Paul Spiegelman chats with business leaders about what shaped their business and life.
Hai Nguyen: The Amateur Aficionado
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Hai Nguyen, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Text-Em-All, an automated call and text company.
For a man with such a calm, even presence, Hai’s life began with a lot of turbulence. When he was very young, and with the fall of Saigon, he and his family fled Vietnam. It was a dangerous journey to get to America, and one that took longer than anticipated, but fortunately, he and his family made it safely to Pennsylvania. While he only remembers the journey through the stories told by his older relatives, Hai does believe that the experience was a formative one.
“Now, as I’m older and hopefully wiser, I look back and it does give me a lot of strength. When I’m going through something tough, I think back at what my parents went through and it doesn’t seem to measure in comparison.”
Listen to this episode to discover how Hai and his opposites-attract business partner have worked together to create a meaningful culture at Text-Em-All. Plus, get an insight into Hai’s enthusiasm for being an amateur and how being humbled by learning something new helps to open up his worldview.
Massimo Backus: Finding Integrity Through Vulnerability
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Massimo Backus, Chief Coaching Officer of Massimo Backus Leadership.
Massimo’s path to leadership was not a straightforward one, and was heavily influenced by his struggles with dyslexia growing up. As he says, “that challenge both motivated me and put a chip on my shoulder.”
Despite having a supportive family, he felt “othered” in school, and so, understandably, his relationship with academia was fraught with resistance. After entering and then dropping out of college, he picked up several jobs which led him to his curiosity in psychology and how teams organize themselves. He then went on to get an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a master’s degree in Organizational Behavior Psychology. This eventually led to his passion for working with leaders to fulfill their potential, and practice self compassion.
Listen to this episode to discover the three components of self compassion Massimo lives by, and how, when his own leadership was viewed negatively, he took the time to look internally at how he could improve himself for his own benefit, and that of his team.
Valerie Webster: Learning Through the Ups and Downs
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Valerie Webster, President of HealthWorks, a Cincinnati based health and well-being company.
When Valerie first stepped into the role of president in a new company, she took it upon herself to meet with every employee for a one-to-one conversation within the first 30 days. For her, trust is one of the most important aspects of being a good leader and building a successful team.
Even though Valerie is still fairly new to her current position, she’s had a long road of ups and downs that have led her to be a formidable and compassionate leader. From being one of the youngest of seven siblings, to deciding early on that she did not want to fit into the mold of working in the automotive industry like most in her Metro-Detroit community, Valerie knew since high school that she wanted to carve out a career that gave her purpose.
Fast forward to now, and she’s doing just that. Valerie talks to Paul about the eight dimensions of wellness that HealthWorks both embodies and promotes, as well as the challenges she faces, being the leader of a growing organization. But her biggest message of all is that nobody knows what lies ahead, and to keep turning every corner, because you never know what you’ll learn along the way.
Eric Rieger: Unpacking the Past
On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks to Eric Rieger, founder and CEO of WEBIT Services, a people-focused IT strategy, service, and support company based in Naperville, IL.
After working for other software companies with poor culture, Eric decided to take matters into his own hands and start his own company. 25 years later, WEBIT Services is a Better Business Bureau accredited company, and has made it onto the Inc. Best Workplaces list.
“There’s harmony and vision and unity with the leadership team, which then translates down to the rest of the company,” says Eric. “The gears are really starting to align, and we’re gaining traction because of it.”
Eric moved his company to open book management in 2016, and as of last year, transformed WEBIT into an ESOP. He wanted to make sure that he had an exit strategy in place that would benefit the people who have made his company a success over the years.
“My purpose for starting the company was to help make lives better, not enrich my own pockets.”
With the help of mentors, peer groups, and being involved in therapy, Eric has come to recognize the impact his parents have had on both his personal and professional life, both good and bad. His father was a huge positive influence in his early life. As a truck driver (that’s ‘transportation engineer’ to you) with very little education, Eric’s father broke down stereotypes and took great pride in the role his job had in maintaining the country’s economy. And he did this all while upholding his morals and being generous with those around him. Eric’s mother, on the other hand, was a narcissist who expected perfection, and it took Eric some time to realize that he was perpetuating that onto his colleagues and employees, and so had to make a change to end the cycle.
Eric’s life has been full of instances when he’s had the courage to take action. From cutting ties with his mother, to taking control of his health after an unwelcome diagnosis, to forming the ESOP, Eric has learned the importance of taking care of oneself in order to take care of others.
In this episode, listen as Eric discusses with Paul how WEBIT makes technology that works for people (not the other way around), the importance of both mental and physical health to be the best leader possible, and being conscious of making both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions.
Andy Fowler: The Accidental Entrepreneur
On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Andy Fowler, CEO of Nutshell, an all-in-one CRM and email marketing platform based in Ann Arbor, MI.
“My trajectory in life was never to start a business, or even to lead a business,” says Andy. “I was always motivated by my own curiosity and making things, that’s what always made me tick.”
This curiosity for learning was instilled in Andy at an early age. He was homeschooled by his mother all the way through high school, which gave him the flexibility to really dive into topics that he was most curious about. One of these was computers, which led him to intern, and later work at a local dialup internet company. It was there that he learned the fundamentals of computers and software, and where he met three friends who ended up being his co-founders in eventually creating Nutshell.
One of these friends, Guy Suter, was CEO until other business ventures took more of his time. They then brought in a CEO from the outside, and just a couple of years ago, Andy stepped into the role. He claims that even ten years at the company didn’t fully prepare him for the responsibilities, but that his passion for continued learning and for helping people through his problem-solving are what drive him on his leadership journey.
“The reason I ended up starting companies and being a part of them in early stages was because of what I like doing, and that was solving problems, and often for businesses.”
Andy had the impeccable timing of becoming CEO just a couple months before the start of the pandemic, which has brought about its own challenges and questions, such as the concept of remote work after having developed a strong office culture over the past decade. But Andy said it’s also allowed them the space to hunker down and develop new products, and start redeveloping their company vision. Some things that Andy will always keep at the core of his leadership and of Nutshell, is the integrity of their products, and developing people with potential. After all, the owner of the dialup internet company back in his hometown took a chance of Andy based solely on potential.
“When you find someone who is interested in what you’re doing, and you treat them well, and they stick around because they’re excited about the mission and what’s happening, you can go far.”
In this episode, listen as Andy tells Paul about his early days of getting into the world of CRM when it was just beginning, how his lifelong curiosity led to him being an accidental entrepreneur, and why everything at Nutshell starts with a well-designed product.
Kate McCrea: The Sweet Side of Leadership
On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Kate McCrea, CEO and “Chief Caramel Visionary” of McCrea’s, a quality candy confectioner. Kate is also a longstanding member of the Small Giants Community.
At a glance, Kate’s road may be a very windy one. From being an avid dancer as a child, to training as a scientist and living in places like remote Alaska to conduct fieldwork, to now being at the helm of a rapidly growing candy company, Kate has worn a lot of hats in her life. But to her, these transitions haven’t been huge leaps, but rather, stepping stones.
After Kate’s husband, Jason, a fellow scientist, lost his job in 2008, he started making caramel in his kitchen, working with sugar molecules to stabilize the candy rather than using preservatives. Before long, it turned into a family business.
“It’s easy to look back now, and see we had this itch to step into the business world to be makers,” says Kate. “Once Jason had this amazing formulation… it was not a huge step to taking it to markets.”
In this episode, listen as Kate discusses with Paul how she and her husband successfully run a business together, how their scientist background prepared them to have an innovation mindset in their company, and how recently creating a human-centric vision for McCrea’s has gotten her excited for their future.
I’m really enjoying listening to Paul deep dive into how to lead an organization with these purpose-driven leaders. Paul touches on so many important topics with his guests. They peel back the layers of psychology and spirituality that drive our ability to be the best leaders we can be and create people-focused company cultures.
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Paul engages his expert guests in thoughtful and interesting conversations - pulling from his own wealth of personal experience. Definitely recommend listening and subscribing to this empowering podcast!
I was a fan of this podcast before I was selected to be interviewed. It was an honor to be asked because the content has been so meaningful to me. Growing a business is hard and Paul’s guests provide many thought provoking moments for me personally. Download them all!!