you can define in a few simple words. There are many facets of leadership.

Essentially, leadership is inspiring people to want to follow you. How does that happen? Many ways. Be a good role model who walks the walk and talks the talk. Follow through on things you say you are going to do. Make sure you know how to do all aspects of your employees’ jobs so you can show them — not just tell them — what to do and how to do it. Coach them and not instruct them. Empower people so they have autonomy and responsibility to make decisions and do their jobs so their work is meaningful. Work to people’s strengths and give them opportunities to help them grow and develop. Leadership is developing relationships where there is a two-way street with open communication and a lot of listening. It is being empathetic and authentic.

And “leader” and “manager” are not synonymous. Just because you manage people does not mean you lead them.

In my work, I often talk about how to release and relieve stress. As a busy leader, what do you do to prepare your mind and body before a stressful or high stakes meeting, talk, or decision? Can you share a story or some examples?

The best way for me to get my mind and body right is to go running. I have been an avid runner for the past 25 years. I start my day with a 4.5-mile run, and it helps to relieve stress and is a great way for me to work through things in my head. I’ve had some of my best ideas and worked through some of my toughest problems while running. It’s a visualization technique for me where I am able to go over scenarios with my desired outcomes. It is a great way to get mental clarity and prepare you for the challenges of the day.

Ok, let’s jump to the core of our interview. Can you briefly tell our readers about your experience with managing a team and giving feedback?

I’ve been in a management role most of my career and started very young (when I was 25). After just over two years out of college and working in my profession, I was promoted to a management position. Even though I started out supervising a small group, it was challenging. What made it so challenging was that I was giving feedback to journalists who were older and much more experienced than I was at the time. In the beginning, that feedback was not well-received. It took some time with me giving them consistent, thoughtful feedback for those more experienced employees to really value and respect me and the feedback I was giving them.

As time went on and I moved up in my career, I started managing larger teams. Along the way I picked up valuable knowledge and advice from my leaders on giving good, constructive feedback. I learned that the timing, format, and tone of feedback are all so important. And it’s not one size fits all. You have to consider the individual and how they respond to feedback so you know how to present it so it’s most effective.

This might seem intuitive but it will be constructive to spell it out. Can you share with us a few reasons why giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being an effective leader?

Giving honest and direct feedback is essential to being a good leader. As a leader, you want people to learn and grow. Constructive feedback will identify and help correct negative behavior and reinforce positive behavior. People can’t change something if they don’t know what they are doing is wrong. People need to know where they stand and not be fooled into thinking they are doing things right. If they think what they are doing is right, they will keep doing it. This will only hurt them when they move on in their careers. The direct and honest feedback helps people get on the right path to achieving their goals. If they are going in the right direction and achieving their goals, then the company is going in the right direction achieving its goals.

One of the trickiest parts of managing a team is giving honest feedback, in a way that doesn’t come across as too harsh. Can you please share with us five suggestions about how to best give constructive criticism to a remote employee? Kindly share a story or example for each.

  1. Give timely feedback: When you’re working remotely you are not in an office together with your employees, so it is not simple to go by their desk to talk anytime. If you have feedback, it’s important to take the time to do it as soon as you can. The more time that passes, the less effective the feedback is because people forget what they did and why they did it.
  2. Make sure feedback is in the proper format: Try to avoid emails. The best feedback is face to face, but because you can’t be together in an office, the next best thing is via online meetings. By meeting through Google or Zoom, you can see each other and can see facial expressions, mannerism and other body language. When you give feedback through email, there is much left up to interpretation.
  3. Use proper tone: Don’t just make it all negative. Always start out the conversation with a positive, provide the negative feedback, then end the discussion on a positive note. An employee will feel beaten up and only remember the negative if they never hear anything positive. And there are always good things to point out about a person’s work.
  4. Be specific: Don’t just give a very general, “You’re doing a good job.” Point out specifics about what they did and said. Something more specific would be, “You doubled your goal last week by writing six stories instead of three. That’s amazing!” By being specific it gives the feedback more value and meaning.
  5. Have a two-way discussion that involves listening: Make sure you are not the only one talking, otherwise it seems like the employee’s thoughts and opinions don’t matter. All feedback talks should involve two-way communication. It’s just as important to listen to your employee because there are many things you can learn by them giving you feedback.

How do you prevent the email from sounding too critical or harsh?

Generally, I try to avoid giving feedback in email, even when working remotely. When I do have feedback to give, I often message them and see if they can get on a quick one-on-one Zoom or Google Meets meeting to go over some things. This allows me to talk to them — face to face — and be able to show them things on the screen. It makes it much easier to provide effective feedback.

But if the only way to provide the feedback is through an email, I generally start the email pointing out something positive. If you start out by jumping right into the negative, it sets the tone for the entire email. It will turn them off and not get the results you want. After pointing out something positive, go into the meat of the email and provide the constructive feedback — just watch the tone. Watch the words and phrases you use. At the end, try to end on a more positive note. Before you send the email, read over it again to make sure it doesn’t sound too harsh or critical. A good way to do this is act as though you are the one receiving it. Does it sound harsh, or is it well-balanced?

In your experience, is there a best time to give feedback or critique? Should it be immediately after an incident? Should it be at a different time? Should it be at set intervals? Can you explain what you mean?

It’s always best to give timely feedback. You want to address something while it’s fresh in your mind and their mind. The more time passes, the less effective the feedback will be. And, if it is something critical, it should be addressed right away. You can often take care of things in a quick, impromptu Google meeting.

But, if you have weekly one-on-one meetings, that is a great time to talk about overall performance or issues. You can go over some things from the week and have an open dialogue.

Some cases require immediate feedback while others can be done within a reasonable window.

How would you define what it is to “be a great boss”? Can you share a story?

Being a great boss is being someone who provides a clear vision and clear expectations. They give constructive feedback and consistent coaching. A great boss sets high goals and challenges you so you can stretch and grow both professionally and personally. They trust you to get the job done so they empower you to make decisions and don’t micro-manage. They value your work and contributions and recognize you for your achievements. They encourage two-way communication, and their door is always open.

Not every boss you meet along your career path embodies all these attributes, but if you find one who has most of these qualities, you are lucky. I’ve had many good bosses, but I had one great boss early on in my career who stood for many of these values. During those years I learned the most and grew the most. I credit much of my success as an editor and leader to this very inspirational editor.

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 have been athletic all my life and now, as an adult, I am involved in youth sports. I’m the site manager for i9sports in Ocala, FL, and I coach soccer, baseball, flag football and basketball for youth ages 3–14. My 10-year-old son has been playing sports since he was 3 years old. I believe in the importance of getting kids involved in sports and physical activity at a very early age. I believe being healthy and active starts in your early years. If being physically active doesn’t become part of your lifestyle as a child, it’s hard to develop those healthy habits as an adult. I feel that youth sports doesn’t just help fight obesity and other health-related issues, but it also helps develop your character.

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

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

Honestly, my life has been based on habits. I live my life by the habits and routines I have formed. You can say I am a creature of habit. I believe successful people who strive for excellence develop good habits to get where they want to be in life, personally and professionally. You change bad habits into good ones, and you can achieve excellence. I wake up the same time every day. After taking my son to school I run 5 miles. I come home and get my work day started. After work I get my son to his activities and head to the gym.

My routine and habits have helped me be more focused, disciplined, and productive. They have helped me excel in all areas of my life and be a better person.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can see all the great stories we are publishing on our blog, https://lawnlove.com/blog/

Thank you for these great insights! We really appreciate the time you spent with this.


Sharon Sullivan Of Lawn Love: Giving Feedback; How To Be Honest Without Being Hurtful was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Chris Cormier Of SoPost: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Chris Cormier Of SoPost: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

…have a vision, be focused but be reliable and be there for your team. Be open, honest and admit when you are wrong, you have made a mistake or if a decision you make turns out to be the wrong choice. Learn from the problem, but focus on the solution.

Chris is the new US GM and VP of Sales for SoPost. Out of Sopost’s North American operations in New York City, Cormier brings a plethora of relevant industry experience to his new role. He has a proven track record of scaling businesses, which will help him excel in this new role. Most recently, Cormier was the Industry Manager for Fashion Global Accounts at Walmart Connect (WMC). As part of the inaugural leadership team that brought Walmart’s media business in-house, he built and led the team focused on strengthening relationships with the company’s most important fashion brand partners. In the span of 2.5 years, he grew the business 500 percent and developed unique partnerships for WMC within the influencer, marketing, and branded content spaces. Chris lives with his partner, son, and dog in New York.

Thank you so much for your time! Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

After finishing university in Canada, I landed a role as an assistant buyer in the Corporate office of Henry Birks & Sons, a luxury jewelry store in Canada. One of my favorite aspects of my job was working with our suppliers on our annual Holiday catalogue and securing coop funds from them in exchange for “space” to feature their product. I was chatting with a friend about my career aspirations one day and spoke about how much I enjoyed doing this and wished that there was a job where I could work with advertising and do sales. My friend gave me a look and said “what about ad sales?!?” I didn’t even know such a thing existed and, like the rest of the general population, assumed ads just magically appeared everywhere. At that point I was determined to break into the “ad sales” industry and, because I was interested in fashion and beauty, I figured the magazine industry was a good place to focus my efforts. Through networking and determination, I landed my first role as an account manager at Campus Canada magazine, where I was lucky to be calling on Fortune 500 companies right from the start. I worked hard, learned on the job and developed a solid network of client relationships that kicked off a career that, 4 years later, found me working at ELLE magazine in New York. Then I was off to the races… or swimming with sharks… maybe a bit of both.

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?

As one of the worlds top fashion brands, ELLE was all about image and putting your best foot forward… for everything. I remember having a meeting at a clients offices in Midtown, about a 20 minute walk from my office. I love to walk, and it was a beautiful day, so I took a taxi to the appointment and planned to walk back to the office afterward with plenty of time to make it back in time for our weekly team meeting. When I emerged from my meeting and hit the sidewalk, the clouds had rolled in and it looked like it was going to rain. Too stubborn to change my original plan of walking back to the office, I began my trek through the streets of New York, confident that the skies would hold their downpour until I was safely back behind my deck. If you know the torrential rains that can hit the East Coast during the summer, you know I was a fool. The skies opened up and I got absolutely DRENCHED within seconds. I can still feel my grey summer-weight suit and white shirt clinging to me as I stood on the street corner about a block away from my office. I still in complete shock when a town car pulled up and the back window rolled down. It was ELLE’s “big boss”, Publisher Carl Portale (an associate of the real “Mr Big”) impeccably dressed as usual dry and comfortable in the back of the air conditioned car. “Christopher, you’ve gotten yourself into a situation now, haven’t you?” he chuckled in his deep voice. Next thing I know he’s opening the car door, jumping out and telling his driver to take me home so I can get changed and back to the office before our weekly staff meeting. He then produced an umbrella, seemingly out of nowhere, as he strolled back to our office.

The lesson I learned? A gentleman is always prepared.

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?

Yes, Lynne Dominick who hired me to manage the Beauty business at ELLE. It was a highly coveted role with plenty of qualified candidates in NYC, but she took a chance on a young guy from Canada with no green card and only a few business contacts in the US. Her choice changed my life forever and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our vision and purpose at the start remains our vision and purpose to the present day — to be the most powerful sampling platform in the world. That is one of the most appealing things about working at SoPost, we are true to who and what we are and we are laser focused on how we can be the best at it without trying to be something that we are not. The business has organically expanded with robust data, analytics, VR capabilities and a consumer focused platform but we remain true to our core value proposition.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I am sure that my experience is shared by all leaders today — managing a team during a Global pandemic and all that followed. I was at Walmart Connect at the time, as part of the leadership team building out their marketing platform. We had brought the business in house only 6 months earlier, so we were a relatively new team still figuring things out and getting into our groove. Walmart is a people-first company and their focus immediately turned to the wellbeing of the customer and their employees. As leaders, we were encouraged to check in regularly with our teams to ensure they were okay and had the resources they needed from both a personal and professional perspective. There was no question that the work had to get done (customers were relying on us for essentials), people were encouraged to talk, share and ask for help which was quickly provided without question or judgement. I heard some remarkable stories and, each time, the wellness of the employees came first.

I am a pretty transparent person and I have always encouraged an open and honest dialogue with my teams, so this was not unfamiliar territory for me. AS professionals, we want to do great work and be recognized for it, but if we bring our “whole self” to work and feel supported, we’ll excel even more.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Giving up is not in my DNA, which is both a positive and a negative. I am more of a “bear down and push through” type when faced with a challenge and I am very unlikely to abandon something until a really feel I have given it my best. Life is filled with challenges and they an opportunity to grow as an individual and as a leader. If things get nutty, I’ll find a way to blow off some steam, rest and get back at it the next day, usually with a renewed focus and purpose.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

So many things — have a vision, be focused but be reliable and be there for your team. Be open, honest and admit when you are wrong, you have made a mistake or if a decision you make turns out to be the wrong choice. Learn from the problem, but focus on the solution.

I think it’s also important to remember that, as a leader, it’s very important for me to help remove barriers to my teams success. If people know that you have a vested interest in their success, they will supported and give you their best work.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Now, more than ever, it’s important to take time to connect with people. We are not in an office together 5 days a week and I don’t expect that to change any time soon. That make it more challenging to build up a rapport with your team but it can also be an opportunity. Even before Covid, I was a fan of doing 1:1 check in meetings with my direct reports outside of the office at a nearby restaurant or cafe. We always talked business but, outside of the structured environment, people were more included to be open and honest about how things were really going. As a leader, this gave me intel that was equally as valuable as any information that populated a deck or an excel spreadsheet.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Have an open and honest conversation and try to be compassionate about how they may be receiving the information on their end. The latter is often the trickiest part and is dependent on how well you know the individual. If you deliver the information in a calm and compassionate way, you’re more likely to have a productive conversation. If it’s an on-going problem, then be sure that you have had conversation leading up so things are not a total surprise.

I am not a fan of delivering difficult news via email, it’s too vulnerable to misinterpretation and you can lose control of the situation. Too many times we bury information in a barrage of written communication that may or may not be getting through. We feel we’ve “check a box” but if the message is not received has it been effective? Nothing beats a face to face dialogue (Zoom or in person) to be sure your message is being heard. The you follow it up with an email.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Listen. Think. Learn. Take in information from reliable sources. Decide. Mull it over. Change your mind. Think again, then make your final decision.

I find the fact that the future is so unpredictable very exciting. The marketing and media industry I started my career in is very different from the one I work in today. I was open to change, pushed myself to evolve and grow. I love hearing about new marketing trends and new ways to engage with the customer. As marketers, it’s our responsibility to follow the customer and engage with them where they are.

That’s one of the reasons why I am so excited to join the team at SoPost. When I was in magazines, we introduced customers to new products with scent strips and product sachets. Customers are no longer reading magazines like they used to and have migrated to social, e-commerce, influencer and other marketing platforms. SoPost is reaching qualified audiences where they are now and where they will be in the future. That’s very exciting to me, the possibilities are endless.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

True to our UK roots — “keep calm and carry on”. When the world has gone mad and everything is a challenge, steps back, refocus, reconnect and make a plan. Turbulent times often make great businesses even greater, so jump in and ride the wave.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

They let fear take over and they don’t come up with a plan of attack. When things seem bleak, you may have to dig deeper to find the opportunity and a path forward.

When I was at Walmart during the early days of Covid, our suppliers were very nervous, and rightfully so. Many of our Fashion suppliers chose to pause their investment in media, which directly had an impact on my team. It was certainly not a time to be tone deaf, so I kept talking with everyone — my team, our suppliers, our merchants. It was during these discussions that I learned that we were suddenly seeing an uptick in athleisure sales online, before customers were allowed to shop for non-essential items in-store. When we saw that that was a definite trend, me and my team joined forces with the merchants to set up meetings with our suppliers to discuss the state of the business and where we saw bright spots in consumer spending. This gave confidence back to our suppliers who turned their advertising back on, helping to drive unprecedented growth and better serving the customer.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Invest in your people, encourage innovation and look at new ways of doing things. A strategy may be very effective then lose steam, so it’s time to try a new way of doing it. Listen carefully to the people on the frontlines… more importantly, join the people on the frontlines. As your customers what is keeping them up at night, how can you help solve their problem? Ask question and listen.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Communicate — in person and with a regular cadence.
  2. Ask questions and listen — with your team and your customers. Sometimes a passing comment can unlock a huge opportunity.
  3. Be decisive, but be the first to admit when you have made a mistake and work quickly to course-correct.
  4. Hire great talent and let them do what you hired them to do. If they are struggling, make sure they are set up for success and explore ways in which they can be better supported. Make sure they are the right person in the right role.
  5. Work to break down the barriers to your team’s success and let them know that your are invested in their success. Management is not a “one size fits all” so get to know your team players and customize your approach as required.

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

I am terrible at quotes because I usually mess them up. Jokes too (although I love to laugh)

Mine is more of a life lesson, versus a life lesson quote. My father was a top executive at a well know brewery in Canada and, every Friday, he packed a lunch so he could go sit in the plant with all of the line workers. This way he learned about the business at its very core, was able to ensure that they had a voice and were heard. Most importantly, they knew that they were valued.

We are nothing without our people. Yikes, is that a life lesson quote?

How can our readers further follow your work?

Hit me up on LinkedIn!

Thank you so much for your time!


Chris Cormier Of SoPost: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Brandon Perry Of Island Brands USA On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Brandon Perry Of Island Brands USA On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Disruptive action always seems to be frowned upon by the middle of the bell curve followers. In order to be a disruptor you need to take risks and have a very short memory when people tell you your ideas are crazy or cannot be executed.

Brandon Perry is the Co-Founder, Co-CEO, and CMO of Island Brands USA, a retail-focused beer brand with a mission to bring better, cleaner beer to the world. With nearly 20 years of experience launching and innovating businesses, Brandon has demonstrated an expert ability to grow and scale operations across finance, technology, and SaaS verticals. Since founding Island Brands with friend and co-founder Scott Hansen in 2016, Brandon has been instrumental in steering the company’s brand direction, creating an all-clean alternative to many artificial options currently crowding the market and disrupting the $116 billion domestic beer market by creating an entirely new super premium, non-craft beer vertical.

As Co-CEO and CMO of Island Brands, Brandon is responsible for overseeing the brand’s marketing strategies and spearheading all tech-related advancements. Brandon works closely with the company’s digital-forward innovations, including an app which uses machine learning to identify purchases and assign rewards points accordingly. In 2021, Island Brands became the fastest-growing super premium domestic can family in the Southeast; and, in keeping with Brandon and Scott’s original mission, boasts a line of products that are all-natural, GMO-free and contain zero fillers, zero artificial flavors, zero adjuncts.

In his spare time, Brandon enjoys travelling, live music, and vintage European car culture. He lives in Charleston with his wife and four children.

Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this career path and the creation of Island Brands USA?

In 2016, while growing my fintech company, my co-founder Scott Hansen asked if I wanted to go to Cuba to provide “race support “ for a regatta in which he was participating. While in Cuba, we decided we wanted to bring better beer options to the wonderful Island nation and its people. After assessing the geopolitical challenges (and sobering up), that’s when we noticed an opportunity in the US for a cleaner, better-for-you, super-premium beer brand family that was not only approachable but widely available throughout major retail stores. We had always been passionate about beer and wanted to create a product that could stand up to market competitors while providing a more authentic product.

So, we rolled up our sleeves and got to work designing Island Brands. We were very intentional about creating a timeless design that melded the heritage of Cuba using design components of cigar labels as well as matching the white of the can to represent the white sand beaches of Varadero Cuba. The blue on the top of the can required us to go to the can plant in Denver in order to perfectly match the majestic blue water of the Caribbean .

Tell us a little bit about the brand and what is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Our Island Brands USA Brand family is taking some different approaches with our go-to-market strategy. We focus on a retail-first approach and have created a new beer category that straddles between domestic mass market, factory-made beer and artisanal craft brewers.

By implementing a digital-first marketing strategy, we have built a community of enthusiastic fans. Our brand partnerships and attribution, for example, are tied to the newly-launched Island Passport Loyalty App that allows consumers to trade proof of purchases for gear and non-profit donations. Our traction is also evidenced by the fact that we have raised over $4 million using an OPO (crowdfunding) and have broken every record in the American-owned alcohol space on StartEngine for both speed and dollars raised. We have investors on the platform that are outside of our distribution footprint that are coming along for the ride and have never even tasted the beer. They love the branding, our GTM, and our David vs Goliath ability to compete with the biggest conglomerates in the world.

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?

We recently launched one of our new products and realized, after receiving and proofreading the cans, that there was a significant typo (our other product was listed) on the outer carton. We solved the issue by manually covering 2,500 12-packs with a fun sticker. Lesson learned to check and check again.

Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I don’t have any specific mentors but I am a voracious reader of topics covering marketing, consumer-packaged goods, and technology strategies, by authors like Tim Ferris and Seth Godin. It has served me well.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruptive action always seems to be frowned upon by the middle of the bell curve followers. In order to be a disruptor you need to take risks and have a very short memory when people tell you your ideas are crazy or cannot be executed. As a beer company, we are up against a very archaic industry that has been averse to change for many, many years. Swimming upstream can be very hard and tiresome but if you have the conviction of your vision, you will be able to tune out the naysayers and press on.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?

1) Don’t listen to the naysayers

2) Hire people that are smarter than you

3) Take risks and don’t be afraid to fail

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next? What’s in store for Island Brands USA in the future?

We have a lot of work ahead of us when it comes to realizing our goal of making Island Brands USA a global juggernaut in the premium beer and flavored malt beverage (FMB) space. We are super excited to launch our portfolio and brand extensions in the coming year. Whether disrupting beer, hard tea, hard lemonade, or debuting our new flavored low calorie Active, we are ready to show the nation and some of our latest C-store focused FMBs — all set to launch in Q1 of 2022.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I am a fan of the NPR podcast “How I Built This” as well as the podcast “Masters of Scale’’ hosted by Reid Hoffman of Linkedin fame. I like to hear the challenges of the startup community as well as the solutions being executed in order to move through company growth phases. There are so many similarities in growing companies that are independent of the vertical in which they operate.

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

No risk, no reward. I see so many people that are very risk averse in life and business. I am a serial entrepreneur and lean towards the creative side so I think nothing of jumping into a business and taking a chance. Life is short and it should be lived on your own terms.

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 believe that all businesses should have a social enterprise and give-back components as part of their bylaws and mission. If every business took that approach it might move the needle. We have incorporated giving back with community-based charities that are tied to our Island Passport loyalty app. Essentially, you can earn points by uploading receipts as proof of Island Brands beer purchases and trade those points for cash donations to a charity on the platform rather than redeeming merchandise.

How can our readers follow you and Island Brands USA online?

IG @Islandcoastallager @Islandactive and personal Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/brandon-perry-0287509/ and IG @thebrandonperry

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Meet The Disruptors: Brandon Perry Of Island Brands USA On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Brendan Kamm Of Thnks On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We are on a mission to make gratitude a daily habit in the workplace, changing the way people incorporate appreciation into their business relationships.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Brendan Kamm.

Brendan Kamm, co-founder and CEO of Thnks, a digital gratitude platform that empowers business professionals to build better relationships by sharing personalized gestures of appreciation in a thoughtful, efficient way. Incorporating technology, program analytics, compliance adherence, and the science of gratitude, Thnks helps its users improve client relationships, customer engagement, and employee appreciation.

Kamm is responsible for all day-to-day operations, including Thnks’ strategic vision, while advancing the platform’s tech capabilities and partner integrations. Through Thnks, Kamm is improving the way gratitude is expressed within the workplace and between sales teams and their clients.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My background as a sales executive really opened my eyes to the lack of gratitude in business and how relationships were suffering as a result. I knew there had to be a better, more scalable, way to help people show appreciation and establish stronger connections using the incredible technological tools that are available to us today. With a background in sales and a vision of gratitude, Thnks came to life.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We are on a mission to make gratitude a daily habit in the workplace, changing the way people incorporate appreciation into their business relationships. Thnks is a digital gratitude platform that makes it easy to send small gestures of appreciation with the goal of relationship-building. Relationship building in business has traditionally been focused on brand marketing swag and businesses putting their name out there. Doing this places all the attention on the company versus the recipient of the item. There is an opportunity here to focus more on the recipient and catering to them, this builds interpersonal relationships instead of just one transactional item being sent. Thnks gives people the quick and efficient ability to send genuine gratitude.

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?

Before we officially launched Thnks, we were testing out a new feature we’d built that allows any Thnks sender to share gratitude to hundreds or even thousands of recipients at once simply by uploading a spreadsheet. Today, it’s one of our most popular features. At the time of our test we hadn’t fully built the proper checks and guardrails into the system. The test was to send 54 recipients, who worked at our largest investor’s office, a cup of coffee (an important note here — on the back end of Thnks each item you can send is assigned an ID. The cup of coffee was ID 50322).

You may already know where this is going — we inverted the ID and the quantity columns on the send and ended up sending one recipient 50,322 cups of coffee. Even worse than blowing up the recipient’s inbox, we charged our investor $300,000+ on his credit card (who even has a limit that high?). Thankfully that was an easy reversal before he even noticed. Lesson learned — measure twice, cut once.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

‘Disrupting’ means things like innovating, progressing, and improving — all things that are generally considered good. Innovation does not need to be a brand new invention. It is more often based on new combinations of existing mechanisms that reduce cost and add value. In that sense, a system that has withstood the test of time has most likely been ‘disrupting’ itself over and over again.

There are a few ways in which disrupting an industry can go bad. One prominent example would be MoviePass. A fantastic product for movie lovers that wasn’t the slightest bit economically feasible. While it ultimately failed as a business, it still managed to disrupt the industry by inspiring major theater chains like AMC to introduce subscription passes.

Segway is another great example. The idea of a personal transportation device for urban dwellers was great. But as practical as it may have been, they just looked ridiculous. On top of that, the hype prior to release set incredibly high expectations. Ultimately the Segway failed, but the concept was spot on as services like Bird and Lime had taken over in many cities.

Ultimately, successful disruption lies in the execution way more than the idea or theory.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • Pay it forward.
  • Solicit opinions and ideas from employees.
  • Lead with empathy and appreciation.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

For starters, we’re growing incredibly fast and are looking to hire a lot more employees at our headquarters in Nashville. In terms of our software, our ultimate goal is to get to a point where our users never even have to use our tools because they will be incorporated so seamlessly into their daily work flow. We currently have add-ons to platforms like LinkedIn and Salesforce — so whether it’s out of your email, your CRM, or any other tool you use Thnks will be right there beside you

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“Demon Haunted World” by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan.

I first read the book as a teenager in the 90s. I continue to re-read the book every couple of years and am amazed to find new insights and new ways to think about problems each time I re-read it. The book teaches readers to learn critical and skeptical thinking. It presents a set of tools that Sagan calls the “Baloney Detection Kit.” I am such an optimist at heart that it’s important for me to have an objective and systematic approach to recognizing common rhetorical and logical fallacies.

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

The life I’m most grateful for came from my high school basketball coach, Joe D’Alessandro at Somerville High School. Coach used to always tell us, “Don’t complain. Don’t explain.”

To me that always meant we don’t make excuses. Mistakes happen. If it’s something we can control, we can fix it. If it’s not, we let it go. Learn from it and move forward. There is no time to dwell on mistakes and there’s no value in complaining about them.

We practice a form of this at Thnks. One of our core values is extreme ownership, which is the concept that there is no one else to blame. A leader must acknowledge mistakes and admit failures, take ownership of them, and develop a plan to win.

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. 🙂

With all of the changes taking place in workplace culture we’ve seen our tools being used in all kinds of new ways. Virtual socializing has become necessary and important, and our customers had great ideas of ways to make virtual sessions seem much more personal, like sending cocktail kits for Zoom happy hours as one example. Although there have been some obstacles to overcome this year, I have been constantly reminded of the power of human connection. If I could inspire a movement it would be to harness our intrinsic need to be social and connect and use it to bring people together through gratitude. If everyone took a few minutes once a day to write down 3–5 people or things they are truly grateful for I think the world would be a very different place.

How can our readers follow you online?

To use our tool, you can use our web app at www.thnks.com or our mobile apps for IOS and android. Check us out on Instagram and Twitter @alwayssaythnks and LinkedIn and Facebook. You can also always reach out to me directly at bkamm@thnks.com.

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


Brendan Kamm Of Thnks On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Scott Ketchum Of Sfoglini On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Being disruptive can be a bad thing when you start to see mashups of foods that don’t seem to belong to one another. Or when you see items endlessly piled on one another (like fast food burgers) which create something that’s really horrible for your body, even if it tastes pretty good at the moment.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Scott Ketchum.

Sfoglini was founded in 2012 by chef Steve Gonzalez and creative director Scott Ketchum, with a vision of making high-quality traditional Italian dried pastas with American ingredients.

Overseeing all things food at Sfoglini, Steve pulls from his more than 14 years of pasta-making experiences in acclaimed restaurants such as Vetri in Philadelphia, the three Michelin star El Raco de Can Fabes Spain (where he ran the pasta program) and Co., Hearth, Robert’s, Frankies Spuntino, and Insieme, where chef Marco Canora tapped him to develop the pasta tasting menus. Meanwhile Scott, who worked as a creative director and graphic designer for more than 18 years in New York and San Francisco, oversees operations, marketing and all things not food-related at the company.

Thank you so much for your time! Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

When we started Sfoglini in 2012, the pasta selection available at most grocery stores was very stagnant. You would find the exact same options everywhere — rigatoni, penne, spaghetti, etc. There’s nothing wrong with these shapes, but there are so many other options available that seemed to have disappeared over the years due to the difficulties in producing them or their popularity at that time. We immediately saw an opportunity to bring some of these shapes back to the pasta aisle and spark new interest in the pasta shapes people can use to pair with unique sauces or other ingredients.

We took this a step further once we started selling the pastas to customers. We were creating recipes for our pasta offerings and always tried to tie in seasonal ingredients with each recipe. Since we were living in New York City at the time, we also appreciated the need to create an easy and quick meal at home, so we started to incorporate the seasonal ingredients into our pastas. Our first test was a basil pasta made with basil from a nearby rooftop garden. The basil pasta was a great option to have available in the summer for pasta salads and also worked well with traditional sauces. We then tried other experiments like mint, chili pepper, porcini mushroom, beet, stinging nettles and even ramps. Every two months we would introduce a new option. This eventually led us to try even more unique flavors like hemp and sriracha. Over the years, some of these became so popular that we started to produce them year round and they are now everyday offerings to our customers.

Now the pasta aisles have a spark of color and unique shapes that draw customers in and offer some new excitement when thinking about your next pasta dinner.

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 we started Sfoglini, we made only fresh pasta that we delivered directly to restaurants. Once we started to grow, we decided we would give pasta drying a try. We thought, how hard can it be? Didn’t the Italians originally dry pasta in caves? Well, it was not easy. We first attempted to dry the pasta in our shop while we worked. We brought the heat up to 100+ degrees and dried the pasta while producing and doing office work. That didn’t last too long since nobody wants to work in 100+ degrees everyday, so we decided to work with a construction company and build our own dryer out of walk-in refrigerator parts. We added a humidifier and heater to the unit and started to dry the pasta that way which didn’t work very well either. Some of our unique shapes were incredibly difficult to dry so I would spend entire days checking the pasta piece by piece to make sure it dried evenly and didn’t crack. Eventually, we honed our skills and were able to get our homemade dryer to work. After about another year, we ended up getting professionally made driers and then there was no more testing each piece one by one!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Steve (Steve Gonzalez, my business partner) had many mentors during his culinary career before Sfoglini that taught him hand made pasta techniques and he eventually became a Sfoglini (pasta makers in Italy that create pasta for their families or restaurants and share this tradition from generation to generation). Eventually, Steve was hired to create the pasta program at a number of restaurants.

When we started the company, we moved into an old Pfizer pharmaceutical building in Brooklyn. The building had been purchased by a developer and they made each room into a separate unit available to rent. So our first home was an actual laboratory room that we converted into a pasta “lab.” While we were one of the first companies in the building, other food and beverage companies soon followed. Our friends in the building (Brooklyn Soda, Madecasse Chocolate, Milk Truck Grilled Cheese, Brooklyn Kombucha) had all started their companies before us and were willing to help us out with any industry related questions we had, from how to find and work with distributors to what equipment would work best for certain jobs. Everyone was extremely helpful and the Pfizer building ended up being a great community of small business owners.

Brooklyn also has a rich history of pasta making, being one of the first cities in the United States where immigrants started to produce pasta on a large scale. It started with Zerega pasta in the mid 1800s and was followed by others like Ronzoni. The Demaco company and De Francisci’s even started making pasta machines in Brooklyn in the early 1900s. All these companies eventually moved out of Brooklyn, with Zerega moving to New Jersey and Demaco moving operations to Florida in the 1990s. We were fortunate enough to meet the current owners of Zerega and Demaco while we were working in Brooklyn and they proved to be good friends and colleagues ever since.

We’ve also received a lot of great advice from Kenshiro Uki, the President of Sun Noodle North America. Sun Noodles makes incredible ramen noodles that are used by top chefs around the country. Ramen noodles have a very similar manufacturing process to pasta, but we were not in direct competition with one another. Ken has always been there with great advice as our company grew year after year and we were able to offer insights into the retail grocery world as Sun Noodle expanded their offerings outside of food service.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

In our case, I believe being disruptive to the pasta industry in America was a great thing. Once we started producing and bringing back unique pasta shapes people really took notice. We received quite a bit of press as we started out. We were featured in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bon Appetit, the Today Show and even became one of Oprah’s Favorite Things. People started to pay more attention to the shapes of pasta they used and were more open to trying new and interesting recipes. We’ve seen many other companies follow suit and start using some of the same shapes that we reintroduced.

We also set out to become a premium “American pasta” that would be comparable to the artisanal brands coming from Italy. Most people think that top quality pasta can only come from Italy, but we’ve set out to show everyone that there are incredible wheats available here in North America that make a premium pasta when produced with care and proper technique.

Being disruptive can be a bad thing when you start to see mashups of foods that don’t seem to belong to one another. Or when you see items endlessly piled on one another (like fast food burgers) which create something that’s really horrible for your body, even if it tastes pretty good at the moment.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  • “DON’T TOUCH THAT!” — The move from design to food manufacturing is also a big move from sitting at a computer all day to being around large pieces of production equipment. You really have to watch yourself around everything and make sure you don’t get hurt. So far we’ve been major accident free here, but whenever we see someone reaching to grab something on an active piece of equipment, we scream don’t touch that!
  • “Kill them with kindness” — When you begin doing large amounts of shipping for e-commerce sales, there is bound to be a number of things that go wrong along the way. Boxes open during transit. Deliveries get left out in the rain or don’t arrive at all. If someone has been waiting for their package for a while then any of these things can make them very upset. No matter how mad the customers are, we just do our best to understand their situation and make sure they eventually get the products they ordered as quickly as possible.
  • “Be patient and persistent” — We’ve tried our best to grow as quickly as possible and to meet expectations, but sometimes the rest of the world just isn’t ready or willing to move as fast. Stores delay their openings and plans change when stores decide to add new items (especially during a pandemic). When you’re always trying to meet sales goals each month and year, having a delay in your product hitting the shelves can be devastating. I’ve learned to approach each situation with multiple scenarios of what could happen between the time we are accepted into a new store and the time we actually are on the shelf. Keep pushing and moving forward no matter what.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

This past year we partnered with Dan Pashman from the James Beard award winning podcast, The Sporkful, to bring a brand new pasta shape to market. Dan approached us with his ideas for a new shape and we thought it would be an incredible project to work on with him which fit in perfectly with our mission of innovation. After working with Dan for over a year, we finally came out with Cascatelli (waterfalls in Italian) in March, 2021 and it’s been a phenomenal success.

We’re also working on some new pasta flavors which will be introduced through our Pasta of the Month club in 2022.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Dan’s podcast, The Sporkful, has been a great inspiration over the past year. When Dan first approached us I was not very familiar with his show, but I was not an avid podcast listener at the time. Since then I’ve really enjoyed the show and how he focuses on the enjoyment of food in so many unique ways. The podcast helps me get out of my head and not just think about pasta, but think about why I chose to start this company in the first place — because food is amazing in so many ways!

How I Built This with Guy Raz on NPR is also an inspiring podcast. Not only do you hear about alternative ways to approach problems or issues that you have in your company, but sometimes it’s nice just to hear that others are going through the same issues and struggles you are.

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

One life lesson I’ve heard in the past that seems to fit my life well is “rewrite your story.” I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to learn new things, so my career trajectory has changed often. After getting my degree in Graphic Design at Iowa State University (I grew up in Iowa), I moved to San Francisco with no job and really no plan. I just wanted a clean start and had a desire to forge my own path. I started my own web design company and an entertainment website called The Skinny. After 7 years I decided to move to New York City with the same passion to start something new and move to a place I always dreamed of. After 18 years in graphic design, I made a move again to start Sfoglini with Steve Gonzalez. The change from being a designer to food manufacturer was a pretty big learning experience, but I’m always ready for a challenge.

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. 🙂

Part of our mission since starting Sfoglini has been to promote organic farming practices and increase the use of organic grains. Sfoglini has worked with the GrowNYC — Greenmarket Grains Regional Grains Project, an initiative to build the marketplace for grains grown and milled in the Northeast. Sfoglini developed new local grain based pastas as a means to introduce new ingredients that are available in our region to New York consumers and to build the market for local grains. Sfoglini’s whole grain pastas have played a significant role in helping to build the demand for local flours, while simultaneously educating consumers about Greenmarket Grains work to facilitate the production and processing of small grains in the Northeast.

Sfoglini is committed not only to producing quality products, but to supporting the larger network of farms and mills that provide our essential ingredients. These ties to regional farmers have anchored us strongly in the local food movement. We hope our continued growth will allow us to expand these initiatives to more areas in the United States.

How can our readers follow you online?

Visit our website at sfoglini.com or you can follow us on Instagram and Facebook — @sfoglini

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


Scott Ketchum Of Sfoglini On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Camilo La Cruz of Sparks & Honey: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Camilo La Cruz of Sparks & Honey: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Do everything you can to ensure clarity of purpose at every level of the organization. One way to achieve this is to connect individual choices with the larger organizational narrative.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Camilo La Cruz.

As Chief Strategy Officer of sparks & honey, Camilo is responsible for the long-term vision of the company’s consulting services and intelligence products. Prior to sparks & honey, Camilo was adjunct faculty at New York University as well as head of innovation at RAPP North America. His writing has been published in a wide range of outlets including Fast Company, Campaign, The Drum, and WARC. He has been part of the jury at the top awards festivals in the business community, including the Cannes Lions festival in 2019 and the Effies final round jury in 2020. A teacher and practitioner, Camilo is also a frequent speaker and moderator in academic and industry forums, including AdColor, Social Media Week, South by Southwest, Creative Week, and Red Bull’s Glimpses. His client experience spans Fortune 500 organizations like 23andMe, Google, Humana, P&G, Natura, PepsiCo, and others; and his public-sector work includes government and NGOs such as DARPA and New America. Camilo holds a Master of Arts in Media Studies from The New School and lives with his family in the New York City metro area.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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 think my journey has been in great part defined by being the result of a great deal of serendipity and adventurous souls. None of my grandparents shared the same ethnic background, skin color, national origin, or socio-economic status. I’m the upshot of immigrants and that has defined my life experience in so many different ways.

Growing up I was close to my maternal grandfather. He was a military man and a published novelist, and you could say he lived many lives. All of them so foreign and amazingly inspiring to most of us today. At one point in his late 20s he built a ship with a few friends to navigate the Amazon River, fell gravely ill midway and met my grandmother while recovering in a foreign place. Late in life, he went back to school way into his seventies and after graduating, sent a letter to each grandchild (all toddlers at the time) to explain how it felt to be a student again. I still keep that letter. From him I learned the importance of keeping an open mind and remaining a lifelong student.

As a child I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, amid a beautiful and chaotic environment. Many of my formative years oscillated between the rush of being a young student in tropical paradise and a great deal of political and social unrest. I remember waking up to attempted coups, teacher strikes that lasted for months, and the resulting idleness that arises in the aftermath, long days with nothing to do, waiting for the strike to end or for some form of order to return before reopening schools. It’s hard not to grow up experiencing sporadic but radical disruption and not develop a keen interest in politics and how society works.

My neighborhood in Caracas also welcomed many European immigrants after WWII and the Spanish Civil War. Visiting friends after school meant tasting delicious food, listening to some lost southern European dialects, and inhabiting spaces so different from my own and yet so strangely familiar. I think that melting pot forever shaped a sense of possibility in me that comes natural to the immigrant experience. Perhaps it was to be expected that in the end I decided to become an immigrant myself.

Moving to New York City felt at times like practicing an extreme sport, very hard and somehow addictive. The city has a way of opening doors if you are lucky and keep showing up. For me, the right place at the right time was an independent multicultural ad agency in Midtown. The year was 2003, three years after the US Census illuminated massive demographic shifts in America, setting in motion a series of events including the breakneck growth of multicultural marketing. This is how I started my career in the US and I remain forever grateful to that moment in time because it gave me the opportunity to witness the start of something big alongside some of the smartest people I’ve ever met.

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?

You are absolutely right. Life is a team sport. I have to say though, this is a difficult question, I’m grateful to so many people! If I had to narrow down a long list to one particular person, then that would have to be my wife and partner in life Bettina D’Ascoli. We have been fellow travelers, parents, collaborators, lovers for 23 years and there is nothing I could not do with her inspiration and support. She is a teacher, entrepreneur, and artist and over the years I learned so much from the way she approaches her craft, always bringing together style and substance in a very lighthearted way. Her adventures on entrepreneurship taught me so much about the power of originality.

I must also mention sparks & honey Founder and CEO Terry Young (I know, breaking the rules here). We met back in 2007 and since then he has been a true partner and to this day continues to bet on me in very meaningful ways. We were once asked to curate the third and final chapter of a top conference on Human Potential and he asked me at the very last minute to “cover for him” and host our portion of the event. Despite leading the curation and theme development, I never saw myself taking the lead and hosting the conference. It simply felt like a bigger job, and I was so nervous, especially considering, the first speaker literally landed on the stage in a jet pack, the second group brought in a wolf pack, and the Cirque du Soleil had just moderated the previous session. I know Terry could see through all that and believed I was ready and could benefit the most from the experience. It ended up being one of the highlights of my career to this day and helped me approach all future speaking engagements with so much more confidence.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When we started sparks & honey the “what” was as clear as it could be for a startup. We also knew that what we do and how we do it is bound to evolve, never static. The “why” is a different matter, it can anchor the organization in the future, presenting a north star that clarifies even if everything else shifts around us.

The purpose of our organization, the “why,” emerged out of focusing on the impact we want to see in our people, our clients, and the communities we serve. When at our best we make change visible in ways that facilitate a positive vision of the future, this matters a great deal because you can only shape what you can imagine, in short, what you foresee is what you get. We captured this sentiment in the phrase “open minds and create possibilities,” which also stands for embracing learning as a journey, aspiring to be a learning organization ourselves, and to use learning as a vehicle to effect transformation in business and society.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I believe clarity of purpose is essential to lead teams in general and particularly during difficult times. While no panacea, and recognizing that every team and organization is different, arriving at a clear purpose that we all share can enable a productive dialogue and illuminate the most meaningful building blocks of the future organization. This matters most when the ground feels unstable, and we realize that change is all around us.

Clarity of purpose means understanding our north star as a team and as an organization, but also illuminating the role each one of us play in the service of that vision. It needs to be revisited constantly and through different methods. Our team meets weekly to examine our work through every possible angle, everything from research methodologies to data platforms, information design framework, and more is viewed through the lens of our narrative arc as well as how our actions contribute to building the story of our firm. The goal is to make good on the promise of shared ownership in what we do and how we do it which can’t be possible without a clear direction.

A shared purpose is also a catalyst for trust. In the case of leading teams, trust manifests in autonomy and there is nothing more important during times of uncertainty than teams and individuals who feel empowered to chart their own paths. In this sense, part of having a shared purpose can translate in very practical terms through defining our craft clearly, constantly teaching and documenting, and stimulating a culture that values learning and creativity as key tools to navigate change.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Back in the financial crisis of 2008, I was offered the opportunity to take over a creative group. I had started in the strategy side of the business and there was this very rigid narrative that we are either analytical or creative but almost never both. Well, Lehman Brothers collapsed, the advertising industry was shredding jobs right and left, at home our first kid was almost three years old, and the only obvious move for me was to rethink my own story. It was one of the most challenging experiences of my professional journey and yes, I thought about giving up many times. In the end, the experience was deeply rewarding, I learned more in those few years than I had in my entire career until then.

At the time, I managed to convince myself that giving up can be reframed as less of a hard stop and more of a detour, a step out of that imaginary and very linear ladder we are supposed to climb. In this context I drew energy from finding inspiration in new places, from challenging the narrative in my head of what “next” should look like and in doing so stepping into a new beginning.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

It certainly depends on the type of organization. In the creative field, I would say that becoming a facilitator is one of the most powerful roles a leader can take during challenging times. The leader as facilitator understands that questions are more important than answers, this is particularly true during challenging times. The leader as facilitator also operates from the assumption that talent is the most precious asset and that great talent values autonomy and a shared purpose. Facilitation is also about orchestrating individual thinking and collaboration, activating them when they matter most, giving people the time to do their best work and come together in ways that are both efficient and inspiring.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Uncertainty demands truthfulness and honesty. There are no shortcuts; people today value transparency in every aspect of their lives and work is no exception.

Uncertain times also offer the perfect moment for leaders to embrace being human and vulnerable. The very nature of uncertainty implies that no one really knows what’s next. Leaders who embrace their own vulnerabilities are also in a better position to listen, to be more creative in identifying solutions, to see the humanity in others.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

Straight up, unvarnished, and in the clearest way possible. Preferable in person, phone call, or video conference.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Planning is even more important during unpredictable times. It will certainly be a learning experience and one that reminds us that there is no one future anyway. By definition the future only exists in multitudes, when we say future, we really mean futures. In this context, leadership during unpredictable times creates the opportunity to envision all of those alternative futures: the likely scenarios, the less likely, and most importantly, the ones we want to live and shape starting today.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Being light on your feet. It’s a bit like learning to paddle board, waves will come, and the water becomes unstable, resist the waves and you fall. Navigating ups and downs asks two things of the people in charge: know what you can control and be kind to yourself and others when taking action. Clarity and kindness with oneself and others can result in a more flexible mindset and in a leadership style that can better adapt to change. We are indeed living through one big example, returning to work during the pandemic has come with surprises at every turn, from variants to vaccine hesitation. Leaders operating under a rigid mindset are having a hard time enforcing their plans and the plans themselves have become the focal point of the organization and a big distraction.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

During the January 6 insurrection, Twitter was full of messages from people stuck at work while feeling like the world around them was about to end. Those messages asked a simple question, “am I supposed to keep on with my normal work and pretend this is not happening?” Some organizations communicated with their teams and created a safe space to take time off or get support, some were too slow to respond and in doing so left their people on their own. I’m not saying these organizations failed on purpose or that they are inherently bad, but there is an important lesson to take away, the line between work and life is forever blurred and therefore organizations must take responsibility for the wellbeing of their people.

The idea of wellbeing at work is not new, but the January 6 events illuminated a few mistakes that even the best organizations can make: ignoring the cultural context in which employees and other stakeholders operate, being slow to respond to events or assuming that they have no impact on their people, deprioritizing mental health support, which has historically been stigmatized in the corporate world. This matters most in times of crisis and will require new ideas and ways of monitoring cultural events and having a plan to respond when necessary.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Turbulent times can send organizations into retreat, conflating cost cutting measures (often necessary) with the slashing of ambition and imagination. At the beginning of the pandemic, we embraced two guiding principles which not only resulted in continuous growth but also opened the doors for new ventures: focus the core and begin again.

Focusing the core enables organizations to maximize efficiencies through trimming non-essential areas and concentrating resources on what matters most for the business at that moment in time. Our consultancy is designed to help clients navigate change and we focused our core business on the identification of new markets, which required a specific set of tools, methodologies, and teams. At the same time deprioritizing non-essential areas created an empty space which we filled with new ideas giving us the opportunity to begin again.

We are now 18 months into the pandemic with a better view into that elusive light at the end of the tunnel. Over the last six months we introduced a new practice centered on rethinking the approach to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, alongside new products (now in beta) at the intersection of software as a service and strategic foresight consulting.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Do everything you can to ensure clarity of purpose at every level of the organization. One way to achieve this is to connect individual choices with the larger organizational narrative. This can be done through new and existing routines, from daily standups to more formal department meetings focused on examining the work, learning from each other, and ultimately co-creating the place we want to be part of.
  2. Foster trust in the practice, team, and each other as a means to enable autonomy. For example, focus on how you work, dissect processes into its essential parts and document them well. Much like a set of Lego bricks, the mastering of these techniques can allow the team to create different configurations in creative ways while producing consistent outcomes that build trust and enable autonomy at work.
  3. Wear your facilitator’s hat. Much like a great workshop facilitator, you will spend most of your attention on the right questions, know when to create moments for individual work, and be very intentional in how people come together to collaborate. Facilitators give their teams room to grow and evolve, it’s about creating possibilities and rewarding active participation.
  4. Be light on your feet. Turbulence can’t be met with resistance. Know what you can control and exercise a great deal of kindness and patience with everything else. This will manifest in a more flexible mindset that can illuminate oblique solutions. For example, Airbnb responded to a brutal crisis driven by lockdowns in 2020 precisely by identifying what they could control (domestic road trips, safety features, social distance) while dealing with the hard decisions like layoffs with a comprehensive and singularly empathetic plan.
  5. Begin again. Uncertain times are by definition difficult or impossible to predict. Give yourself and your team the space and resources to begin again, to imagine new chapters for the business and everyone involved.

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

“When everything is connected to everything else, for better or for worse, everything matters.”

— Bruce Mau

The Canadian designer and educator Bruce Mau has been an inspiration since the very beginning of my career. This quote illuminates so many powerful ideas, the fact that design is about intention and that its main usefulness is rooted in how it helps us see how things work, the relationship between people and systems. It also reminds us that the macro and the micro are inextricably linked and that small events can unleash big changes. In the end we are all part of a bigger whole, this is so important these days, our actions have always had consequences, but our digital and connected reality means that the consequences can now travel farther, deeper, faster. It is our responsibility to interrogate what we do from this perspective and expand our awareness to include as many living things as possible.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Our forecast reports and research is available at https://www.sparksandhoney.com/reports.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Camilo La Cruz of Sparks & Honey: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos Of Coimatan On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

We can only influence ourselves so don’t try to change others.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos.

Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos is the founder of Coimatan, a Minnesota-based company that is working to revitalize local economies with a focus on main streets. Vasiliki describes Coimatan as a think tank and incubator for small retail and culinary businesses that brings together owners, creatives, and nonprofits to reimagine products and experiences. She’s on a mission to disrupt retail standards with social and environmental impact in mind.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Thank you for having me. Sure, I am Greek-Cypriot-American and grew up in Minnesota where yes, it does get pretty chilly in the winter. My career path has been incredibly nonlinear but across it all has been a curiosity to learn and explore. I’m inspired by the idea of bringing nontraditional approaches to traditional concepts. What led me to do what I’m doing now is ultimately a love for brick-and-mortar retai.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

“Disruptive” speaks to our endgame and the goal behind the work we do. Buying from a small business is often seen as a charity act. In America especially (and now the rest of the world is following suit), where bigger is better, small business is just that, “small.” At Coimatan, we believe in the collective power of small and we believe in main streets. We’re reimagining the way we experience local, small business because social, environmental, and economic justice depends on it.

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?

That’s a hard question! So many mistakes that I can’t quite remember a specific one. The lesson I would say I have learned though is that mistakes may happen — embrace them, respond to them, learn from them, and do better next time.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Formal mentors I wouldn’t say I have had a lot. I learn something from everyone I interact with though, and so I’ve received a lot of help along the way. Beth Comstock and Jeremy Heimans have been two of the most influential. Their work is momentous. When I felt most alone within a large corporation, Beth Comstock’s book “Imagine It Forward” kept me going. Jeremy Heimans’ book “New Power” provoked a career shift.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is an interesting concept. I used to think all “business” disruption was good. In school, we learned about disruptive leaders and disruptive solutions. Then I was called disruptive in a negative way and I started to think about the term a bit more heavily. Here’s what I concluded: there are two questions to ask to determine the positive or negative outcome of a disruption — what is being disrupted and who is finding it disruptive? This applies to when we are disrupting industries (which are just made up of people), teams, or even when going out and being noisy.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

There is actually one piece of advice that has been the most eye-opening and transformative so would love to share it: we can only influence ourselves so don’t try to change others. “Why are they acting this way?” — that’s a question that took up a lot of energy to continuously deliberate and analyze. Now, I’ve learned that it’s best to block that thought and redirect my focus.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Not sure — shaking things up definitely isn’t my priority but improving the status quo is. My focus is on the intersection of environmental, social, and economic impact and right now, that revolves around revitalizing main streets. I am also quite fascinated by the circular economy.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Yes, there are two books that come to mind:

“Gaza Writes Back” — I’ve never finished a book so quickly. Each story was more captivating and emotional than the last. If a book can teach us what humanity is, it is this one.

“Buy the Change You Want to See” — this is a powerful read. Jane Mosbacher Morris articulates the concept perfectly. We all hold power with the dollars we spend to see about a positive difference.

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

Oh, yes! While searching for a yearbook quote in high school, I came across one that has stuck with me since — “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.” There are a lot of dimensions to this quote. One is with regards to outlook — all we do and think we can do is brought about by our attitude. Looking at this quote another way shares a sense of urgency — why should we wait around?

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. 🙂

Thanks but I wouldn’t quite say that. I’m inspired by everyone around me and hopefully my actions influence positive change. We’re missing a global movement to revitalize main streets — when we start thinking at scale about the role independent brick-and-mortar retail can take with regards to social, economic, and environmental justice, that’s when we’ll see the good we can bring about.

How can our readers follow you online?

Online, people can learn more about our work at www.coimatan.com and follow on social @coimatan. And if anyone is ever in Minneapolis, always happy to connect offline.

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

Thank you for the opportunity to join you!


Vasiliki Papanikolopoulos Of Coimatan On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Francisco Webber of Cortical On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

You always need 5 years to get a product to the market.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Francisco Webber.

Francisco Webber is co-founder and CEO of Cortical.io and inventor of the company’s proprietary Retina technology, which applies the principles of cerebral processing to machine learning and natural language understanding (NLU) to solve real-world use cases related to big text data. Cortical.io solutions are based on the actual meaning of text, rather than on statistical occurrences. Francisco recognized that the brain was the only existing reference system when it came to processing natural language. While closely following developments in neuroscience, he formulated his theory of Semantic Folding, which models how the brain represents language data.

Thank you so much for your time! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

My first encounter with search systems dates back to my medical studies at the Vienna General Hospital. It was very difficult to find relevant patient information in the hospital databases. We knew the information was there, but the system was not able to retrieve it. It was a very frustrating experience that repeated in different contexts during my career. For example, I worked with patent experts from large companies who complained about the limits of their search systems. The common denominator of these search systems: they were all relying on statistical modeling information retrieval theories. Looking for alternative approaches, I followed the research done in the field of computational neurosciences and got hooked by Jeff Hawkins’ Hierarchical Temporal Memory (HTM) theory. I had the idea that his interpretation of how information is processed by the brain could be applied to process natural language. Basically, I founded Cortical.io in 2011 to test this idea, with the support of the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG), which funded the development of our first prototype. The results proved better than expected. An angel investor provided seed funding to hire our first team of developers.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The fundamental difference of our approach is that we focus on the data representation, not on the algorithm like the mainstream machine learning approaches do. Our Semantic Folding theory describes a new data representation called Semantic Fingerprint. It corresponds to the biological way to represent language information in the human brain: a sparse, distributed vector which encodes all meanings and contexts of a given text — a word, a sentence, a paragraph or even a 200-page book, choosing from a bundle of 16,000 semantic features. Semantic fingerprints are computed using set-theory and geometry instead of statistics and probability theory. Our approach combines both high computing efficiency and high precision — a paradigm change in an era where state-of-the-art models always impose a trade-off.

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 enthusiastic about what I do and keen to explain it to anyone wanting to listen. Many years ago, at a conference, I began explaining natural language processing to a guy during lunch break. I am used to people not knowing what this means, so I have a very simple and pictorial way of explaining it, “NLP for dummies” one could say. When I was finished, he introduced himself with a smirk. He was one of the top AI researchers in Germany at the time. I can tell you, now I always ask what people do before developing!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I owe a lot to Donna Dubinsky, the CEO and co-founder of Numenta. She introduced me to important people in Silicon Valley and in the AI business. Coming from Austria, I had no contacts. She gave the right impulses at the right moment. Most of the people she introduced me to have had an impact on our business on one level or another. I would not want to miss the insights into many of her successful business ventures after she managed high-tech companies like Palm and Handspring.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is always both positive and negative. Disruption is about division. Something that was one gets parted in two and one of the two parts necessarily loses. Look at the heavy investments done by the automotive industry to build GPS systems in cars. They are now obsolete, as drivers simply use Google Maps on their cell phone. Look at the automation that is disrupting work processes: workers used to complain about the repetitiveness of their tasks, but now they are afraid of losing their jobs. There is always a negative side of disruption.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. You have really understood something when you are able to explain it — in respect of software, it means even being able to rebuild it. In the words of Jeff Hawkins from Numenta, you only understand how the neocortex is working when you can build a small neocortex. The solution to the text processing challenge is hidden in life sciences.
  2. Never be too technical with a customer. Typically, people believe they should stick to their marketing speech when explaining a technology product to a prospect. But what this sentence really means is: You must explain the technology in a way that the customer can understand it. In other words, your technology must be strong enough to be explainable in general terms.
  3. You always need 5 years to get a product to the market: regardless of the product, regardless of the market, regardless of yourself. I could not believe it, but this is what happened with Semantic Folding and my previous startups.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

We have begun working on the next stage of Semantic Folding, which we call Semantic Supercomputing. It is about combining Semantic Folding with hardware acceleration to reach unparalleled levels of computing efficiency. The explosion of data produced by our digital age asks for a new computing paradigm. The current computing architecture based on the Von Neumann model is 70 years old and has been designed to process information based on numbers. The throughput limitations known as Von Neumann bottleneck represent a serious hurdle in processing semantics which led to the creation of energy consuming data models like BERT and GPT-3. In the context of global warming, a new type of computing based on efficiency is essential. Nature shows us how efficient processing can work: the brain is the most efficient processing system we know of. Semantic Supercomputing, which replicates the efficiency of the brain, can play a big role.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I am a big fan of Lex Fridmann’s podcast. Lex is an AI researcher from MIT who talks with people who have a cognitive science background. He has had conversations with Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, or Roger Penrose, for example. Basically, the who’s who of AI is invited to his podcast — a must-listen. I also appreciate the TWAI ML podcast from Sam Charrington because it shares non-mainstream thoughts and insights on AI.

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

Persistence leads to the goal — this was the message I got when I threw my first set of sticks with a friend who was into i-ching and divination. At the time, I laughed at his interpretation, but I must admit that this is a recurrent theme in my life.

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 think it is essential to share one’s passion, knowledge, and ideas with others, particularly younger generations. You never know what a discussion can trigger. It can spark an idea, a keen interest or a potential career path. In any case, I am a fervent believer of 1+1=3: the combination of two minds produces more added value than two minds thinking separately.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/franciscoeduardodesousawebber

Twitter: @chico_webber

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


Francisco Webber of Cortical On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Ed Roshitsh of Brightfin: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Ed Roshitsh of Brightfin: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Practice extreme ownership and accountability for what you control as a leader. No, you cannot control inflation, or supply chain challenges, or what your competitors are doing, but you can control your response or strategy to take advantage of the opportunities.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ed Roshitsh.

As a senior software company operational executive, Ed Roshitsh has helped create two billion dollars in increased shareholder value for six successive PE portfolio companies: Blackbaud, Vertafore, Granicus, Intelex, PointClickCare, and Dude Solutions. Over the last 20 years, Ed has built and coached high-performance teams that have increased sales, revenues, and profits. As well as being an operating executive, he has board experience and currently sits on the advisory board of a Bay Area SaaS SW company. Ed is also an active angel investor with investments in three start-up software companies. In addition to his role as CEO of brightfin, Ed also serves as Founder/CEO of Holidays for the Heroes, a 501c3 that sends active duty service members home for the holiday season through the contributions of patriotic donors. Holidays for the Heroes has helped hundreds of active duty heroes get home.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

First, thanks for being interested in brightfin and my story! The core of my story is that you are likely interviewing one of the luckiest people professionally that you will ever meet.

I grew up in northeast Ohio during a horrible recession. The lack of opportunity at the time as I was graduating high school pushed me into evaluating the Air Force as an option. Reagan had fired all of the air traffic controllers, and at the age of 18 I thought that it sounded cool to land planes. When I got to basic training, I was surprised that I had been diverted into computer repair. If that stroke of luck had not happened, we would not be talking!

After five years in the Air Force, I joined a mid-range computing manufacturer as an engineer. I watched the sales folks coming in and out of the office living life large and decided that would be a great route for me. One thing led to another, and I joined a networking integration company as a sales rep, working my way up to running sales, marketing, professional services and support. Things were going gangbusters!

The next stroke of luck was taking a call for a recruiter for a role at Blackbaud. This role led to a succession of gigs in SaaS as an operator as well as board member. I am now on my second software co-CEO role at brightfin.

On the personal side, I run a lot, read a lot, and spend some time helping active duty military folks get home for the holidays with a 501c3 I started. I have a full plate. I also published a book a while back that got a little traction.

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 guess it is probably cliche to ask, but how much time do you have to run through the list?

Probably the funniest mistake I have made was answering an email about what to do about an office romance and hitting “reply all” without seeing who was on the email chain. I made some really dumb comments about how awesome one of the parties was and could not believe that she was dating so and so. And, I did it using some descriptors that were not professional. Yep, you guessed it, she was on the reply all chain. I am not proud of that moment, but I learned from it.

The easy learning was to not do dumb stuff like that. But the bigger learning was that as a leading executive, I need to do better, be better, and set a higher bar for professionalism for myself.

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 so lucky in this aspect as well. Everything I do or think today had its genesis from a key leader I worked for or from something I read. I have not had one original thought!

That said, I had two key leaders that have influenced me greatly. My first sales manager and the CEO at Blackbaud at the time I was there.

One story I still tell is the story of the first deal that I lost while working for the first sales manager. I had put a ton of time in on a small deal. I thought I had dotted my i’s and crossed my t’s, only to find out that the prospect decided to buy the product from somewhere else for a few dollars cheaper.

I went into the sales manager’s office to break the news and whine about the unfairness of it all. I started talking, and my boss quickly turned his head back to his computer and started typing away. After a few minutes, without even looking up, he says, “You can stand there whining all you want, but my advice to you, son, is to get on the phone and find a (bleeping) prospect.”

Life advice masked as sales advice — you can stand there whining, or you can get busy trying to make it better.

It has stuck with me to this day.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

We are a bit unique as we were formed by taking three companies and combining them together over the last year. Our purpose as a company is to provide visibility, recommendations, and execution assistance to Fortune 2000 IT and Finance leaders using ServiceNow who are responsible for managing the complexities of mobile devices, fixed telecom and cloud. In short, we want to create IT heroes!

We talk about this vision and our key moves to get there nearly every day in some way, shape, or form.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

We have all been in the crucible during the last 24 months. Personally and professionally, these have been anxious times. Imagine combining three globally distributed companies during these last 12 months! I, and the leaders I am partnered with on this journey, have agreed to lead with transparency, trust, collaboration, dignity, a commitment to being “snow white,” and a few other principles we put in front of the company in January of this year as we formed it. We also invested in Table Group training to bring the executive leadership team together under a single operating system for how we would function.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Persistence is something I must have inherited from my ancestors. I think I have learned more about resilience and constant forward motion in my years of Ironman competitions and ultra-marathoning than anything else. When you are three days into an ultra with another two days to go, you find ways to stay motivated. If I can just get to the next house or telephone pole I will reward myself with another swig of water. Those telephone poles keep coming until the race is over.

Business is 100% like that. Life is 100% like that.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

I think during tough times Chief Executives need to be Chief Communicators. Receiving and transmitting 24×7. Clarity of mission, talking about wins and losses, and pointing to the next hill need to be in a constant loop. Here at brightfin, I send out a weekly email, sometimes a weekly video, conduct bi-weekly AMA sessions, hold monthly Town Halls, and have been pushing good news through our Teams channel. Our entire ELT does much of the same downstream as well as communicating to the company with monthly department newsletters.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

There is a good chance I am wrong here, but I think one of the things teams look for in CEOs during tough times is consistency and frequent communications. My perspective is that cheerleading, false optimism, and faux cheerfulness is a thin disguise soon seen through by most. What folks really want to see is realism, empathy, focused communications, and enough humor to take the edge off.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

One of our 10 principles at brightfin is “bad news shall travel faster than good.” And we mean it. I think the best way to communicate bad news begins with early communications of the issue. I am pretty old school on bad news. Own it. Explain what happened, what was learned, and how it will be corrected. Don’t hide behind corporate speak. Just get it out there and try to change the next chapter of the story.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

As Mike Tyson has famously quipped, “Everyone has a plan for the fight until they get punched in the mouth.” It is hard to make long-term plans when things seem so discombobulated.

My view, almost like ultra-running, is you break bigger themes into smaller chunks and then smaller again to fit various time horizons.

At brightfin, we have four ongoing strategic moves that will serve us over the next three years. Every quarter we break the moves into quarterly progress goals and then keep track of the quarter, monitoring each initiative through 13 weekly sprints. We communicate these goals and progress ad nauseum to the company in several ways each quarter.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

I think the biggest idea I have about this works for me in my personal life and professional leadership role. Only worry and think about what you can control. I want to be the best I can be in comparison with myself the day before, and I think about corporations that way as well. What do we control? How can we do this better? What do we do if X happens or Y happens in response? Spending one minute of time worrying about anything out of a leader’s control is a waste of time and would turn that leader into a paralyzed blob over time.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

  • I will answer that in a positive frame and what I think business leaders should do versus avoid. I go back to communications. Listen hard and double down on keeping folks constantly in the loop.
  • Secondly, treat people like adults. Sure, there will always be a small number that don’t reciprocate, but I think most people just want to be treated with respect.
  • Make it a leadership mantra to expose reality. Make it easy for people to talk about issues, concerns, challenges, and problems. Most challenges are just puzzles to be solved.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

This last year for our team and likely many teams has been a battlefield MBA course. We are all experimenting and trying to figure out how to operate in these strange times. Anyone who thinks they have it all figured out is delusional!

My view on strategies is to:

  • Establish and communicate clear goals.
  • Get close to your team. They need to see you in the pit with them.
  • Stay close to clients and understand them more deeply.
  • If you are backed by investors, stay in constant dialogue, and report the good, the bad, and especially the ugly with equal weight.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

I think the most important first step is to acknowledge and communicate exactly where you are as a business regularly and honestly to all of the stakeholders. People will make up things they don’t know about and what they make up is never good. So get it all out front and fast.

I also believe that during hard times leadership teams need to be able to be authentically empathetic. Your teammates at all levels of the company are experiencing life challenges beyond the workplace. High organizational EQ is a must in times like these.

Practice extreme ownership and accountability for what you control as a leader. No, you cannot control inflation, or supply chain challenges, or what your competitors are doing, but you can control your response or strategy to take advantage of the opportunities.

Be available. Be accessible. Don’t hide.

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

I think this quote is a bit long, but Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote is one I continue to go back to in business, athletics, and my personal outlook. I also love another Roosevelt quote “We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.”

These two quotes have sustained me on 260 mile running races, having beer bottles figuratively tossed at me on the business front, and when faced with something in my personal life.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Probably the best way to keep track of me is on LinkedIn, both under my name and through my 501c3 Holidays for the Heroes alias.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Ed Roshitsh of Brightfin: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dana Hayes-Burke Of DHB Vision Strategist: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader…

Dana Hayes-Burke Of DHB Vision Strategist: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Have a clear vision or future destination and then set goals and plans for the elements that are within your control. Allocate your resources, set your actions and make moves in the areas that you have control over.

Dana Hayes-Burke is an International Conference Speaker, Vision Strategist, Business Consultant/Coach and Author. She is the CEO of DHB Vision Strategist, a business consultancy firm that serves small businesses across the Caribbean, US, UK, and Africa. Her job is to help you to flip the script and turn failure into flight. Known as The Vision Builder, Dana gives her clients the right strategies and actions to transform their business and get results. She helps them to turn losses into profits. Dana has worked with entrepreneurs and small business owners in Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Barbados, St. Lucia, Jamaica, Florida, Texas, New York, and London. With over ten years of experience in business strategy and marketing, Dana and her company have built a reputation for results.

As a speaker, Dana has spoken in person and virtually at conferences in Trinidad and Tobago, Aruba, the United States, and Grenada. Her expertise lies in helping audiences to shift their mindset so that you can see potential and possibility and take advantage of them. When she steps on the stage, Dana’s goal is to leave her audience transformed, charged up, and ready to act. If you see it and believe it, you can build it.

Dana is a wife of 10 years and a mom of 2. She is a proud alumnus of the University of the West Indies, where she graduated with distinction having completed her M.Sc. in Management Studies with a focus on International Marketing.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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 have always been interested in business. I remember in my high school in Trinidad & Tobago, we had to choose our primary subject path. I was a very bright student, and all the options were open to me. But what I wanted to study was business. I distinctly remembered that upon entry to high school one of the assignments I was required to do was draw a picture of myself in my future profession. I drew myself as a manager sitting behind an executive desk. I think that, up to that point, the only image I had of being a CEO was on TV. I pursued business all through high school and university. But unlike my childhood dream, after I finished school, I went on to a traditional office job rather than in my own business.

My career trajectory was good. I was promoted quickly from entry-level to supervisory level in less than five years and then to Managerial level in less than seven years. It was in this environment, however, that the dream was revived. I realized that no matter how much I was promoted, my job was not giving me the life that I wanted for myself. At the very core, I wasn’t happy at the company. I didn’t like its culture. I didn’t have time. I was expected to be at the beck and call of the company. The level of stress was high but, fundamentally, I didn’t think it was worth it. And I recognized that it would only get worse as I am further promoted. So, I went back to the drawing board of my life, and I remembered the vision- the one where I owned my company. The one where I created my ideal life design. The one where I’d have time to spend with my spouse and my future children. The one where I didn’t have to ask permission to “live my life”. It was at that moment; I found my dream again. I started what I called my transition business. The business to get me out of corporate and into creating my empire.

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 really can’t say it was funny, but it was a mistake that I will never make again- taking a job just to say you got a client. What do I mean? When you are starting any business, you just want to land your first few clients. The problem with landing a client at any cost is that it comes at a cost to you. I remembered taking a job for much less than was my fee at the time and being so angry in the process. The client was difficult, I was spending out of pocket for the activities needed to complete the job, and truthfully, I felt miserable because while I loved what I did, the idea of making a loss on the job irritated me. I learned then and there:

  1. Ensure that your pricing strategy is always solid because hidden costs can kill your business
  2. Not every person who comes your way is your client. It’s okay to say no.

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?

As a teenager into young adulthood, I was taken under the wings of one of my church leaders, Jeffrey Ramsey. I owe a great deal of who I am today to him. He made it okay to dream big and when I couldn’t dream big for myself, he truly encouraged me and spoke into life. It was under his leadership that I stepped into people leadership. I remembered when I was appointed to assist him in one of our church’s ministries, I had a great deal to learn about leading people. I had high standards and would often get very frustrated by the laissez-faire approach of some. He would often say to me, “Dana be patient” and coached me through the process of guiding adults to become their best selves. I laugh when I think about it now. I think the greatest lesson I’ve learnt from him in those moments was not to compromise your standards but also to give grace to people to rise to the occasion. Managing and leading people is a funny business. I am grateful for the excellent mentorship I had in this area.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose-driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I agree with the research. Building a business is hard work but it is easier to remain committed if it is “heart work”. There must always be a deeper reason that connects you to your business (whether that purpose is found in the business or through the business). When I started my consultancy firm, my vision was to equip men and women with the knowledge and know-how to build successful businesses that can transform their lives and build a legacy. I shared my story at the beginning, so you know how important vision is to me and how I see business as a tool to boldly unearth your ideal life design. So, for me, this business is a way of breaking the cycle of poverty that so many of us have inherited. I also want to break the cycle of hustle and paycheck to paycheck that many entrepreneurs constantly live by so that they can finally live with ease. My ultimate goal is to leave a legacy of a profitable business by equipping others to build theirs.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

My strategy involves reaffirming what we are trying to build and connecting our actions that result or reality. When you are facing difficulties, you tend to be consumed by what is immediately happening. It’s hard to stay hopeful at those times. My role is to help shift that focus. I try to make positive linkages where there seems to be none. I communicate and affirm the work that my team has done to bring us closer to goals. If the team isn’t doing well, I try to find an approach other than a reprimand. I would enquire about what is happening with them. From that angle, work towards a solution for both their circumstances and the business. At the core of this approach is the understanding that my team is my great resource and, when you have the right people committed to your goals, you experience the right outcomes.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Definitely! Building a business is tough! Choosing to live in your purpose is tough. But my purpose is what keeps me going. I have a strong innate belief that what I am doing is what God made me for. Moreover, I believe that what I do leaves a legacy for my children to follow. I remember one day in the early stages of my business, I thought to myself, “how can I say to my children you can do anything you put your mind to if I never try or give up?”. Kids learn more from what you demonstrate than what you say. So ultimately, it’s those little eyes that are constantly looking at me that keeps me moving forward towards the vision and my goals.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

The role of the leader in times like these is to lead by example. The leader should always embody the vision. But in times of difficulty, your team wants to see your commitment to that vision as demonstrated by your personal action and consistency. In times of difficulty, top-down autocratic leadership will not get you results. Instead, choose a collaborative approach to leadership (that’s what demonstrated vision look like). Be committed to the vision but learn how to ask the right questions. Only then you can mine the solutions you need from your team, your audience, and your customers. That way, when you decide the way forward, everyone feels included. Also, with more information from diverse sources, you are less likely to make costly errors.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate, and engage their team?

Make your people feel seen. This becomes more and more challenging to do as your company gets bigger but, that’s why you need to have the right kind of competencies in your leadership team at all levels. The worse thing that you can do for morale in times of uncertainty and strain is to coerce performance. At best, you will get the minimum level of performance required but you will not get the high level of performance that can take the company forward. You will not get the solutions you need to solve the problems you face. So, ensure that your team knows that they are seen, heard and that you have empathy for the challenges that they are facing. When persons feel seen and valued, they give you more than you could anticipate. This has been my experience.

What are the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

In my experience, communicating bad news is easier if you have been reasonably transparent throughout the journey. Unfortunately, in the age that we are in, many persons in business have equated transparency or “authenticity” in business to share every gory detail of their life and business. That’s not necessary. The goal is to build a human connection with your team and customers. When there is that human element, there is the know, like and trust factor. This crucially helps your team and customers to trust you in good times and bad. This trust is important when things are not going great because it is the underlying current that stabilizes confidence. If you don’t have that rapport right now with your team or customers, then lead with empathy when communicating your bad news. When you share, place the focus on what your team or customers are saying. Validate those thoughts rather than trying to force them to understand your side. When you validate the thoughts and opinions of your team and customers, there is a greater likelihood that they would validate you. I remember learning this principle some years ago when I read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Here’s a fact- the future is always unpredictable. The mistake that many leaders make is building on the idea of 100% certainty. Yes, there are indicators in our internal and external environment that we can use to make predictions with a high measure of certainty. But it is never 100% certainty! Therefore, effective planning remains as it should also be. Have a clear vision or future destination and then set goals and plans for the elements that are within your control. Allocate your resources, set your actions and make moves in the areas that you have control over. This helps to move the dial in the direction that you want to go. It is amazing that every time I do this in my company and my personal life, I experienced positive growth and results. You only feel the pressure of the unpredictable in an overwhelming way when you try to bend things that are outside of your control. Focus on what is in your control and it becomes way more sustainable.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Make decisions based on facts and not fads. Many might find that response to be strange. The reason is simply this: you can say that times are turbulent, but it only makes a difference if you understand what exactly is up and down and why. So, in your company, are your sales down? My questions will be: which is the product with lower sales? By how much are sales down? At which distribution points do you notice sales changes? What is happening with the clients there?

What’s the point of all these questions? In doing this research, I have a greater chance of pinpointing exactly where things are going wrong. That way, I wouldn’t offer a massive sale in a segment of my market where sales are stable, and people are willing to pay full price. I would adjust my marketing to meet the needs of the segment that is demonstrating a negative shift in brand loyalty. Too often, CEOs make decisions based on feelings and not on facts. They find research to be a slow process. But the blessing of the pandemic is that with everything being online, we have access to more data more quickly than ever before. Part of what we do in my company is to help our clients to integrate an evidence-based approach to decision making so that they can get better outcomes.

So, my number principle- get your facts together.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

The number one mistake I saw, especially during the start of the pandemic in 2020, was businesses “pivoting” without a strategy. I think in the panic of trying to respond to all that was happening, CEOs started issuing instructions, making moves, and just doing “stuff” without quite understanding what they were doing and why. If you want to pivot, remember where that move is supposed to lead you and the outcomes it is supposed to derive. Only then can you pivot in the right direction.

The second thing that I saw businesses do was discount everything. In times of difficulty, many businesses try to entice more sales by offering huge deals and discounts. The problem for most businesses is that they cannot sustain such a model. Yes, you may get a higher number of sales, but the value (dollar value) of the sales leaves you in a worse position than when you started. I get why businesses use this strategy. They want to add value. But before you run a sale, do a survey. Find out what folks need and provide exactly that. It may also surprise you that they are willing to pay for that value, even in economic hard times.

The third mistake is not trying something new. Now I know that seems like a contradiction to my first point, but it isn’t. Pivoting without vision and strategy is reckless but so is doing the same thing over and over with poor results. This is particularly a problem for older businesses that have a strong traditional history. You really can’t keep doing the same thing over and over and expect to get different results.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

I spend a lot of time doing research. My winning strategy is learning how to give my customers exactly what they need, and want. Research gives me information so that I can make the right decisions. This is the way that I have kept consistent bookings and helped my clients to scale up their business and sales during the pandemic.

Once I have done my research and determined the value I need to add to my market, I decide what I can do in-house and what I need to outsource. On the surface, outsourcing may seem like a costly thing to do but I believe that time is money. So why waste time trying to reinvent the wheel? Get someone or a company who can help you to create and deliver what you need effectively and efficiently,

Finally, marketing. Use your marketing to start conversations and discourses with your customers along with the areas that you have identified in your research. Allow these conversations on your social media, in your email marketing or text marketing to lead your potential clients to your value proposition. This type of marketing essentially allows your products or services to sell themselves.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

In my experience, here are the 5 key elements of being an effective leader in uncertain times.

  1. First, make the vision real to the entire team. The way to do this is by linking the vision of the company to team members’ personal vision. In 2020, we were making some shifts to provide a VIP service offering for our client base. This move was important for the business’ diversification strategy. But to get my team to be motivated to make it happen, I had to link this new offering positively with the personal vision and objectives of my team. The business model of DHB Vision Strategists includes the use of contractors and contracted services for many of our behind-the-scenes work. Linking the success of this new initiative to the growth of my exclusive contracts with my contracted team member added that needed incentives to get the job done.
  2. The second essential activity of the leader is to ask the right questions. The biggest mistake you can make in times of uncertainty is to think that you have all the answers or pretend as though you do. In my opinion, the greatest skill of the CEO is to crowdsource answers from experts and trusted advisors. But to do that, the CEO must learn how to ask the right questions. For example, you want to create a digital marketing presence for your business. One way to do it is to launch a new page on every social media platform and build a website hoping to drive traffic there. A better way is to ask some experts and your customers what type of digital marketing convenience is best or preferred. By using the latter approach, there is more focus, less wastage and a high probability that your digital presence will be increased because you gave the people what they wanted.
  3. Active participation is another critical activity when leading people during turbulent times. When times are difficult, folks want to see what you are doing! For example, you can’t instruct your staff to reduce wastage in the company while you are still wasting loads of resources. In the same manner, if you are actively participating in working towards outcomes but your staff or team cannot see it, it could create the impression to you aren’t as committed to the work as the team. This is dangerous to productivity and morale in difficult times. Active participation must be visible.
  4. Empathy or emotional intelligence is another must-have to effectively lead your team. If times are turbulent for you and your business, there is a huge likelihood that the impact is also being felt in team members’ personal lives. So, schedule check-in calls or messages to your team. Listen to the things that your team members are sharing. Offer help when you can. All these actions help your team members to feel seen as individuals and not just labour. You can then benefit from more positive work attitudes. I remember in my first company – as CEO, by being more in tune with what my staff’s lives meant that they often were more willing to make sacrifices to get the job done. That extra “how are you?” and actively listening really helped me to navigate a lot of uncertainty with my clients’ jobs because my team was more willing to make it happen for the boss who cared.
  5. The last thing I would say is to manage your cash. Cash flow is a big stressor under normal circumstances and much more in difficult times. You must get more from your little. You must decide where to spend your little to get the best results. I remember in this pandemic, I had to be very strategic about which areas of my business operations I needed to spend more so that I could get more. For example, I had to choose whether to spend more on marketing activity or systems. I chose systems because what was the point of driving a bunch of online traffic to my business if I didn’t have the systems to benefit from that activity. This is one example of the cash flow management choice of a leader. It’s not simply whether you can afford it or not. It’s the outcomes and benefits of expending that cash.

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

My favourite quote is my own mantra – See the Vision, Believe the Vision, Build the Vision. The backdrop of this phrase is that it has been my journey and continues to be my journey. If you can see it- see a better outcome, see a better reality in your future, see with eyes of hope, and you believe that it is possible, you can build it. Where the mind is, the body will follow.

How can our readers further follow your work?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn, https://www.linkedin.com/in/dana-hayes-burke-thevisionbuilder or my website https://danahayesburke.com

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Dana Hayes-Burke Of DHB Vision Strategist: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Gavin Wegner Of SLIQ Spirited Ice On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up…

Meet The Disruptors: Gavin Wegner Of SLIQ Spirited Ice On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

These are businesses only with the intent to create change for change’s sake without thinking of the end goal as to how to build up or revolutionize said industry once the destruction is complete. They are ego-driven, seeking to replace ‘the norm’ with something more of their liking.

Gavin Wegner is the Senior Brand Manager of SLIQ Spirited Ice at 21 Holdings LLC, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the world’s leading manufacturer of freezer pops, The Jel Sert Company. Through his professional experience marketing iconic brands such as Fla-Vor-Ice and Otter Pops, Wegner is turning SLIQ into a disruptive newcomer in the alcoholic beverages industry. He develops and implements brand strategies and creates the roadmap for short- and long-term growth and expansion.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I began my career within the freezer pop division at The Jel Sert Company and have previously held roles in finance, brand management, and licensing. My familiarity with these types of products spans far before my professional career began, as I am a fourth-generation great-grandchild of Jel Serts’ founders and grew up immersed in this world.

As the category leader of frozen novelties for over 60 years, we at Jel Sert have always ideated around different extensions of the format, including infusing alcohol into them for the enjoyment by a 21+ consumer. As we began to see nostalgic-associated products become more popular and modern, as well as ready-to-drink cocktails and seltzers surge, we believed it was time to turn the idea into a reality by putting an icy and unprecedented twist on these trends. I personally jumped at the opportunity to spearhead the branding, packaging, and formula development work undertaking that ultimately led to the birth of SLIQ Spirited Ice. To have the opportunity to manage this new brand and build it from the ground up, just as my ancestors did, has been and remains a blessing.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Over the last 5 years, the alcoholic beverages industry has evolved greatly due to the aforementioned ready-to-drink cocktail and seltzer surge. This has only increased the yearning of consumers for new and convenient ways to responsibly imbibe. They desire for these options to be lighter without compromising on taste, in addition to being authentic with what they deliver. In looking at the landscape of what type of alcoholic beverages we could disrupt to satisfy these desires and capitalize on our manufacturing expertise and abilities, the natural fit was frozen cocktails.

With SLIQ, we’ve designed a complete line of commercialized frozen cocktails that replicate the taste of a professionally-made frozen margarita, daiquiri, or vodka cocktail in a shelf-stable, enjoy-at-your-leisure pop format. While SLIQ comes in the same packaging as our non-alcoholic products, it is not a mirrored novelty by any means. Our intention from the start has been to use this same vehicle due to its convenience to create high-end prepared drinks infused with top-shelf spirits: 7x Distilled Vodka, 100% Blue Agave, and Caribbean White Rum.

Recently launched in April 2021, SLIQ is leading a new frontier of freeze-and-eat alcohol as one of the first to market in the booming boozy ice pop category. In Year 1, a national retail footprint was quickly established with distribution at chains such as Walmart and Albertsons. Through brand-driven 360-degree marketing tactics and partners such as iHeart Media & Barstool Sports, SLIQ has immediately grown a loyal following of consumers that have integrated the products into their respective lifestyles.

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 SLIQ first hit the market and we had alignment with a strong distributor network, I wanted to try to place it everywhere I possibly could, from hotel pools to restaurant chains. We had a lean internal sales team out of the gate to assist with distributor sell-in, so I personally began cold-emailing F&B directors at major chains/hospitality groups to pitch the products. One could say I’m not necessarily short on words when I find myself passionate about something…so the initial e-mails ended up being essay-like and flowery. This proved to be costly, as one specific recipient who replied said he wasn’t interested in buying SLIQ simply because he dozed off after the first paragraph…ouch.

Right there and then, I learned the overarching lesson that my communication needed to become far more succinct and eye-catching to gain attention with prospective buyers or partners. I was so used to filling internal emails with as much detail as possible that I forgot the need to curtail correspondence dependent upon the target. Since this pivot, I haven’t heard of any folks dozing off from my revised pitches — thank goodness!

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Throughout the years, I have had a myriad of mentors that have made significant contributions to both my personal and professional lives. These individuals have imparted wisdom in addition to helping me develop my skills to mold me into the person I am today.

First and foremost, the roots of who I am were laid by my parents. My work ethic, my values, and my character all can be attributed to their influence. I have also learned the importance of sacrifice and the prioritization of family above all else. No matter how busy they were in their respective pursuits, my dad was still there to coach me in sports as a kid, while my mom never skipped making school lunches and even including personal notes in each. This selflessness has resoundingly resonated with me as I’ve grown older and gotten busier and will continue to do so as I raise a family of my own one day. I truly mean it when I say that I would measure myself as ‘successful’ based on my ability to become just like them.

One professional mentor that has been there nearly every step of the way of my career is my former supervisor, Kyle Harrington. While he has served as my ‘boss’ in multiple previous roles, he has been far more than just a manager over the years. As a teacher, a leader, and a friend, Kyle has always taken an active and caring role in my development, both supporting me and providing constructive feedback on my decisions/actions along the journey. No matter if it has been 11 AM or 11 PM, he has always made himself available just to talk or bounce ideas off of one another. I certainly wouldn’t be in the position I am today without his guidance.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

From LinkedIn bios to website messaging, claiming to be a disruptor has certainly become a badge of pride. From a business standpoint, the definition of creating radical change in an industry is most widely used when speaking to disruption. But whether this change is positive or negative can be quite subjective…I believe that when this is done constructively i.e. with the intent to break down only to build up or supplement the existing, it can be positive for society overall. For example, when Netflix disrupted the film and television industry with its service, it served as a new, more convenient option to watch movies and shows. While in the long run it may have led to the demise of video rental businesses, one can still make a trek to a local grocery store and rent a physical movie copy from Redbox. Netflix just offered a simplified and lower-cost way to consume media for those who were/are willing to adopt it.

I deem certain circumstances to be negative where the disruption causes drastic destruction of structure. When a new business comes into the fold of an industry declaring its desire to ‘break it,’ that is a red flag. These are businesses only with the intent to create change for change’s sake without thinking of the end goal as to how to build up or revolutionize said industry once the destruction is complete. They are ego-driven, seeking to replace ‘the norm’ with something more of their liking.

With the introduction of SLIQ, our objective is to disrupt the alcoholic beverages industry by introducing a new, more convenient way to enjoy frozen cocktails. We are not out to replace bartenders or to bury blenders into extinction, in turn ‘breaking’ them to pad our own pockets. Rather, we want to serve as an alternative, convenient, and fun format to enjoy these types of drinks, especially for consumers who may not have the time nor resources to DIY them.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The first two are fewer words of advice and more so mantras to live by, starting with “Let Go and Let God.” I clung to this when I first moved to LA, far from the comfort of home in Chicago. It was scary not knowing anyone and being immersed in a new world to which I wasn’t accustomed. So I went to the local church and met with the pastor, who advised me to lean on my faith and trust in the path He has laid out for me through this directive. Ever since then, I have had a sign displayed near my desk, whether at school or at work, to remind me of this during times of overwhelment.

Also, to be recalled during tough times, “Fight On” are two words that have made a notable imprint on my life. Simple yet powerful, this motto of my alma mater, The University of Southern California, means to keep pushing even in the face of adversity. While it was of course relevant during my college tenure both personally and academically, it has remained as such in my business career as a reminder to keep going, certainly in my dealing with the hurdles one must overcome in building a new business from the ground up.

Speaking of college, the best line about business success that I ever heard from a professor was, “Your net worth is your network.” In other words, a true measurement of achievement is one’s ability to build meaningful relationships with a variety of folks, whether they may serve as mentors, business partners, friends, or all of the above. I have always made the time to invest in others I’ve met on a sidewalk or at a seminar, as I know that each prospective connection may be as impactful to me as I hope it would be mutually to them.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

2021 was truly just the ‘tip of the iceberg’ (a nod to the brand’s symbol) for SLIQ. Looking at 2022 and beyond, we will continue to build out a robust innovation pipeline, align with new distributors in new territories, and expand marketing plans and partnerships that will generate buzz and excitement with our followers. Giving a peek under the hood, we are currently soft launching a Whiskey pack in select markets with plans for nationwide availability in Spring 2022. Crafted with barrel-aged bourbon, this is the first whiskey-based frozen pop offering in the marketplace that cements SLIQ as the one-stop brand for any and all diversified frozen cocktail needs. Available in popular whiskey cocktail flavors like Apple, Cola, and Ginger, each pop contains 90 calories and 8% ABV, mirroring the existing line.

All of these plans, plus our continued capitalization on the manufacturing and development advantages that The Jel Sert Company offers, position SLIQ well to meet the growing demand for alcoholic frozen pops and to be at the forefront of this emerging category for years to come.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I recently read Matthew McConaughey’s memoir, Greenlights, which provides a unique viewpoint on how to maneuver through life. His guide to catching more ‘greenlights’ — how he defines a state of success — was ingenious and inspirational. Essentially, in deconstructing the metaphor, we all encounter yellow and red lights that make us slow down and give credit to a crisis. While these stops are sometimes necessary for introspection, most times they are just a distraction that do not deserve our time. Since reading the book and adopting McConaughey’s approach, I personally have been more focused on creating greenlights by recognizing their assets in the yellow and reds that appear, or simply by appreciating those that have fallen into my lap. This philosophy has been quite a beneficial one to have through the process of building up SLIQ, as there have inevitably been plenty of tough times that could have been dwelled upon versus identifying the lesson in them and leaving them in the rearview mirror soon enough. I highly recommend this book to anyone seeking a new approach to not just business, but life, as Matthew truly has a way with his words and wisdom.

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

Growing up in a family that cherished trips to Disney World together, I have become a follower of its founder, Walt Disney, and continue to admire the lasting mark he left on this Earth. As one who failed multiple times and was laughed at for his ambitions, Walt was always one who took on a challenge and did so with glee. One simple quote of his that has always stuck out to me is, “It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”

Adopting this mindset has transformed the way I take on obstacles head-on. Versus becoming overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety that naturally accompany seemingly insurmountable tasks and goals, I grasp on to the thrill and excitement that come with the journey of trying to accomplish them. While the impossible may sometimes stay as the impossible, enjoying the process of the grind to attempt to achieve success is fruitful in and of itself. This certainly pertains to SLIQ as I continue to have fun on the rollercoaster of a ride that is carving out a new category of alcoholic beverages.

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. 🙂

As iterated earlier, I owe most of who I am to how I was raised and the family unit I was fortunate enough to grow up in. As a result, I would love to see programs set up in cities of all sizes around the world that promote universally proven parenting skills and practices. Statistics continue to show that children raised in stable, secure families have a better chance to flourish. Thus changing family structure and the involvement parents have in their respective childrens’ lives would go a long way to solving many issues faced in society today.

How can our readers follow you online?

Please follow SLIQ Spirited Ice on Instagram @sliqspiritedice for all the latest brand news and content. Prepare to be entertained and have a few laughs!

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


Meet The Disruptors: Gavin Wegner Of SLIQ Spirited Ice On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Abir Sen Of Gravie On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Always question the so-called experts: sometimes you’ll find they don’t know as much as you think they do.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abir Sen.

Abir is Co-founder and Co-CEO at Gravie where he focuses on making sure we’re well positioned and fully equipped to meet the needs of our members. Abir was the founding CEO of Gravie and led the company through 2019.

Prior to founding Gravie, Abir was co-founder and CEO of Bloom Health where he led the team that pioneered the private exchange model of financing health benefits. Prior to founding Bloom Health, Abir was co-founder and president of RedBrick Health. Under his leadership, RedBrick Health launched an industry-leading health earnings system, created innovative products and achieved health improvement results that far surpassed its competitors. Before founding RedBrick Health, Abir co-founded Definity Health where he was involved in the creation of the personal care account, the predecessor to the health savings account.

Abir began his career at Deloitte Consulting where he advised managed care organizations and integrated delivery systems on mergers, acquisitions and turnaround strategies. He has also worked as an advisor to Fidelity Investment’s health and welfare departments where he helped launch their benefit consulting business.

Abir earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from Lawrence University and his MBA from Harvard Business School. He’s on the board of directors at Allina Health, the board of trustees at Lawrence University, and he’s a member of several other boards, including the Animal Humane Society and The Compassion Museum.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I grew up in India and came to Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin for my undergraduate studies in economics. I was recruited on campus by Deloitte Consulting, which is where I started my career. The first project I was assigned to was in healthcare. I liked learning about the healthcare industry, but I disliked consulting — I lasted only 9 months at Deloitte, and then I left with a group of people that all worked at Deloitte to start our first company, Definity Health. Since then, I have co-founded 3 other companies, all in healthcare, with Gravie being the most recent one.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The health insurance industry as it stands today is a product of wage controls that were put in place during World War II, where there was a freeze on increasing wages, but an exemption for insurance and pension benefits. Moreover, when Congress rewrote the tax code in 1954, it enshrined forever generous tax advantages for employer-sponsored health insurance. Fast forward seven decades, and now we have a system where your employer often has more say over your healthcare than your doctor does. This is an insane situation, and one we here at Gravie are looking to fix.

Gravie is reinventing health insurance from the bottom up. We are focused on designing a system that works for consumers and their doctors while, at the same time, providing a win for other stakeholders like employers and brokers. Gravie is providing the healthcare services that consumers want and need as opposed to having a healthcare plan filled with services that the average consumer may never use but, nevertheless, they pay for.

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?

At the very first client meeting I attended at Deloitte, the client turned to me and rattled off a list of deliverables he wanted for the next meeting. In a panic, I realized I had neither pen nor paper and had to borrow both from the client. While funny now, it was mortifying then and taught me about showing up prepared.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

Some of the people who have influenced and helped me are:

  • My economics and government professors at Lawrence who helped me believe in myself, even when many others did not
  • The person who interviewed me as part of my business school application and, within the sixty minutes of the interview, imparted advice that I carry to this day

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I think the word “disruptive” is often used incorrectly. I use the word as defined by Clayton Christensen (among others) as a smaller company that can successfully compete against much bigger, established competitors, by devising a business model that makes it difficult or impossible for the incumbent to respond effectively.

With this definition in mind then, disruptive innovation is always good because while it “disrupts” the incumbent, it does so because the market at large embraces its product (presumably because they find it valuable) over that of the incumbent.

However, if you use disruptive in the common language sense, then sure, there are often companies who disrupt that end up doing more harm than good. Mortgage-backed securities (or specifically, collateralized mortgage obligations or CMOs) are an example. They disrupted the financial and housing industries in the 2000s, which ultimately of course led to the crash and Great Recession in 2008 and ended up hurting a lot of people.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

The three best words of advice I’ve received are “enjoy the journey”. I have come to realize two things. First, the destination that you think you are shooting for today is probably not going to be the destination you will shoot for tomorrow. Second, once you reach said destination, you are going to realize that it isn’t as fulfilling as you thought it would be and a new destination will present itself. Since this cycle is never ending, you might as well enjoy the journey!

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

No idea! I have my hands full with Gravie at the moment!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

“The Fabric of the Cosmos” by Brian Greene, which explores the origin of the universe and the nature of reality from the standpoint of physics. It puts things in perspective and reinforces how nonsensical it is to take ourselves too seriously.

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

“Always question the so-called experts: sometimes you’ll find they don’t know as much as you think they do.”

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. 🙂

A movement that inspires people to bring more kindness into their lives. A few years ago, my wife and I started a nonprofit organization called The Compassion Museum (well, she started it and I tagged along). The goal of the organization is to help people lead better lives by viewing the world through a lens of compassion. If interested, you can find out more about it at www.thecompassionmuseum.org

How can our readers follow you online?

They can’t! I still prefer one-to-one human communication and for that and various other reasons, have stayed off social media.

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


Meet The Disruptors: Abir Sen Of Gravie On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Alejandro Corpus And Liz Yam Of Keithcity Group: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And…

Alejandro Corpus And Liz Yam Of Keithcity Group: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And Beloved Brand

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Ultimately, branding is about perception. It’s an opportunity to plant the seed of awareness or trust to inspire future sales.

Keithcity Group is a New York City-based design agency grounded in the belief that strategic multi-platform solutions are key to building iconic brands. Keithcity Group specializes in content creation that fosters consumer engagement and drives creative innovation. The agency was launched in 2016 by Creative Director Alejandro Corpus. Keithcity Group is now helmed by Alejandro and Head of Strategy Liz Yam. Its array of clients includes some of the largest forward-thinking brands and personalities in the world, such as TikTok, Spotify, and Bill Nye.

Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

A: I visited New York once as a teenager, and I was taken over by the bright lights of the city. I immediately knew I wanted to end up here. I remember racking my brain as to what sort of career path could bring me here. Having a love for drawing, I thought, “Why not architecture?” Impatient by nature, architecture proved a rather slow start for a driven creative. After two years of hopping between firms, I decided to look towards graphic design and was hired for a two-day contract with an agency run by the infamous Peter Arnell. The rest, as they say, is history. I became a sponge during my years at the agency before I parted ways. Later on, I sought out Liz Yam, Peter’s previous counterpart, to start a venture of our own.

L: I studied Communication Design and Art History at Pratt. After that, I worked at a few places designing for omnichannel and e-comm. Then, I led marketing and design at a tech startup and eventually landed at Peter Arnell’s NYC-based agency, where I worked my way up from my role as a Digital Art Director to Head of Digital Products. I was working on apps — from user research, to UX and UI design, to development.

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?

A&L: Early on, we didn’t know how much to charge clients which led to working on projects that didn’t lead to not much profit. Now that we’ve become successful, we know our worth as an agency.

What do you think makes Keithcity Group stand out? Can you share a story?

A&L: Alejandro always says, “To make things look beautiful is one thing, but to make things look beautiful knowing they will perform is different.” We create at the intersection of beauty and conversion. In the early days of our agency, TikTok as a platform hadn’t transformed into a lucrative stream of income for brands yet. After we had the opportunity to work with Bill Nye and debut him on TikTok, brands saw our ability to create engaging (and viral) content. This sparked interest to work with us because brands understand that to be genuine, but with intent to sell something, is difficult to do. We’re also a young, nimble, and diverse team so it’s natural for us to be immersed in societal trends, tools, platforms, and more.

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

A&L: We’re constantly working on client projects as well as internal ones. Part of staying nimble is looking outside of what conventional agencies do. We have always wanted to venture into architecture, film, and branding — and we’ve achieved two of these three pillars already. Recently, given the experience we’ve gained as a team, we’re working on an idea that will empower more creatives to feel more in control of their talents.

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?

A&L: Brand marketing is paramount for a company’s longevity, while advertising helps momentarily sell a specific product or service. We have found a disconnect between companies’ brand marketing and product marketing, but there shouldn’t be. There needs to be synergy, because copious amounts of time building a brand strategy is often diluted when handed off to a separate advertising agency. Oftentimes companies will bring in two agencies; one to handle the branding and one to handle the advertising, when ultimately these two things go hand in hand.

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?

A&L: Without adequate branding, marketing can oftentimes feel generic. For example, look at any clothing brand that sells basic hoodies, T-shirts, or sweatpants. To stand out, you need to evoke your brand messaging with your art direction, logomark, typography, and infinite other visual, auditory, or physical cues. That’s how you stand out in a competitive landscape.

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.

A&L: 1) Consumers are curious about a company’s origin. They want to know: Why was this brand created and is there a problem that is being solved? Make sure they understand the answers to these questions. 2) Tell us about your product or service: Where are your products made? How are your materials sourced? What do we know about the materials, ingredients, or how they are made? 3) Analyze your competitive landscape so that you can figure out how to stand out in that crowd. 4) Be transparent. If you have a 50% markdown on your products to make it appear like you’re having an urgent sale 365 days of the year, you’re going to lose people’s trust. 5) Optimize opportunities to engage with customers, but don’t inundate them with emails or texts.

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?

A&L: A brand that we reference a lot is Aimé Leon Dore, primarily because it is a company that seeks inspiration from the past at its core. And yet the brand is still able to create pieces that feel fresh in a heavily saturated fashion landscape. The brand is also vertically integrated when it comes to brand and product marketing. If we’re looking at companies that inspire legacy, you can look at companies like Gucci, which is celebrating its centennial. The brand has been consistent with its products, which allows for its goods to be passed down through generations. But it’s also pushed boundaries when needed (for example, the Guccy collection as a response to knockoffs). This has helped them stay relevant. By no means are they perfect, but they acknowledge mistakes and pay their dues when they see fit (like with Dapper Dan’s designated atelier in Harlem). Intentional efforts on consistency to establish consumer trust is key.

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?

A&L: While sales are necessary to pay employees and keep shareholders content, we measure success of a brand-building campaign by the notoriety of the brand amongst different demographics. Becoming a household name is the ultimate badge of honor, because it means people that are beyond the intended target demographic are able to recognize your brand as a whole or a specific campaign. Ultimately, branding is about perception. It’s an opportunity to plant the seed of awareness or trust to inspire future sales.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

A&L: For our clients, we’ve created and have found so many opportunities for success with social media. It’s one channel where brands are more willing to take risks and explore new ideas, which is always fun.

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

A&L:Surround yourself with a dedicated and talented team. It’s important to empower your team and delegate autonomy to keep everyone motivated. If you’re at liberty to do so, take breaks and recharge in the ways that impact you most and encourage your team to do the same.

You two are 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.

A&L:As our experience has grown, we’ve encountered processes within the creative industry that have an opportunity to be streamlined. Creatives deserve to be fairly compensated, have health benefits, etc. We’re working on a solution for this.

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

A: When I first moved to New York, I quickly realized how competitive it was, whether that was getting my foot in the door somewhere or landing my next career move. I always felt that I needed to do more outside of my everyday grind. So much so that I tattooed “Do More” on my arm and “Why Not?” on my contract-signing hand. It’s a constant reminder to never accept complacency in my personal life or within Keithcity as a business. One of the core reasons why our clients have continued to work with us is due to my ability to ideate on concepts and presenting these ideas in a way that is achievable.

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 lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them.

A: Daniel Arsham because he started an architecture practice and found himself seeking to create art and has been doing what he loves ever since. I relate to that as an architecture grad now leading a creative agency.

L: Jay Z

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can find us on Instagram @keithcity.

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


Alejandro Corpus And Liz Yam Of Keithcity Group: Five Things You Need To Build A Trusted And… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Designer Stacy Garcia On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

When you’re looking for partnerships, you want a relationship, not a transaction.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Stephen Houck, CEO of Stacy Garcia.

Stacy Garcia is a successful creative entrepreneur and founder of multiple business enterprises and brands: LebaTex, Inc., Stacy Garcia Blue Label, Stacy Garcia | New York, Stacy Garcia Home, and Stay by Stacy Garcia. Respected for her inventive use of color and remarkable design skills, Stacy Garcia knows the hospitality, home decor and lifestyle design industries inside and out. Celebrating over 25 years of experience in the design industry, Stacy brings a contemporary, well-traveled aesthetic to the ever-evolving world of fashion and interiors. Holding multiple trademarks in many categories around the world, this internationally renowned designer has partnered with some of the world’s leading manufacturers and retailers to create products that span from floor to ceiling for hotels and homes on a global scale.​​

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always been very artistic and naturally gravitated towards the arts. I studied surface pattern design at Syracuse University, and the major trained me on how to design all kinds of surfaces. I even studied abroad at Central Saint Martins in London as an exchange student, which had an amazing textile program, offering a focus on screen printing, knitting, and a variety of other mediums. After college, I built a career off of that major — and it has allowed me to work with some really incredible companies. Looking at my partnership with Koroseal now, it’s really a pinch-me moment. They’re leaders in materials — not only design, but in their manufacturing process, which produces beautiful color and collections. They are also the only commercial wallcovering company that has both manufacturing and full distribution capabilities.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

The work I’m creating is all about innovation in the materials. In addition to having a career as a designer, I’m also a trend forecaster. You can’t innovate if you’re not forecasting; you need to make sure you’re looking at what is driving the marketplace. For example, given the trend of bedding becoming more neutral in hotels, it’s created space for more room to play in other parts of the design — for there to be a statement wall or carpet. In this Koroseal collection, we’ve simplified down the city to graphic motifs that are clean, crisp and fresh, and yet have the right amount of saturation and optimism. They make an excellent statement on the wall of any space. Though simultaneously, they also respond to the current moment, where many of us are spending more time indoors as a result of the pandemic — and instead of being surrounded by such bold colors, we’re looking for more calming hues. To be disruptive, you must first have a grasp on the present, see what’s working and then have the vision to not be afraid to dig deeper and bring the future to fruition.

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?

Not amusing per se, but I’ve learned a variety of important lessons throughout my career. Here are just a few:

  1. Be patient. It’s easy to underestimate the amount of time it takes to be successful. Small successes add up and turn into tremendous success. It’s important to keep in mind that people can appear to be an overnight success, but they’ve been hustling for 20+ years.
  2. When you’re looking for partnerships, you want a relationship, not a transaction.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

While I’ve looked up to iconic trailblazers like Georgia O’Keefe, those that have taught me the most are the closest to me. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from both my father and grandfather. At my first internship, one with Ralph Lauren, I was originally put on tasks like arranging the merchandise closet. While I was overjoyed to even step foot in that iconic building on Madison Ave and had already felt like I had made it in securing the role — my father knew I had more to offer and could get more out of the experience. So, he sat me down and had me practice these words to share with my manager: “I don’t mind doing the scut work, but I’m here to learn.” And after advocating for myself and showing my eagerness to expand, I was able to excel, and was the only intern placed in the high-level meetings. This follows the idea of “if you don’t ask, you don’t get” — and while the answer might be no, you at least have to advocate for yourself. I thank my father immensely for pushing me in such a way.

And I definitely learned my hard work ethic and gratitude from my grandfather. He was a cutter in a garment district, a job he took great pride in — and he was a Holocaust Survivor from Poland. He ended up having ten grandchildren — something that made him feel innately rich, often saying: “I’m a millionaire” as he referred to having us as his grandchildren.”

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Disruption is always important. If someone is not disrupting, they are not innovating. It’s all about innovation — which is critical to survive in any industry.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

Writing a book would be incredible! In the meantime, we have BIG plans for the future of Stacy Garcia Inc.!

We are launching another collection of Stacy Garcia | New York commercial wallcoverings in collaboration with Koroseal, an awesome manufacturer in Louisville, and we are undergoing a brand re-launch for our blue label commercial brand. We also made a power move into the residential markets with our ShopStacyGarcia.com designer curated website and our exclusive Stacy Garcia Home brand of products. We decided to curate our shop with a modern-eclectic vibe and a colorful product mix — positioning ourselves as an anti-big-box store. Beyond that — more home decor, art and maybe even fashion!

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

Wow! That is a tough one! I am constantly reading and listening to pod-casts, Clubhouse, and Audible. Some of my recent favorites include: the book The Future is Faster than you Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler and Never Split the Difference: Negotiating as if Your Life Depended on It by Christopher Voss and Tahl Raz. I’ve also been enjoying Reid Hoffman’s podcast Masters of Scale and “Breakfast with Champions” every morning on Clubhouse.

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

“Leap and build your wings on the way down” is a mantra a close friend shared with me early on. These words have guided me through major parts of my career, encouraging me to take risks and understand that you won’t know unless you try!

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 write a book or to start a speaking series titled “Lead Like a Woman.” While there are lots of incredible men who have mentored me, we’ve grown up in a man’s society and there needs to be more female leaders — and ones open to sharing their experience. When we embrace the feminine energy, we are so much richer. The methodology, intuition, and emotional needs are different. My whole idea of “Lead Like a Woman” no matter if you’re male, female, or non-binary, is about the of embracing the feminine energy within us. And my experiences and life stories can help the next generation — not just women.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram: @stacygarciainc + @koroseal + #SGNYforKoroseal

Website: koroseal.com/SGNY

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


Meet The Disruptors: Designer Stacy Garcia On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry 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: David Bucca Of Change Foods On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up…

The Future Is Now: David Bucca Of Change Foods On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Cheese Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Cheese is second only to beef and lamb as the largest greenhouse gas emitter of all foods per kilogram! This is because milk production is polluting and largely inefficient as a process, and it requires up to 10 liters of milk just to make one kilogram of cheddar, for example. Because of this, if we displaced all of the liquid milk in the world today with alternatives, it wouldn’t move the needle with respect to reducing dairy agriculture’s impacts because cheese consumption is only increasing at a much higher conversion ratio of milk to finished product. Therefore, until you solve the cheese problem, you cannot tackle the dairy problem — it’s critically important to focus on if we are to reduce food production’s impact on our planet with increasing demand.

By comparison, our technology enables the production of the exact same components we need to make cheese and dairy products without the need to raise and farm animals — therefore dramatically lowering resource intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, water consumption, and land use without requiring any animals to suffer in the process. It’s a win-win.

David Bucca is the Founder and CEO of Change Foods. a US-Australian startup working to recreate cheese without animals. As a former aerospace engineer, David worked in a variety of technical and senior management roles at Boeing for over 13 years.

Following a career change motivated by his passion for more sustainable, ethical, and innovative food systems, David was a founding director of Food Frontier in early 2017, a non-profit innovative think-tank and industry accelerator for alternative proteins, and is still currently a board member.

In early 2018 he also became the COO of an Australian hemp foods start-up, managing all aspects of the business. More recently and prior to Change Foods, David was the APAC Regional Manager for Hungry Planet, a U.S. premium plant-based meat company, helping localize manufacturing and lead expansion throughout Australia, New Zealand, and Asia.

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

It all started when I drew the connection between industrialized animal agriculture and its large contribution to the major issues we’re contending with globally such as climate change, human health, food security, and the ethical treatment of animals.

Upon months of deep study and research into this, it hit me, and I changed my diet overnight — which was a huge surprise to everyone! This shift also led to an understanding of the increasing consumption of animal protein — particularly out of Asia and Africa — over the coming 20+ years, and the realisation that to supply this with our current food system and its inefficiencies, we would need two planets to feed the one. I knew that something had to change.

Enter alternative proteins and new food technologies. I truly believe in the power that technological revolutions can have to help solve problems quickly, so I could clearly see how accelerating the development of these food products to the mass market could have a dramatic impact in the short term whilst being such a noble cause.

Upon this realization at the time, my career in aerospace suddenly felt insignificant in comparison, and I knew I had to redirect my skill set and life’s purpose to help solve this problem. It sparked a whole new trajectory for me personally and professionally.

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

One of the most frequently asked questions I get is ‘how do you go from aerospace engineering to food?’ Well, perhaps the most interesting thing I discovered along my journey was just how many parallels there actually are between my background and skill set in the aerospace industry, and what I’m accomplishing now in food tech!

Upon reflection and answering the question many times, it became apparent that the core pursuit in the aerospace sector is how to design and develop very advanced, high-tech materials and parts; scale manufacturing and product assembly; and then dramatically bring down cost through continuous optimization, lean manufacturing initiatives, and process improvement. In many ways, these are exactly the same key objectives we are confronted with in the food tech industry, especially for advanced ingredients made via precision fermentation (like Change Foods) or other cell-based technologies — just swap carbon composite wings with cheese!

The skills, systems approach, advanced change management, and continuous improvement methodologies which have been bread-and-butter in the aerospace industry for decades are now perfectly relevant to scale-up, production design, and coming down the cost curves in food — who would have thought! The cross-pollination of knowledge between industries can certainly be a powerful asset to help come up with solutions outside of the incumbent industry paradigm.

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

Change Foods is recreating cheese and dairy products that deliver the authentic taste, nutrition, melt, and texture that dairy consumers expect, and that current alternatives struggle to achieve. We do this using cutting-edge fermentation biotechnology — taking micro-organisms such as yeast and instructing them to create identical compounds, as found in traditional animal-derived dairy, when fermented.

These particular compounds are very unique and critical in making dairy what it is, which cannot be adequately substituted from other plant-based ingredients alone. Dairy therefore, is the perfect candidate for this type of precision fermentation technology.

This will help provide cheese-lovers an authentic version of the products they love, without compromise. Further, by rebuilding cheese from the ground up, we can improve it — hold the lactose, hormones, and cholesterol — but add better nutrition, reduce the bad fats, and create new combinations of flavours and ingredients that people have never even tried before. It’s a whole new era for cheese and dairy, and essentially creating a whole new category of foods.

How do you think this might change the world?

Cheese is second only to beef and lamb as the largest greenhouse gas emitter of all foods per kilogram! This is because milk production is polluting and largely inefficient as a process, and it requires up to 10 liters of milk just to make one kilogram of cheddar, for example. Because of this, if we displaced all of the liquid milk in the world today with alternatives, it wouldn’t move the needle with respect to reducing dairy agriculture’s impacts because cheese consumption is only increasing at a much higher conversion ratio of milk to finished product. Therefore, until you solve the cheese problem, you cannot tackle the dairy problem — it’s critically important to focus on if we are to reduce food production’s impact on our planet with increasing demand.

By comparison, our technology enables the production of the exact same components we need to make cheese and dairy products without the need to raise and farm animals — therefore dramatically lowering resource intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, water consumption, and land use without requiring any animals to suffer in the process. It’s a win-win.

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

Broadly speaking, biotechnology, like any powerful tool, can be used for both positive and negative purposes, it all depends on the motivation of the user. For example, genetic engineering is immeasurably powerful as a technology and has done wonders for increasing crop yields and reducing pesticide use worldwide, however it can also be manipulated to enable private companies to engineer and control food production and can allow for reducing crop biodiversity and having single source supply chains. These are all pros and cons that should be considered carefully and weighed up when implementing technologies into mainstream practice and to ensure a thriving, diverse food economy in future.

Further, every process or product will always have a footprint or impact, and both positive and negative implications on people and the planet — it’s a matter of looking holistically and prioritizing things systematically over time depending on what’s important. It’s all in the ethos of continuous improvement. We should constantly be asking ourselves — is there a better way to do this? What impact are we having? Is the current process still relevant for the problems we are facing today? With this mindset, we can always adapt and ‘change’ — this is what Change Foods is all about — questioning the status quo and finding smarter and more efficient ways to recreate the products we love using cutting-edge technology to our advantage.

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

The pain is real! I felt it every single time I tried to melt an alternative cheese on my pizza or when I continually failed in satisfying the ultimate food critics — my kids. Time and time again, I heard the same complaints — ‘these nachos taste weird,’ ‘this cheese toastie is rubbery,’ ‘why is this pizza sour and not stretchy?’. Enough was enough, and the tipping point was when I connected the dots that this technology is the right solution to a very specific problem — and I couldn’t see enough people aiming to use it, or they were doing it the wrong way which frustrated me. It was blindingly obvious, and I knew this is what I had to do and throw the kitchen sink at it!

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

Ultimately, it comes down to creating an experience for the consumer — food is almost religious in nature, and cheese a demigod. Forget the science, drop the tech — it’s ultimately about taste and quality, closely followed by price and widespread availability.

We aim to be a food-first company — built on a foundation of purpose and intentionality behind everything we do. We believe consumers are looking for better options with little to no compromise, and that is what we can deliver with this technology — it’s a matter of time and scale to drive down cost and allow widespread market penetration and acceptance. Like anything, there are a lot of things to consider and work on in parallel, no stone can be left unturned — the importance of naming, language, brand, messaging, trust, transparency, and vision are all paramount to garner mainstream appeal and adoption over time.

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

So far we have mainly focused internally on R&D and product development, although at the same time setting the foundations for building a brand, and more so a new category of food. External facing publicity and messaging has been mainly geared towards investors and industry people thus far, although over time we will tend to shift towards consumer facing publicity closer to market testing and commercialization. There are a lot of great ideas and concepts we can leverage when aiming towards the consumer — and we can’t wait to get creative with ads, events, and messaging in the future!

This is where bringing on board former Danone brand manager, Irina Gerry, as our Chief Marketing Officer, has been an important early decision for us and paramount to our phasing plan towards commercialization. We recognize the importance of marketing and messaging — there is a lot of consumer education to be done, including foundational work on naming conventions and ideation to clarify such questions as — what do we call this product/category/technology? Is it vegan? Is it plant-based? Is it even ‘dairy’?

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’m forever grateful to my children, Xavier and Autumn, who have always kept things real with the quality of cheeses they try and the honesty in their feedback — without that, none of this would have happened as it became obvious to me the clear limitations of plant-based cheese alternatives and therefore their limitations to break through to the mass market. We need something better.

Beyond that, one of my closest friends and VP of Change Foods, Sacha Baker, is second-to-none for his continual support, patience, and dedication to our journey and bearing with me as an unashamedly passionate and zealous founder and CEO. Having a dedicated and value-aligned support network is critical at the early stages of our growth and I’m forever grateful to the team around me.

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

I don’t like the idea of labelling us as successful at such an early stage — this is only the beginning of something exciting and hopefully impactful in the long term. To me, success looks like our ability to impart positive change on the world and drive consumers and businesses to question their choices and make a simple switch to something better. We can all make an impact — conscious consumerism is just so important given the age we live in today and the information we have at our fingertips. It’s our journey of human progress to continually strive to become better inhabitants of this amazing planet. If Change Foods can play a role in that paradigm, then ultimately we will be successful in our mission and a role model for conscious and responsible capitalism.

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

  1. Run your fundraising like a sales process

It became apparent to me in our second round of fundraising that things can take their time and drag on unless you have a clearly structured approach to your process. Run it like a sales pipeline:

  • Have a clear round target amount and do your homework on comparable market valuations.
  • Have a clear timeframe in which you will open and close the round (allow roughly 4–6 weeks).
  • Categorize your investors based on fit and work your way through the investor list by ranking.
  • Actively let your selected investors know about your round and set up initial meetings.
  • Practise your pitch religiously and continue updating and tweaking your deck and presentation based on performance and response. Take meeting minutes and develop an FAQ list and continue adding responses to it as they come up (you can share this with investors later as part of due diligence).
  • Follow up after the first meeting for feedback and set a date for the next meeting, if deciding to proceed.
  • Stay on top of communications, respond timely but not too quickly, provide thoughtful responses and answer any questions, being careful to specifically address what they’re looking for.
  • If successful, and both sides feel good to proceed, drive discussion to round participation and terms. Send paperwork and drive closure prior to the end date.
  • Throughout the entire round, keep an active spreadsheet showing each investor and where they’re at in the process, open actions, and discussion points.
  • Drive for an answer as quickly as possible, regardless of whether it’s a yes or a no. Oftentimes investors prefer to be non-committal or intentionally vague. Aim to drive for a response and be courteous in messaging in the case they pass for the time being — you can always follow up on the next round if they seem to be a good fit.

2. Plan your fundraising strategy for the long-term

Give a lot of careful thought, and strategize as best as you can, about what it is your company is going to become, and therefore how and when it will be financially sustainable. This will provide scope of how much capital your company will need to raise in total which will greatly impact your fundraising strategy, and in particular your dilution and valuation targets for each round.

Fundraising for a total of $300M+ is vastly different than fundraising for $20M — it will also frame what milestones and targets are generally expected for each round. Once you have this total roadmap of fundraising targets, phases, and times, then plan your next round with this large context in mind. Know your firm boundaries and also know where you have flexibility to negotiate beforehand.

3. Shoot for 18 months runway each round

Learning this from experience, fundraising can be continuous and never stops — it can be relentless, time consuming, and draining for the founders. Therefore, I’ve learned to plan and structure your rounds carefully in accordance with the previous point mentioned above. Always aim to plan your round cadence for approximately 18 months operational runway, if possible. This will allow for a clear 12 month window to focus your energy on operational execution and meeting your company milestones, and then a six month window dedicated to closing your next round (three months of pitching, investor discussions, and legals, and three months of buffer).

While this is good in theory, however, rest assured that investor discussions will never stop — but at least this is a way to control the prioritization in your company as a founder and not get too distracted with just raising funds all the time, and then failing on delivery — execution is king!

4. Prioritize carefully where you spend your time

Time is your most precious resource as a founder, and things will continually compete for your attention. Know what’s in scope and out of scope in that period and prioritize your time accordingly. Find useful tools and systems that can help keep administration and peripheral tasks at bay. I’ve found that software apps such as the email client Superhuman are fantastic at decluttering and organizing your inbox so you can clear it every single day and get to secondary things when you have capacity — it’s been a lifesaver!

5. It’s okay to cut ties early with investors that don’t fit

In the early days of fundraising, it felt as if every investor was crucially important to try and bring on board, especially if they have a strong reputation and name behind them. We often made accommodations or tried to only focus on the positive in every engagement with the aim to try and garner their approval and meet their needs. This was particularly apparent with some funds in Australia that were not as familiar with the technology or space back when we started. Because of this, we spent a lot of time educating them on the sector, technology, market, and gaps, and it took multiple rounds of questions and continual discussions to slowly move through the process, which was incredibly time consuming. By the end of the process, we sometimes questioned whether we ultimately even wanted them as an investor to begin with after the first discussion.

It is now very apparent that there are an innumerable amount of fantastic investors out there, many of which will be much easier to deal with and a natural fit for your company, business model, or sector. Ultimately, investors are partners, so it’s super important to read the room and bring on board people that you genuinely like, people that you can deal with every week (if you had to), and who are ultimately aligned and share your passion for your business. It’s okay to cut ties early should you feel it’s not a good fit from the start. Never forget — a good business plan that solves a really big problem at the right time with the right team will always get funding. Go find your tribe!

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?

We are all people of great influence, that is what I genuinely believe. We all have the intrinsic power to invoke change for the better, if we have the will to do so. The key is to really understand oneself deeply and connect with your values, acknowledge your strengths and your weaknesses, and then harness the will to improve and take action. This was my journey of change, and it all started with consciously choosing everything that I purchased and consumed, and realising that it is ultimately a reflection of what I believe in, and a vote for the world I want to live in. It has now ultimately led me to start a company that can reflect this sentiment so others can join in and feel empowered to make similar, aligned choices every single day. After all, we have the technology at our fingertips to create the same products we grew to love without the misaligned impacts on the environment, our health, and the animals.

The easier we can make it for people to live in accordance with their beliefs and values without even realizing it, the better the world will become — the ripple effect this can have on our lives and the planet is hyperbolic.

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

I’ve been known to quote the late Herb Kelleher from time-to-time (co-founder, ex-CEO, and chairman of Southwest Airlines), who is one of my all-time favourite business role models. He rephrased the famous Milton Friedman quote to “the business of business is people.

This struck a huge chord with me, and I believe in it wholeheartedly. It doesn’t matter what you do, what business you’re in, or who you are in this world — it all centers around people, and how you treat them.

This has never been more important to me than now — especially building the culture in a new team and business. If you just focus on being the best employer you can, everything else will sort itself out — and that doesn’t mean throwing parties or using superficial gimmicks to allure the sense of a good workplace. It means allowing people to flourish and be the best they can be — listening intently to what makes them tick, allowing them freedom to be empowered and make meaningful decisions, and ultimately to love life and enjoy what they do wholeheartedly — that’s my main job as a CEO.

Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say?

What legacy do you want to leave, and what problems are you looking to solve for? At Change Foods we’re on an exciting mission to help bend the curve on climate change and improve planetary health by using precision fermentation as our key enabler. We can recreate the products we love, starting with cheese and dairy, without the problems associated with farming animals — in other words, we are re-inventing the ‘cheese’ wheel 🙂 We’re a dedicated team of experienced professionals and die-hard changemakers, and believe in the power of people to drive positive change in the world. If you share our vision, we’d love to connect!

How can our readers follow you on social media?

People interesting in following our journey can add us via our social channels:

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


The Future Is Now: David Bucca Of Change Foods On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Miranda Mantey Of ATB Ventures On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The…

Agile Businesses: Miranda Mantey Of ATB Ventures On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Unforeseen disruption pushes people to spend initial reaction time simply focusing on understanding what is happening over what is actually occurring. At the same time, we need that calming leadership presence that paints this time not as if the world is burning down but as a time of coming together to demonstrate the malleability of the organization.

Miranda Mantey is an experienced researcher, foresight practitioner, and strategist with a passion for learning and all things pertaining to the future. This thirst for knowledge is what led her to her position as UX Foresight Strategist at ATB Ventures, and it led her to complete her Masters of Science in Foresight at the University of Houston. Miranda spends her time with ATB Ventures evaluating global trends to understand implications related to innovation strategy, the product portfolio, and customers. Outside of her day job, Miranda is also a published author and professional speaker, and she spends her free time with friends and family.

Thank you so much for doing this with 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 started as a summer student at ATB Financial, working on an innovation team. While in that position, I quickly realized that I had a strength in research and strategy development. I continued at ATB in a student position until I graduated with my Bachelor of Commerce in Risk Management in 2018. Then, I signed on to a full-time position with ATB Ventures.

My time on the team led me to discover the field of foresight in 2019, which quickly became a passion of mine. This passion launched me into completing my Masters of Foresight at the University of Houston in 2021.

I’m still largely focused on research and strategy development to this day, but I have continued to add tools to my toolset, such as foresight methodology, primary research, and design thinking techniques.

Now, my position on the team is to be an advocate for market insights and our customers, and to explore how our portfolio and product strategies can be structured to best support those groups.

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

I started out in the foresight field, being confident my role was to predict the future (insert magic ball). If you know anything about the profession, the number one rule of futurists is “do not try to predict the future.” I figured that out pretty quickly in my first semester at the University of Houston, but one of my classmates stumbled across my Medium profile (that I forgot to update), which referenced something in my bio about predicting the future. She nicely called me out, and I felt straight embarrassment. I broke the number one rule in the public domain! Not a great way to make friends in a brand new program. I fixed it immediately.

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 leader at ATB Financial, Chett Matchett, was instrumental in identifying my strengths and weaknesses and mentoring me throughout the early stages of my career. She encouraged me to lean into my research capabilities, and I fully believe that if it wasn’t for my time working for her, I wouldn’t be on an innovation team, nor would I have ever discovered the field of foresight.

My current leader, Sue McGill, has also been incredibly supportive in building off of Chett’s mentorship and has continued to push me towards continuing to upgrade both my soft and hard skills. And, of course, none of my success could ever come to fruition without the support of my family!

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses’’ are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its purpose?

The purpose of our team has been rooted in leveraging curiosity, creativity, and empathy to build and launch meaningful products, which bring as many people as possible into the next generation of the digital economy. Our goal is to ensure that all of our products and services are carving out a better, more trusted future for all.

Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

ATB Ventures is a Horizon 3 innovation team that explores how we can leverage emerging technologies. Our key competency is to craft a better future for all.

My role on the team is to assist in identifying and evaluating early-stage product ideas. I do numerous deep dives on trends and important topics, facilitate ideation sessions, and help take product concepts through early-stage validation. I also manage our intellectual property funnel and spend time exploring new potential methodologies as to how to better incorporate user insights into foresight work.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

From the lens of financial services, it’s not hard to quickly determine why a company like ATB Financial would want to invest in a team such as ATB Ventures. The rise of FinTech, open banking, and the moves from Big Tech into the financial services space make a clear case for “we need to change.” That being said, we approach these current circumstances not as a crisis but an opportunity. We fully believe that we have the talent, capabilities, resources, and drive to carve out what the future will look like — we just need to lean on foresight and some tenacity to follow through on that goal productively.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

ATB Financial pivoted due to these industry pressures by creating our team, ATB Ventures, in 2018. The intent was to launch a research-based innovation lab that tackles net-new product development driven by four major trends: data, machine learning, human-machine interfaces, and a new era of trust. Through this, we are able to explore and operationalize diverse revenue streams that span beyond our core operations.

Was there a specific “aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

After a year of trying to figure out the most powerful way to help my team understand what the world will look like 10+ years from now, I had an “aha” moment when my leader sent me the website of a foresight consultancy. I thought to myself, “I don’t have to make this methodology up anymore?” Although, arguably, I didn’t have to transition my entire career to a new path, I was able to better define myself and my work in such a way that I felt reinvented.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

Definitely pretty well so far! I’ve been able to apply foresight principles directly to my work at ATB Ventures (including through our Humans of 2030+ project), and I’ve seen the impact of it on the quality of our team’s work.

On a personal note, I’ve seriously advanced the impact of my work and my strategy development. I was lucky enough to have won a few student awards while in my Masters’ program; I had some of my work published; and I’ve had a few professional speaking engagements.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?

For me, the Humans of 2030+ project is the most interesting piece of work that I applied foresight to since my transition into this space. This project maps out how different user groups might react to various potential futures (https://atbventures.com/humans-of-2030/ ). From what I’ve seen in my time in foresight, a lot of the work tends to focus on worldbuilding on a macro-level. This isn’t a bad thing by any means; I just think we can take it further.

I am passionate about taking these worldbuilding frameworks and continuing our thinking in that space to evaluate what it might be like to actually live in those worlds. In order to do that, my team and I invented a new model of thinking called Human-Centered Foresight, where we married psychometric models, data analytics, and foresight into a really fascinating deep-dive as to what people might look like and feel like in 2030 and beyond. Our future personas aren’t just works of art; they are actually based on data! (How cool is that?)

We’re planning to continue our work in this space, hopefully building it out to offer both businesses and individuals insights into future people. I honestly just loved being a part of inventing something that I view as incredibly cutting edge.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

During disruption, leaders need to be the calming force that encourages the team to lean into the uncertainty that is being experienced. I think it’s human nature to shut down when things feel overwhelming. Unforeseen disruption pushes people to spend initial reaction time simply focusing on understanding what is happening over what is actually occurring. That is why I think foresight can be so powerful — it allows us to feel less surprised by sudden change because even though we didn’t necessarily predict the exact details of what is happening, having already walked through the various shifts helps our brain understand that the future won’t just simply continue as it has in the past. We recover from the shock significantly quicker. At the same time, we need that calming leadership presence that paints this time not as if the world is burning down but as a time of coming together to demonstrate the malleability of the organization.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

I think it’s important for leaders to understand that their team members aren’t just struggling to process the future of their company and/or industry, but they’re struggling to process the future of life. The term eco-anxiety or climate anxiety has popped up in the last few years as the prediction our scientists are painting is an incredibly bleak picture of what the next 100 years hold. Many of us feel a perceived obligation to try to ensure the longevity of all of humanity — an obligation that leads to vast hopelessness and stress because no one person can take that on.

I think a leader needs to understand and be empathetic to the fact that weakened morale likely goes far beyond focusing on one’s own company. By understanding that, there’s a level of patience and support that you can give your team. I recommend trying to avoid too many “doomsday” conversations. Yes, sometimes it’s realistic to set the conditions of “we need to change, or our company will die,” but on a daily basis, try to keep the conversations more optimistic. Things like “we do have this very tough competitor that entered the market, but this gives us an opportunity to focus on the next iteration of what we do” places your team into a creative mindset rather than a fight-or-flight one.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

It might be cliche, but I don’t think you’re ever too good to go bankrupt. One of the key premises of foresight is that it encourages leaders to confront their blind spots by mapping out alternative futures from what they expect. There’s no foolproof way to predict the future (and if there was, you know I’d be selling it); instead, we have to respond quickly to whatever change we face when we see the signals in the market begin. Don’t be overconfident, and be ready to act. Foresight is a great methodology to ensure both of those things.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

I think a big one is just not having the right corporate mentality (from the top down) for responding to change. Traditional industry mindsets need to die. It’s becoming increasingly rare for companies to say, “we just need to keep doing things how they’ve always been done” and come out on top. A shocking number of companies don’t explicitly say that, but if you read between the lines and evaluate their actions, they think it! Aligning with that, a lot of companies might see the change coming, but they don’t have the right corporate structure, culture, or funding model to act on it. Once you become a certain size, things get slower to move — often too slow to respond in the ways needed — and often that leads to actions being taken too late.

Lastly, diving into the disruptive technologies and innovations before defining what needs they are going to solve with these technologies is a mistake. Generally speaking, companies on the forefront of new technologies will play with what is possible versus what is profitable, and we do need people to take on that burden. That being said, without a clear business case present for why to engage with a new technology, it’s easy to invest in it too early and have a significant investment into a project that ultimately burns out. This is a huge risk, especially for companies that are trying to prove out why investment in innovation is necessary and powerful.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Stay in touch with trends, not only technological, but in all areas of the market: This truly is the basis of foresight methodology. How would you ever know to pivot if you are not exposing yourself to what is truly happening in the world? Blockbuster arguably failed because they didn’t analyze the system-wide conditions of the market demands, business model innovations, and technological development to see why they needed to innovate.
  2. Lean into learning: You probably just heard about the metaverse within the last six months and if you did hear about it earlier, my guess is that you didn’t lean in to fully understand it and what you can do in that space. Facebook, on the other hand, has been working on it since 2018. Don’t just sit and wait for new topics to find you; find them, learn about them, and learn how you can capitalize on them.
  3. Look globally: Trends might not play out exactly the same in every market, but they can influence each other. What can we learn from the digitally-native population of China? As our world gets more and more globally interconnected through the uptick in Web 3.0, global trends will be more important data points than ever before.
  4. Don’t stop at insights, stop at implications: Insights provide business value, but implications drive decision-making. From an insights lens, Facebook is excellent for the world as it connects people and makes strong financial returns. From an implications lens, Facebook is potentially tearing society apart. These tell two very different stories — both of which are meaningful.
  5. Recognize the scope of your capabilities: Imperfect players can win; they just have to play smart. Recognize the strengths of core competencies, the strengths of your brand, and the strengths of your team.

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

A renowned futurist, Wendell Bell, once said, “There are two ways you can view the world, you can be cynical, or you can be idealistic. I prefer to be idealistic because that leaves open the possibility that I can influence the world for good. To be cynical means that I have given up all hope that the world can be changed.” As someone who is constantly thinking about the future and doing so by utilizing the doom-and-gloom of mainstream media, it can be easy to get depressed and negative. Bell’s quote has been something I’ve stuck to in regard to actively choosing to be an optimist and talking about the future with hope in my heart.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Twitter: https://twitter.com/mirandamantey

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mmantey/

Medium: https://medium.com/@mmantey

Atbventures.com

@atbvenures

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


Agile Businesses: Miranda Mantey Of ATB Ventures On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Agile Businesses: Betsy Kauffman Of Cross Impact Coaching On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant

Agile Businesses: Betsy Kauffman Of Cross Impact Coaching On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Value learning — learning keeps us relevant, curious, and creative.

As part of my series about the “How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant In The Face of Disruptive Technologies”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Betsy Kauffman.

Betsy Kauffman is a globally recognized Organizational Agility Coach with more than 20 years of experience working in Fortune 500 companies. Her company, Cross Impact Coaching, is an Organizational Design Firm focused on working with companies to help them solve the big problems impeding them from achieving agility, collaboration, alignment, and innovation. She is a published author providing thought leadership to the agile and project management communities and speaks internationally on leadership, corporate culture, and organizational agility. She also completed her first TED Talk: “4 Tips to Kickstart Honest Conversations at Work’’ in conjunction with the TED@PMI partnership and was selected by the TED editors to have her talk brought to the main stage. Check it out at TED.com!

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. 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 started my professional career as a technical project manager on a whim because the director of a division I was interviewing with believed in my abilities to support his organization. I didn’t have any real training in software or project management, just the attitude to want to learn with no fear or preconceived notions. This work took me down the path of working in several organizations as a project manager, program manager, and eventually portfolio manager. I was then tapped on the shoulder and asked if I was interested in learning agile and began getting acclimated to that mindset and various delivery frameworks. I have spent the last 15 years working as a scrum master, sr. scrum master, agile coach, leadership coach and now it has turned my focus into organizational design with a strong focus on creating agile 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?

As I was just getting started in the technology world, I was responsible for purchasing millions of dollars of software licenses for a large scale implementation. What I didn’t understand was these licenses were not actual, physical licenses like a driver’s license and I started arguing with the vendor that I wanted the physical licenses sent to us. Being a vendor, they created something crazy to appease me and sent it to our offices. As I learned more about the tech world, I was embarrassed by my actions. I think the biggest lesson or take away for me from that mistake is you don’t know everything, and you need to trust and lean on your vendor partners and peers to learn and grow in your knowledge and interactions.

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 believe there are two individuals who created pivotal moments in my career. The first one was the gentleman who hired me into my first project manager role. As I mentioned above, I had no previous experience in this occupation or in the tech sector. I was just a couple of years out of college and really trying to figure out where I wanted to take my career. He believed I had the right attitude and soft skills to take on this role and they could teach me the “technical” skills to be competent. This truly launched me into a new direction and profession I have very much enjoyed.

The second person was a peer of mine in the agile community. I just finished speaking at a local meetup about how to create successful global teams in scaling your agile initiatives. After the talk, there were several people waiting to speak with me. He patiently waited to be the last person to speak with me and strongly encouraged me to “take my show on the road”. So, I did. I quit my day job at a large financial institution and started my own agile coaching and training firm over eight years ago.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

When we first started, my main purpose was to work for myself with no real vision. Not very inspiring and it lacked direction as well as focus. However, over time, we started to get a real understanding of the impact we were having on our clients, and we began to get really aligned on our mission. Our mission is to help create workplaces where people wake up each morning feeling motivated and inspired by their work and end their days feeling fulfilled and valued. Our core values are collaboration, transparency, simplicity, trust, and balance. We use our values to guide and ground us in the work we do with our clients and as a team.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell our readers a bit about what your business does? How do you help people?

We are an organizational design firm, focused on working with leaders and their teams who are serious about wanting to make change happen. We focus on helping to solve the big problems impeding companies from achieving agility, collaboration, alignment, and innovation. We get pulled in to support large scale organizational transformations (people, processes, systems, tools), leadership coaching, culture, change and mindset shifts, and creating high performing teams.

Which technological innovation has encroached or disrupted your industry? Can you explain why this has been disruptive?

We are a consulting firm, and we work with organizations to achieve organizational agility. However, we are in such an age of radical disruption with startups in almost every sector — (Finance, Insurance, Retail) that our larger and more established customers are having to reimagine everything about their organization to stay competitive with these new disruptors. These startups have been disruptive because it is really pushing our clients to quickly innovate and provide customer centric products and services.

What did you do to pivot as a result of this disruption?

We really focus on bringing best practices and challenging our customers to act and think differently. I have added a few new services to our firm to support the need — HR and Change Management strategists and consultants, technical coaches to help our clients create innovative solutions, and a focus on working with clients to reimagine new ways of working.

Was there a specific “Aha moment” that gave you the idea to start this new path? If yes, we’d love to hear the story.

I am not sure there was an “aha moment” but more of a natural progression where we just kept getting called back into to help with the bigger picture of helping organizations redesign to stay competitive and relevant. Due to our high quality work and desire to really dig in with our clients, we are trusted partners and end up working across these same organizations year after year as they mature and grow.

So, how are things going with this new direction?

Fantastic! We are working on solving some amazing problems with our customers. Our work is exciting, challenging, and keeps us on our toes to bring new ways of working in this virtual world where in the past we would have been onsite working side by side. Therefore, we have had to get very proficient with virtual facilitation, collaborative online tools, and of course, various web conferencing platforms.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started this pivot?

We are currently working with a client and rolling up our sleeves to help create a Next Gen Product Delivery organization. The challenge we have been given is to help turn this part of the organization on its head by reimaging everything including people, processes, systems, and technologies leveraging automation and data driven decision making.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during a disruptive period?

Clarity and transparency with their teams and peers.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Trust your people and allow them to do their best work. It also involves providing clarity, clear decision making, consistency, and transparency in everything you do. A good leader creates an environment where employees feel psychologically safe, heard, challenged, and able to connect their work to the bigger picture, even in uncertain times.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Relentless focus on building talented, high-performing, diverse teams. People stay with a company, even during turbulent times, when they are part of a team which is supported and set up for success.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make when faced with a disruptive technology? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

Often, I see companies not taking disruptive technologies seriously or even not realizing they are at risk of being disrupted because they think they are too large to fail. Also, I see companies not investing enough time or money in being innovative and creative, thinking differently, or anticipating what problems they can solve for their customers. Companies need to understand customers are choosing value, convenience, options, affordability, and innovation over brand loyalty. Just because they are your customer today, does not mean they will continue to stay your customer in the future

Ok. Thank you. Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to pivot and stay relevant in the face of disruptive technologies? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Allow teams to experiment and innovate — some of the best ideas come from people who are closest to the work and/or the customers.
  2. Fail fast — failure isn’t a bad thing; it allows us to learn and quickly pivot but also don’t be afraid to cut your losses.
  3. Value learning — learning keeps us relevant, curious, and creative.
  4. Bring transparency and clarity in everything you do — Employees and teams are much mor likely to support a leader and an organization when they are confused or fearful of the future.
  5. Look outside of the corporate walls — sometimes we get so myopic in our work and focused on solving for the internal problems we don’t realize when our companies are no longer relevant.

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

“Life is not about finding yourself but about creating yourself.” — George Bernard Shaw

I have had a magnet of this on my refrigerator for at least 15+ years. I think at some point in our early years we are fed the myth that our true calling will magically appear and find us. Most of us walk around looking and hoping for that vision to find us. I truly believe you must envision the life you want and work like mad to create that life — both personally and professionally. That mindset has helped me to really grow my consulting firm and build a life which I love.

How can our readers further follow your work?

https://www.crossimpactcoaching.com/

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

Watch my TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/betsy_kauffman_4_tips_to_kickstart_honest_conversations_at_work

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Agile Businesses: Betsy Kauffman Of Cross Impact Coaching On How Businesses Pivot and Stay Relevant was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Dr Lynda Folan Of Inspired Development: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During…

Dr Lynda Folan Of Inspired Development: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Build Optimism — this must be built into the activities and the language of the organisation. People should be supported to focus on what can be done to improve things rather than on what is wrong.

As part of my series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Lynda Folan.

Dr. Lynda Folan is a renowned specialist in the field of Leadership and Organizational Development and has a highly successful record of strategically developing and managing International Human Resource functions. With over 30 years experience working with businesses across the globe in both the public and the private sector, Lynda has considerable expertise in Leadership Development, Organizational Development, Resilience Building, Strategic Human Resources and Executive Coaching. Lynda recently published her book “Leader Resilience — The New Frontier of Leadership”, which defines a new requirement for leadership and leadership development and sets the stage for a transformation in the leadership arena.

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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?

My life, career and studies have spanned four countries on three continents. I was born and brought up in South Africa and started my career in a Human Resources role in Local Government. At 22, I decided to explore the world and moved to Belgium, where I lived for just under two years. The UK was the next stop on my journey, where I lived for just under 18 years and built up my career in international Human Resources. In the UK, I had some fantastic opportunities to grow my career. At 29 years old, I was appointed to my first Board-level Executive position as Vice President of Human Resource for the Hard Rock Café International (responsible for all locations outside of the US). I moved to Australia from London to change pace and enable a lifestyle change to bring up my son. Following a successful corporate career, I set up my own consultancy business, Inspired Development Solutions Pty Ltd, delivering leading-edge organizational development and leadership development to businesses across the globe. Over the years, I have completed six degrees from three countries and, in early 2020, became a Doctor of Organizational Psychology through Murdoch University.

From a personal perspective, I am a single parent of a gorgeous teenage son and l love that I have been able to demonstrate to him that women can succeed in business and academia while simultaneously being a loving and present parent. Personally, my passion is to travel, explore and push my limits. I have had the opportunity to travel to over 100 countries on all seven continents and visit some of the most remote communities in the world.

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?

Moving from Africa to Europe had some exciting challenges, as did working in a multicultural environment. One very memorable occasion occurred when greeting a new business associate from France. I accidentally went the wrong direction when greeting with what should have been a kiss on the cheek. Unfortunately, he went in the correct direction, and much to our embracement, we ended kissing on the lips instead of the cheek. Another incident that involved a language issue was also equally embarrassing. I spent about 10 minutes explaining the directions to a work colleague, describing how you turn right at the first “robot” and left at the second “robot”, etc. At the end of my explanation, the person asked what a “robot” was. At that point, I realised that the African term for a traffic light — “robot,” did not translate in a European context. I learned quickly from these experiences that it is imperative that you learn as much as you can about what makes other people do the things they do and never assume you can fully understand another culture. I also learned that people sometimes make genuine mistakes, and we need to have empathy for everyone.

None of us is 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 had some of the most amazing mentors over the time of my career. One of the things I always do is make sure that I seek out people whose wisdom I can learn from and grow. One of these mentors was first my boss, and then later, when I moved on from that role, he became an ongoing mentor. Roy was the most insightful leader, and I feel incredibly privileged to have worked with him and been able to draw on his wisdom over the years. His insights into people and his ability to work with and get on with everyone was amazing. When I met him, he was the CEO of a major hotel chain in London and an advisory to the Government. One of the key things I took away from him was that he did not tolerate an egotistical attitude or any form of bad behaviour that got in the way of effectiveness. He also actively encouraged everyone he worked with to become the best versions of themselves.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

Our purpose was in creating and delivering leading-edge developmental solutions that support individuals, teams, and organisations to transform. We aspired to be a sought-after Leadership and Organisational Development Consultancy delivering unique and bespoke solutions that transform individuals, teams, and organisations.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

In my role as a consultant, I spend a lot of my time guiding organizations and leaders through challenging times and supporting them to evolve their businesses to meet the challenges of our VUCA world. First and foremost, in my role as a leader, I focus on helping leaders to build and manage their resilience levels. If individuals are not resilient, then any team or organizational evolution will fail. The other thing that I focus on is realigning the language used and building an optimistic, future-focused atmosphere. We know that if people are optimistic, then there is nothing that they can’t achieve or overcome. This is key in uncertain times.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

We all have those moments when we think about giving up, and I have had my share of those moments. At those times, I go inside myself and find that inner strength that I have built over the years and reengage with my internal energy source. For me, meditation is vital in those moments, and I will usually increase my daily meditation time significantly. I also make use of journaling and future focus myself out of the present challenges. I also actively think about all the incredible experiences I have been privileged to have over my lifetime and do gratitude activities.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Maintaining your personal resilience and being openly optimistic. When you get on an aeroplane, you are told that you must put on your mask first before helping others to put their mask on. It is the same for leadership, and you must look after your resilience if you want to have the capacity to support your team through challenging times. Once this is in place, then the critical role as a leader is to be present for people and support them while maintaining optimism and staying focused on the vision

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Boosting morale is a challenge in times of uncertainty as individuals’ levels of consciousness around their internal processing varies significantly. If the uncertainty is unconsciously triggering them, then their energy levels will be substantially reduced, impacting their level of optimism and motivation.

At these times, it is important from an individual perspective to:

  • Be present with people, help them maintain optimism, and support them in adjusting their internal processing to avoid draining their energy.
  • For some people, it is essential to insist they take a break or a holiday to give them space to re-energise.

At these times, it is important from a team perspective to:

  • Make time to have fun and lighten the atmosphere
  • Provide the team with as much certainty as possible on issues that can be clarified.
  • Maintaining energy is vital, so anything that brings energy to the team will assist, things like team social events or team building sessions.
  • Lead from the front and be visible to the team
  • Giving positive feedback that will motivate is essential, but it is also vital to provide constructive feedback. If optimism drops or people become negative, this must be addressed via feedback.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

In my experience, people generally want honesty and transparency. They don’t want platitudes and half-truths, but they do need to be listened to and respected. Personally, my strategy is to be open and upfront about bad news. In saying this, I am also always respectful to the person and allow space for them to process the news in their way and support them to work through the emotional reactions.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Leaders need to plan with shorter timeframes in mind and keep all plans fluid to be responsive to the external environment. Critical to achieving this is to evaluate the strategies and adjust regularly were required. One of the things we are looking at with several organizations is making their organizational structures more agile. Organizational structures tend to be very static, and this is not helpful in the VUCA world. If leaders and organizations want to stay ahead of the curve and not become irrelevant, keeping the strategy and the structure flexible and reassessing regularly is imperative.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

For years we have focused on managing change and defining complex processes and procedures to do this. In turbulent times, we need to stop talking about managing change and focus on building resilient individuals, teams, and organizations to respond naturally to the turbulence. The number one principle is to develop and maintain resilience at all levels of your organization.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during challenging times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

  1. They avoid dealing with challenging issues like restructuring or performance management — these must be dealt with even when times are challenging as the issues won’t go away.
  2. Becoming Problem-focused — one of the things I see a lot in my work is that people become focused on the problem. It is critical to build optimism and shift people away from a problem focus.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

My personal strategy in turbulent times is to focus on doing great work, building strong relationships with clients and staying attuned to the changing business environment. In my view, if you do this, then the financials and profit will take care of themselves.

For example, when COVID started, I had just completed my doctorate. Although I had not originally intended to the external environment, it clarified that I needed to leverage the research to build resilience in organizations. That is what drove the writing of the book.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Maintain And Build Personal Resilience — this is an ongoing requirement for leadership effectiveness, and individuals need to look after all aspects of their resilience. My book “Leader Resilience — The New Frontier of Leadership” defines the elements of resilience essential for effective leadership and provides practical strategies for building resilience.
  2. Build Optimism — this must be built into the activities and the language of the organisation. People should be supported to focus on what can be done to improve things rather than on what is wrong.
  3. Ensure Teams Are Focused on the Vision — Everyone should be clear on the organisation’s vision and what is expected of them in achieving the vision. In turbulent times people want to see a clear vision and have clarity on the part they play.
  4. Build your Culture and Manage Behaviours — in challenging times, you will often see organisations being distracted from managing their culture. There is also generally an increase in destructive behaviours and negative attitudes. Critical to leadership success in turbulent times is that leaders openly address these and manage negativity in all aspects.
  5. Keep Connected to External Environment — In turbulent times, you must maintain optimism. Still, it is also key that you know the changes in your business environment and leverage this knowledge to enhance organisational effectiveness.

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

“Leadership is a choice, not a position.” Stephen Covey

This quote has particular relevance for the work I do in working with leaders. What I see daily is that those leaders who choose each day to lead and do the work required to enhance their leadership make a difference to the people they work with. They also contribute to the enhancement of the team and the organization. Those that don’t choose to lead and have a laissez-faire

attitude to the responsibilities of leadership, damage people and, in the end, cause harm to their organization.

“People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, they make them.” George Bernard Shaw

This is a very personal quote that I live by. If I don’t like the circumstances, it is no good to complain about them. I take action to find the circumstances that I want and work hard to bring that into my life. And if this is not possible, I will choose a positive attitude even if the circumstances are not ideal. I decide not to look back and regret but simply accept the choices that I have made and change them if I don’t like them.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Inspired Development Solutions website is the link to the work we are doing.

https://www.inspireddevelopment.net

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Dr Lynda Folan Of Inspired Development: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During… 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: Rick O’Shea On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of the life and I have a good sixth sense around people and opportunities. There have been too many times when I’ve ignored that gut feel and regretted it later.

As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs. I had the pleasure of interviewing Rick O’Shea.

Rick O’Shea began his career as a professional golfer spending ten years on the PGA, Mexican, Canadian and Asian tours. After leaving the tour in 1999, he founded Elite Golf Cruises, the only comprehensive onboard golf academy in the world. It was during this time that Rick began witnessing demand and ultimately researching the complexities of the sanitization industry and identifying the gap in solution providers servicing the roughly $30 Billion dollar a year industry.

In 2010, he began working with Steve Cooper, the founder of Electrostatic Spraying Systems Inc. (ESSI) which was based on a technology he co-developed as part of a Master’s Degree project at the University of Georgia. ESSI developed the first commercially successful electrostatic sprayers for agricultural and ornamental crops which are still used today in over 20 countries around the world. Together, Rick and Steve adapted the ESSI technology for the infection control industry and ByoPlanet was born.

The Company has invested thousands of hours in research and development, as well as securing the intellectual property rights for electrostatic technology that is currently used in the ByoPlanet devices today.

This past year, ByoPlanet partnered with Clean Republic a manufacture of stabilized hypochlorous acid for the Jan/San and retail markets. The combination of state-of-the-art chemistry portfolio coupled with the electrostatic technology, creates an infection control system that is unrivaled in the industry.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

The impact the COVID pandemic on the trajectory of Byoplanet could have never been predicted. The business was manufacturing 100–200 devices per month and had been for the better part of a decade. In March of 2020 the demand for our technology exploded and our manufacturing team found themselves faced with device demand of thousands. In the span of 4 months, our team grew from 25 people to over 150, we moved into a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility and learned some hard lessons about supply chain, customer service and business infrastructure. On the other side of that meteoric ride, our company, has come out bigger, better and stronger, with the ability to provide education, support and equipment to the infection control industry on a scale we could have never imaged a year ago. The Covid Pandemic has completely changed how the entire world views cleaning and disinfecting and we’re there to supply and support every step of the way.

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

Electrostatic technology has been used in agriculture for decades and in early 2010, I recognized that there was real value in having electrostatic delivery of disinfectants, particularly for large areas that required quick turn-around times. The cruise ship industry was a prime example of an environment that was in real need of innovation in this area. Fast forward to mid-2020 and again, we identified that when coupled with the right product, our sprayers can eliminate 99.999% of virus out of the air. By using our equipment, both air and surface transmission of germs can be reduced with one operation.

How do you think this might change the world?

One of the positive outcomes of the pandemic is it sparked innovation and the brought awareness to the benefits of cleaning and disinfecting for health, not just for aesthetics. The efforts of janitorial staff have all too often been taken for granted. Too much work, inadequate tools and little recognition, yet these were the front-line workers that cleaned our hospitals, our schools, buses and trains when everyone else was scared to leave their homes. Suddenly, their impact on our day to day lives came into the spotlight. We’ll always be fighting pathogens but with proper training, and tools, we’ll arm the front-line work force with everything they need to reduce the risk of transmission.

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

They feel that the technology does all the work for them, tech only works when you point it in the direction it needs to hit. It’s great tech, but not magic.

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

Carnival Cruise used our technology during dry docks to disinfect the ships starting back in 2010. The first ship was Freeport Bahama’s the Carnival Triumph. Carnival wanted to protect the crew members during the cleans of all the HVAC vents, lots of nasty stuff in those vents that build up after two years. Our equipment was used for the first time and from there it became a standard in the industry.

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

  1. Education on the benefits of the technology and how an organization can do more with less and still achieve better outcomes.
  2. How the choice of disinfectant has a hug impact on the customer experience. Education on what is in our disinfecting products is just as important as the application method.
  3. Byoplanet is more than just a device manufacturer — our public health team can be the “phone a friend” when an organization is just figuring out their infection control game plan.

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

Our primary sales channel is through distribution, however most of the customer service interactions have been funneled through our own service department. We have a group of account managers whose job is to “catch” the incoming inquires and direct them to the right department. Those account managers are the ones that are having real conversations with our users every day. They hear firsthand what’s working and more importantly, what isn’t. This allows us to have real data collection that has all the color and nuance that comes with having human interactions, not just sales numbers or call frequency data. Our account managers are our superpower. The information they funnel into the organization feeds not just engineering and quality but marketing and sales strategies.

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 father always said you can’t win unless you’re in the game. That was true during my golf career and it’s certainly true in business. You must take the leap and believe that you are bringing real value to our consumers.

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

Giving back to other is our greatest gift. My involvement with my church and community is my channel through which I choose to give back. Whether its time, financially or emotionally, I want to share the resources, teachings, and blessings that I’ve gained throughout my life.

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

  1. Only work with people you like (if you can). I only want to do business with people that enjoy working with. I had an opportunity to partner with a Fortune 100 company but my early interactions with them was painful — no one had a sense of humor; everyone imbued this arrogant corporate persona. Financially it may have been a windfall for the business, but personally it would have absolutely sucked. I chose not to partner with them.
  2. Tell people the truth, even if it’s hard to hear. Whether its managing employees or dealing with business partners, telling the true will lead to trust and respect. The “spin” is often the downward spiral in the relationship — people need to hear what’s really going on.
  3. Listen to your gut. I’ve been an entrepreneur for most of the life and I have a good sixth sense around people and opportunities. There have been too many times when I’ve ignored that gut feel and regretted it later.
  4. Honor both the letter of the contract AND the spirit of it. Just because the contract allows it, doesn’t mean you should exercise the option. Contracts only come into play when the relationship has broken down. Most of the time that can be avoided if the spirit of the contract is honored.
  5. Be a consumer. Of all the businesses I’ve started or been a part of, they have all been technologies or products that I would use myself. If you’re not passionate about the product or service, that should be your first indication that you’re in the wrong business.

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. 🙂

Grit. We need a generation whose objective isn’t the number of followers or the most likes but the greatest demonstration of grit. That’s what makes the Olympics so captivating. Athletes are putting years of work and pain on the table for this one event. I want that spirit to infuse everything we do. Never settle for defeat, that last yard might be the end zone. Push yourself beyond comfort and follow your gut.

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

Go put a dent in the universe! Steve Jobs…

No opportunity is too big, too bold. Every business that I’ve started began with a vision of what was possible. Often it was daunting to consider all the possible reasons for failure, but with one step at a time, the pieces start to fall into place. You must approach even the most ambitious projects with a breakdown of what is possible in a day, in an hour…

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 🙂

Byoplanet is better, faster and bring real value to your bottom line. The life you save might be your own.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

www.byoplanet.com

https://www.facebook.com/ByoPlanetInternational

https://www.instagram.com/byoplanet_international/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/byoplanet-international-llc

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


The Future Is Now: Rick O’Shea On How Their Technological Innovation Will Shake Up The Tech Scene was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mahesh Vinayagam Of qBotica: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent…

Mahesh Vinayagam Of qBotica: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Surround yourself with the best: It is important to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and ahead of you in their careers. Ask them to work alongside you. During the tougher times, seek their insights and brainstorm ideas with them. That level of expertise and advice is vital to the health of your company.

As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Mahesh Vinayagam.

Mahesh Vinayagam works as the CEO and founder of qBotica, a pure-play Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) firm specializing in providing Intelligent automation products and solutions to Fortune 500 clients and small and medium-sized companies. Mahesh has extensive global experience starting with his early career in Chennai, India, then moving to Brighton, UK in 2000, where he managed large global teams for a financial services giant before moving to the U.S. in 2007. His career in technology has spanned more than 20 years, during which time he has led successful initiatives across digital transformation, cloud migration, robotics, and artificial intelligence. Currently the vice chair of the Global Association of Enterprise Architects (AEA), Mahesh also serves on the Forbes Technology Council, on the board of AI-driven home service startup, Kozee Labs; on nonprofit boards; and in mentor roles with impact accelerator SeedSpot and the Founders Lab at Arizona State University (ASU).

Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. 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 worked as an executive for a large organization and had what most would consider to be a successful, high-flying position. But, several things began to happen, which led me to start qBotica in 2017.

A few months before I started qBotica, I attended the Harvard Business School Strategy and Sales Alignment course where I was able to benchmark my ideas and thoughts against corporate leaders from around the world.

In addition to this curriculum, I read a book called The Entrepreneur Roller Coaster by Darren Hardy. I began to find my own ideas reflected in this book and loved the author’s perspective. In this book, he says to “spend your days pursuing the things you want in your eulogy.” This truly impacted me. I decided I wanted to make a change and begin building a legacy that will inspire my daughter and the rest of my family. I traveled so much when my daughter was growing up — I didn’t have the chance to spend as much time with her as I wanted to.

I decided to be brave and leave the comforts of my position in pursuit of something greater, something that unleashed my potential to the fullest. I was inspired to just quit my role and begin working toward my dream. Now, people are calling moves like this “The Great Resignation.”

I wasn’t building a side business — I didn’t even have a clear plan of what I was going to do, but I knew I needed to start my own company and live on my own terms, so I could spend more time with my family, and inspire other people to pursue their passions.

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 wouldn’t say this was a funny mistake, but I did make a legendary error of punching way above my weight. In our first month of getting started, I pitched to the Head of Automation of a Top 3 Bank in the USA. He bought into my pitch and asked me to show the working prototype in under 3 weeks. We didn’t even have a product, just an idea and a simple video made on Upwork for $50. It would take us several months of work and a lot of money to make it happen. I came out of that meeting both elated and stunned that we even had that chance, and overwhelmed at how to make it happen. But we ended up figuring it out.

What I took from this was that selling concepts is only good for pitch contests, not for investors or customers. I might have wasted an opportunity by pitching too early. Building a company with comprehensive offerings is a long process. What gets you glory in a corporate career doesn’t necessarily bring immediate results in a startup environment. When beginning a business, each step requires careful planning and nurturing.

After that incident, I became a bit more realistic, but I continue to be bold in our approach

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 several people helped me along the way — building a company is never done alone. I was truly impressed by how many people helped us so selflessly.

Interestingly enough, the women of the family (my wife, my mom and my mother-in-law) were very supportive of me quitting my high-paying job to start out on my own, despite me being the only earner in the family. My wife, who was on a break from work, took up a new job to support us. Without her help, I wouldn’t have been able to do this.

If I were to call out an individual who helped in a financially impactful way, it must be my friend Amar. On the day I started my firm, he presented a check close to six figures and said, “I believe in you. Here is something for you to get started”. That was a huge responsibility and confidence booster. I realized the enormity of what I was doing when I received that check, and I wondered if I would ever trust someone who has never been an entrepreneur with such a large sum of money! I am grateful for him and his belief in me.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

As I said in a previous question, I was inspired to live a life and build a legacy that my daughter could be proud of. This is the driving force behind my business and everything I do. My purpose was ultimately providing and being there for my family. When I quit the corporate hustle and decided to venture out into entrepreneurship, they really all depended on me. Their support meant the world to me during this time. This instilled a sense of purpose that was deeper than anything motivated by the world’s definition of success. qBotica was created with this passion and purpose in mind, and it continues to be the driving force to this day.

Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

We don’t have to look too far back for this; we were in one of the most uncertain times that humanity ever faced. The pandemic brought in a completely different set of challenges than we could ever envisage.

At the start of the pandemic, we were all panicking about what could happen. Interestingly enough, I somehow felt a dejavu moment. This reminded me of the 2008–09 financial crisis when businesses dependent on financial institutions were literally crushed due to the meltdown. During that time, I was handling financial institutions. And, in spite of the challenges, we successfully negated the crisis through relentless pursuits and grit.

During the financial crisis, we worked harder and harder to conduct as many sales calls as possible. We met several people, offered amortized price plans, and hired as many people as possible — many of whom had lost their jobs. This helped us in a big way. We were able to acquire talent that, otherwise, probably would not have joined us or moved to Phoenix. And we were also able to acquire customers who were cash strapped, and, therefore, willing to go beyond their comfort zone and diverge from the bigger brands.

As soon as the pandemic hit and business volumes fell, I immediately reassured the team that we would do everything possible to protect their jobs despite the uncertainty. I reminded them about how we took on the 2009 financial crisis, how uncertain it was for us, and how we were able to survive by focusing on what we can control instead of what we cannot. We also maintained transparency in terms of what efforts we were undertaking to build our finances, and the discussions we were having with clients and industry analysts.

Likewise, this time too, we focused on what we can control i.e. product engineering and brand building, and the rest played out well. Between early 2020 and now, we have grown our team three times.

I believe that my team’s comfort and sense of direction is of the utmost importance. Enabling them to feel secure in their role and to know what we are driving for is a key part of our ethos, and I think it creates a sense of loyalty. We are loyal to our team, and they are loyal to us. And transparency is the other thing that is incredibly important. I tie transparency to honesty and open communication. I want my team to know what is going on, and I want them to feel comfortable sharing their ideas, asking questions, and giving feedback.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

Oh yeah, a few times I thought about quitting. I derive strength and motivation to not quit when I look at all of those who believed in me, whether it’s my team, the investors, our customers or the community. What sustains my drive is that adversity motivates me to get tough and do better.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

Leaders are the helm and the face of their company. They don’t just have to appease investors, customers, and stakeholders during difficult times — they also have to make sure all of their employees and every person they work with is assured of the company’s eventual success during challenging times.

The role of a leader is to have the vision to see the company through the most difficult of circumstances. They must be so intimately aware of the business that they can steer it toward success no matter what. There is a level of risk and reward here that most other roles in a company do not have to deal with.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Your team wants to know that you are thinking ahead and that you have mapped out every possible scenario for your business. They want to know that you are prepared, aware of the challenges ahead, and have the wisdom to navigate those challenges. As a leader, you can boost their morale by demonstrating your confidence and preparedness for whatever lies ahead.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

I am not sure that there is a “best way” to communicate difficult news outside of being as honest as possible. Before you communicate bad news to your team, make sure you’ve looked at all of the options and possibilities. Then, you can develop an effective strategy moving forward. Then, when it comes time to break the news to your team, they know you’ve done everything you possibly can. A sense of honesty goes a long way to developing trust in these scenarios.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Forecasting risk is huge here. Leaders need to be aware of all of the possibilities and develop strategies in order to navigate those potential risks. We learned in 2020 that unpredictability is a part of life. Leaders can’t avoid this. It’s inevitable. So all the more reason to prepare for a variety of situations and outcomes.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?

Well, it is tough to identify one idea or principle, but I think that if we approach every situation as an opportunity, it helps us reframe each situation whether good or bad. Challenges, lows, and adversity all present an opportunity to reflect and improve. And, obviously, successes are opportunities to reap the rewards of our hard work. Successes help us grow our business, seek opportunities for further growth and advancement, and share the wins with our teams to help keep them motivated.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that?

One mistake people make during difficult times is making decisions in haste. Often, leaders panic about finances and decide to fire employees en masse to make up for a loss in revenue. Often, this isn’t the right choice. Layoffs made in this way can cause you to lose valuable players who would have been an asset to your company in the long term. Instead of making a decision in haste, take a moment to step back and evaluate all of your options. Decide what you absolutely need to do.

A second mistake is an inability to adapt to market demands. Don’t keep doing what you’ve always done. Difficult times provide ample opportunity to pivot and change. COVID-19 changed the digital landscape and forced most things to move toward online interaction. Companies that adapted stayed afloat, while others sank under the pressure.

Third, make sure you are empathetic to your team and your customers. Everyone is going through a difficult time. Don’t become too short-sighted and narrow in your focus. Let them know you are there for them and will help support them as much as you can.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

Our strategy is simple — good times or bad times, we want our brand to be known to as many people as possible through our marketing.

Businesses of every size need to acknowledge and invest in marketing. It helps to get customers, employees, investors, partners, and it compels financial institutions to provide better rates and support. The whole ecosystem operates on working with successful businesses or “known” entities.

Being a startup and operating in turbulent times, it is tough to get ahold of conventional sources. For example, during the height of COVID-19, all major banking and lending institutions stopped funding. Imagine that, when you needed them the most, they cut you off. So we cannot depend on the common sources; we have to look for “unseen” avenues, and the only way to get to them is through marketing your business effectively.

The same is true for talent. When we need to open new avenues for finding talent, spreading the message in a creative and wide-reaching manner is more effective than just relying on direct sales and word-of-mouth references.

Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Provide clarity and promise security: Uncertainty is an absolute certainty in business, even in “normal” times. So the first thing business leaders need to do is provide comfort and confidence. This is what I did with our team. I told them very early during the COVID-19 crisis that their jobs are protected and that I need their full focus and attention. I didn’t want them to spend time worrying about their jobs, which would negatively impact their performance.
  2. Be present and lead by example: It is critical for business leaders not to go into hiding during a crisis. While we focused on our efforts, we were also very aware of the struggles the team was facing during this time. We arranged talks with psychologists and industry leaders, and we participated in several philanthropic activities. We made sure that we were acknowledging the current conditions. We need to lead by example and be present in discussions. We decided to be transparent early on to help the team learn from how we were doing and handling things.
  3. Surround yourself with the best: It is important to surround yourself with people that are smarter than you and ahead of you in their careers. Ask them to work alongside you. During the tougher times, seek their insights and brainstorm ideas with them. That level of expertise and advice is vital to the health of your company.
  4. Show vulnerability and trust in the power of people: People have this innate capacity and ability to endure uncertainty; we just need to trust in them. Expressing our own vulnerabilities can be difficult for leaders, but if we can show our vulnerabilities and trust in our team to accept and address them, they will come up with amazing ideas.
  5. Don’t be afraid to take risks: Don’t just do things a certain way because that’s how it’s always been done. A societal change is the perfect time to reconsider how you’re doing things and seek improvement.

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

I think I wrote this quote in my middle school workbook, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going”. I’m not sure why I wrote this, but it keeps ringing in my ears whenever I face a tough situation. This quote reminds me to find strength when facing hurdles and difficulties. It helps me get back up and keep going whenever I get knocked down, and it inspires me to try hard things and hopefully inspire others to persevere through tough situations.

Over time, I’ve changed my mentality and begun to view challenges as motivators instead of roadblocks.

How can our readers further follow your work?

Readers can keep up with us via social media or contact us through our website. We’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!

Thank you for your time.


Mahesh Vinayagam Of qBotica: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Mark Frissora: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is cutting too deep to the point that you hurt your employees or customers in the interest of making more money. Doing this hurts the long term of the business and these short term decisions create unbalance in the company.

Mark P. Frissora is a successful businessman who was previously the Chief Executive Officer and President of Caesars Entertainment and served as the chair and CEO of two Fortune 500 companies, Hertz Global Holdings, and Tenneco, Inc. With over 42 years of business experience, Mr. Frissora’s expertise spans across all levels of managerial and functional roles. He is known especially for consistently generating stakeholder/shareholder value at highly leveraged companies in both private equity and public markets, and successfully leading companies out of bankruptcy. Mr. Frissora credits his success to a strong work culture that focuses on customer-centricity, diversity, and employee engagement.

Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I started off at General Electric in 1978 as a marketing associate, and later as a group project manager. During my time there I learned a lot about marketing, brand management, and sales.

Next, I went to Philips Lighting Company, which at the time had bought Westinghouse light bulbs, and they were trying to establish their brand. The general manager of North America for General Electric was now at Phillips, I was recruited by him as the Director of Marketing to start growing share with the new Philips brand.

My next role, I became a vice president of marketing and sales at a company called Aeroquip/Vickers, and I spent five years there learning quality disciplines. For instance, I became both a master black belt and lean sensei after going through different training curricula to be certified in both. During my time at Aeroquip/Vickers, the training I received in lean sigma allowed me to see the tremendous waste that exists in all businesses.

I ultimately took that skillset with me to Tenneco and over the next three years, I was able to demonstrate very good performance in the factories that I had in North America. After about three years at Tenneco, I became the CEO in 1999. I spent six and a half years in that role and under my leadership, we set many records. Some of those awards include; the top shareholder pick for three years in a row, as chosen by PWC and the Gabelli Automotive Symposium.

After Tenneco, I was recruited to Hertz, where I spent a total of eight years there as the company’s Chairman and CEO. During my time there we experienced a challenging recession — around 2008, 2009. Shortly after I got there, Hertz was highly leveraged and we were breaching bank covenants. I was pleasantly surprised by how willing everyone was to make sacrifices to turn the company around. On my team, we all cut our salaries, cut our 401ks…we did everything we could to cut costs. One year later we were able to restore every employee benefit that we cut.

Hertz was able to pick right back up where we left off. We started hitting all kinds of benchmark records in customer and employee satisfaction. I left in 2014 to go to Caesars as their new CEO, one week after they filed for bankruptcy. So of course, I had to face that issue head-on. I spent four and a half years there and was blessed with a great team and we worked our way out of bankruptcy in two and a half years. During the bankruptcy we established new financial records which improved our margins on the Las Vegas strip from last to first.

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’ve always championed empowering work teams, giving people accountability and responsibility. Most teams can usually run with it, and they appreciate it in the long run. So, at Tenneco, we had manufacturing plants and they had a concept called self-directed work teams.

That was intended to eliminate supervisors and management and allow employees to manage themselves.

Personally, I was excited by the concept. I took a Ford exhaust plant that was based in Smithville, Tennessee, and trained the employees to be self-directed. We spent some money with outside consultants and the entire process took about two and a half months to get everyone trained and set up.

When we went live with it, we felt pretty good about the planning process we implemented. We thought, at the time, that we had done everything by the book — but within three months we lost our Q1 flag.

Frankly, the whole idea turned out to be a disaster — our quality rating was in the garbage. We had to take eight months to get our quality rating back and, and ended up learning some valuable lessons along the way.

In the end I think it’s important to realize that not everyone can be self-directed, and you can’t expect employees that haven’t spent their life wanting to be or training to be self-directed to just be able to do that. Sometimes there’s a reason that you have to have supervision and management. Most people think that’s for oversight purposes, but it also helps to reinforce structure in the workplace. The bottom line was, we expected too much. I think all the employees were trained well. But in terms of being able to completely self-police, we simply had too high of expectations.

We did learn a lot and inevitably improved from that experience and were able to selectively put management where we knew it needed to be.

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?

Well, I was an only child growing up, but my father was extremely attentive. He always wanted the absolute best for me, and he’d brag about me all the time through grade school. I was really lucky in that sense he gave me lots of positive reinforcement.

Unfortunately, he passed away when I was only 12 years old. For me, when my father died it was like my best friend died, so it goes without saying that this was an extremely tough time for me but I was able to use some of the things that he taught me to get through that difficult time. Although I was very young at the time of his passing, the lessons learned every day in my life with him were extremely impactful. Those lessons continue to inspire me, still to this day.

He had a poem that he brought home one day, called “Don’t Quit,” by John Greenleaf Whittier. In short, the poem just says to never stop — to never quit, to never stop trying even when you think things won’t work out the way you intended them to. If you continue to plow through whatever challenging time you’re facing, eventually, you’ll get through it.

Jack Welch was a good mentor to me at General Electric as well, I was a true student of his. I had him visit as a guest speaker a couple of times at Hertz, to talk to our management team, and he received standing ovations almost every time he’d visit.

Every time he spoke, it was like you instantly understood that he was a very real person. In fact, I learned about being real, if you will, with him…through him. Like getting down to the transaction level of the business, making sure that you get real with the people that are working for you, and more importantly, that you don’t just inspire — let’s say, the top 10 people in the company. You inspire everyone, so you have to engage and make people believe in your vision, no matter what it may be, all the way down in the ranks.

If you were with Jack, he was present and he gave you his undivided attention. So that was something that I certainly aspired to take from him and have tried to implement throughout my career. It was part of the culture training which Larry Senn used with the concept “be here now”.

Larry really helped me do a culture change in all three companies I worked with, so Tenneco, Hertz, and Caesars. From there, we developed the phrase, “Be here now.” This phrase was established to remind others not to be distracted — to be here presently. Nowadays everyone’s constantly looking at their phone, distracted during meetings. I think we could all use that phrase in our society, now more than ever, because of all of the distractions the internet offers.

Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?

I co-founded an app called Goodwrx. It’s an app that connects unions, workers — anyone, looking for a job, really to a job anywhere by matching the candidate to the job. Right now the Vegas Strip has a lot of job openings and we’re loading 30,000 workers into our technology. Then we connect those workers with casinos like MGM and Caesars. The idea or the overarching goal of this app is to get people back to work. It’s a tough environment for people right now, especially with COVID, and they are having a really difficult time finding just one job and holding that job. Goodwrx mobile application additionally helps people who need extra money, and this allows you to work an extra shift or take on more than one job.

Goodwrx provides added value to people by providing them with a broad range of job opportunities, flexibility — and it’s efficient, so we really hit a hole-in-one with the development of this app.

At the same time, throughout my career, I’ve had to prioritize adding value over everything else — which makes a company successful. Furthermore, by monitoring and constantly checking the way we hire, and the way we administrate ourselves, we’re able to achieve equality for all as a central theme of the company. This allows us to have an aspirational purpose for contributing to Goodwrx.

Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?

I led two teams through two different recessions. At Tenneco, in 1999 we were going through a global recession. Quite literally six months after I got assigned as CEO, the recession started — and I realized those business effects right away. Truck production, for example, went way down 70%.

Because production was suffering, we required “an all hands on deck” approach. We got the whole team together and figured out what we could do to cut down on costs so we could make payroll. I was flying to New York City every week working with three or four banks who wanted us to sell our facilities to liquidate any debt we had with these banks. They pound on you, so you have to convince them that you need another lifeline — that you need an extension to work through this. And I did pretty much that every week for about three months. Our company came out on the other side without having to sell anything and we were able to keep our plants open. I learned the value of making payroll, and how essentially look at every single expense item, look at your payables, and how long it takes to pay your suppliers.

Evidently the same thing was true for me at Hertz. We went through the prices of the big financial recession, the likes of which we’ve never seen since the big crash in ’09. Again, we saw a remarkable team effort come from this. All of the employees contributed, and again we were able to come out of the other side of a dark situation and really build something positive out of that experience. We were able to restore all of the things we took away, almost immediately after we were in the clear again.

And again, coming out of that situation — we were able to start hitting high customer satisfaction, high employee satisfaction numbers again and went on to continue earning awards for these achievements. This wasn’t even surprising — if you think of it, going through that experience together creates a bond, even within a big company like Hertz. Handling those situations with optimism and positivity really helps raise everyone’s spirits and by doing just that, you have more employees willing to contribute to a bigger picture. Even if it involves big sacrifices, like budget cuts. When we were able to get our funding back and our productivity levels up to speed, we were able to perform at a much higher level, compared to companies that never went through anything similar.

Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?

People say I’m relentless and I try to face new challenges head-on. We all go through tough times, I know I have had a lot of them in my career. All three companies that I was CEO of were all highly debt leveraged. Naturally, I didn’t have a lot of money to invest in new projects, but I enjoyed the challenge. For me, the bigger the challenge, the more exciting it was.

What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?

I think staying positive, not allowing the organization or you to feel sorry for yourself. So that means, making sure that your team sees your positive energy, patting people on the back, reinforcing the good, getting rid of the bad. I’d say don’t be critical, even with people having issues. In my experience, working with people in a positive way by praising all of their accomplishments and only suggesting ways for that individual to be more effective, has been a successful way to lead.

Bottom line, leaders have to lead and they cast a big shadow. That’s why we have this concept called, “the shadow of the leader,” and the shadow of the leader casts a wide shadow that affects everyone under them with their decisions and processes. This applies to the majority of higher-up leaders, whether it’s the CEO or vice president. Any senior person needs to be leading with optimism and positivity to encourage the rest of the team from the top — all the way down to the bottom.

When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?

Leaders can start with the most obvious, and maybe important, aspect — improving communication. Ensuring that leaders are communicating with each other, with their teams, frequently.

For instance, I used to do a monthly webcast when things were tough. They were live so you were able to ask questions in real-time. I created a video set-up situation where I’d be in a conference room or at a headquarters facility. Then we’d have 300 people there in the room — plus all the locations would dial in — and in the webcast, I would talk about everything going on in the company. I’d try to really focus on highlighting positive events, and then I’d have a Q&A session where anyone in the webcast could ask me any question. That was a good, transparent format for improving morale.

Another example of this was implementing an employee suggestion box, so employees would be able to suggest ideas and then they would get rewarded for any suggestions that positively impacted the company’s performance. By engaging the employees and rewarding them with this idea, they truly began to feel more and more like valuable members of a family, or a team. Also, taking care of your employees and giving back to them when you have those means is incredibly important to keep in mind. Again, employees want to feel valued, secure and cared for — they want to be seen and heard.

What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?

With your team, there should be an existing element of trust that you have with each other. Working with a team demands transparency, so you just need to be honest with them right away. Nine times out of ten, they’ll appreciate that upfront honesty because nobody likes wasting their time.

If you’re in a CEO or leadership position, again — leading with optimism and positivity is incredibly important. Let people know, upfront, yes your company is in a dark place — that is a reality. However, let them know there’s a light at the end of that tunnel by preparing a call to action, a 30–60–90 day plan. Whatever it may be.

Delivering bad news to customers is a whole different ball game, because we assume the customer is always right. From a marketing standpoint, we’ve always tried to sort out the positives and then reinforce them by emphasizing what our brand, our company has done for the customer and what we can continue to do for them in the future.

How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?

Teaching your organization to be flexible and adaptable to an ever changing environment allows them to thrive in an unpredictable world.

Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times? And 14 are very similar, asked and answered above

Going back to the principles my father instilled in me from a very young age, I would say to never give up. If you fall, get back up and always try harder. In my experience, people that are considered to be relentless in their pursuits, are oftentimes are considered to be people that have grit. People that have grit are pretty much always successful.

Years ago, I listened to a podcast where the guest was a lady who had studied leadership across the board. So she focused on studying all these successful people that had been extraordinarily successful their entire career, and what she found in her study was grit. All of these people had grit — they believed in the principle of never giving up and always continuing to push through whatever life throws at them.

Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that? — cut to 2

One of the most common mistakes I’ve seen is cutting too deep to the point that you hurt your employees or customers in the interest of making more money. Doing this hurts the long term of the business and these short term decisions create unbalance in the company.

Next common mistake is cutting employee benefits and making employees upset with certain management actions. Employees should be on your side and as a leader, you must always think of the implications of your actions. If leadership doesn’t have their employees on their side, the business will fail. I strongly encourage company leadership to stay positive during hard times and encourage your employees to do the same.

Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?

I believe it is important for CEOs to find a balance between growth and efficiency during turbulent times. Company leaders should never try to swing completely one way or the other by focusing only on growth during this period or only on efficiency. There are always opportunities to grow and work more efficiently but the ideal situation is finding the balance between the two.

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

I’m very fond of the quote, “where there’s a will there’s a way” and have focused on that saying my entire life. I consider myself a person with grit who never gives up and always tries my hardest to stay positive when I’m faced with adversity. That is part of the reason I put so much emphasis on staying positive in leadership roles because a fighting spirit always seems to win if you remain positive. I think my attitude is part of the reason I’ve been successful in CEO positions because being the head of a company comes with many tough assignments and responsibilities but I am a relentless fighter and power through the tough times.

Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!


Mark Frissora: Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Meet The Disruptors: Anthony William Shannon Of MUVE On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your…

Meet The Disruptors: Anthony William Shannon Of MUVE On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis

Who you are with is also extremely important. If you are around uplifting, inspiring, and more intelligent or experienced people than you then you’re on the right track. If not, it’s probably time to make a change, which is also in your control. This is relevant both for personal and professional relationships.

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anthony William Shannon.

Anthony William Shannon is a serial technology entrepreneur from Montreal, Canada with over 10 years of experience working in technology for small startups to large Fortune 500 corporations. In 2017, he and Peter Grande, a leader in the automotive and mobility industries, co-founded MUVE and built a team of expert technologists, designers, and builders centered on developing technology within the universal design principles, providing accessibility in the mobility space, and creations transportation solutions for governments to help those living with disabilities and their extended families.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug my entire life. I started in technology over 10 years ago, building software and working on innovative projects across numerous industries. After helping many companies succeed through technology, I had assembled a great team and felt it was the right time to build something which could have a positive global impact. We initially started with the vision of building an impactful solution to help people living with accessibility needs. We found out that there were over 1 Billion people globally living with a disability, and impacting over 1 in 4 Americans, so we knew it was important to come up with an innovative solution to help those who need it most. Furthermore, we found that governments, transit authorities, and mobility operators were all looking for, and willing to fund, new technologies that could make their operations more efficient, heading into this era where everything is being digitized, we ventured out to build the best technology solutions possible to tackle these important challenges. When starting MUVE, we wanted to make sure that we were starting something which had the potential to be scaled globally, and that it could have a positive impact on the world.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

We innovate everyday, which is an extremely exciting part of what we do. We have the freedom and flexibility to apply out-of-the box thinking to create cutting edge solutions, which solve a business purpose just as well as create a bridge to important community needs. Concretely, we help transit authorities, mobility providers, cities and governments, as well as community organizations rethink and reposition the way their operations work through technology innovation. Since what we are doing at the core, is meant to have a positive impact, we aim to put the customers first in order to create a more sustainable ecosystem.

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?

Yes, when I was just starting off in technology entrepreneurship, I was invited to Los Angeles to speak at a very exclusive event, with some of the top pioneers in my field at that time. It was the type of room that could have changed anyone’s life or career path. It was a fairly long presentation, and I was alone on stage. I had a great looking slide deck, but I did not have the chance to do a dry run in the venue the night before. When I got there, all the lights were on, and the microphone / audio was super loud in this room, and I had never even heard my voice fill up a venue like this before. I got nervous, and almost forgot where I was going with my slides and could hear my voice shaking. I followed the playbook and pushed through, but it was not a home run and I still feel it could have gone a lot better. What I learned from this experience is that you need to practice your public speeches, in front of a mirror or in the actual venue with sound ideally, many, many times. Continue practicing to the point where you can do it 10 times without missing a beat and have that level of confidence going into it. This lesson stayed with me and has yielded great results ever since! For example, when we were selected as a finalist in a start-up competition in Chicago at the National Shared Mobility Summit — my partner and I woke up at 5 AM and practiced our presentation dozens of times before winning and earning the title of ‘’Mobility Startup to Watch in the US’’, at the infancy of the company.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

My first mentors would be my family. Starting with my mother and father, who have helped shape my mindset to think about working in something I felt passionate about, and always provided guidance, support, and knowledge to aid me get there. They always instilled the notion that following your passion is more important than making money. My dad is the reason I’m in tech today. After losing all my money on an entertainment venture I was doing as a teenager, he proposed that I get into Mobile Apps (in 2009–2010) at a time when the web was totally dominating. It turned out to be great advice, and I’m still in that field today!

Secondly, my uncle Gary Shannon is a great mentor of mine. If it was not for him, I would not be where I am today. He has opened a lot of doors for me early on and helped give me the real first opportunities to build a tech company.

My cousin Matthew Shannon is also a mentor of mine, he has a world-class business strategy mind who works on a lot of world class deals. I find myself learning a lot from him about how to best position myself and the technologies we build to reach an optimal outcome.

Then, I would say a great mentor of mine is Jeff Grammer, a renowned VC and technology entrepreneur with multiple exits. We have been friends for 12 years and every year we get together for burgers and beers for some ‘’real talk’’ about the journey and things that are happening in our world. This is helpful since he’s been through the entire journey from start to exit many times and can often share some relevant advice and knowledge.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

I see disruption as the evolution of what was, towards what will be. It is a positive concept, since humans are made to evolve over time. But it does always come with the risk of these same innovations being used to do bad. Here are a few examples:

  • Autonomous driving cars can save a lot of lives and solve one of the top causes of unnecessary deaths in the US with humans driving cars and getting into accidents. It is proven that autonomous driving is much safer. The problem is, hypothetically, even if you could reduce the number of deaths per year by 90%, is that good or bad? It sounds like it’s a good idea but, most likely, the families of the thousands of lives lost at the hands of a robot driver, with no human interference, would argue that a human driver could have avoided that crash and that it was the technology’s fault.
  • When the Internet started, we saw an opportunity to connect with each other in a way we never had before across the world. Of course, eventually as billions of people connect and share online more than ever, we have compromised a large amount of our privacy to private companies’ interests in exchange. Is the convenience and fun of using the platforms worth the privacy loss?
  • The dialogue of AI in the context of defence is also interesting. Top companies and governments have created and are openly promoting robots, powered by AI, that can fight on behalf of humans in the context of a war. The good part is obvious, we don’t need to sacrifice as many human lives in the quest for protection in a war, or that it would save taxpayer dollars going towards defence budgets. The negative sides include discussions around who programs the AI, how does the AI evolve, is it governed, supervised or controlled by a group who has sound ethics and morals — this could become very problematic for humanity.
  • Brain chips, like Neurolink by Elon Musk are also an interesting topic. Ultimately, once deployed at scale, the technology will have the power to cure physical and mental illnesses, save lives, ‘’download’’ unlimited knowledge (i.e. being able to speak in and interact in every language). In exchange, all your life and thoughts will be recorded and stored on a private company’s server, which could technically be transplanted to another human or robot. Would the pros outweigh the cons?

The main similarity on all the points above is that the evaluation of the benefits offered by these new technologies versus potential risk in a worst-case scenario. Users can always make a choice to not opt into the future, but most don’t.

Technology is evolving at an exponential rate, so it would be normal that the innovations, which will be our reality in the future, sound unfathomable to us today. For example, the idea of horses being replaced by cars to autonomous vehicles, or from having to handwrite write telegrams and letters to being connected to anyone in the world at the touch of a button through our smartphones, or even flying into space would have sounded unbelievable 100 years ago. The funny part is that once innovation hits, people get used to it very quickly, and can’t imagine ever going back to how things were prior.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

My best advice is to focus on where, who, and what.

Where you are: It’s so important to be where the opportunities are most likely to meet you. This has happened time and time again for me, whether it’s going to the right conference, vacation destination, or spending more of your time in a specific place during the year. A lot of great things can happen unexpectedly when you put yourself in position.

Who you are with is also extremely important. If you are around uplifting, inspiring, and more intelligent or experienced people than you then you’re on the right track. If not, it’s probably time to make a change, which is also in your control. This is relevant both for personal and professional relationships.

What you do is a more obvious one but still important. The two points above are key to a happy life in my view, but with the right project or opportunity in hand to propel it can make it even better! Same goes here, a lot of good things can happen if you pick the right sport to play, take a certain class, or find a new hobby on the personal side.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

On the professional side, I really love the world of technology and business. I don’t see myself straying away from that anytime soon. On the personal side, I would love to find a way to have more and more positive impact in my time. Whether it’s through work, charity, or finding ways to help others who need it most.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

My favourite business book is ‘’What it Takes’’, lessons in the pursuit of Excellence, by Stephen Shwartzman, who is someone I respect. After evaluating thousands of businesses over the last 50 years, the main concept he talks about in the context of building an organization with longevity is hiring or building a team is the idea of consciously hiring or surrounding yourself with 10’s, meaning 10/10 ‘’superstar’’ level talent. Which resonates with the importance of having a really strong team.

My favourite podcast is Masters of Scale, by Reid Hoffman. There are exclusive daily lessons from the top CEO’s, Founders, and Inventors. Plus, he sends action items on things we can work on based on the concepts explored in the sessions. I really recommend it!

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

My dad always said “The only thing you have when you die is what you did for other people” which is why I think it’s important to not only look at what I want out of life myself, but to look around and make a conscious effort to try and help those who need it most.

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 encourage the notion of universal design across all industries, which is essentially creating products or environments which can be utilized to the greatest extent by people of all abilities, backgrounds, beliefs, etc. Not only is this totally possible and the right thing to do, in my opinion, but I believe that it’s also good for business, as it opens up a brand new market who can enjoy what you create.

Starting a business doesn’t always have to exclude helping others. Companies like Toms Shoes is a great example as they give away a pair of shoes to children in need every time one is purchased. Doing good doesn’t mean you can’t do well!

A good challenge question might be: What business could you start that goes hand in hand with having a positive impact on the world?

How can our readers follow you online?

Best would be to add me on LinkedIn: Anthony William Shannon.

You can also follow MUVE on our website, as well as our activity on all our social media accounts, come say Hi.

www.gomuve.com

https://www.facebook.com/muvecorp

https://www.instagram.com/go_muve/

https://www.linkedin.com/company/gomuve/?viewAsMember=true

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


Meet The Disruptors: Anthony William Shannon Of MUVE On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.