100 CEO PROJECT
About this podcast
100 CEOs. 100 conversations. And one year that changed everything: 2020. Join us on an exploration of what it really means to lead through change. Because in business we prepare for the worst, not the unthinkable. Each episode presents candid thoughts, successes that moved the needle, powerful insights and stories that touch the heart. Each CEO has a distinct take on the year - from those who’ve overcome near-game-ending challenges to those who brought their humanity to the job and changed the role of corporate leadership forever.
About this podcast
100 CEOs. 100 conversations. And one year that changed everything: 2020. Join us on an exploration of what it really means to lead through change. Because in business we prepare for the worst, not the unthinkable. Each episode presents candid thoughts, successes that moved the needle, powerful insights and stories that touch the heart. Each CEO has a distinct take on the year - from those who’ve overcome near-game-ending challenges to those who brought their humanity to the job and changed the role of corporate leadership forever.
100 CEO PROJECT
- Season 1
Everyone Is On Your Team, with Andréa Paige - The Institute For Aliveness
Show notes and transcript available at 100CEOProject.com To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Recorded on 01.20.21
Who Do I Want to Be When This Ends? with Debra Giunta - Prismatic
Full show notes available at 100CEOProject.com To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
Building Relationships on the Founder Journey, with Anne Kim - Secure AI Labs
The pathways to fundraising and mentorship aren’t easy, especially in a pandemic. Our candid chat with founder, Anne Kim reveals the importance of relationships when growing a startup, the human side of management and why less is more.
Well-being For Employees and Their Families During a Pandemic, with Lindsay Johnson - FitPros
What does well-being mean at your company? For Lindsay Johnson and the FitPros team, supporting their clients during the COVID-19 pandemic has meant supporting their employees in whatever ways necessary. Learn how she led her team to support thousands of families during this tumultuous time and the techniques she uses for coping with change. FitPros: https://www.fitpros.com/ Recorded on 12.08.20 TRANSCRIPT and shownotes available at 100CEOProject.com
Characteristics That Get You Through a Pandemic, with Allison Moss - type:A Brands
Steering a startup generally means being short on one’s own historical data, even without a pandemic. So how does an intrepid founder navigate the unknown? By relying on the tenacity that led her to start a company in the first place. Allison Moss, founder and CEO of type:A Brands talks about sudden channel shifts, risk-taking, financial silver linings and when she pulls back. type:A Brands: https://typeadeodorant.com/ Recorded on 12.04.20 Full transcript and shownotes at https://www.100ceoproject.com/ Hosted by: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Writing and research: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow
How Prioritizing Mental Health Leads to Success, with Di Di Chan - FutureProof Retail
When your mind is healthy you can curb anxiety and remove your ego, which leads to the kind of listening that’s required to be the leader in your category. President of FutureProof Retail, Di Di Chan shares her top tips for supporting your stakeholders, which have been critical to her team’s success even before the pandemic hit. FutureProof Retail https://www.futureproofretail.com/ For full transcript, visit 100CEOProject.com To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
Starting at Yes to Solve the Digital Divide, with Megan Steckly - Comp-U-Dopt
Of low-income households, 46% don't have access to a computer at home and 44% lack access to a quality broadband internet connection. Megan Steckly, CEO of Comp-U-Dopt shares how her organization is solving this digital divide, and how they’ve achieved transformational growth by empowering leaders at every level. Comp-U-Dopt: https://www.compudopt.org/ Full transcript and show notes at 100CEOProject.com
Every Business Is An Impact Business, with Andrew Vrbas - Pacha Soap Co.
While there is no perfection, leading consciously goes a long way towards making decisions that are beneficial to people, planet and profit. As Andrew Vrbas, CEO and co-founder of Pacha Soap Company shares, it’s the consideration of different perspectives that has helped him to connect dots and innovate. Their hygiene initiatives created positive impact right here in the United States during the pandemic as Pacha worked on both production and policy to ensure people had enough affordable hand sanitizer. Pacha Soap Company:https://pachasoap.com/
Growing Grass to Save the Planet, with John Reid - Waterfield Farms
The most successful social innovation comes from great questions, not someone’s whim. In college, Waterfield Farms’ John Reid posited a compelling question, took a chance on a subject he’d never considered before, and decades later continues to feed people affordable, quality food while improving multiple environmental situations. The silver linings of 2020 helped advance his team’s mission, bringing them closer to a breakthrough solution to the climate crisis.
Releasing Bias and Creating Trust, with Scott Walker - Verse Chocolate
As we develop our specialties and become excellent in what we do, we also develop bias around what we “know.” Scott Walker, international cocoa expert and the CEO of Verse Chocolate experienced a silver lining this year, releasing his bias around the “right” way to develop a product, which led to a successful launch in the middle of the pandemic. Verse Chocolate https://versechocolate.com/ Recorded on 11.18.20 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: All right, you guys. Welcome back to the 100 CEO Project podcast. Today, we're excited to have Scott Walker. He's the CEO of Verse Chocolate. The tagline is “Dark Done Better.” And we'll explain what that means a little later in the episode. For right now, Scott, welcome. And thanks for taking time out to talk to us. Scott Walker: Thank you. It’s an honor and a privilege. LP: So just a little background on Scott. His company is called KSW Global. Serving customers first isn't just a mantra, it's a better way of doing business. What we know about Scott is he comes to us with 19 years of experience in cacao, or cocoa. We’ll determine how we're going to say that word. He was also president of ADM cocoa and lived in Europe for 12 years and was the chairman of the European Cocoa Association. Ultimately, he came back to the States, worked in a few other businesses, and took a few years off cocoa and came back to it as an entrepreneur. And that's the capacity that we want to talk to you about today. SW: Okay, well, thank you, I appreciate that. LP: So we know that all of you guys out there, navigating the COVID stuff of 2020, it's made a lot of different obstacles and stuff. So as I understand you've got some silver lining moments or strategies that have demonstrated that there are silver linings to this situation. Can you share some of those, some of them with us? SW: Sure. I'd love to. I was recently asked by a colleague here about four weeks ago, he just said, How did you launch? Because we launched Verse Chocolate on the fifth of October. So what five weeks, six weeks ago? And he said, How could you launch a new business in the middle of a pandemic? And he goes, has it been a problem? And I said, Actually, no, I think it's been a gift. I think there's been a lot of positive that’s come out of the pandemic for us. And he was shocked about that. And I said, well, because of my years of being in cocoa, and being in Europe, I have, we all have biases, and I had a really strong bias on how cocoa should be done; on how chocolate should be done. And I knew that that was a problem coming into my whole venture of trying to start Verse Chocolate. And because I was like,there’s a better way to do chocolate; there's a better way to ferment the cocoa, make it less bitter, and to make it just taste great. And so that we can have less sugar in our chocolate. And so we had a plan on how we were going to do that before COVID. We're going to build a factory. And I also know, cocoa or cacao is finicky. And the same bean can be run on different equipment, and you'll get a different flavor at the end. And I know that my years of experience, okay, how do we take these biases? It's like, Okay, well, let's build a factory. And then from there with that factory we’ll be able to startup. We can make the exact same chocolate every time and make it the same way. Once we get what we want to do. Well, then COVID hit, and when COVID hit we’re like what do we do? Oh my goodness, okay, and we're building the factory in Michigan. And Michigan was hard on shutting everything down. And we're like, oh, my goodness, we took about 48 to 72 hours; our team did. We’d just signed the lease, we're going to we're going to start building that building. Like within a week when this hit. And we’re like well, let's let's rethink this. And we had not been using Zoom. We had not been using anything like this. Every time - I would admit. I mean, I would do phone calls, but it would be common to travel. I love to get on a plane and just go see people because I believe in relationships, right? I think relationships are really the only way to do business. And that's the key to basically everything. And it's like well, how are we going to do this? And my chocolate maker, Andrew came back and said, You know, I have the equipment. And you have that equipment you bought - that smaller lab equipment in Kansas City. Let's just start making the chocolate here and see if we can get to the right flavor based off our lab equipment. And I went, no; my bias said that won’t work. We're going to have to meet often, we're going to have to be together in a panel. We're going to have to do chocolate tasting. And our team was in Georgia and Minneapolis, was in Omaha, Nebraska, was in Missouri and in Michigan. I thought, that's just not going to be practical. Well, and so we had these biases. I'm like wait, and what happened was he started doing it. We started having Zoom calls every morning at 9am. We had like a 15 minute call with the whole team. Nobody else on the team has ever met each other. I’m the only one who’s personally met everybody. And I was like, Okay, how do we bring this together? Everybody understood the goal: everybody understood it was to make a great tasting dark chocolate - a 90% chocolate that tasted like a 70%. That was the goal. We want great tasting with low sugar. Because our research had shown that most people with a certain education understand dark chocolate is good for them. But they're just not sure it’s going to taste good. They associate bitterness with not tasting good. And we know we’re going to solve for that in a couple of ways, but we had to go through all the trials. While as we were going through this, you know, we're using FedEx, we're using the Postal Service, we're sending samples around, I bet we tasted somewhere between 40 to 50 samples, each person. And what we got was really good, I would say, unfiltered feedback. We had a form, everybody would fill it out the same way every time. But like nobody was sitting in the room, you know, hearing things with that. And you had to do it on your own. And so I think we got better feedback. And we got better guidance from the team. Hey, this is good or this is not good. There was no peer pressure, there was no Oh, you know, someone gasps or says something like, That's great. And so I think we got much better clarity by doing that. And I think the other thing that we saw as we went through and it took us till really about July, when we said okay, we think we have it. Early August, we think this is it, okay, narrowing down and narrowing down. To me, the silver lining was that. We would have normally met, we would have spent a lot more money on travel, we would have spent a lot more time away from our families. You couldn't do it. You just could not do it, right? And so you say, okay, we have a goal, we set vision of what we're going to do. And then everybody worked to that. I think the other silver lining, and I really thought about this a lot since I talked to you all earlier last week is, we live in a world where people basically really, we don't trust each other. We have a problem globally where there’s not a lot of trust. I think what came out of this was , frankly, by giving a vision and everybody's on their own, it shows, it showed to them, that I trust them greatly that, hey, we're together, we're gonna figure this out. And that ability to trust, people talk about it a lot, but it's not really shown much today. And it's really low, I think around the world. And it was very high in this instance. Incredibly high. And that's what you want whenever you're trying to develop something, when you're trying to build a team, you want that trust to be incredibly high. And I think, to me, those are the two silver linings to me: check your bias, because you had to do things differently. And really, you develop this trust, high trust, because of what we were having to go through. I think because of the pandemic, people were maybe insecure and they want to trust in something; they have to trust in something. And this helped with that too. 8:44 Andrea Spirov: On that subject of trust. That's interesting, and a really good silver lining. I'm curious, how do you see that translating to building trust between company and consumers? Do you think the same - I feel like we have a lot of the same issues where people just don't trust companies or brands. So how do you see that getting built out? The trust there... SW: You have to be transparent. I mean, you can't - I think there's, you know, when you have so many, it's almost the more rules you have and the more documents you have, actually, the less people trust you. Because it's like I have to have all this in place to prove that I'm good or to prove that I'm doing the right thing. And I came out of a very large company, about $100 billion in sales. Not the chocolate business I ran. We were a tiny division of that company, but, and that company is a great company, and they still are a great company, ADM, Archer Daniels Midland. But what you see is that just, not necessarily ADM or others, but the more documents in place, the more people you have on your team, the more levels...you have to put those things in place to kind of control... then all of a sudden you lose something. You lose like some humanity part of that. And when you lose that, you lose that trust as that well. Okay, but the document said this. But there is no document that solve all problems. There's never been one made. So you have to work the gray in there. I need to have a conversation, build a relationship, because at the end of the day, it's all about relationships. It's all about relationship. That is where everything, whether it's your brand, whether it's us three talking here on this call, whether it's my wife, my kids, my friends, it's all about relationship. That’s where the trust comes in. 10:40 LP: You were CEO of a large corporation prior to starting this endeavor with Verse Chocolates. And now you're officially, right now, a small business, an entrepreneur, and relative to trust and leadership, has your leadership changed - your style of leadership, for example? And if so, how? SW: Sure it’s changed. I think it's changed in a way, you're, you're just trying to do the right thing. When you're in a big corporation, sure everybody's trying to do the right thing. But everyone's definition of right is different. And so you get into, okay, I can do the right thing, overall, in this corporation. But now I'm going to make this weird decision, because that's the best thing for the corporation. So you kind of have to manage these... you're like, Okay, well, we're gonna, let's have a conversation; so you get into this competing, you have things that are competing for your time, for your resources, and that's everywhere. But when you are, and you're always going to let people down? That's hard to deal with. Somebody’s always not going to be happy. And now you’re coming to a small business. And it's like, Okay, well, actually, I've got to set the vision, and I am setting the vision. You know, this is where we’re going. And it’s more like what I see the difference is, I'm just saying, This is what I'm doing. I may be wrong. And in fact, I may be really wrong. But you can't say that in a large corporation. You can't say, Oh, I made the wrong...you’ll just get your head shot off. And here, I may be wrong but yet, the more I do that, the more I’m truthful that, the more people actually want to be involved and help get it right. I want to be part of that. And I want to help you get it right, because I think you're right. And let's just see if we can prove it out. So I think it's this authenticity of where you're trying to go. It's just more authentic. 12:50 LP: You said the key word. One of one of our favorite key words. Authenticity. I want to go back to a comment that you made when we spoke to you last week. And regarding COVID. And the way that you do, now forgive me if I don't have the right term, but taste testing. So if I understand you right, you kind of broke with the norm. And you involved non-expert taste testers. First off, it's going to generate a like, wait a minute, is that the right thing to do? And how can this really give us the result that we want? So can you talk about that experience? SW: Yeah, it comes down to.... we talked to some official taste testers, or professional taste testers who said, okay, we can do this. And I was involved in my chocolate days at ADM, we had taste testing panels in our factories, and you’d get involved. And you saw - I was not an expert taster. But we expert tasters and they’d say, don’t do this, don’t do that. And I was like, ok, we should do that. And we did a little bit of that here, maybe about a year ago, and we kind of - but the feedback was not helpful. And you're like, Well, okay, what do we do with that? Well, we know the audience we're targeting. We know exactly who we're trying to sell this chocolate to. We know that there's a description of the person who we're trying to, you know, we know the age, we know the college education level. We know their income, we know, you know, what kind of a job they may or may not do. We know who we’re going to target but we’re like, wait a minute. Basically, everybody who's involved in this fits into that category. Why don't we, let's just be real, and let’s just us try it. And then if we liked it, let's let other people try it around us who were in that same category to get that feedback. And like, ok, spending tens of thousands of dollars on a professional panel for like, you know...we just know it’s got to taste great. It's gonna taste great. Everybody tastes things differently. As long as we can say, generally, this tastes great, and there's a familiarity around it, it let us do incredible things. The other thing we did with this, which I don't know, I don't know if everybody does this, we did have three experts around the world who were helping us, who understood chocolate. But each individual expert didn't know there was another expert involved. And so we would send them samples, we'd ask them specific questions. And they would come back - and we’d ask the same questions of most of them. And we started seeing things that were, like, at odds. And then there were times where they were, all three were on the same page, which was incredible. But that feedback and to be able to do it that way. Because normally you wouldn’t do that, they would all be talking, or there would be, and there would be more collaboration, but we kind of tried to just say, give us your best on your own. And let us - we’ll decipher what we think is best. And I think that was a that was that was, that would have been, I think non-normal to most people trying to launch a chocolate business, or anything with flavor in it. 15:56 AS: I'd love to spend a minute on supply chains. So you mentioned when we last talked as well that you, because of COVID, you weren't able to get the beans that you wanted to use. So you have to make some changes there. And then you have a really interesting global brand statement that says, you can’t serve customers better without lifting up the entire supply chain. And that when the supply chain is healthy, we're able to best serve our customers and ultimately, the end consumer. Can you share some of your views around supply chain, because this was also the situation with your pet food supply company as well. You also took a lot of care with your ingredients. SW: I think one of the things, if I can, if I can give this background. I lived three different times in Europe - for the last I lived 10 straight years in Europe - from 2004 till the end of 2014. And in Europe, like non-GMO was kind of becoming… or non-GMO was absolutely, everything was non-GMO. You just couldn’t even have anything - it wasn’t even possible to bring anything in that was GMO. And that started from, I don't know, that started in 2000 or even 1999. So the word non-GMO really wasn't even a conversation by anybody at the dinner table. And then gluten-free started coming up. And then organic was kind of a, you know, you had organic and people were focused on organic but it wasn't a real debate. Whether you like organic... I moved back here in 2014. And I started to hear people who I would not expect to talk about organic, non-GMO and gluten-free, like that's like the conversation. And I'm like What happened? It's like I went into a coma in 2004. Because those three words were never mentioned in 2004. I come back at the end of 2014 and I'm like, Oh my goodness. And not only in food, but in pet food. And in pet food that was a big deal. It was like hey, can you give me a non-GMO, can you get me gluten free? And I’m like, for pet food? That was my first experience in that. So at that time I was like, Oh, my goodness, this is a big deal. The US consumer, which is very typical of the United States, we went from not caring, and the Europeans were caring, to we cared so much more than the Europeans. And we like pushed it to the whole supply chain. And what that means that to me is that I care about the supply chain so now I like the product. And I like this product. Now I care about pieces of the supply chain, meaning, where did it come from? Is it fair? You know, is it ethical? You know, can you tell me more about it? And to me that’s like well, I get that that’s happened. And I sit there and say like, okay, and it's hard, you know, the food supply chain, that's the number one thing. The food supply chain is totally safe. The United States government, the European Union, we've done a great job of making our food safe. But then because of that, we focus on safety and efficiency. For years. Go back to the Dust Bowl, the Depression where there was not much food around. And none of us have ever lived anywhere close to anything like that. We can say the pandemic but it's really not. And so the most important thing to a government is making sure your people can eat and that they can afford to eat. And that's been the focus and that's why companies, great companies like Cargill, like ADM, Bunge have done what they've done, and that's why they're so important for us to have good clean, I won't say cheap, but yeah, efficiently grown food. And that’s why we have farmers out there, you know, side note, I grew up on a farm in Illinois. My Dad still farms corn and soybean. So I have this, you know, that's near and dear to my heart, agriculture and farming. So we have these supply chains. But what I noticed was, there's a lot of questions. And when you consider that question, and we're trying to get the answers, and it's like, well, wait a minute, back to there’s all these rules, there’s all these books, there’s all these things. And it’s like, well, do I trust that? Can I just talk to the person who does all that? Can I have a relationship with someone so I can look him in the eye. And to me, it became incredibly important that - I think there's a better way to do this. So I saw in pet food that there was a better way to do this. And before I left the pet food industry I thought, well what I do know best is cocoa. And when I was in cocoa, I did it, I did it, I was part of a huge organization, I was part of the big cocoa piece. And now that I've had this experience in pet food I have a different view, and well, I think there's a different way to do this. And I think there's a way to be more to be more transparent about this, but also make a better quality product. And a lot of people will complain about the price of the cocoa beans, the price of, you know, the supply chain. But these are things that I’ve learned. Most of the costs are in the packaging, or in the actual, like the last mile almost of the supply chain here in the United States, or in Europe, not back to... And that's why there's such a, what do you want to call it? A poor distribution of funds through the supply chain, and it took me - I know most people can go and look all that up and see what it is, if you really see it, you start to understand the impacts of decisions you make when you're trying to open up a chocolate business, and you go okay, that's going to be the impact of the supply chain. And that, that's where I go back to my immediate saying, was I want to connect the farmer or innovative farmer to a discerning consumer Now, can you actually physically connect them, it's going to be almost impossible in cocoa chocolate because there's so many small farmer, smallholders, farmers, but the farmer in cocoa, they don't really understand that they're trying to grow for taste, they don't understand that. They think they're growing for yield. They don't know they're trying to grow for taste. That's the most important part. And even how they're set up in the big cocoa industry; they’re set up around yield and around the size of the cocoa bean. And I go, there's a better way to do this. And so frankly, I'm trying to prove that by doing what I'm doing with Verse Chocolate. 22:05 LP: A question regarding growing beans for taste, not for yield. Can you give us a quick overview of what you are doing, how they're facilitating this change in the conscious and methodology of the farmers? SW: Yeah, so I mean, it's really around, specifically the fermentation. So all cocoa is fermented. And it's, and it's basically rudimentary. It's passed through the ages that this is how you should do it. In some areas, they spend a little more time on it, and Central America, Latin America, they put it in boxes but it comes around the fermentation. In West Africa, it's done with banana leaves but it’s just this fermentation. But what I’ve learned and, and really, I had to step away to be able to look at this and see it because I was biased, I was blinded by my experiences was that and now I have experienced it many times, when you ferment the cocoa butter. When you do a better job of controlling the fermentation, it's less bitter. And if it’s less bitter you don’t need as much sugar. Now, for years sugar was the cheapest thing you could put in any ingredient in the United States. And sugar has become enemy number one in most diets, right? You don’t want sugar. But sugar makes it taste good. It makes it chocolate creamy, makes it do what it does. Sugar covers up a lot of sins in the natural growing of the cocoa. If there's a problem with the cocoa, if there's, you know, it just wasn't exactly the right thing...if you go back 200 years to when Hershey’s started or Mars, you know, they're getting, they didn't have the technology yet. So they're getting cocoa from certain areas of the world that may take four or five, six months to get there. And when they get there, what are they going to do with it? If it's bad? Well, the best thing you can do is, you know, you put sugar and milk around to help get rid of some of that problem. Now, I'm not saying that’s what they do today, but that our taste, became what we’re used to. And so we didn't actually stop it’s just what we became used to. And in Europe. But now we can react quicker. In fact, I'm working on a, with a group called Petra Corp so that we can get information in a system as fast as possible so that we can make decisions more quicker, that we can make decisions about quality quicker and get that feedback to the farmer quicker so that they know. They need to know hey, that's not good. That's not that's not what we're looking for. And right now, they don't get that exactly. And so there needs to be quicker feedback that’s accurate. 24:53 AS: So, our finishing question for you. We always have one tailored to you, is, when we caught up with Aaron Keller from Capsule, he was having some kind of a diet challenge. And he was actually using the Verse Chocolate for this challenge. So can you tell us more about why chocolate might be used as a diet tool? SW: Well, yeah, first of all, cocoa’s healthy. Chocolate’s healthy. It’s the sugar that’s so bad. because it's so Coco's healthy chocolate. And we know that chocolate leads to better, or cocoa, it has all these positive polyphenols, it reduces inflammation. You know, there at one point in time, I know that there was a study out there, this would have been probably 2004, 2005, M&M Mars came out with a study...I think it was, you took an aspirin a day or you can take a package of small M&Ms a day, you actually got better blood flow and the M&Ms were actually better than the aspirin. So, because of the inflammation, or now, the side was you had sugar. That was extra sugar that was going in your body that maybe you didn't need, or maybe you did need. So there's all these positives. And so with Aaron Keller it was, he's like, wait a minute, you're telling me that cocoa is actually good for me. Chocolate is good for me, and that I should be eating it because it’s got all these antioxidants and polyphenols in it. And I’m like, yes. And he goes well I’m going to try it for, I don’t know if it was 30 days or however long he was trying it for, and see if I see a change. And anything that I'm feeling, or in my body. But also, it's like our Verse Chocolate, and frankly, most 90% or 85% if you eat those chocolates, they tend to suppress - it's like, if you eat one you say, wow, I kind of feel full. Whereas if you eat a more milkier chocolate like the M&Ms you just want to keep eating them right? I do. You just want to keep eating them. So it’s like, okay, it really kind of like Oh, that was that was satiable whenever I had that dark chocolate, and it helps with the appetite. AS: I grew up with it. My late grandmother, she lived into her 90s, but she always kept dark chocolate in the freezer. And she would say just eat one or two pieces. She was also in incredible shape and ate really healthy. But she would always say just eat a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every day. And you'll live a long time. And she did. So there's something to that, I think. SW: Yes. I think that’s absolutely true. LP: So, Scott Walker of Verse Chocolate, thanks for sharing your expertise and most important, thanks for giving us all license to move into the holidays. Right? Eat more Verse Chocolate. SW: Yes. Well, I’d love it if you’d eat more Verse Chocolate. But just eat more chocolate because it’s good for you. LP: Well we want to eat Verse Chocolate, so tell us, how can people connect with you? And how can they get Verse Chocolate? SW: Well our website is versechocolate.com and right now we only sell it on the website. So you can order right online. And, you know, if you want to connect with me, you can send an email through there, I think it's email@example.com or if you want to email me directly, I'm happy to talk to anyone. That’s firstname.lastname@example.org. But you know, try the Verse Chocolate it's really, the goal is to have a great tasting dark chocolate at 90% that tastes like 70% and we do that through the combination of the cocoa beans but also the way we process with a recipe to be able to make that happen. So I appreciate your time and thank you for being interested in what we're doing. LP: Thank you and for all you guys out there again it’s Verse Chocolate. Scott Walker has cracked the code. You are free to go eat all you want. SW: Thank you, that’s great. LP: Hey, guys, we hope you've enjoyed today's episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see, this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode. Best part. It's free. So if you like it, please do us a favor and take a screenshot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO. That way we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you've got some insights you'd like to share and you're a CEO, we'd love to hear from you. You can find us at 100CEOProject.com, or on LinkedIn at the 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
How Effective Feedback Can Transform Your Entire Company, with Nick Gallo - ComplianceLine
Plenty of leaders claim to have open door policies, but are you truly using feedback effectively in your business? Nick Gallo, Chief Servant and Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, gives an in-depth training on the ‘Six A Feedback Framework’ and reveals the many layers of complexity that so many of us bring to our professional interactions, which actually hurt us instead of protect us. ComplianceLine: http://complianceline.com/ Ethics Experts Podcast: https://compliancepodcastnetwork.net/category/the-ethics-experts/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ngallo/ Recorded on 10.29.20 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: Welcome to the 100 CEO Project podcast. Andrea Spirov: Welcome back, everyone to the 100 CEO Project. In this time of ESG-focus, cancel culture, impact-weighted accounts and a social movement that demands quite aggressively that government and corporations actually live into a vision of equity, stakeholder value and fair dealings with the people they impact, ethics has really become a focus point. Compliance is critical. Enter Nick Gallo, Chief Servant and Co-CEO of ComplianceLine, a compliance solutions company based in Charlotte, North Carolina, and recognized as one of America's fastest growing private companies by the Inc 5000 at number 989. But they actually serve five continents in 200 languages and nearly every country in the world. This year, Nick launched the Ethics Experts Podcast, and he joins us today to give us training on feedback. One of the most difficult aspects of culture to cultivate within the company. But Nick, you're doing something right. So welcome. Nick Gallo: Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm really excited to be here. AS: Before you share this mini-training, can you help us create some working definitions? So how do you define compliance? And then how do you define feedback? And then what's the correlation between the two? NG: Great, so I mean, compliance is a kind of a broad term, right? It generally means you know, doing the things that you're supposed to do. And those things can relate to regulations, they can relate to, you know, internal values or norms within your organization, they can really span a lot of different things. And so feedback kind of goes hand in hand with it, because feedback can kind of be those, those rumble strips on the side of the road to let you let the person driving know that they're kind of getting into the wrong lane or something like that. Right. So feedback, you know, feedback is the mechanism, you know, no pun intended, but the feedback mechanism to ensure that compliance for whatever it is, whether it's a speech, whether it's, you know, like I said as some kind of a regulation, is that feedback to let you know, how close you are to doing what you're supposed to do and what you need to change. Right. AS: Got it. All right. Yep. The rumble strip. I like that analogy. Okay, I think we're ready, let's dive into your training. NG: So, um, this is a, this feedback thing is a really hard thing. Right? It's, you know, so as I'm telling you about this, this does not mean that I'm like the expert at this, this is something that I, you know, I myself struggle with, and I think everybody kind of struggles with from time to time. And I think it's first, it's first important to kind of articulate why, right? Like, why is it hard for people. We all want to be professional, we want to be courteous to each other, we don't want to make people feel uncomfortable, right? Like, these are all things that go against our implied social contract that, you know, shows up in our workplaces, right. Um, so that's a piece of it. But I think if you tear that down, you tear down that reticence people have for feedback, it always kind of comes down to someone putting their own ego above the mission, above the purpose. Think about a football team, right? Imagine, you know, the guy on the offensive line misses his block, but the quarterback doesn't want to say anything to him, because he doesn't want to make him feel bad or something right? Like, that doesn't usually happen, because it's so clear. And the united goal of those people on that field is so tangible, right, we're trying to win the game, we're trying to score points in that kind of environment. Because that goal is so clear, it's easy to say, Hey, you got to block that guy, because I can't get the throw off, or whatever it is. So when we're inside of an organization, it seems to be a little bit different. Because that purpose is maybe less defined. It's more amorphous, it's less resonant with people, people view it as less real. And so as any of those things sort of come into the mix, that it's easier for that mission to sort of sink down in the priority list. And that ego, that self preservation, that sort of desire for your own, you know, to ensure your own psychological safety can kind of, you know, rise up above it, and then you lead to it which leads to these scenarios where someone is not willing to sort of quote unquote, call somebody out, because at the end of the day, they don't want to, you know, disrupt their social equity with them. Right. So, I think the first you know, before we can start talking about feedback, my point is, we need to all get on the same page around what the goal is. And we all need to get on the same page that the goal, the mission, the purpose of whatever we're doing is bigger than any one of us. And for us to collectively achieve this broader thing, it takes us all putting this broader thing first and putting ourselves last and serving our team and all those kinds of things. Once that sort of tenant can be established. Now we can get into this little mini training, which is about well, how do you actually do this feedback? And part of it is sort of tactical, and part of it is sort of cultural. and so let's dive into it now. So we borrowed this, from Reed Hastings' new book, No Rules Rules, which is basically talking about his journey toward the really innovative, responsibility focused culture that has made Netflix what it is today, right? I mean, there's a lot of great anecdotes about his first, the first company that he ran, and what he got wrong with culture. And really, a big portion of the book is talking about this feedback thing. And they're really like a, you know, radically candid organization. They're what, you know, they've kind of gotten to the oasis in the desert that we're trying to get to, you know, they're a little bit more mature company than we are. But the point is that this, this speak-up culture or this, this feedback, culture is such an important element to get us to be that iron, that sharpening iron. The iron only sharpens iron when it's touching each other, right? Like, that's that feedback, that's us talking about this broader goal. If those connection points never happen, well, then we all just kind of dull out and we start to rust as the, as you know, as we begin to oxidize, I can keep carrying this analogy forward, but I think you get the point. So the feedback is, the feedback training is I'm going to give you a little rule of thumb or mnemonic to help remember it. And it's, you know, we call this the Six A Feedback Framework. So I want you to kind of this is gonna sound super silly and stupid. But I think if you go through this thought exercise with me, you will remember what the six A's mean. So I want you to picture a tennis court. And on the tennis court, there are two people playing tennis and each of their hands are rackets for some reason, they're playing with two rackets each, right. And on each of those racquets you see an A, so the server has two As, and the person receiving the serve, they have two As. And then and then you climb up in the stands. And you see that man, there's two massive A's painted on the court, right? So those are the six A's of it. And each one corresponds to a different sort of aspect of the feedback. One is, two of the A’s correspond to the person giving the feedback, two correspond to the person receiving the feedback and two correspond to, you know, when/where should this occur? So let's talk about the person giving the feedback. The first one is about actionability, right, there needs to be feedback that somebody can do something with, right? Um, many times we give feedback that just has a negative slant to it. And that actionability is really a critical piece of the equation. So they have to be able to do something with the feedback. And the feedback needs to have that positive slant, we need to be aiming to improve, right. So if I'm going to give you some feedback about something, you need to be able to do something with it. And there needs to be something tangible in it that I can do to get better. Now, what about the other person with the two Aa rackets on their hands, this is the person receiving the feedback. So they need to do two things they need to first of all, the first A is appreciate, right? I need to recognize that this is probably a socially uncomfortable thing for the person providing the feedback to me to go through. And I need to appreciate the fact that they were willing to put their ego below the mission, and that, hey, we're all united on this thing. So I need to appreciate that, that uncomfortability that they are likely going through and be able to accept that feedback, right. So appreciating the person. I mean, at the core of it, again, assuming that the feedback is positive, right, they're aiming to improve and it's actionable, then, you know, it's up to you to appreciate that, because they took steps to put it into that, you know, to serve you that plate that way, right. So it's easy to appreciate the feedback as hard as it may be, to hear kind of in your gut or to your ego. And then the other thing is to accept or decline. In a high responsibility organization where there's not a bunch of finger pointing, where it's not an organization where when you walk into a room, you have to quickly find the wall because you don't want to get stabbed in the back. If those things are not part of your organization, and you are a high responsibility organization, well then that accept or decline, you know, it's up to the person receiving the feedback if they want to accept it, or or decline it, because frankly, the person providing the feedback, even if they took those those steps of aiming to improve and, you know, actionability, they might not have all the context, they might not know all the nuance in the challenge that you are that you are facing. So at the end of the day, when somebody gives you feedback, you need to take that with some grace. You need to give them some grace because they're doing something uncomfortable. But at the end of the day, it's up to you whether you want to accept that and do something with it because you know, you're the captain of your own ship, right? You're Holding the steering wheel of the car of your life or whatever. Um, and then finally like, well, when should this happen? Right, we talked about what that interaction should look like both from the person giving it and the person receiving it, well, what's the proper forum for it? And in our organization, those last two A's are for anytime, anywhere. So anytime you want to give, give the feedback, give it any, you know, you want to give that anywhere, then give it. That is, again, only possible if the ego the individual egos are below and subservient to and subject to this broader purpose. Because if that's the case, then you can, you can grab your teammate by the facemask and be like, you got to block that guy on the way to the huddle, in the huddle at the line, you know what I'm saying? Anytime, anywhere, where it's most applicable, where it's going to be most impactful is the appropriate time to do it. But if we start, if we're in one of these normal organizations, where the individual is beyond everything else, and our social interaction is bigger than our mission, which doesn't really resonate with us, which we don't really get, and we don't agree with, and it seems fake, and it seems hollow and all those things, then that's when you get into these situations where you can't give the feedback, and I'm looking for the right time to give it and I got to catch them on a good day to tell them these things, all these things into creating a ton of inefficiencies that end up ultimately compromising that, that mission, which is why we're all coming to our place of work every day, right? So that's it. That's the Six A framework. 11:20 AS: So my reaction to this is, I love it. I can see a lot of friction. And even I wrote down the word conflict in getting this rolled out in an organization because I'm a firm believer that people are responding to things the way that the situation occurs to them. And we all have this different like idea of like, what collaboration means or what accountability means. How do you get everybody, they have to do that work within? Right? How do you get everybody on the same page to even be able to take that first step of actioning it? Much less anytime, anywhere to break down that barrier? NG: Yeah. So I think it's kind of an iterative process, you're not going to kind of teleport to this oasis of high responsibility, sort of culture-first company. It's a journey, right? And your journey journeying through this wilderness where you're, you know, hitting up against your id and hitting up against the purpose. And are these things you know, where do these things really fall in my own hierarchy? So yeah, to your point, there's a lot of noise, and there's a ton of potential for conflict. I would argue that, like, if there's not conflict, then you're probably leaving a ton of value on the table. And I'm not just talking about dollars, I'm talking about development, I'm talking about people getting better and making a bigger impact in the world. So conflict is part of it. Like, if you're not getting sore going to the gym, and you're probably not lifting enough weights, right? Like, that's got to be a piece of it. And if you can incorporate, you know, which is kind of a next step thing, if you can incorporate this true idea of meritocracy, which is a great word. And it's a great concept. And what it means is that the best ideas should stand, whether that's coming from me, that's coming from you, whether it's coming from the janitor, whether it's coming from the guy dropping off the sandwiches for lunch, the source is irrelevant. What matters is the merit of that idea. So I think if you can incorporate an idea meritocracy to your general discussions, along with a push to say, Hey, you know what, we need to get better at feedback, and we need to elevate our purpose beyond ourselves, then you can start this process going. But to your point, there's a lot of, there's a lot of noise in a lot of these terms. And there's a lot of baggage that we all bring from our childhood and from other jobs that we've had, where we've been burned, or from a boss who has, you know, said all the right things, but they're really conniving or whatever. Like, we all bring those things to, to our jobs in our current circumstances. So I think our job as leaders, obviously is to set direction for the company, set vision and all those things. But I think one of the most important things that our job becomes, is to really, you know, be the model for the culture to articulate that culture and live that out on a day to day basis. So what does that mean? Well, if you're trying to create psychological safety, where people are going to feel at home, and feel authentic, well, then you need to lead with your own authenticity, and there's no authenticity without vulnerability, right? And so what is the vulnerability usually show up like in a workplace scenario? Well, it's like fear of looking dumb fear of letting people know that I messed up feeling, you know, whatever, you know, all these kind of ego protection things. So a great way to model that is to give license to people to call you out on your own errors to incorporate an idea meritocracy, you know, you know, just try an idea meritocracy meeting where you can go and have a knockdown drag out, and that that's not insulting, that's just straight up authentic debate about a particular issue, and throw some stupid ideas in the mix and call people out if they don't call those out as stupid, you understand? I'm saying like, they need to see that it's real, and they're not going to really take their step. You know, it's like a frozen pond moving to a new culture is a frozen pond and people are scared to step out on it because they don't know how frozen through it is. So you got to step out onto it first and you got to jump on that pond a little bit and maybe build your little, you know, fishing hut on there. So they're like, Okay, well, this is a safe place to be. And it feels scary to do as a leader because I think especially in Western culture, leaders are kind of expected to have all the answers and all those kinds of things. But it's a really silly. It's a silly paradox that we ostensibly create for ourselves. Because, you know, any sort of collective that's pursuing a broader mission, which I'm basically describing a company - that can only occur if everyone's synergy is there, right? Like everyone bringing one plus one plus one is equal more than three. By that definition, one person can't do it all. And by that definition of a larger organization, like the synergy comes from getting people that have strengths, relative to my weaknesses, but if I am doing that, and then you can essentially counteract whatever magic potential you brought into your system by saying I don't have any weaknesses, I don't make any mistakes, I have all the answers. That kind of an undercurrent and communication posture from a leader totally like kills any idea of like authentic idea meritocracy, or, or a psychologically safe enough organization where you can engage in like authentic, candid feedback, you know what I mean? AS: And Laurie, Laurie is about to jump in, I can't wait. We're always talking about this leadership and authenticity and vulnerability... 16:03 LP: Authenticity, vulnerability, of course, I'm about to blow a gasket over here in the absolute best way to dig into it a little bit more. I've read some of your stuff, for example, where you say, you know, we're in this bizarre time of business where we've got Baby Boomers and Gen Z, Gen X, and it's like, wow, how do we get everybody to work together and to create these environments where there is psychological safety, authenticity, vulnerability. So what are some of the issues, if you will, that are most difficult, around creating this environment of psychological safety, knowing that you've got these different parties, these, you know, involved different populations, demographics, what do you do with that? NG: So we have an extremely diverse group of teammates here, not just from different races and sexes, and everything else, but also from different ages. So we deal with this on an ongoing basis. And I think so, so I don't know where to start here. So I'll start here, I think it first starts from leadership, articulating that these different groups have different things to bring to the table. Like a truly inclusive, or, you know, everybody's talking about diversity and inclusion. Like, great, I love it, let's not, let's not underscope what that means. And let's not be too particular about what that means, because a lot of people relegate that to, you know, physical characteristics. But a truly inclusive organization is going to be inclusive of people from different, you know, these things we're talking about different countries, different, whatever backgrounds, whatever, but it also needs to be inclusive of different personality types, it also needs to be inclusive of different generations, because all these generations have different things to bring to the table that are positives. And I think we need to have a little bit of grace for some of these, you know, older generations, because think about what they came up in. They didn't, they didn't grow up learning, learning what knowledge work is, like, we were learning about that in high school, like that, as a concept was starting to emerge in the 90s. That obviously wasn't happening in the 60s, nobody knew what knowledge work was where creativity supersedes and individual contributions supersede the sort of machine that you're a part of, those are all holdovers from like, not, you know, not even the Industrial Revolution, but from the Gilded Age when like these rock, you know, these, all of this revolution was happening, right, these big steel companies were the factors of production was really about sort of managing tolerance across these different sort of resource sets. And you had to have a tight tolerance on like the output because you're spitting out, you know, 1000 widgets, or 1000, you know, railroad ties, or whatever they were making back then. The nature of our work is so different now. Right? And so, along with this new work, you know, environment where it's really more about knowledge work than it is about, you know, manufacturing, right. Um, I don't want to say the rules of the game have changed, but what's needed from the collective into, you know, the collective group of individuals who are pursuing that goal in a knowledge work economy is something that's different, right? So the hierarchy, the hierarchical approach, the sort of military style approach, which of course again came out of that kind of late 1800's thing carried forward into the Industrial Revolution and carried forward into the military and carried forward into, you know, the all the MBAs that that were coming out in the 70s, and stuff like that. Well, there's no wonder why there's this conflict, essentially, between these newer generations, who again, are becoming an increasingly bigger part of our organization. They grew up differently, they had different truths, they have a different higher hierarchy of values. You know, a millennial is much more likely to go into the CEOs office on day one and say, Hey, I think our social media kind of stinks right? Like a baby boomer would be horrified that that's happening. Well, just the parent, the parental dynamics and the edutainment style education that we all came up with those all lead to different sort of life experiences. So to your your, your question, I am coming back to it like It starts with us recognizing that listen, um, the conscientiousness that might be, like relatively higher in some of these organizations, there's tons of value in that, right. But there's also a ton of value in the flexibility and this sort of collapsed, flatter organization, concentric circle style that's necessary for the knowledge work economy, to, to really make that magic happen, right? Like there's benefits in both. I think if we can, not only as leaders recognize those different benefits, find those different benefits, but also create opportunities to have discussions about them. Like, it's just like, I don't know, if there's an elephant in the room, let's talk about it, right? Like, if there's tension between generations, well great talk about it and say, Hey, listen, you guys look, look at things this way. You guys look at things this way, it is what it is, you're not going to change it up, you're not going to wave a magic wand, and then just have everybody thinking the same, right? Our life experiences, our baggage, whatever all those things determine how we interact with our world. So I think just talking about it is a big one. And what I've seen some some success with is getting cross functional teams going where the mission is very clear. Again, it doesn't have to be about your broad company mission, it could be a task force on a particular project on an employee engagement thing or something like that. But getting a cross functional team going, that knocks down some of those generational walls, again, in the context of a very clear goal, you may have to come in there and help kind of, you know, build that bridge. But I think many times again, if that if the tailwinds of a good culture that is truly inclusive are behind it, if there's good modeling of what that means, both from a vulnerability and from an authenticity side, from you know, leadership, you know, at large, then the odds of thosee generational walls melting are a lot higher. And that cross pollination between those generations can actually have a massive impact on people on both sides of the fence. Because again, there's a ton of stuff that an older generation can learn from the newer generation who grew up already acclimated to this knowledge work thing. And there's a bunch that new folks can learn from older folks, in terms of how to navigate the politics of an organization, or what to say and what not to say, and how to, you know, I'm saying how to play the game, right, and, and things like that. So I hope I didn't talk around that issue too much, because it's really a complex one. But I think there's so much magic to unleash, because it's not like, there's a bad generation. You understand what I'm saying? It's just, they're just different. And they're inherently different for you know, some of the reasons I touched on but just the upbringing, think of the nature of those upbringings and what was going on in those times, and how those infiltrated into experiences that make us the mosaic of who we are today. AS: Well, I was just thinking about sort of the headcount, how many people you have, and I know you work with companies, probably of all sizes all over, but I can see, you know, sometimes I hear about, you know, in my line of work people will, they'll bring in someone say, into like an innovation team to work because they're not innovating and they get - and the particular consulants I'm thinking of - they'll get in on those equity issues and things. But it's always in a small group. NG: Right. 23:01 AS: When you talk about, you know, these companies that have 60,000 to 100,000 employees. So do you find that that's easier in sort of smaller, I mean, that being being like, you're at your generation, and, and this probably, I'm not sure what size your company is, but they're you know, they're, it's, it's just different when you're building that from the ground up, and then you take these organizations that are, you know, 100 years old, or even 50 years old, must be harder to implement. So how do you see that playing out? NG: I think, I think it's a great question. You know, our organization, you know, we serve, you know, we have less than 100 people, so we're serving companies that are 1000 times bigger than us in many cases. So, you know, I just think about, like the boat analogy, right? Like, you can turn a cigarette boat real quick, it takes a long time to turn a battleship. And so a massive company, it may take longer for that thing to, to turn around. Um, but think about how change occurs, right? Like, think about your world, even if you work in a 100,000 person organization, your world is probably 15 or 20 people, like, that's who you spend 80% of your time with - this team, and so forth. So, you know, the macrocosm that is an organization is really just a bunch of sort of microcosms that all have their own individual sort of micro cultures. And so, for the thing to truly change it, you know, it's got to change from the top down and bottom up. But my point is, we can affect change, regardless of our organization size. And we can start in the small little garden that we're part of before we try to de-weed the whole forest, right? Start in your team, whether it's your 10 people that you work with, or the three people on your taskforce. Make that be a lighthouse of what the culture is supposed to be. And I'm just telling you, like, people are so scared of this vulnerability thing. It's the basis of all of our actual relationships outside of work. Think about your closest friend, whether it's your sister or your best friend, like you're not like guarded, hiding vulnerability from them. No, that's the means of connection. But like when we step into an organization for some reason, we put on this carapace of professionalism that actually impedes any sort of authentic connection. Then impedes any of the pathways that we ultimately need to have those sort of candid authentic feedback discussions or whatever. So you can make a massive amount of difference in the, in the little piece of the world that you're a part of. And it just really starts to trickle out. And it really starts to cross-pollinate. So I think, you know, the way to attack it is, obviously push for that leadership, obviously, try to get those light bulbs at the top turned on. But irrespective, like you're the driver of, of your life, your hands are on the steering the steering wheel, so change what you can change, you know, model, what you can model, live out what you can live out, and start to see. Like, again, anybody is a leader, in my mind, anybody who's willing to do the right thing and set an example for somebody else is a leader. It's not necessarily just based on title. So I'm just saying, if we step out as leaders in our little, you know, in our little corner of the world, it many times can give the courage to other folks to do that same thing. And then pretty soon, you got a bunch of authenticity going and a bunch of those sort of walls are down and you can really, that's when it gets fun. But if you're constantly censoring who you are, because you're so scared of whatever, that you know, just like everything, right? Like, the thing that we think that is going to protect us is actually you know, shackling us with weights on our ankles as we try to swim across this channel. It's just it's, it's a crazy, it's so counterintuitive, but it's a it's actually very counterproductive, the way that we go about kind of dealing with each other, it's, you know, I'm a human, you're a human, why is this so tough? If we were neighbors, we wouldn't be having any of these issues. You know what I mean? I think what I would say about that feedback thing is like, just start doing it. You can put a lot of words around it, to make sure that it lands, right, like the first time you do it, it's going to be awkward. And the other kind of perspective that I would share is that, for most people, they have a lot more equity, social equity in the bank than they think. We're all so scared to spend that social equity and then that person isn't going to like us, and they're going to hate us, and they're going to think we're a jerk, and so forth. Well, you've done a lot to build that up, you can spend a little of that and you can really actually deliver the feedback without ever even spending it, you can actually increase it if you can deliver it in a thoughtful like, way, you know, I'm saying like a thoughtful like, I care about your way I care about this broader thing. So again, this fear of us, you know, wrecking our reputation or wrecking our relationship with this person prevents us from doing the things that can actually increase the depth of the relationship, you know, what I mean? 27:34 LP: The work that you guys are doing is clearly improving, increasing the well being of organizations and the individuals within them right. NG: Mm hmm. LP: So I know you're a dad. And I'm just wondering, of all of the things that you teach people, help people learn within organizations, if you had to choose one of those things to impart to your children, so that they become better humans, what would that thing be? NG: It might sound a little bit trite, but it's about like being real. Like, if you're feeling something, talk about it. Iif you're thinking something, let's talk about it, and let's talk through it. Maybe you're looking at it wrong, maybe I'm looking at it wrong. But part of it is like just the general safety that they can have in themselves that they can speak up when something is going on, or something's not working, or if they're frustrated by something. I think with the knock on effect of it...everything I'm talking about is like a muscle, you know what I'm saying? So like, if you can get into the habit at an early age of like speaking up, and again, that's not throwing a tantrum, or whatever. It's being able to articulate those things and understand that, hey, what I'm feeling right now, I'm going to talk about it. I'm not going to bury it down and so forth, I think gives them I hope we'll see. Talk to me, you know, 20 years or something. But like it hopefully will give them more agency to grab that steering wheel and move away from life is happening to me mode into life is happening by me mode, you know. 29:00 AS: So Nick, I'm seeing that you are participating in the 100 Book Challenge. And last time I checked you were up to book 82. NG: Yeah AS: So can you share your favorite so far? NG: Wow. Um, so I've been pretty lucky this year. This was one of those things where I was like, yeah, how hard could that be? And then like, it's like, yeah, it's kind of a lot. Okay. But it's very public. So I need to make it happen. But I've been really lucky because I've gotten so many great recommendations that it's hard to pick, like, my favorite. So I bet if you asked me this question again next week, I'd probably give you a different list of, of my favorites. So maybe I'll work backwards. Because that's how my memory works. I'll give you a few that I think are phenomenal. So the No Rules Rules is amazing. It really articulates this culture thing in a good way and it has a lot of great actionable steps to get that implemented. And it also shares the journey to this thing. You know, he's kind of, it's maybe ironic, maybe not but like in him sharing his vulnerability and the mistakes that he made, not only helps the story resonate a little bit more. But it also just opens your eyes to the fact that listen, you're going to make mistakes over time. And that this is really a journey, you're never going to arrive at a great culture destination. It's a project that you're on. It's a journey. I love that book. This other book called, This Could Be Our Future, which was written by the founder of Kickstarter. This is kind of a manifesto about what an organization should do or could do. As we sort of ascend from the myopic profit-only, our only job is to serve our shareholders, and taking more of a stakeholder, more holistic view. Because, you know, capitalism obviously has a bad name right now. But I am like this author, I think, like, look, we live in a capitalistic economy, there's a huge opportunity for businesses to do good in the world, especially when they can move away from like, the god of their company being money, and their god should then be something like something for the good of the world or making things better. And I think if you do that right, and you can take that sort of output mentality, instead of sort of myopically focusing on dollars and recognizing that dollars, profit, whatever, those are all the outputs of like a good well functioning system, well, then all those things are going to happen. Just focus on running that engine right. So I love that book. I read this book called Never Split the Difference, which I thought was super interesting. That's kind of a negotiation book, this guy wrote, you know, you did ask here. So I'm gonna, I will wrap this up quick. AS: I've actually read this one. NG: You have? Phenomenal book. So interesting, super actionable. I was halfway through the book, I used some of the techniques, and I got a free upgrade on a flight. This is before COVID, obviously. So like, it works, okay, so that that's a great book. Um, and I just finished this really, really interesting book called Amusing Ourselves to Death. And it's really a, almost like a position paper or like a philosophical book about kind of the role that TV has played in its ascension from, you know, not existing to now being like, essentially, the only form of entertainment, and how that, you know, that as a pillar piece of media conveyance has infiltrated all of our ways of thinking, other ways that, you know, we interact with other media, how you know, how its influenced education, and how it's influenced, like, the political discourse and all these things. And it's a, it sounds like my grandma was right, that TV is a bad thing. So that was a really good, really good book, as well. I'm sure I'm forgetting probably a dozen other great ones. But those are the ones that really popped out most recently. AS: We could talk for hours here, I think, but we do have to wrap it up. So Nick, where can they find you? NG: You can find me on LinkedIn. Nick Gallo at LinkedIn or you can find me at Compliance line.com that's where we, you know, that's our shingle that we've hung out onto the internet. LP: Awesome, Nick Gallo thank you so very much. ComplianceLine, you guys check it out, check out his new show, the Ethics Experts Podcast, and we'll see you next time. NG: Bye, everybody. LP: Hey, guys, we hope you've enjoyed today's episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see, this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode. Best part. It's free. So if you like it, please do us a favor and take a screenshot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO. That way we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you've got some insights you'd like to share and you're a CEO, we'd love to hear from you. You can find us at 100CEOProject.com, on LinkedIn at the 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Writing and research: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
#4 :: To Parent Is To Pivot, with Devina Bhojwani - IDEA Lab Kids
Hands up if your job description during COVID-19 suddenly expanded to include assistant teacher and daytime entertainer for your children? As most families found themselves all together at home in the springtime, the big question became, how are we going to make this work? IDEA Lab Kids co-owner and president, Devina Bhojwani talks about what this time has been like as not only a parent, but also as the franchisor of one of the fastest growing educational enrichment companies in North America. IDEA Lab Kids: https://www.idealabkids.com/ Recorded on 11.5.2020 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: Welcome to the 100 CEO Project Podcast We're super excited to be talking with Devina Bhojwani today. She is the former CEO of IDEA Lab Kids. She's the co-owner and now president. For those of you who don't know -and for those of you who are parents you need to know- we're talking about IDEA Lab Kids. It's an educational enrichment franchise founded in 2011. In 2017, it started franchising and now has globally 87 campuses. The cool part is that it offers learning opportunities in science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics, otherwise known as STEAM activities. Devina, thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. Devina Bhojwani: Thank you for that great introduction, Laurie. You said it so well, about, you know, our journey with IDEA Lab and a little history on our company so I'm excited to be here with both of you. LP: Cool. So as I understand you've come to IDEA Lab Kids, honestly, if you will, with a background in leadership, an MBA from Rice. 2:20 DB: Also, having been a leader with the play and music centers, so you have a lot of experience and passion around education. What we’re interested in today, just to start it off, is the pivot that you were able to make quickly around COVID when everybody got stuck at home with their children, to be able to provide opportunities for parents who are basically desperate, wondering, how do I keep my child in an environment where they're both having fun and learning? Can you talk to us real quick about that pivot that you made? DB: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So on March 13, all of a sudden, we were all thrown into this frenzy where everybody had stay home orders, right? I live here locally in Texas. And literally overnight, we were home with our kids. I ended up working from home, my husband ended up working from home, and all our franchisees, who were having a great start to the year suddenly were not able to see any of their kids. So the first thing I will tell you is that, you know, it did pause everybody, where people were at different stages of grief, it almost felt like where they were like, how do I get out of this? Like, what do I do to open my centers? So one thing that did help us is we are licensed as a daycare because we do provide after-school care at our centers. So we have that licensing. So we were allowed to be open even during the pandemic. And we could offer care to families of essential workers at that time. So that was really, you know, one, silver lining, if you will, even though our locations, were seeing two or three kids on, you know, any given week, which was very, very little, but at least they were helping out the community, you know, they were able to step in and offer care to the workers who had to go into work, who didn’t have choices like me and my husband to stay home and work from home. Right. So that was one first pivot. Our second pivot was we suddenly realized that all of our lessons, which are mostly like science experiments, engineering classes, that we've done at our brick and mortar stores, we could take these experiments and offer it to families sitting at home. So just like you said, you know, you were sitting at home with your child, and you're like, What do I do? So we went on Facebook, we did Facebook Live videos, we did Instagram videos, and in our little world, they went viral for us. So we got 5000 views, we had families sharing them on. And these were experiments with things that you could find around the house: baking soda, little cups, we made a robot out of cardboard, you know, but Amazon boxes which we all have sitting around at home. So that really showed us that you know, there is a need and demand for families who are at home and stuck and looking for creative things to do with their child. And lastly, you know, when schools did start thinking about being open, they offered - in different states it varied - but in some states they were offering face to face or virtual or a hybrid schedule, you know, which is what we've seen in these last several months. So we also rolled out a program called IDEA Lab Plus, which is essentially a small mini learning pod for these children. So families who were not yet ready to send their child to school could come to an IDEA Lab center, and they can even today. And we put, we have six rooms at our facility. So we converted each room to a learning pod. And we put the children in small groups of six to eight children per room, temperatures at the door, masks at the facility, you know, all the new things that have become ‘new normal’ for all of us. And this program, I will tell you is something that has really helped the franchisees and the communities, you know, I was just talking to a franchisee last week, who's at capacity, they've got 45 kids in their facility. And they were like, we wish we had another center, because there's so much demand, and then in the Charlotte market, and there's so much demand there that they that, you know, they were all honestly wishing they had the rights to open a second location. And they were saying we wish we would have opened it last year. So that's that's kind of been, you know, from a franchisee's perspective, that's, that's kind of been the big pivot for us. The introduction of this IDEA Lab Plus program, which has taken us out of a need, you know, it's taken us to a level that we would not have thought or imagined. 6:23 Andrea Spirov: I can't even imagine what it would be like to start receiving all these calls from my franchisees saying, We have no money coming in. What were those conversations like? How did you deal with that in the moment when that first happened? DB: Yeah, great question. You know, we, initially we empathized with them. And our first question was, what can we do to help them? So we rolled out a webinar, we almost were doing a webinar on a weekly basis, where we offered them support in terms of the PPP loan, you know, the little information that we could get from our CPAs, or from our own network of families, you know, we would get people coming into these webinars to talk about that. We did a webinar on how to renegotiate with your landlord, you know, where you are in that brick and mortar facility, you're paying that rent, regardless of whether you've seen zero kids, or you've seen 40 kids and you know, to be honest with you, that is a fixed cost in any brick and mortar business. So that really helped a lot of franchisees in varying market, they negotiated in different ways. Some got rent abatement, some got complete waivers of rent, some got time added to the end of their lease, which franchisees took. They said, ok, if you give me three months, and then add it to the end of my five year term with my landlord, I totally will take that. And then the other last thing that we did from our side was we offered them a waiver of royalty as well for a few months. So that kind of really, you know, helped them and they were really amazed and appreciative of that. We waived the technology fee and the royalties, it was the least we could do to help everyone sustain through these tough times. AS: You mentioned you had some silver linings that came out of this, and how were you rewarded by those actions that you took that really sound, I mean, remarkably wonderful for franchisees? DB: The one thing I'll share with the two of you is a little bit of history on where our company was before COVID. Last year, we started looking for investment in our firm, and we reached the stage where we were growing. We had a lot of organic growth. You know, you mentioned earlier, we have about 87 locations right now. And we grew really fast in a short time of three years, we kind of hit these milestones that we were not expecting to. We've been receiving calls, oh, I went to an IDEA Lab location. I love this brand. Like how do I bring it to my market. So all the right steps, but what came with that on the franchisor end was we needed funding. So we said, okay, let's go fundraise. And we started that journey internally for us last year in December. And when COVID hit, we were in the process of talking to our top three prospects who were looking at putting an investment into the firm. Of course, needless to say, you know, a couple of them just got cold feet given the environment and they saw that the franchisees for a few months there we're not we're not even making any revenue at all, you know, they were just really doing a community give back by just being open for the families that were essential care workers. So we lost a couple of those people but one of our huge silver linings was in July of this year we did get a majority investor out of California, Cynthia made a large significant investment in our firm and, to me, that was the one big silver lining that came out of this. Because who would have thought, you know, you enter COVID, recession and all sorts of other craziness that's happening in 2020. And you know, we ended up getting a large investor in the firm. Our second thing that I mentioned earlier was the launch of this IDEA Lab Plus program. It took a while to explain to franchisees how this program would work. Because typically in the past, we've been such a heavily after school driven type of facility, our centers have bus vans or buses that go into the schools and pick up children and bring them to the facility. And our usual hours of operation are from two to seven in the evening. And we have those enrichment, classes, coding, cooking, you know, robotics, things like that. So we had never been a program that was open in the daytime. So this was, firstly something new, which we had to train our franchisees on, okay, we're going to be open in the morning hours, we're going to offer remote learning support so that kids that come to your facility will come in with their laptops, will log into their classes, and you know, you will need to have somebody there who's going to be able to coach them or guide them through those lessons. Some of our centers, the one that I mentioned that has about 40 kids, they've got rooms broken out by grades. So they have a kindergarten room, they have a first grade room, third grade room, sixth, all the way through sixth grade. And the reason I mentioned that is because the support that's needed for a kindergartner is way different than the support that's needed for a sixth grader. And what they do after their lessons or during their enrichment time is that they then get a chance to do IDEA Lab activities so that we will do a science project with them. The kids that come to us, you know, we had one story that we had a franchisee share with us recently, over Halloween, we did STEAM-o-ween, which was just a small Halloween, indoor Halloween parade and a party for the kids. So one child who was attending this party told the other “I come here every day. And this child goes to the owner and says, “Why is he saying he comes here every day?” And she's like, “Well, that's because he does” so then he goes back and tells the child, “Do you go to IDEA Lab school?” It's these little stories that warm our hearts that you know, we rolled out something to help the communities. And now these little kids are calling it IDEA Lab School, which is amazing. 12:36 AS: It's really fun. My son had it with his old school, I think I was sharing with you last time we talked. And he did science lab and he did it two years in a row because he had so much fun. So I can definitely, definitely see kids wanting to do those activities all the time. And I'm interested in, owning a franchise is kind of a special type of entrepreneurship. And you've been on both sides of it. You've been a franchise owner at Play and Music, and now you're on the franchisor side. What do you see as some of the differences between becoming a franchisee or starting from scratch as an entrepreneur? And what are the positives and negatives of that? DB: Yeah, great question. So I ran my own Gymboree Play and Music center for eight years. And in those eight years, I operated four locations here locally in Houston, Texas. I grew one of my centers to be the top performing in the nation. For me, it was a big leap of faith. When I went into franchise ownership, I'd never owned the business. I worked for 10 years in corporate America, done the financial planning, forecasting, you know, all the checkboxes after your MBA, all those roles. And then I had my first child in 2010. And that made me take a step back and kind of think about where I really wanted to go with my own career. And that launched the journey into small business ownership. But as a franchisee you know, you wear multiple hats, because even though it's a franchise, you really are the marketing person, you're using the tools given to you from franchisor and doing marketing in your local areas. You end up being the operations person because you're trying to figure out the customer has to get the best experience from the moment they walk in the door to attend the classes. And then lastly, you also are responsible for all the numbers, right, at the end of the day, the financial performance of that center falls on you. So as a franchisee I think that that was one key for me was you know, wearing these multiple hats and being comfortable switching and pivoting myself to all these different roles. I didn't have experience in marketing, but suddenly I became a marketer. And then as a franchisor I think the big thing for me is I am able to empathize with what our franchisees feel and what they go through. And that empathy has really helped me in this role. IDEA Lab for me came onto my plate in 2017 as a passive investment. It was a franchise that was growing, you know, and there was an opportunity to invest in the firm. And at that point, I thought, Okay, this will be great. I've done franchising, I still owned my own centers at that point. And then as I sold my centers in 2019, that's when I stepped in here to IDEA Lab into a more active role. And honestly, I've loved it, you know, I wouldn't change a thing, you know, as they say, you go through things in your journey for a reason. And that's kind of what I feel - I did franchising for eight years, I was kind of prepping myself for this role, because this is a bigger role. And, you know, going from four locations to almost hitting on 90 to 100 soon, you know, is definitely a whole different challenge. 16:00 LP: You're also an angel investor. So considering all the changes that have occurred in 2020, how has the landscape for seed funding for various companies changed? DB: Yeah. So, you know, I think I got exposed to angel investing three or four years ago. And I mention that because a lot of people ask me, How did you become an angel investor? Like, how does one get that coveted title? There are so many organizations here locally in Houston; there’s the Houston Angel Network. And then there are other organizations where you could learn about angel investing. And I've, I've kind of seen that space change, where this year, there's actually a lot more funding available. And people are trying to figure out where, where do I invest my dollars, and then a prime example of that is IDEA Lab, right, we were able to close our funding round in July of this year, right in the middle of a pandemic. And one thing I will say is that, you know, supporting women entrepreneurs is really big and key, and in my little world, and I don't see enough of that, unfortunately, you know, I do go to a lot of funding events, and I see women entrepreneurs pitch, but there is a lack of funding that's available in that space. And I don't exactly know why that is, I think, you know, maybe as people get more confidence, especially if it's your first venture, you know, you just have to prove yourself even more on, you know, yes, I can do this and I got it. And so that would be my answer on that. 17:30 AS: Females and getting invested. That’s a whole other episode. We've been talking about that the last few weeks. So segueing back to the school districts, because I know you do a lot of work with schools and afterschool programs, what kind of changes are you seeing within the school and school districts at the moment? DB: Sure. So the school districts are not allowing third party vendors to come in or any after school pickups, you know, one of the main key reasons we're hearing from them is they want to curtail their germs. So they want to have their own staff there. They are following a whole bunch of different protocols. You know, of course, kids are all wearing masks throughout the entire day, even a kindergartener or a pre-k child, even if your child is four years old, you are mandated to wear masks, even outside on the playground. And, you know, when we first started hearing about this, even as a parent myself, I was like, wow, you know, would children do that? And interestingly enough, kids are comfortable with it. And the other thing that we're hearing a lot of is this whole school districts are really facing a challenge with in terms of staffing, the teachers, whether they have to decide if they're going to be face to face teachers, or if they're going to be virtual teachers. And, you know, I think really this year the education sector is hit the hardest, you know, they're working harder than they've ever worked before. And, you know, unfortunately, probably getting a lot of, not backlash, but, you know, parents are struggling with, Is my child falling behind? You know, they are in virtual school. They're not, they're not learning as well as they did face to face. And a six year old is not meant to be in front of a screen all day, you know, six, eight hours of the day. So I definitely feel like school districts are faced with the challenge that they're trying to figure out how to overcome. And unfortunately in 2021, I don't see this changing. You know, it's still going to be the same. In our school district here in Houston, Texas, we opted to go back in person face to face for my kids. It's a personal choice that we made. Fifty percent of our school opted to go back. And, and honestly, it's the best decision that we made. We haven't looked back at all. Every six to eight weeks, you get the choice to decide again, and I was just having that conversation on the drive to school this morning: would you change it? Would you go back to virtual? And all the way around I got answers of No. AS: I agree, mine, we're in the same. I'm in Dunlap, Illinois, but we're in the same situation. My son's going to school in person. And then a lot of kids are coming back. And I guess they were getting concerned about how many kids are going to be coming back. They're doing a great job up here. DB: Yes. Are you comfortable with their protocols that they have at the school? AS: I think they've been doing an excellent job. And they give us a case report every week, and we haven't had- the high school and middle school have had more cases than, say, the elementary schools, but I think that's to be expected with the older children. DB: Yeah. 26:15 LP: Devina, one last question. We'd like to know what your top tips are for CEOs with kids who are stuck at home during the pandemic? DB: Yeah, oh, my goodness, where do I start? So, you know, I think, top let's break it down to top three. The first step would be, you know, keeping your child engaged in different activities, even if it is, you know, for 15 minutes in the day, just going to the backyard and running around or going to your front yard and doing something physical. Because that is one thing that I'm realizing as a parent myself is the physical movement of children is restricted. And if you let them be - my nine year old, you know, he loves gaming - so if you let him be and he's off in between classes off playing Minecraft, or Roblox or working on coding something. So, that would be my first you know, first suggestion is definitely keep the physical movement going. A second one would be enrichment, looking at some sort of enrichment class or, you know, even socialization. Kids in the neighborhood, or if you want, look at programs that are following good protocols, you know, IDEA Lab definitely is... we have this this option where a family could sign up for one class a week, you know, a membership model, where you could just attend on a Monday and, you know, socialize with the little children in that class. Or we offer STEAM workshops on the weekends, where you could come in and do a little workshop. That is key right now, given that our kids have not socialized with each other since March. You know, they've been home and yes, of course, we all want to play it safe. And we all have our little COVID bubbles. You know, we've got families that we interact with in the neighborhood. We maintain social distance, we wear masks and we let the kids interact with each other. You have to bring back some sense of normalcy back, right, socialization at this age for the kids is such a big deal. Such a biggie and, you know, I can't emphasize that enough, because I remember when school was starting in September for us, my kids were so excited. They were going to virtual school. They were so excited. They were getting the supplies ready, the laptop setup, and things like that. And they were holding up these signs that said first day of virtual school, you know, and what they really missed the most was being able to talk to their friends. So yeah, that would be my, you know, big, big key is socialization. 23:07 AS: So have you been able to open new franchises during this time, allowing you to grow IDEA Lab Kids? DB: Last year, we sold about 50 assigned territories in 2019. And we were kind of following that same trend January, February. All of a sudden, in March, you know, pandemic hit, we all took a pause. Intentionally as a brand we actually have, we've paused our selling of new franchises. We really focused internally and we wanted to figure out what is our business model to get through the pandemic? You know, and the one thing I will tell you, I kept hearing things like, Oh, I can't wait for the pandemic to be over. For weeks weeks, or, you know, a month or two months or three months, we're going on, you know, six, eight months now and the pandemic’s not over so I think that was a big factor for us as a brand is, you know, to be able to stop selling franchises, strengthen our core, rollout programs like IDEA Lab Plus, we also rolled out tutoring, because that's something we saw that our families were asking a lot about. My child is falling behind in school, how can I do something to help them so we rolled out tutoring. The kids come to us anyways. We rolled out a partnership in the coding space as well. The reason for all these innovative partnerships was to really make the existing franchise locations strong so that we can survive this storm. And then when we get back to 2021 we can start looking at selling more locations for next year. AS: Awesome. So where can we find you, Devina? Where can we find IDEA Lab? DB: Look for us on our website, idealabkids.com. And if there isn't one in your state or territory, definitely give us a call. We would love to talk to you about franchising. LP: Super. Devina Bhojwani, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. Again guys, she is the president and co-owner of IDEA Lab Kids. You know you guys are all out there with kids at home and you need a little help and a little fun so this is the place to go. DB: Thank you both so much for having me. This has been super fun for me. Hey guys we hope you’ve enjoyed today’s episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode - the best part? It’s free. So if you like it please do us a favor and take a screenshot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO. That way we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you’ve got some insights you’d like to share and you’re a CEO, we’d love to hear from you. You can find us at 100ceoproject.com or on LinkedIn at 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
#3 :: Speeding Up to Get Through and Improve, with Aaron Keller - Capsule
During 2020, some have slowed down while others have sped up and actually improved the way they do things. One such example is Capsule, a Minnesota-based creative shop that builds intellectual property for high profile clients all over the world. Hear from cofounder and managing principal, Aaron Keller on how trust is critical, how the pandemic actually made him feel closer to people and what NASCAR can teach us about working with catastrophe. Capsule: http://capsule.us/ Recorded on 10.27.2020 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: Welcome to the 100 CEO Project Podcast Andrea Spirov: We're talking with Aaron Keller today, an author and the co-founder and managing principal of Capsule, an award-winning special projects marketing firm founded in 1999 and based in Minneapolis. Capsule is focused on identity, naming, visual and messaging elements for clients like Stahl, Patagonia, Herman Miller, Smartwool, Target, 3M, Caribou Coffee, and many others. Aaron, thanks for being here. Aaron Keller: Thanks for having me. AS: So in your 2016 book, The Physics of Brand, Understand the Forces Behind Brands That Matter, you and your co-authors argue that time is the most dear human resource because we all die. So smart brands work hard to save people time and allow them to enjoy time. So I'm wondering how you relate the concept of time and silver linings during this crazy time we've had in 2020. AK: Yeah, so what's interesting is that this year, we actually have more time, most people would have more time, right, because they’re not commuting and other things. And they also don't have activities they can do. So you can't go out to concerts and events and places. So you can't be as busy with your time or have your time filled with the traditional stuff. So you almost have to find new things to do. And I naturally, as an optimist, I've, you know, in business being an optimist, you have to constantly look to the horizon and try to find new things that are positive that are happening. One of the things that we've done is spend more time, having our staff get more educated, smarter about what to do, by adding new tools and methods and ways of working, that save us time and save our clients time. And use the efficiencies of the digital platforms that we have available to us. And it transforms different parts of our business in a really positive way. And we also, that initial time, when we went deep into COVID, we spent a lot of time building up our, our runway for events, for future potential clients, and, and really rethinking pieces of our business. So using that extra time as much as we possibly could, mainly because we trusted our team to go out and do what they needed to do. No one's going to be in their seat. You can't overlook whether or not someone’s doing their job. So you just have to trust and engage them with things that get them excited about the future, not afraid of or basically complaining and not doing anything at all. So we did that. We got people excited about what we could be coming out of this. 3:25 AS: Do you feel like you had that trust before going in? Or was this something that surprised you or that you cultivated during the time? AK: I didn't realize we had it. It was, you know, it's a two way street. Trust is, right. Employees trusted us and we trusted employees. They trusted that we had their back and we were going to do everything we could to keep the entire team together, which we did. And then we trusted them and that they were going to put forth every bit of energy and their capabilities to perform for clients and do great work. And they did. Now, you know, I'm certain that someone actually, somebody once said, you know, when they have something spinning on their computer that they have to download from the server or something happening, they go over to do laundry, of course, in the middle of the day. You can't do that when you're in the office. But that's just a better use of their time. I think it’s great. Because it's blurring the lines between ones work and ones personal time and personal life. And we're in the business of creating intellectual property for clients. So it's hard to blur the line when your brain is not working. Right. Try to shut your brain down. Try not to think about something, especially a really interesting complex problem that’s put in front of you, it's almost impossible to turn that off. So if you hire the right people that are very much engaged and want to do what they do, they're going to be working on it. Right? Their brains are going to be working on it - you can't bill that time. But we're project based, and it's not a big deal. To me, well, I thought of your idea in the shower, so we bill our shower. But then, you know, we're constantly in the sense of it working. Their brains are working. So there are times when, of course, you have to actually work on a computer to make your idea come to life in real form, digital form, printing physical form, but our team has done that. They’ve deliberately delivered on stuff that's fast and impressive. We had a, we were walking into the pandemic with a client, that's Chinese-owned, but they're out of Canada. We were doing a research project, we did this research in store. So inside of retail environments. So as you can imagine that shut down. But it was right at the stage, literally, we were, the team was about to fly to China. And in two weeks, we were going to go and we got shut down as far as we're not going. No one can travel to China, from China. And so as much as the team immediately said, No, we're going to find another way. We said, well, maybe we shouldn't find another way, maybe. Let's figure out another way to do research, which we did. Or they did, and delivered to the client in such an amazing way. They did video interviews, because people there weren't in stores either. So we had to send them artefacts to review. We talked about - we did all these video diaries, essentially. And it worked out incredibly well. The client was very pleased with what came out of that. And it was that quick and nimble adaptation to what we're facing. Right. What's also great about it is they saw themselves do it. We saw everybody do it. So now we know we can do it. Right now we just need another challenge. Right? And it's now basically the number of clients that come to us since become the next challenge. Can we do this one? It seems a little bit fast. We just had two big naming projects that came through at furious speed, like naming really big things, and a week or two at the most, really a week. Which is hard to do very fast. But we did. We did. We made it happen. It was great. AS: I'm sitting here thinking as a creative that sometimes, I feel like sometimes clients don't realize that you're on all the time, at least for me, I'm always obsessed, fully immersed. I'm thinking about it when I'm not supposed to be thinking about it. So I was going to say don't tell them you do it faster, they might think you’re going to charge less. 7:31 AK: No, no. Faster means more expensive. But you're right, right. We’re always on. You have to be. Now we might not be on for any one particular client. Right? The problem you're usually solving in your subconscious is the most challenging one. Or perhaps your subconscious is working on all of them at the same time, it's just a matter of... because I find that if you let a client insert their problem into my mind and let me work on it. But even if I haven't sat down and crafted something around it, I'll have something for them by the time I see them again, you know, in whatever time period that is. An answer, a thought, some perspective on it. You just need time with it, essentially. Back to that time thought. 8:11 LP: I want to back up to making your staff or your team, excited about bigger challenges. So did you do something specific to get them really excited about this time, where there's so much uncertainty? AK: Yeah, I mean, we were open and transparent with our communication about everything that was going on in the business so they could hear it and talk about it. Not down to the minutiae, but enough that they could feel confident in what we were planning what we were doing, and they can see how hard we were, as partners in the firm, working on this effort. And I would say optimism, knowing that, I refer to it as the NASCAR rule, which is an odd little phrase. But they tell NASCAR drivers, if you're headed into an accident, if there's an accident on the track, you're supposed to accelerate into the accident, not decelerate, right, which seems a little counterintuitive, right? If you were driving in that situation, you would slow down in an accident situation, but they're told to speed up. They’re told to speed up because they want to get through it. They want to go through that situation, right? And in a pandemic, this is a cultural accident, cultural, firestorm of ugliness, we sped up. Instead of slowing down. We went headfirst into it in every way we could. We gave those signals in everything we looked at as far as adopting new tools, going deep into Mural and all kinds of ways... and then also a daily check-in, so you have that, that watercooler time during pre-COVID, right, or just for us, it was around the kitchen table, in the office or the kitchen counter. We didn't have that anymore. So we did daily check-ins. And for the first three months, they were filled with stuff to talk about. After that first started, we didn’t have as much to talk about because we see each other every day. So time, you know, we had to fill it with exercises, but the team has jumped in with exercises. So let's do these word exercises. So let's do this thing. And so they started to fill in, which is amazing. We haven't had to - and then because they want to see everybody and connect. And it also feels good. And this is one of your communities, just a basic human thing. Your work community is an important community of yours and being able to connect with people and see how they're doing and hear their stories. Good or bad, whatever is happening in their world. Yeah, but I would say probably the central one was optimism and accelerating into this as much as we possibly, reasonably could. LP: I love the analogy. AK: Kind of a small tangent. My co-author seems to look through the lens of economics more often than anything else, even though he's got an advertising background, Mr. Dan Wallace. I [had] a call with him. And it was somewhat depressing, because he would look at it through the lens of okay, the recession we're heading into...is it a V recession, a U recession. He said well, it might be an L recession. I'm like, what? What's an L recession? No. That's not a good shape. We can’t have a L recession...no. I’m like, Dan, I’m not talking to you for awhile. 11:45 LP: So speaking of getting out of one's head and sharing it with other people. Are you willing to share some of the silver linings that you found throughout this year? AK: I feel closer to people all around the world than I do to people next door, certainly during those early stages. Where you couldn't even get close to your neighbors or anybody in your initial circles, right. I was having conversations with people from the Olympics. Amazing all over the world kinds of conversations. So I felt closer to people around the world but not to the people next door, which was definitely a silver lining. Because you can, you can see that your reach is much farther than you realize, you know, you're not just in the city you're in. You can get very far with your conversations and everybody speaking. And that's the other thing - it was a global pandemic. And everybody was facing very similar things. That was a big one, but figuring out how to work in this environment, get to know people in this environment and not be able to shake hands, but yet still have good solid personal relationships. Because the kind of stuff we do is, is often a very trusted thing for a client, to brand. To touch that is a very essential element of the organization if they know the value of it, so they have to trust you and to be able to get that trust in this environment is critical. So figuring that out was a big silver lining for us. Yeah, I would say just the new work methods have been a phenomenal silver lining and the conversations and new tools have made it more efficient, honestly, to do the work faster for clients and faster for us. Not necessarily less expensive though. And the Think and Ink...we’ve had the CMO of the New York Times. How would I ever have done that having the previous one that took place in our office, right? It's amazing how far you can reach and how willing people are to have an hour conversation, sit down and chat, right? And do this. Huge silver lining for all of us. 14:07 AS: Last time we talked, you mentioned that at the beginning of it, you thought if you could just keep the team together, that you guys would get through this. So some companies have made layoffs, they've cut resources trying to preserve their runway. So what made you go the other way? AK: Yeah, optimism, I suppose. Looking back on it, you could have said at one point in time, maybe it was ignorance, because optimism and ignorance sometimes get confused. But we have a really talented team, we already run pretty lean. And we were coming into it busy anyway. So you know, with us, we have a certain number of clients and projects every year; it's not a large number. We can see those numbers either coming through or not coming through in new projects or new clients. So we knew our runway and it was solid. And so we looked at like, well...Some people have used this as an excuse to trim and to remove people. I don't prescribe to that. As a philosophy that just doesn't make sense to me. Because you basically are cutting out knowledge and experience and you can't pop another person in there and get that exact thing out of that person. And so I don't like to see that happen. We spend a lot of time with our team to make sure that they're knowledgeable and capable of doing what they're doing. And we teach them some really interesting skills around the things we do. So we want to keep them around. It takes a lot more time to rebuild those things. So that was probably a big part of it. Yeah, and we kept the team. And we had one person leave. She kind of got, not burnt out on design...maybe a little burnt out on design in general during this, but other than that, we've kept the team and now we've been adding to the team, because we've gotten so busy, which is really nice. But yeah, it's been absolutely amazing to keep them around. And it was a promise I made to them to make sure we do this, right, so they could have confidence in where we're going as a firm and that they were part of that. Because we're in the intellectual property business, right, and these are the people walking around with the intellectual property who are going to be able to create that for clients. The people, I'd say, are the biggest assets, but I don't like to call them assets either because they’re certainly much more than that. 16:29 AS: So everyone gets a finishing question tailored to them. And yours is, what's your number one piece of branding advice for companies right now here? And where are we? October 27 2020. AK: Trust is at the center of all brands, and all relationships with brands. Consider the things you're doing and whether you're doing them in desperation, whether you're doing them in a positive outlook on the world and will they build trust or deteriorate trust, right? That's an important thing. There's a lot of possibilities, definitely during a recession, to discount things, to coupon, to destroy the value in what you're providing, or whatever the offering is. Be cautious about that. Be careful about that, be thoughtful about it. Because you need trust. And in this time period, trust is even more critical than anything else. So people want to be around trusted brands. And so, and they'll remember the ones that did and didn't do good. And then invest in innovation. Innovation around the experience, innovation around an understanding of the brand story. And then of course, innovation of the product specifically itself. That’s my advice. AS: Thank you so much. AK: Thank you, thank you both. [Music] LP: Aaron Keller, thanks for taking the time to talk with us today. We had a blast. And to those listening, you can find Aaron and his team online at Capsule.us. Hey guys we hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode - the best part? It’s free. So if you like it please do us a favor and take a screenshot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO so we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you’ve got some insights to share and you’re a CEO we’d love to hear from you. You can find us at 100ceoproject.com or on LinkedIn at 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Writing and research: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
#2 :: Three Tools for Getting Through Times Like These, with Mike Thakur - WorkLodge
Optimism, deflecting uncertainty, and agility - learn about these three attitudes and strategies and how they help WorkLodge CEO Mike Thakur get through the tough times every leader faces. And why who you have around you matters on this journey of entrepreneurship. WorkLodge: https://www.worklodge.com/ The Gabriel Project: https://mikethakur.com/Gabriel/ The Mike Thakur Show: https://mikethakur.com/show/ Recorded on 10.28.2020 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: Welcome to the 100 CEO Project Podcast So hi guys welcome back to the 100 CEO Project - we're super geeked to have Mike Thakur, who has his own podcast, by the way. I want to start off with something a little personal, it seems to me that you are also a Dr. Suess fan... Mike Thakur: A very, very small bit but yes we did quote him in a recent podcast. LP: That's one of my favorite quotes so I'm going to give it back to him, right. “Today you are you, that’s truer than true; there’s no one alive more youer than you.” And I think that's fitting in doing this interview because looking at your professional trajectory, you are somebody who's been true to yourself, and I believe in doing so, has achieved great success, and been able to help others by honoring who you are. So, again, super excited, and I'm gonna let them know who you are real quick and then we'll dive in. MT: Yeah. LP: Okay, cool. So, Mike Thakur is the chief executive officer of WorkLodge, an office workspace company that provides beautiful private offices and co-working solutions in Houston, Dallas and Tampa. If you haven't seen them they also have cool slides on the inside. WorkLodge also directly benefits your nonprofit which is the Gabriel project, or the Gabriel project as we say in English right, sorry about that, a little Spanish involved… which is focused on providing homes for orphaned kids and support for victims of human trafficking, and also serving families who are in need. And as I mentioned earlier at the top you've got your own podcast, it's called The Mike Thakur Show, so people when you jump off of here, head over there. And you're hosting conversations around the intersection of people, profit and purpose. Andrea Spirov: Well, I'm buckling my seatbelt because we're about to talk about commercial real estate, and that's been like, an ewwww for everybody this year. 2:51 LP: So Mike, we want you to tell us about some of the ongoing challenges that you're facing this year, right 2020, and some of the tools and strategies that you're using to guide WorkLodge through all of this turbulence. MT: Yeah, so I think obviously commercial real estate is one of those industries that clearly has cycles and goes up and down. When it’s going well everybody wants to lease space and life is great but when it's not doing so well the inverse is also true. And so I think as an industry we're probably. We're probably in the, you know the worst of it in some ways. I sure wish I was in the residential real estate market right now, because that's booming and going. But that said we’re slightly nuanced because it's not just real estate but there's also these aspects of our spaces that are very flexible. And so they're very scalable which, which is a little bit more immunity for a small business, compared to the traditional seven year lease, five year lease, 10 year lease that kind of thing so we've definitely seen some challenges and we've definitely taken some hits, but I don't know it's been quite as bad as a traditional commercial landlord, would be experiencing. And so, I think, as we look to the future and everybody's got different ideas about what the future will look like, we're supremely excited that we're in this space because we built a very conservative business. We have no debt; we bootstrapped from the beginning and we were purposefully not raising venture capital and that kind of thing... so we can go as long as the piggy bank stretches but at least we don't have the added pressure of, you know, debt payments and balloons and those kinds of things that sometimes people have to deal with. But I think we're most excited about the fact that for us COVID has proved our model. And it's proved our business. And so, you know, we were, we were evangelizing years ago, why would any small business want to go sign a five year lease or a 10 year lease? Why would you want, you don't own the space anyway, nobody really owns commercial real estate, even the big boys don't own it. It’s the banks, the lenders, the guys with the real money. And so, why lock yourself in - how can you project where your company is going to be in three years time? In this day and age, with the internet, with the speed that business moves, I don't know, I can’t predict where I'm going to be in three years and you know what I've been doing this for awhile. How does a newer business deal with that? And so we've been evangelizing and singing the song that this kind of flexible model makes so much more sense. You don't put yourself at risk, you don't put yourself in a position where you rent space you don't need because you think you might need it in the future when you grow, and the opposite obviously is true as well. You don't buy too little space, and then you’ve got nowhere to grow because the rest of the building is full, the landlord can’t sell you any more and now what do you do? You separate the team and all the other kinds of things. And then you've got the challenges that, you know, I think people, the longer this goes on, are going to be more accustomed to not wanting to commute. Our very first location was built in the suburbs. We don't actually like downtown locations particularly. We'd rather get away from them. We've got one that is downtown, you know, a couple that are in the ‘burbs, but we're big believers in giving people some time back. It's the thing money can't buy so give them the corporate campus amenities, give them the environment that’s professional. But, but do it, do it close by. And so, as painful a year as 2020 has been for us, it’s really the first time we haven't seen growth, you know we've seen some kind of shrinkage. And at the same time we're so excited about, you know, 2021, 2022, because if this didn’t prove to most small businesses that they should not be going signing long leases, then I don't know what will. This is the absolute epitome of why our space makes so much sense. 6:11 LP: So have you guys seen some increased growth at your space here in 2020? MT: Yeah, so I think I think overall we're probably negative. When I look at the occupancy rates, you know, thankfully, not many of our companies actually have failed and shut down. We've definitely seen a few folks say hey we're gonna cut the budget. We need to shrink the space, we've got, or you know we're gonna go work from home for a while and we're going to duck out of this, but only, only maybe a handful of us have actually completely folded and that was our big worry just because of the relationships we’ve built with these members and these folks that were around everyday serving. But yeah, overall I think we're probably you know a little, a little down on revenue compared to previous years. But again, compared to, I think, others in our industry, commercial models in general, I think we've, we've fared pretty well so, I've definitely seen quite a few co-working spaces close the doors. I was with somebody yesterday in Dallas, who was tearing out a space and she's the last one left in her existing co-working space; everyone else has gone, they've shut the doors and, you know, she basically got a couple of weeks to kind of scoot out and find a new home. So I feel terrible for folks who are dealing with that because that's their dream. That was their baby that they were building. And so when I look at that, it makes me feel bad, but even a little bit of negative is still positive. LP: Andrea it looks like you have a question, I see you over there… 7:36 AS: Oh, I was just thinking about, how do you stay optimistic in the face of that because we're not the end of this thing, right so, what personally keeps you so optimistic? MT: Well it’s funny you say that, so the three things I’ve got because we’re talking about the tools that we're leaning on to get through this, and the first one I've got is that optimism. I don't know that I'm actually an optimistic person. I think it's something I've had to learn and develop over time, but I think as a business leader, or as a CEO, if you're not optimistic I don't, I don't know how you can run a business. You've got, you've got to look for something to be optimistic about, and I was reading a major book by Andy Grove, who was the founder of Intel, and he wrote this book called High Output Management, which apparently is like a legendary book and I'm a little behind the curve because I only came across it a little while ago on my bookshelf. And one of the comments that he makes in that he was interviewed by somebody after the dot com bust. And they asked him a question, Andy, why did all these CEOs not see this coming? How are all these guys running all these kinds of multi hundred million dollar businesses, how could not one of them see this happening? And he said, look, he said, as a CEO, you're, you're trained and you're expected to see the optimistic future. The rose-tinted spectacles live and exist if you like. And if you don't see it that way. How are you ever going to run a company because you're going to be second guessing everything you ever did when you can, you're not going to take a risk you need to take. So it's understandable that they would see it, or rather they wouldn't see it because that's the blind spot of a CEO and a leader. And I just thought it was a really interesting comment, because as a small business owner, that's what I'm trying to live with now. And look, I, you know definitely don't have great moments every moment of every day, plenty, plenty of moments they're quite the opposite. But we've got to train ourselves to recognize, we believed in the business in the beginning, we believed it made a lot of sense. You know, we're in a situation now that, in our opinion, is proving that we were right with what we've been saying, so we ride out the wave or whatever we want to call it, and we make sure we're well-positioned for the future and if, if we did it right then we really did build something that has some value and has some meaning to people, it's going to flesh itself out the right way and we're going to come out in a whole lot stronger on the backside So time is going to prove it. 9:46 AS: Well, it's that vision that you have as well, I think as a CEO it’s your responsibility to create a vision that people can live into for your team because you can't have everybody working on just whatever they think it should be, right, so what vision are you creating right now for WorkLodge? MT: So, I think for us, you know fundamentally theDNA hasn't changed. And I think the outcome hasn't changed where we really were headed. You know we set out to build a business that could fund a nonprofit and make a difference in the world and so our tagline is Workspace Changing Lives, and it often has changed. We're still working on projects, you know, the staff and I, we still talk about ways that we can do something meaningful - we may be doing a little bit less this year. Just practically because obviously there's investment involved, but, you know, overall, for us, I don't know that our vision particularly changed because of COVID or not, it's not like we've had to pivot and completely change our business model. We've definitely had to adapt and accept a few things that maybe we wouldn't have done in the past. We're trying to be a lot more helpful to folks looking for some short term temporary solutions, which is not really what we were built around because it's hard to make this investment and pay it back. You know, on that kind of a business model, but, we also want to recognize a lot of folks are having a tough time and we want to try and help them as much as we can within the parameters of still running a healthy and profitable business where possible. 11:17 LP: So I'm going to back us up just a little bit to that list - you were talking about some tools and strategies that you're using to get through this, to navigate the turbulence. Optimism being first - do you have a couple more nuggets to share with us. MT: Yeah, I do. So I think if optimism is the first one, then I think learning to deflect uncertainty is the second for us. We're definitely in an uncertain time because we don't really know. Is there going to be a vaccine? Is it going to work, you know, is this going to be how life is for, you know, for three, four or five years we just don't know. And so again, where I try and develop and train this kind of mindset is seeing the optimistic output that could happen in the future if everything goes the way we, we hope and expect it to. I'm also going to develop and train a mental kind of agility to say, I can't allow the uncertainty to come in and start shaping decisions. Definitely, again, we need to adapt and evolve to make the business make sense but it can't come from a place of fear, where we're so scared of the uncertain future that we're letting fear start to dictate what we do, because I think at that point, we're not guiding the ship anymore, the storm is. And that's not going to get us where we want to go, it’s going to get us to where the storm wants to take us. I don't know that I want to go where it's going to take me. I want to go to where I'm supposed to be going. And if I can't get there at some point, I have to make a decision. Okay, but maybe this isn't the right business and maybe it's not for today, I'd rather do that where I'm still in control and I'm still leading and making a choice, rather than letting that choice be made for me because, you know, fear and uncertainty took me down a path that still ended up being catastrophic to the business if that makes sense. And then the third one, I think is you know a word I've used a couple of times is agility. And again, we're a small business, you know, we don't have this figured out, we're still working super hard every day trying to figure out how to do this well, how to be a better, but I think as any business will probably relate to being able to be agile, being able to evolve, to be able to adapt, being able to tweak and kind of polish as you go along. I think in times like this where we just don't know and even now, it's so different than three months ago. So even the things we were trying three months ago now we're trying something different because I think a lot of people are in a different place, mentally, and ultimately I think that's that's the reality is, I don't know that COVID is causing as much damage as the mental state of the customers we serve. Really, that's, that's the thing we're trying to overcome, because some people think it's all hoo-ha, it's conspiracy theory and it is, you know, just fine. Other people think, no, you know, it’s a pandemic and the world’s going to end and I can't come within 25 feet of you and three face masks anda shield, and somehow we’re going to need to serve all those people and make them all feel great, make them all feel like they want to do business with us. And obviously keep the business moving forward. And so, a good friend of mine here in Houston, owns some restaurants, and they're kind of, I wouldn’t say they're high end dining but they're definitely more than casual dining and, you know, kind of on the higher end side. He was very quick to pivot and go from in restaurant dining to food delivery, which they’d never done before, prepackaged meals, and they got them into the Kroger and HEB, a grocery store pretty quickly. And I think that was a, you know, that was an incredibly prescient move for them. Obviously they’ve still got the restaurants, they’ve still got the leases and everything else, but to go from that, that mid to higher level dining experience to something completely different, you know, very, very quickly. They obviously felt like they needed to be able to keep things going and keep as many staff as possible and I think that's a great example of their core business is the same, they cook great food for people, they’re just now delivering it in a very different kind of environment. 15:10 LP: That’s fantastic. So, up till now, we’ve got three tools, or strategies: optimism, deflecting uncertainty, and agility. AS: I’m curious about what makes entrepreneurs able to be resilient. Is it just that innate thing that makes you be an entrepreneur in the first place, that allows you to pivot so quickly? Because I think some restaurant owners, they’ve said they’re going to close and so that was a really great example...do you just have an innovation loop going all the time or, how do you pivot so quickly? To be nimble? MT: I don’t know if I’ve got a good answer for that or not. I think one of the things that I think about a lot, and we did an episode recently on the podcast - I’m going to plug my own podcast there for a second...My wife and I did an episode on the podcast and we talked about support and how valuable it is for an entrepreneur to have a support network and support infrastructure around them as they go on this journey. Even pre-COVID. Forget the crazy pandemic and everything else. Just going and leaving a regular paying job to learn something from nothing and maybe self-fund it, maybe get some money from somebody else; that takes a certain personality, but even then it takes people behind them. I think Jeff Bezos is a great example. Mackenzie did pretty well through the separation and the reason for that was that they recognized that he couldn’t have built Amazon without Mackenzie being there with him. Whether she was officially titled in the role or not, you know, she supported him when they moved across the country and he had no paycheck coming in and that kind of thing. And I think many entrepreneurs have stories similar to that and we talked about it a lot on the show because I think people underestimate what it takes...You know they say to raise a child takes a village, well I think the same is true to raise a business. You’ve got to have people around you. So I think some of the agility and some of the adaptability comes from the kind of people you’ve got around you or where you get your inspiration from. So one example for those of you who’ve maybe not looked at my history; so I’m a person of faith and so I used to be a preacher in years gone by. So some of my inspiration comes from the faith that I have. And I’ll lean on that when I’m not sure because it’s part of who I am. And obviously not everyone believes the same as me and that’s their choice, but the question is always the same. Okay then what do you lean on, what do you believe in because there’s gotta be something else that keeps you focused, and I think when you don’t have that focus, you don’t have that support or you don’t have some of the things like the people around you...I think those are the first ones to say, you know what? This is too hard, I’m packing it in and I’m giving up. Because they can’t see past that negative and are letting some of that fear, some of that uncertainty come in, and now that’s driving those decisions for them. Where I think the folks that have got the encouragement, they’ve got the support around them to say, you know what? It’s going to be ok, we can still do this...what else could we be trying? What else could we be thinking about? You know you look around you and you see your friends and people that influence you in your life - hopefully you’ve got friends that can encourage and inspire and keep you motivated, rather than a lot of debbie downers who are having a pity party with you because that’s not going to get you anywhere, right? And I think we all know that. 18:30 LP: So talking about people who are in your corner, who are supportive and belief system that also serves as a backbone for you when times are very tough, right...I think we read a little about your wife, Linda, and as I recall she was quite the support and has been on a number of changes you guys have made, one of them being your move over here from the UK to the US. Can you describe a little bit about how she was a support to you guys when you first moved to the US? MT: Yeah for sure. I think, well, Linda and I were babies when we got married and so, we joke about this a lot, but I think we both really appreciate that we’ve been able to grow up together and live life together. So for both of us I think what’s unique and nice is there’s not really any memorable life experiences that we haven’t shared or been around in some way, shape or form. And so that’s been great from a support perspective because then if there is some doubt or there is some uncertainty creeping in or there’s questions in the mind, and maybe there has been some experience that has helped prepare me for that situation or helped shape or guide my thought processes that maybe I’m not thinking about, because Linda has been around me for so long she can help remind me of those things and we can kind of work together. Obviously we’ve moved countries - we’ve actually moved countries twice - we moved the first time in 2001 for a couple of years and then we moved back to the UK and then we moved back in 2007...it wasn’t just my idea it was something that we both discussed together and kind of thought about but I think probably it was me that was more in favor of it, definitely the second time after we had a couple of babies. And maybe the first time, I don’t know, it was a little while ago. But I think one of the great qualities Linda has is she’s managed to understand me very well from an early stage so she knows if I do have these crazy ideas or these crazy business ideas depending on what it is, there’s usually a lot of thought and intentionality that’s gone in behind it. And so she’ll give me that benefit of the doubt to think through that with me and together we’ll work through it. And I think some people don’t have that. Certainly that’s been my experience here. And again it’s something that I talked about in one of the episodes. I know one of the folks that works out of one of my locations had the complete opposite where he and his wife ended up getting divorced because of the business. Because she gave him an ultimatum to drop it or she was going. And for me that’s just so far removed from anything I’ve ever experienced or would think about. But for him, that was his reality and he’s moved on from that and rebuilt his life and everything but there’s a very broad spectrum there for sure. 21:49 AS: Mike, you recently joined the Guinness Book of World Records, is that right? MT: It is right, correct. AS: I have to hear that story. MT: It is genuinely a funny story, right. I’ve had this podcasting bug for a little while and have been putting it off. I’m very happy to be behind the scenes….anyway so we’ve had this idea for a podcast for a year or something and then things started to fall into place. And then we had a podcast production company move into my Dallas location. We got friendly, we got talking, and Keith, he’s an awesome guy and I mentioned my podcast. He said, yeah you should do it...let me help you. And so we got it all going and then we started to do a couple of recordings and then a group held a podcast conference out of one of my Houston locations back in February/March - so I got to meet a bunch of folks there in the podcasting world, one of who called me up - she was hosting the event. So we fast forward and [she] reaches out to me and says, hey, I’m involved in this upcoming conference called Podfest and it's a big expo and they’re looking for speakers and she was doing a faith-based track and so I spoke at one of them. And [they] were going for a Guinness Book World record to have the most attendees at an online podcast event or whatever it was. They got through by three, I think...And so because of that I was able to get a little certificate; I’ve got it in my office there, and yes, I think I’m officially a Guinness World record holder...that’s what it said. It was pretty cool. 24:30 LP: Are there any early experiences that shaped how you approach business or work culture? MT: That’s a big question. I’ve had a pretty varied life from a professional perspective. Sales manager for a billion dollar company. Boutique security in the world of very successful people and wealthy people. Kidnap, ransom and all that other kind of fun stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint a single example of this that helped shape that. But I can tell you that in my days as a sales manager, I started off with that company just as a regular sales guy on the floor and did pretty well, got promoted a few times. There was one manager who definitely stands out - his name was John - I think he saw something in me, or I saw it in myself; but he was willing to give some time and give some energy to help kind of shape that and mold that. None of us are islands. We don’t get here on our own. We all have people who pour into us. We all have people who, whether advertently or inadvertently, have helped to shape the direction that we take ourselves. And I think for me, he’s probably one of the earlier ones I can remember in a professional capacity. He was very good at what he did, he was very successful and so it was easy for me to listen to him and try and learn from him. We were chatting today on LinkedIn, so 20 years later we’re still in touch, so it was pretty cool. 26:11 LP: Would you like to share anything about the Gabriel Project before we wrap? MT: In a nutshell there are people, groups who really can’t help themselves and we want to focus on those. So kids are an easy one. Specifically, orphans - we’ve built some orphanages, and in India and tried to think of some better ways we can help beyond that. The clean water wells obviously help with that as well. And human trafficking was the second focal point for us. People in abusive situations. It’s hard because we’re very small and we want to be very impactful so we stay very narrow and focused and try to deliver projects that let us get the most bang for our buck if that sounds correct. We really want to make a tangible difference. So we don’t really get involved in education or activism, we’d rather be rolling up sleeves on the ground. How can I help this person get from here over here as safely as possible, as quickly as possible, and then encouraged and inspired into a better life? And that’s what we’re still working on. LP: Is there anywhere people can go to learn more, not only about you and your work at WorkLodge but also about the Gabriel Project? MT: MikeThakur.com From there you can link to the Gabriel Project, you can link to the podcast, it’s all in one place so that's probably the best place to go. LP: Mike Thakur, bazillion thanks to you. Thanks for taking time out in your day. I want to remind everybody of something that I believe is a tremendous piece of wisdom that you shared on The Mike Thakur Show, and that is to learn from others, and that’s why we’re here on this podcast. So that you guys, the leaders, can learn from others so as you say you can not want to become somebody else. Be who you are. Tremendous example and again, it was a pleasure to learn from you and to talk with you. MT: Thanks so much for having me on the show. You guys have been awesome. [Music] Hey guys we hope you’ve enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode - best part? It’s free. So if you like it please do us a favor and take a screenshot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO that we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you’ve got some insights to share and you’re a CEO we’d love to hear from you. You can find us at 100ceoproject.com or on LinkedIn at 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Writing and research: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov
#1 :: Strong Leadership Starts With Self-Care, with Stephanie Morimoto - Asutra
You can’t pour from an empty cup. Our premier episode explores this issue with “active self-care” company, Austra’s CEO, Stephanie Morimoto. With an extensive background in both entrepreneurship and non-profit, Stephanie brings perspective on how 2020 shaped e-commerce, what we can do to take care of ourselves as leaders, and what happens when your products attract a sporting superstar who then joins your company as a co-owner. Asutra: https://asutra.com/ Stephanie: https://www.linkedin.com/in/stephanie-morimoto/ Recorded on 10.27.2020 TRANSCRIPT [Music & Intro] Laurie Pillow: Welcome to the 100 CEO Project Podcast Andrea Spirov: Today we're sitting with Stephanie Morimoto owner and CEO of Asutra, a line of natural and affordable personal care and pain relief products that are produced in Chicago. The company launched in 2015 and originally sold primarily through its website before launching in thousands of CVS stores nationwide. Tennis superstar and entrepreneur Venus Williams took an ownership stake in Asutra in 2019 after discovering the products as a customer and became the company's chief brand officer. Stephanie, welcome to the show. Stephanie Morimoto: Thank you so much for having me. 1:16 AS: So how has Asutra been impacted by the crisis this year? SM: Yeah, you know this is always such a tricky conversation to have because I think we've been really lucky, and we feel very grateful for that, as I'm sure you and a lot of your listeners know, as people were stuck at home during the pandemic they shifted a lot of their shopping to online from going to the store and since so much of our business is direct to consumer online, we certainly were able to serve our customers by serving them through our website. And then the other thing is that, you know, with stress, and sleeplessness and health at the forefront of so many people's minds folks are searching for self-care and since Asutra is all about what we call active self-care, we fit the bill. AS: I saw that. I saw IBM Research said coronavirus accelerated the shift to ecommerce by five years with online sales up 20% overall this year. So you started online though, correct? 2:14 SM: Correct. We actually started mostly online on Amazon. And our direct to consumer sales at our site were essentially zero when I bought the business in 2018. So our big push over the last couple of years has been to do a complete brand overhaul from where we started, so that we could better tell our story of active self-care, and then really focus on connecting directly with our consumers through our website and through our social media channels, as well as, as you mentioned, increasing our - or are actually growing - from zero our retail distribution. 2:53 AS: So was there a big shift in the types of products people were ordering before and after COVID? SM: That's a good question. I would say our best-selling collection has always been our magnesium healing collection, so magnesium m is really good for overall wellness. It helps with relieving muscle cramps, provides a sense of calm, helps a lot of people get to sleep at night. It's actually the fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies and yet we don't tend to get enough of it through our diet because it's been depleted from a lot of the soil. So we don't get it through our food as much. So most people need to supplement and you can take it as a pill, but that can upset people's stomachs. Or you can absorb it topically or transdermally through your skin. So at Asutra we're big fans of topical magnesium we have it in spray form soap form in a bath lotions, creams, so we saw that continue to be our best selling collection and surged even higher, right people were looking, as you can imagine, for things that would help them feel calmer and help with pains sitting at their computer all day and also help them get a good night's sleep. I would say the other collection that we saw a real uptick in are our natural sleep aids, so we don't do any ingestibles but we have a lot of lavender products that use lavender essential oils which help you relax and unwind. Whether it's a bath salt or an aromatherapy spray. We have a hugely popular silk weighted sleep mask filled with lavender and flaxseed that you can use for blackout. It provides acupuncture for your face, and people love to sleep with this thing and gift it. So we saw an upsurge in those sleep related items. And the final thing I'll say which is really heartening, I think, is that a lot of people wanted to send gifts. They couldn't connect with people in person, so they wanted to show that they were still thinking about or caring for others in their network or for frontline health care workers or teachers who were dealing with so much of the pandemic. And so they would turn to Asutra to find those self care gifts that they can send as a symbol of that love to people that they knew. 4:58 LP: what's your favorite of all the lines, you guys have? SM: Yeah. Oh my gosh. It’s like choosing your favorite child. I would say I am really in love with one of our newest magnesium products called Relieve Your Pain. It has magnesium and 10% menthol, as well as arnica. So the magnesium as we talked about is great for you overall, the menthol provides that cooling sensation and then arnica is a natural herb for relieving inflammation, which helps with pain relief as well. I work out a lot. So I have a lot of sore muscles and then when I sit at my computer you know I get sore shoulders and neck and so I love the Relieve Your Pain because it has this kind of gradual cooling sensation that really helps relieve back pain, neck pain and shoulder pain in particular. And other product line I would say is what brought me to Asutra is our line of organic and natural yoga mat cleaning sprays, which I know sounds like a little crazy, but they're a castile soap base, they're really good for your mat, they're safe, and then they have different essential oil blends. So we have lavender. Our most popular eucalyptus is next. I personally love our peppermint as well so it's kind of like a nice scent and mood boost while you're on your mat and you can also use them for dumbbells or other fitness gear, which is great because so many more people are working out at home nowadays. AS: I'm watching Laurie's face… LP: Yeah, this is my world. AS: And making my mental shopping list for gifting her because I can see she's excited about everything yoga. 6:31 AS: I'm interested in your purchase of Asutra and how you used to work for national education organizations. So what made you buy Asutra and sort of what skills and special sauce did you take from those education organizations and bring to the role? SM: Great question. So, let me take a little step back, which is that I would say I do have roots in entrepreneurship. My grandmother who came here from Indonesia. She immigrated to Los Angeles; she brought with her a skill that was being a seamstress and over time she built a small business making patterns for big fashion brands. And then my grandfather worked his way through college and med school and ended up becoming a doctor - he was an eye doctor or ophthalmologist - and he built his own practice scratch, so I saw those examples of entrepreneurship early on in my family. And before working in education, I worked at McKinsey advising large companies, as well as at another organization helping women of color start small businesses. So I have a lot of roots in entrepreneurship, but I definitely went to education for a while and while I was in education, I did work more on the business side so I did fundraising marketing and business development. And even though it sounds like so many different things that I did before coming to Autra, none of which were selling health and wellness products, I would say that the journey that I've been on has really helped me today because so much of what I've done over time is about understanding who you're connecting with what your, what problem you're helping them solve and then offering the solution right and communicating that to them in a way that makes sense to them that's easy to understand, especially when we're all so busy and inundated with information these days. So I think a lot of that has really helped and then of course there are the more technical or hard skills from accounting and finance to, you know, marketing to managing a sales pipeline, thatI think transfer to any type of business. 8:28 LP: And we also understand that creating jobs and opportunities for women of color that that's definitely high up on your list. So specific to this year with the pandemic how have you been able to do that? Have you had to pivot drastically in order to, to keep doing that? SM: Great question. Yeah, part of our purpose at Asutra is to create good jobs for people who need them here in Chicago, which is my hometown, and we've been really lucky we've been able to keep our core team actually intact. So, during the height of the pandemic when so much was shut down we did close - we have a warehouse here in Chicago where we make some of the products. We also have contract manufacturing partners, and then we ship orders from that warehouse too. We did close for about a month just to keep people home and safe. We didn't want them on public transportation, we didn't want them having to be exposed. And we luckily I mean thanks to our incredible customers who kept buying our products, we were able to pay everybody for a month, while they were at home, because we didn't want them to stress about not having a job or not having a paycheck, and when we were able to reopen safely. You know they were so excited to come back and then continue to be part of the team and make those products with love, so we were really fortunate, I would say that we were able to do that. We have a fairly small but mighty team so there's about 10 of us, but we also have a constellation of really amazing agency partners that bring incredible talent that we probably couldn't afford otherwise right so we've got agencies who do everything from digital advertising to PR to finance and accounting, that work with us as well. 10:14 AS: So I'm interested in - I was reading an article, and you talked about core values and I'm interested in how you developed your core values and how they kind of carried you through. SM: So the concept of core values is definitely something I brought some of my education days core values is a really big concept in the nonprofit arena and particularly in education in schools where you're educating kids and helping them develop and creating a community and culture. For me core values is really about culture, you’re saying what you believe in, how you want to treat each other and how you want to treat your customers. So, that was important for me to have that as part of Asutra. We have our core values outlined in our employee handbook. So any time we hire someone new, that's part of what they read and actually sign off on, and the other important thing that I've seen is hiring. So when you hire people, I found it's so important to make sure that those potential employees are aligned with your core values and can actually describe times that they've exemplified those core values, because when the times are tough, those core values and going back to those are what really gets you through. So for example, our top core value as the journey is one team, one goal. Like I said, we're a small but mighty team, and we've been really lucky to have a lot of business. I mean we have a lot of customers on our site. We've had an influx of orders from retail partners over the last few months. And sometimes it's a lot, right, but what's so great about our team is they always go back to that idea of one team one goal, and everybody pitches in to get the job done and make sure that our customers are happy. 12:06 AS: Do you see any challenges in scaling that, as you said you're 10 now but I am I can see you just keep growing. so how do you think about scaling that? SM: Yeah, that's a great question too so I'll share a couple thoughts. One like I said we have 10 employees but we also have this constellation of agencies so all told we probably have something like 40 people who work with us. And, when we hire agencies, that's actually been a way that has helped us scale. I'm just thinking about the folks listening to this, right, who might be small business owners and also growing. And frankly, being able to have agencies allows us to, you know, grow, or work with them as we're growing, or if we need to cut costs, we, you know we can do that more flexibly. But what's been great about the agencies and how we approach it is we think about it like hiring staff. We also look for agency partners that want to operate as if they're a part of our team, that they share our core values too and that they really feel ownership over Asutra. So that's just one specific tip I would give folks, is if you're hiring an agency partner, treat it like a staff interview. Right. The other thing is you know I've been very fortunate to work in organizations of all sizes, and you know 1,300 people, 200 people, 10 people, five people, and even in that 1,300 person organization where I had to hire hundreds of folks; it really came down to two things, you know, do you embrace our mission, whatever that mission might be. And do you exemplify our core values? And then, of course, the more technical questions related to do you bring the right skills and expertise for the particular role. But if people embrace the mission and if people cued to the core values, they really succeeded in these organizations so that's why I keep harping on that because as we scale we'll continue to look for people who meet both of those things. 13:52 AS: So what do you think is going to happen with the holiday shopping this year, the holiday season. I've heard different things and then also the mail - we were talking last time we got together about some issues with mail - and I already saw something about them thinking they were saying that, you know, the mail might not be able to keep up so maybe we should get our orders in before the election day and things like that. SM: Well what I really hope people do before election day is vote - get their ballots in. That's what I would like the post office to prioritize personally; but after that, you know, everything that I've been reading and what we're planning for Asutra is earlier shopping; people are still nervous about going to stores. Many retail chains are not going to be open on Thanksgiving or Black Friday to give their employees time off, and also because, you know, a mad crush of people in the stores is not safe, frankly, or helping with COVID cases rising again as the weather gets cold and people are indoors. So, what I think a lot of ecommerce companies like us are planning for is earlier shopping earlier sales to make people's lives easier. For us at Asutra, we always have a big Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale, so we'll be doing something similar and if you if you want to hear more about it, you know, sign up for our email list or follow us on social and we'll let you know as soon as that’s available. And we're also, you know, thinking of ways to support our VIP customers with gifting. A lot of people will buy Asutra for teachers or trainers, or health care workers or other people that support them in their lives and so we're going to have a program in November to help our VIPs with gifting just to make it stress free and easy for them. As far as shipping, yes I think shipping is a mess right now, across the globe, you know with flights reduced as a for instance, there's just fewer spots for cargo to cross the sea or go to different countries. And then here in the US, shipping companies are inundated and so it is much harder to get things on time. So I would definitely say for customers out there but also for business owners who sell products. Assume shipping is going to take a lot longer and plan for that and help your customers plan for that too and set the right expectations right they may not be able to get something in two days. It may take a week. And so how do you sort of nudge your customers in the right direction so they're not upset when something doesn't arrive on time. 16:22 AS: Did you all run into a lot of issues during the pandemic of just because you moved back to mail order, so were people getting upset or... SM: The core of our business has always been online. And so we're used to processing shipments and getting that done every day which was fortunate for us, I would say. We definitely saw a little bit of a slowdown and some hiccups with the mail, you know, slightly more customers than usual not getting their packages, things actually getting lost in the mail. I would say the bigger issue we experienced as a company that has to manage getting raw materials and packaging and products from different places is supply chain issues. So, you know, with a lot of factories across the globe shut down, production capacity stopped. So getting things like bottles or jars that we need to put our products in was much harder because they just literally didn't have the materials made and getting people back into the factory and getting the lines back up and running, took them longer as cities and states opened up. So, getting the materials is actually the bigger issue, and then like I mentioned before, there just weren't as many planes, trains and buses running. So, getting the goods from one place to another place once they were made was also the challenge. AS: I definitely noticed that at retail I remember you could not get any cleaning products for a good several months. It was crazy. So did you, how did any of your retail partners have any troubles with out of stocks or were they pretty understanding about that? SM: The good thing is a lot of our retail partners asked us, you know, are you facing supply chain issues? Do you anticipate shortages of certain items that we order from you or longer timelines? And they were more forgiving during that time so instead of penalizing us for being out of stock on something, they would let it slide, or they would work with us and order the things that we had available and not order the things that we were stocked out on because we were waiting for parts. 18:32 LP: We all want to know how did you connect to Venus Williams, and how is she serving you and your company values, being a brand ambassador? SM: Well, it's a crazy story about Venus, she cold called us, which is the craziest cold call to get. I still remember, checking my email, and our customer service person forwarded a note that had gone to our support@Asutra.com generic customer service email. It was somebody on her team at the largest talent agency in the globe, so I thought okay I should probably take this call, set up a call. He didn't say why he was calling but he asked all these questions and I shared with them our mission of active self care that were women owned and women led and our commitment to natural and clean formulations to help you take care of yourself while being accessibly priced. And he said oh my gosh this is so inspiring I love this story and I said, Well, how the heck did you hear about us. And he responds, you're not going to believe this but Venus Williams uses your pain relief products, and she asked us to find out more about you. And my jaw just dropped. Exactly. I said, I'm sorry what, you know, it was just an incredible introduction and the conversations ensued. We found out more about what she was interested in and it turns out she loves skincare and natural products, she actually makes some stuff at home for her friends and family. We loved the fact that not only is she an icon, a legend. She lives our mission of active self care every day, and she's an entrepreneur she owns two of her own businesses an interior design firm and an athletic apparel company. So we had a lot we could learn from her too. So we settled on her playing a real role on the team that's what she wanted to do. She wanted to be involved, and we made her our chief brand officer, so her job is to tell the world about Asutra and also educate folks on the importance of taking care of yourself on purpose. So she does press interviews she posts on social and she just collaborates with us in a variety of ways to share about Asutra and talk about the importance of active self care. LP: That's awesome. SM: She's awesome. She’s as goal oriented and hard working off the court, and in business as she is on the court. LP: I would say people find each other for a reason. So talking to you now I see why that happened. SM: Oh well thank you I feel very honored that you would say that. LP: Very cool. 21:13 AS: What is your number one self-care tip for CEOs, dealing with this year? SM: Yeah, I say this, in particular to women, all the time. Don't feel guilty about putting yourself first. I think we as women leaders and entrepreneurs in particular are trained frankly to take care of everyone before we take care of ourselves. And it can be exhausting. And if we do set aside time for ourselves instead pf our partners or our kids or our businesses or whatever. We can feel guilty about that. And so I would say, don't - you know whether it's five minutes in the morning for a great skincare routine, or a midday breathing or yoga session, or you know gardening, or cooking or doing whatever it is that gives you joy. Make that time. And it's you know self care is not just about taking a bath. Self care is about being intentional about caring for your whole self your mind, your body your soul, so that you can be your best, and especially now with the pandemic this year, you know, mental wellness is, it's a, it's a tough thing it's a challenge everybody's stuck at home - they’re in very different environments. And so paying attention to that and doing the things you need to reset and rejuvenate so that you can be a better leader is key. The final thing I'll say is sleep, sleeping really helps with that. There was a Harvard Business Review article that talked about how sleeping well makes you a better leader, and I fundamentally agree with that so don't short yourself on sleep either. AS: Really great advice. This has been so inspiring thank you for joining us, Stephanie. SM: Thank you so much for having me. I hope this is helpful to everyone out there and if you want to learn more about Asutra, you can go to our site. It's asutra.com so that's a s u t r a.com, or follow us on social media at asutra.life or, please connect with me personally on LinkedIn. I love hearing from other business owners and leaders, and would love to continue the dialogue. LP: Stephanie Morimoto, CEO of Asutra, thank you so much for taking time to share your insights. [Music] Hey guys we hope you enjoyed this episode. And if you did, please share it with your friends and colleagues who also have to navigate this leadership stuff. As you can see this project is about to be a mini masterclass in every episode - the best part? It’s free. So if you like it please do us a favor and take a screen shot, share it on social with the hashtag #100CEO so we can say thanks and share it in our stories. And finally, if you’ve got some insights to share and you’re a CEO we’d love to hear from you. You can find us at 100ceoproject.com or on LinkedIn at 100 CEO Project. Until next time, keep leading by example. To become a guest: https://www.100ceoproject.com/become-a-100-ceo Follow us on LinkedIn and Facebook. Hosted by: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Writing and research: Andrea Spirov, Laurie Pillow Edited by: Laurie Pillow Produced by: Laurie Pillow, Andrea Spirov