Paul Spiegelman chats with business leaders about what shaped their business and life.
Khalilah "KO" Olokunola: From the Block to the Boardroom
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Khalilah Olokunola, Chief People Officer at Tru Colors, a for-profit start up brewery owned & operated by active gang members with a social mission to unify and decrease gang violence across the country.
KO was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She spent much of her teens active on the streets of Brooklyn and Troy, New York with what many view as the cities’ most notorious street gangs — Bloods, Crips and Folks. She eventually faced the consequences of her activities and lost her name for four years to a Department of Corrections number.
Throughout it all, KO remained adamant about the importance of education in her life, and spent her nights imagining the American dream she saw on television. But it wasn't about the picket fence: she simply wanted the opportunity to impact the lives of others, especially those who had walked in her shoes. Driven by her past experiences and her innate servant leadership, KO has forged an impressive career path and today, she is Chief People Officer for TRU Colors Brewing, where she is the force that shapes its company culture and works tirelessly to cultivate both personal and professional growth for their team members.
In this conversation, hear how KO uses an in-depth, eight-week onboarding program to train cohorts of gang members and second-chance hires in the life, social, business and beer skills they'll need to be successful. Plus, Paul and KO discuss the importance of beliefs in leadership development and how we can challenge others — and ourselves — to build more just, equitable and inclusive communities.
Want to learn meet inspiring purpose-driven leaders like Khalilah? Register for the 2021 Small Giants Community Summit where you'll connect with hundreds of purpose-driven business leaders for meaningful relationship sharing and interactive learning.
Ari Weinzweig: While the World Gets Louder, Humility Can Quietly Help
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Ari Weinzweig, co-founder of the Zingerman's community of businesses.
The Small Giants movement began in 2003 when author Bo Burlingham wrote an article for Inc. magazine dubbing Zingerman’s The Coolest Small Company in America. The idea to start a community for like-minded, purpose-driven business leaders took root from there, when a group of leaders gathered at Zingerman's deli to try its famous corned beef sandwiches and to see for themselves what made this small company so special.
In this conversation, hear Zingerman's origin story from a founder's perspective and hear how Ari and his co-founder, Paul Saginaw, used visioning to transform their business. Plus, hear Ari's reflections on the 12 natural laws of business they've uncovered in their decades of success running Zingerman's community of businesses.
Want to learn more from one of the most revered Small Giants leaders around? Register for the 2021 Small Giants Community Summit where Ari will give a keynote about what it takes to be a Small Giant today.
Purchase Ari's latest work, "Humility: A Humble, Anarchist Inquiry" and other resources when you sign up for e-news from Zingerman's community of businesses.
Jay Wilkinson: Fired as CEO of Your Own Company
Note: This interview was recorded at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.
On this encore episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Jay Wilkinson, founder and CEO of Firespring, an inside-out marketing agency and Nebraska's first B Corp. Firespring is also a 2020 Forbes Small Giant.
With a team of more than 200 employees, Jay spends most of his time working on the culture at Firespring and helping leaders in other companies become purpose-driven. But in the early 2000s, Jay experienced a pivotal moment in his life and career when he was fired as CEO of his own company. In the wake of the September 11th attacks and the economic decline that followed, his board of directors wanted him to fire more than half of their staff. When Jay refused, they fired him from the very company that he built.
In this encore episode, hear how Jay recovered from that experience and managed to buy out the venture capitalists on his board and rebuild the company. Plus, hear Paul and Jay discuss how to care for introverts on your team, starting from the very first interview.
Bo Burlingham: What Makes a Company Great?
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Bo Burlingham, author of the Small Giants book among many others, former executive editor of Inc. Magazine, a Forbes contributor, and co-founder of the Small Giants Community.
When Bo Burlingham published Small Giants: Companies That Choose to Be Great Instead of Big, he didn't know he was starting a movement. In the years since, entrepreneurs around the world and from across industries have picked up the Small Giants book and had a lightbulb moment.
Even more, these entrepreneurs felt a sense of relief in discovering that there were other leaders out there who also believed in a different way of doing business: putting people and purpose before profits. Not long after, the Small Giants Community formed to bring these leaders together to learn and grow with purpose.
Those involved with the Small Giants Community today are familiar with Bo's writing and the inspiring ideas he explores in his books, but what you might not know is Bo's storied journey into business journalism. Bo has always had a spirit of curiosity, and in college, he was drawn into many of the radical movements of the 1960s and 1970s. But his counterculture ideals didn't last forever — eventually, Bo wound up working at Fidelity Investments, before moving into a role as a founding editor at Inc. Magazine. Although much has changed for Bo over the years, his values never have.
In this special episode with the Small Giants author and co-founder, hear Bo's reflections on what makes a company great and what the future holds for Small Giants companies. Plus, hear Paul and Bo revisit how they first met and what their relationship has meant to them over the years.
Delcie Bean: On a Mission to Make I.T. Fun
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Delcie Bean, CEO of Paragus Strategic IT.
Delcie Bean started the company that became Paragus when he was only 13 years old. Although he didn't flourish in the traditional school environment, he found great success in entrepreneurship at an incredibly young age. By his high school years, Delcie's business required an office space and employees of its own to meet client demand.
Today, Paragus has become one of the most successful, fastest-growing IT firms in the region and was named a 2020 Forbes Small Giant: Best Small Companies in America.
Over the years, Delcie has worked hard to build a culture defined by fostering fun for employees and customers, a spirit of transparency, and humility. But that has also meant making tough decisions about transitioning out people who no longer fit the culture, and knowing when the organization has outgrown its talent.
Delcie also believes in giving back to his employees: Paragus has a unique Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) structure that puts ownership of 40 percent of the company in the hands of its 50-plus employees.
In this episode, hear Delcie's (very) early experiences in entrepreneurship and how he built the award-winning culture at Paragus today. Plus, hear Paul and Delcie discuss the hardest failure Delcie has ever lived through and what he learned from it.
Elizabeth Glasbrenner: Can a Leader Care Too Much?
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Elizabeth Glasbrenner, co-founder and President/CEO of Smiley Technologies, Inc.
Smiley Technologies, Inc. (STI), is a group of entrepreneurial, service-centric software developers and support staff in Central Arkansas, with business practices and traditions that recall those who ushered in the first big wave of bank technology innovation a half century ago. Smiley Technologies is also a 2020 Forbes Small Giant: Best Small Companies in America.
Although Elizabeth co-founded the business with her brother seventeen years ago, she never envisioned herself as CEO. A self-described bleeding heart, she worked in non-profits and gravitated to positions where she could be in service to others and help them succeed.
When she had the opportunity to become CEO of Smiley, she was reluctant — she thought she cared far too much to become CEO. But she took a leap of faith and accepted the role, drawing inspiration on her father's example of purpose-driven leadership that she witnessed growing up. Today, Elizabeth is a compassionate, servant leader leading a successful and profitable business.
In this episode, hear how Elizabeth challenged her own beliefs about leadership to realize she was built to become a CEO. Plus, hear Paul and Elizabeth discuss what the role of a leader really is: to help create success for other people.