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Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Eve Bastug Of Gelmart International Is Helping…

Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Eve Bastug Of Gelmart International Is Helping To Change Our World

… My travels overseas, specifically to China and India, helped spark my “aha moment.” Being exposed to the manufacturing side of apparel was shocking in some ways. Seeing the environmental impacts of these factories and dye houses due to their operations was concerning. After being in China for only two days, I distinctly remember experiencing an allergic reaction simply to the air. Coupled with visits to facilities that were producing materials such as foam, the chemical smell in the air was putrid. And then to see the people who work at these plants, day in and day out, exposing themselves to these hazards was genuinely disheartening. In this world of waste and harmful effects on the environment all coated in a thick, grey air that made me think, there has to be a better way.

As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact”,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Eve Bastug, Chief Product Officer of Gelmart International and kindly -a new earth-friendly intimate and loungewear line sold exclusively at Walmart.

Eve Bastug is a 38-year intimate industry veteran. She has vast experience working across national brands including Warnaco, Maidenform, and Hanes, as well private labels brands. She joined Gelmart International in 2011 as their VP of Merchandising and Design and today is the Chief Product Officer.

Gelmart International has allowed Eve to grow and take ownership as a designer, product developer, entrepreneur, and engineer. At Gelmart International, she has pioneered the $3.98 program at Walmart, Feather Bra, and played a major role in the creation of the LIVELY product assortment, among many other things. Most recently, she created the first ever plant-based bra cup for the sustainable focused brand kindly sold exclusively at Walmart.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?

I grew up in Poland during communist times, where there were many restrictions in place, including food rationing. To address the hardships that accompanied food rationing, my parents relied heavily on my grandparents’ farm as an additional food source. Spending time on that farm made me prematurely aware of the impact and importance of sustainable practices and living. At the time, I didn’t connect the dots, but it was through that experience that led me to become aware of the impacts and the collective impact our society can have on our environment. It is up to us whether that impact is hurtful or harmful.

You are currently leading a social impact organization that is making a difference for our planet. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

I don’t know if it’s about changing the world overnight, but more about bringing awareness and increasing exposure to facilitate and (hopefully expedite) a series of gradual changes for the better. Changing people’s mindsets, habits and behaviors is not an easy task. Offering bite-size options can make that initiative for change a lot more palatable for most. People are going to buy bras, so with kindly we wanted to provide a simple solution for a more eco-conscious bra. The hope is for that simple switch to snowball and more sustainable switches to be considered and made. We are part of a global transformation that will take continued, collective efforts that can be achieved through small but profound steps.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

After moving to the US, I realized how the grocery shopping experience immensely varied. We would have reusable bags to fill flour or sugar in Poland. Fruits and vegetables were not covered in plastic. I saw how much garbage is generated from how the food is packaged in the US. This, of course, trickles into many other industries and how commodities are packaged. This was quite eye-opening for me and sparked an interest in how our company can join the pursuit of sustainability.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest them. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

My travels overseas, specifically to China and India, helped spark my “aha moment.” Being exposed to the manufacturing side of apparel was shocking in some ways. Seeing the environmental impacts of these factories and dye houses due to their operations was concerning. After being in China for only two days, I distinctly remember experiencing an allergic reaction simply to the air. Coupled with visits to facilities that were producing materials such as foam, the chemical smell in the air was putrid. And then to see the people who work at these plants, day in and day out, exposing themselves to these hazards was genuinely disheartening. In this world of waste and harmful effects on the environment all coated in a thick, grey air that made me think, there has to be a better way.

Many people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

I conducted a lot of research. I looked at different product categories. I searched for companies that produced eco-conscious products and what materials were being used. I took those gatherings and looked at them through an intimate apparel lens.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

Meeting with companies who had nothing to do with our product category was certainly interesting. A majority of this audience was men, so I had to boil down our concept into terms and ideas they could understand. I had to explain the function of the cup and discuss how they may be able to help. I was definitely met with confusion and doubt, but luckily we found a partner who was just as excited as we were.

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

I think a simple fact that a bra company approached a sugarcane supplier who produced mainly footwear and plastic products was quite the entertainment. A match made in sustainable heaven, although the stairway was certainly not paved in gold. There is inherent risk when pursuing an idea “so crazy it just might work”. We had to find a partner who was that right amount of crazy. The perfect blend of open-mindedness, creativity, and expertise. It’s funny that an idea that was farfetched to some, was greeted with open arms and a joint fervor for success.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Giancarlos, who I met during the search for a sugarcane supplier, was an integral part of this project coming to fruition. He was a great partner because he was just as passionate about the project as I was. We leaned on each other for support. As we conducted trials and faced failures, we bounced ideas of each other and used our expertise and creativity to work swiftly and find solutions.I’d also like to acknowledge the Walmart bra buyer who truly believed in the mission of our project and helped provide the push and support to make it happen.

Are there three things the community, society, or politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

Politically speaking, implementing regulations against the usage of material that causes environmental damage will continue to nudge the needle in the right direction. As a society, continuing to encourage to challenge the everyday products we use out of ease despite their effect on the environment. Within the community, we need to continue to share the acknowledgment of responsibility our actions have on the environment. We need to continue to bring awareness about how there are small changes or swaps we can all make that can help make a change.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

When a business looks at sustainability, there is an initial investment. But that investment has a priceless return for humanity. In today’s world, one of the pillars businesses can focus on is the implications of logistics. The cost of shipping has skyrocketed so we need to start thinking about manufacturing geography, the locations of the supply chain, etc. If we can reduce the time of shipping, we are reducing the usage of fossil fuels. While a lot of the initiatives toward sustainability are easier said than done, it’s essential that we being to implement these practices in order to see change. Having entered the manufacturing world at a time that it occurred in the US with strict regulations, I went overseas and experienced that same manufacturing being done in countries with restrictions that were much more lax. Overseas saw the economic opportunity without recognizing the true cost these countries, and our world would face.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Patience — There was a cultural difference in the response times between China and Brazil. Embarking on this journey meant lots of learning and in working with Brazil, there is a different mindset around urgency. Brazil is completely self-sufficient in terms of the supply chain, so there was patience needed to endure as we worked with them through this project. We went through so many trials on the sugarcane pad until we got it right. Even when we did succeed, we continued to push the boundaries to try and achieve better. While the ultimate goal would be to have a 100% biodegradable bra, there really is no goalpost in the journey of sustainability. We will always be looking at opportunities to be better, chasing the vision of continuous improvement.

Drop the Perfectionism — It’s easy to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection on a project that is as ground-breaking as this was, but knowing we’ll always be on the journey to improve is a reminder that helped shed some of the pressure to get everything perfect in one shot. Sustainability will never be about perfectionism considering the vast space for improvement that lies ahead of us as a society.

Persistence — While being persistent is not something I struggle with, this project required a new level of grit. Taking any variation of the word “no” was simply not a response I was willing to accept. I knew the puzzle pieces were out there, it was a matter of finding them and putting them together. I knew I was venturing down a path with plenty of resistance, but I also knew I needed to remain committed and determined to find the right partners and the right solutions to complete the puzzle.

Trust in the Power of Failure — We knew we were going to go through many trials and tribulations on the project, but the pressure to get it right as quickly as possible was certainly felt. We embraced the fact that we would endure many learnings and soon learned that the failures we experience were inevitable but, in the end, invaluable and necessary.

Never Stop Learning — Another sentiment that I was familiar, I knew embarking into an unknown world of sustainability would require me to become a sponge and soak up as much information as I could. I knew I was going to have to ask questions and push boundaries.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Because it they don’t, it’s going to affect their lives in a fundamental way that prior generations never experienced.

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

It is what it is, but it will become what you make of it. Whatever “it” is, has the opportunity to change, to get better. It’s about how you look at a situation and can see solutions or alternatives.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

I think it would be interesting to have lunch with Greta Thunberg and Kylie Jenner. I would like to discuss with them how they could bring their platforms together and influence serious change. They are more “extremes” in their own ways which arguably important reach in their own ways. To combine their efforts would be interesting to see what kind of influence would come from their collaboration.

How can our readers follow you online? @teamkindly

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!


Social Impact Heroes Helping Our Planet: Why & How Eve Bastug Of Gelmart International Is Helping… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

How Gil Shalev Of Equinom Is Helping To Address The Growing Challenge Of Food Insecurity

Truly disruptive technologies take time to develop. As much as we crave a shortcut, there are no quick wins. But my team deeply believes that Equinom will change the future of food and will make plant protein a major, accessible source of nutrition to the world.

In many parts of the United States, there is a crisis of people having limited reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. As prices rise, this problem will likely become more acute. How can this problem be solved? Who are the leaders helping to address this crisis?

In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who are helping to address the increasing problem of food insecurity who can share the initiatives they are leading to address and solve this problem.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Gil Shalev.

As founder and CEO, Gil Shalev is the visionary, entrepreneur and driving force behind Equinom, a company on a mission to cultivate plant-based ingredients that are truly better for people and our planet. Shalev oversees the strategic direction of Equinom, and is responsible for accelerating global expansion and leading fundraising efforts to scale up the organization. Shalev sees better, naturally bred plant-based ingredients as an important, sustainable and pragmatic solution to our global health and climate crises.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up, I was always very attracted to nature, even if I didn’t realize at the time it would be a major part of my life’s work and passion. I was always playing outside, and as I got older, I got into traveling. At first, I thought I would take the obvious and ideal path: go to university, finish my first degree, and go become a farmer. However, in Israel in order to be a successful farmer, you must come from a lot of money, and unfortunately this was not the case for me. I decided to instead pursue my path in education and continue schooling to study breeding. It was around the time of pursuing my third degree — where I was working with my professor to open a breeding company specifically for roses — that I started to recognize the much larger opportunity space when it comes to breeding. After completing my third degree in roses, I then moved on specifically to tomatoes, and the big ‘unlock’ continued to come to me. I felt there was an opportunity to explore different varieties of crops we already breed in order to help create a more sustainable food system. And thus, Equinom was born. Thinking back to my childhood, this is something my family really could have benefitted from — a reliable, sustainable, and secure food system. It was a sprinkling of different seeds and experiences versus one particular moment over my upbringing and education that eventually led me to create Equinom.

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

Two years ago, in the middle of Covid, I got a call from Sigal Meirovitch, the Director of Protein Research and Development at Equinom. Sigal told me, “We made it.” She had just received the result from an external lab that confirmed we had successfully created the pea protein with the highest protein content through dry fractionation ever — a world record at 65% protein content. We both knew immediately that those results would change the way the world eats. For Equinom, it was a once-in-a-lifetime milestone — the breakthrough that seems simple but would ultimately lead to a major change. After five years of pea breeding and another three years of breeding technology development, we had evidence that our approach was leading us to an important outcome.

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

After receiving my Ph.D. in plant genetics from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Faculty of Agriculture, I applied my knowledge as a rose breeder. I eventually moved onto breeding tomatoes, where I had a unique experience learning about the natural potential certain crops can have. With a single seed, I had the revelation that we can create new varieties of crops with technology. This experience motivated me to start Equinom in order to apply technology to mother nature to create a better food system. The overall lesson is that while going down one path, there may be a hidden opportunity woven within. In my case, being a breeder brought me to pivot because I felt there was even more we could do to improve the current food system as we know it.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Curiosity is key. Did you know that 70% of the world’s food comes from 12 crops? There is very little variety in our food system today. Maybe you’re familiar with heirloom tomatoes, and you understand that in nature, tomatoes aren’t perfectly round, bright red, and sweet. They have lumps, they can be tiny, and the taste varies wildly from species to species. The same is true of every crop that we have commoditized — peas, corn, all of them. One of the animating forces of Equinom is the desire to recapture the incredible diversity that nature once provided us. Every leader should approach their work with curiosity rather than assuming the way things are is the best way.

Adaptability is part of the reason why I founded Equinom. Earlier in my career, I found that I had spent years pushing tomato breeders at my work to adopt new technology and genetic varieties. I came to realize I had become something of a middleman — I wasn’t breeding tomatoes, creating new varieties, or developing technology. But by being adaptable, I realized I had a unique experience working at the intersection of breeding and technology. Today, Equinom is at the forefront of using technology to enhance and speed up natural breeding, and I’m glad I had the chance to feel like I needed to adapt.

Having a strong sense of cooperation is an essential trait for a leader. By that, I mean leaders stand to gain so much by seeking partners rather than opponents. Our work at Equinom is to develop game-changing plant-based ingredients, but we are also just one part of the global food system. Without partners in the fields growing our seeds, and without food companies who are excited to use our ingredients, we can’t change anything. And rather than dictate to food companies that “this ingredient is better so you should use it,” we work with them to identify the traits that would make a better ingredient for their foods. We don’t need to match the expertise of food companies in knowing what their consumers love, and they don’t need to match our expertise in quickly developing specific ingredients — we can each provide our unique value. That’s true no matter what business you’re in.

Ok super. Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion. Can you describe to our readers how your work is helping to address the challenge of food insecurity?

Our food system is not designed to feed 10 billion people, a milestone our planet is on track to reach in 20 years. The problem stems from the fact that I mentioned earlier, 70% of the world’s food comes from 12 crops. Of those, only a few varieties are grown at commercial scale, and those were originally optimized for use as animal feed, not human food. That’s why most of the food we eat requires heavy processing — it was never grown to maximize taste or nutrition.

To make food nutritious, companies are forced to use chemical-, energy-, and water-intensive processing. Beyond not being environmentally friendly, the world just can’t build enough processing plants to provide nutritious food to 10 billion people.

Our approach at Equinom is to start from a better source. What if the crop — a yellow pea plant, for example — was naturally bred to be so nutritious that we didn’t need to process it in the same unsustainable way? So we use two key assets — a vast vault of seeds from tens of thousands of different species, and Manna™, our proprietary AI and machine learning platform — to identify the best combinations of seeds that we can then crossbreed for the perfect plant.

To simplify, imagine Manna™ is like an online dating app, and its job is to look at the millions of possible combinations of seeds in the seed vault and determine which seeds, when bred together, would have the ideal mixture of high protein and nutritional content, disease resistance, and taste. We aim to find the perfect matches.

By breeding seeds that meet the needs for use in food without any intensive processing, we eliminate the bottleneck of expensive processing facilities and increase the availability of high-quality ingredients for use in foods that you love. We’re not only making ingredients for healthier, more nutritious, tastier food, but we’re also making the food system more sustainable and less reliant on heavy processing.

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

I am proud of my team for being my companions on a long journey of development — 10 years already. Truly disruptive technologies take time to develop. As much as we crave a shortcut, there are no quick wins. But my team deeply believes that Equinom will change the future of food and will make plant protein a major, accessible source of nutrition to the world.

In your opinion, what should other business and civic leaders do to further address these problems? Can you please share a few things that can be done to further address the problem of food insecurity?

The key to improving our food system is partnership. No one company can change it alone. Because every part of the system is so interwoven — growers with processors, processors with food companies — the only way we can make a change is by moving together all at once. The only way we can encourage everyone in the food system to make a change is by making it profitable to do so.

In our vision of the future food system, the costs that are saved in processing are shared with food companies. The risk growers take on when they grow new crops is minimized by direct partnership with food companies, so growers know that their crops will be purchased. There’s a way to incentivize every player, and ultimately we all win when we have better access to affordable, nutritious food.

Are there other leaders or organizations who have done good work to address the challenge of food scarcity? Can you tell us what they have done? What specifically impresses you about their work? Perhaps we can reach out to them to include them in this series.

There are so many organizations doing great work to help fight food insecurity — Feeding America, No Kid Hungry, and Rise Against Hunger come to mind. But one that really stands out for me is World Central Kitchen, a Los Angeles based food relief organization. They support communities in need specifically in times of crisis, but they take it a step further — they don’t just provide the ingredients for meals, they cook them. They recognize that food isn’t just survival. Food is culture and it creates shared experiences. We cook for the ones we love. Growing up in a family that experienced food insecurity, cooking together or sitting around the table and sharing a meal was something I really valued. I really connect with WCK’s mission and their human-first approach.

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

Absolutely. I’d love to see local government get more involved in creating a more sustainable food system. By simply requiring local food producers to distribute a certain percentage of their crops or vegetables to local grocery stores, retail stores or restaurants, we could make a huge impact on creating a more reliable, sustainable and resilient food system at the regional level, which will impact our global food system as well.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.

Agility is key: When starting a company, you’re going to experience new challenges every day so embracing the unknown and remaining agile is important.

You don’t need to have all the answers: I quickly learned that there were so many areas where I was not the expert. I’m a breeder and a scientist at heart, but I’m not an expert at running a business. Accounting, marketing, sales — these aren’t my areas of expertise. So I built a team of rockstars who excel where I fall short.

Trust your gut: There are a lot of uncertainties in running a startup. True innovation comes from new ideas and new thinking, and there’s no blueprint for success. You will encounter a lot of situations where you need to trust your gut to lead you in the right direction — follow it.

Own up to your weaknesses: language has always been a barrier for me, but as soon I was honest with myself and those I encountered in my career path, I stopped seeing it as a barrier and made sure it motivated me even further to the things I was really good at.

No vision is too big: it may be expected that entrepreneurs are big dreamers, but I think it’s important. Don’t be afraid to set visionary targets and think as big as possible. It’s these ideas that have the power to have true change.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I envision a future where the majority of our diets consist of plant-based food, sourced from nature. A world where plant-based food doesn’t need to be pigeon-holed as ‘plant-based’ because it just becomes the norm of our diet overall — delicious, sustainable, and nutritious food to feed our planet. I encourage people to challenge themselves to go plant-based for a week, plant their own vegetables and experience truly fresh ingredients from the earth. These small steps can have a huge impact, and encourage someone on the path to eating more sustainable, affordable and nutritious foods. I hope we can create a food system that establishes food security for all, regardless of socio-economic status.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Readers can follow my work through my LinkedIn and platforms on the Forbes Technology Council and Entrepreneur Leadership Network. On Forbes, I will be sharing my expertise being a CEO / Founder, and specific insights to the food industry, and how Equinom will be changing the future. If you’re looking for inspirational anecdotes of my journey from breeder to CEO, check out my Entrepreneur page. Also, follow along on the Equinom website, and our social channels on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook to stay up to date with exciting company news.

This was very meaningful, thank you so much, and we wish you only continued success.


How Gil Shalev Of Equinom Is Helping To Address The Growing Challenge Of Food Insecurity was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Yahoo News’ Eric Duran On 5 Steps We Can Take To Win Back Trust In Journalism

“Your voice matters!” I’ve worked in a lot of media spaces from Nickelodeon to Yahoo where I’ve often been the youngest person in the room. It can be intimidating to speak up, but there has never been a time I regretted it.

As a part of our series about “the 5 steps we can take to win back trust in journalism” I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Eric Duran.

Eric Duran is a TikTok Producer for Yahoo News. He is passionate about sharing diverse stories, making the news easy to understand and, of course, TikTok. He credits his personal love of social media and journalism for his success on the platform. Prior to Yahoo, he worked at NBC News and started out his work in journalism in local news working at the assignment desk for Univision Miami.

Thank you so much for joining us. Before we dive in, our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you share with us the “backstory” about how you got started in your career?

I’ve always been a digital first story teller. Currently, I oversee everything that happens on TikTok for Yahoo News. I choose the stories we cover, I produce them, write scripts, and get on camera for all of our videos and help build our audience of close to 2M followers. Using TikTok in my free time has made this job fun for me and helped me better connect with Gen Z.

My career in journalism started five years ago. I studied journalism and international relations at Florida International University. I started in local news in Miami working at Univision, and then got accepted to the NBCUniversal Page program. From there I went on to work on the Snapchat news show “Stay Tuned” and continued working in the digital space on various streaming sites. Once I saw the different ways the news can be shared across different platforms, I knew I wanted to continue to bring the news to younger generations. When Yahoo was looking for a TikTok producer, I knew it was a natural next step in my career.

Do you have a favorite book that made a deep impact on your life? Can you share a story?

As of recently, I would say “Talking to Strangers” by Malcolm Gladwell. It’s a good reflection on how we perceive and sometimes judge others. I think working in journalism and in social media, I’ve experienced how important tolerance and communication is first hand.

Can you share the most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career?

I think that there are so many underrepresented voices in the news and we are finally starting to see these stories being covered more. With TikTok, we have a ton of space to share these stories and that’s really exciting to us. We have done a lot of content for Pride Month and Black History Month, and on our website, we have a vertical for these specific stories.

Can you share the most humorous mistake that you made when you first started? Can you share the lesson or take away, you learned from it?

When I first started doing TikTok for work, I definitely experimented with all types of trending sounds. Some of them pushed the boundaries for us as a brand, but I think it ultimately allowed Yahoo to find its footing on the platform. That’s been the greatest part of working on TikTok, it’s all about trying new things and engaging with the community there.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Something that I’m really excited about is being able to introduce TikTok to other journalists across our newsroom. I love the power of social media and how Yahoo News has been able to tap into this new generation of news consumers on TikTok, so being able to work with reporters and producers across the company and share their original stories on our page has been fulfilling. I’m always looking for ways to amplify the amazing work coming out of our newsroom and have more diverse voices on our TikTok account.

What advice would you give to your colleagues in the industry, to thrive and not “burnout”?

Our most important work as journalists often happens during the toughest news cycles, and that doesn’t change on TikTok. It can feel like we always have to be “on,” but it’s important to set boundaries and check in with yourself to ensure you are not burning out. I encourage other journalists and social media managers alike to step away when possible and disconnect. It can feel like you will miss something, but at the end of the day your phone will still be there, the news will carry on, and you can pick it up when you’re back. Taking a mental health break in the middle of the day or just taking a random day off during the month can be refreshing for your health , but can also restart your productivity to continue doing an amazing job.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now shift to the main parts of our interview. According to this Gallup poll, only 36% of Americans trust the mass media. This is disheartening. As an insider, are there 5 things that editors and newsrooms can do to increase the levels of trust? Can you give some examples?

  1. Between the ongoing pandemic and the war in Ukraine, it’s more important than ever that news outlets build a real trust with its audience. Yahoo News’ leadership position as a neutral, unbiased party in a polarized media landscape makes it an indispensable utility for its millions of users. Our strategy on TikTok is an extension of our overall transformation connecting our trusted reporting and delivering it in a new way. Our unbiased, fact-based strategy has become central to our TikTok account. Our approach is really resonating on the platform as we’ve quickly racked up close to two million followers in two short years.
  2. At Yahoo, we think transparency is incredibly important, which TikTok really allows us to do. It’s the closest many consumers have gotten to directly interacting with a news brand, whether it be commenting on our posts or tagging us on other videos to amplify their stories. I think it’s a really great asset for a news organization.
  3. I am fortunate to work for a multigenerational newsroom that works together to raise up the voices and stories that matter. As for TikTok, we always approached our audience with the idea that they take the news just as seriously as we do.
  4. Newsrooms should make sure they find a balance between creating native content on social media, but also engaging with the audience in a way that’s purposeful and educational.
  5. Given that TikTok is largely a platform for Gen Z, by Gen Z, it’s important that teams working on social content understand this audience. Our approach has really resonated on the platform as we’ve quickly racked up close to two million followers in two short years.

What are a few things that ordinary news consumers can do to identify disinformation, and help to prevent its dissemination?

With social media, it’s so easy to react after reading the first sentence of an Instagram post or Tweet. I encourage everyone to read carefully before sharing a post you found online. Check the source, do a quick search online and see if there are other reputable news outlets reporting the same story. If you have a hard time finding it online these days, chances are it’s not real. I think that’s why having major news outlets like Yahoo News on TikTok is so important. There are so many amazing creators sharing the news, but there are also other videos that haven’t been fact checked. So having verified pages like us, with access to a newsroom and trained journalists is critical to the TikTok ecosystem.

Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

“Your voice matters!” I’ve worked in a lot of media spaces from Nickelodeon to Yahoo where I’ve often been the youngest person in the room. It can be intimidating to speak up, but there has never been a time I regretted it.

“Don’t take yourself too seriously!” As a perfectionist it can be easy to obsess over your mistakes. But we’re all human. Learn from it and remember it for your next opportunity.

“You are your biggest advocate!” I’m guilty of being shy about my accomplishments. But as you start out, don’t be afraid to talk up your hard work. You never know where it will take you!

“Don’t be scared!” As someone who is on the more timid side, I have hesitated to pursue opportunities out of fear. I’ve learned to not be the obstacle in my own success.

“Put your name in the hat!” My high school counselor actually did tell me this one, and it’s never done me wrong.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am really passionate about media literacy! I’m the go-to person for my family and friends when it comes to breaking down the news, debunking fake stories and also phishing out scams online. I think as we become more reliant on social media for information, we should focus on getting everyone up to speed on being savvy online.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m on all social media as @EricDurann and you can keep up on my work on TikTok by following @YahooNews!

Thank you so much for your time you spent on this. We greatly appreciate it, and wish you continued success!


Yahoo News’ Eric Duran On 5 Steps We Can Take To Win Back Trust In Journalism was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Sharon Angel Is Helping To Change Our World

I wish someone told me that life is not a bed of roses — Growing up with everything a girl could need made adult life much harder to…

Sharel Omer of Affogata On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Ken Babcock

Our mission is to land and expand — land on a certain team in a company and show the value Affogata can bring to the entire organization and from there expand (upsells) through other teams in the organization.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Sharel Omer, CEO & Co-Founder of Affogata.

Sharel Omer is the CEO & Co-Founder of Affogata, a leading AI-Driven User Insights Analysis Platform that enables brands to be truly customer-obsessed by bringing their customers’ voice to the right teams in the organization. Previously, Sharel was CEO & Co-Founder of Communit360, a social media management and intelligence platform, which helped thousands of marketers and small businesses increase their ROI from their social media activities. Sharel holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Yafo, and a Degree in Engineering in Computer Science from SELA.

Affogata, a user insights analysis platform used by companies such as Wix, Etoro and Playtika, specializes in putting the customer first by collecting qualitative data. Affogata was founded with the mission of enabling organizations to analyze their customers’ feedback and brand sentiment and turn this important data into actionable insights. The platform gathers real-time data from across the open web, as well as internal sources, enabling clients to take a proactive approach to planning business roadmaps and reacting to customer feedback.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I have been working in the tech industry for almost 20 years, working a variety of roles mainly in entrepreneurial start-ups. My journey with Affogata began at Community360, a social media management and intelligence platform for small businesses that helps them increase their ROI from social media activities. We started Affogata in 2019, creating a more specialized , wider-reaching platform that better served the needs of major clients at Community360. I have a passion for building personal connections and relationships between brands and consumers, and I am dedicated to bringing the consumer voice to brands and organizations.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

The decision is to not give up. As long as you are passionate about what you do, I believe that things eventually will change for the better and always decide to surround yourself with great people.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

Definitely it was the pivot we decided to do from our older startup, prior to affogata. It was all about understanding that in order to create a new reality and an evolved vision, you need to make tough choices.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

We make mistakes all the time, so you have to keep your vision and lighthouse clear. Always make sure that even if you deviate from it, return to your vision.

Some of the mistakes we made were in targeting the wrong personas or customers, understanding our true value, and also in some pricing matters. However, all those mistakes led to several lessons that have helped us grow a lot in the last year.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

I’ve been lucky to partner with amazing people and learn from them. I also learned a lot from major international founders, in such companies as Wix, wToro, Fiverr, Ironsource etc. And last but not least, I gained knowledge and wisdom from our investors that keep us pushing us and advising us all the time.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

To me it is always about being as honest and transparent as possible. It is also about knowing how to prioritize and focus on the right things at every turn of our journey.

Surrounding yourself with people that are better than you is also key. So is bringing passion for your visions, products and sales. And all of these points are inspired by the great companies and colleagues I have mentioned above.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. GROW THE TEAM.

In order to improve our platform and service, our team has increased from 8 to 50 employees in two years. Scaling up the team means a better product and a continuously improved customer service.

2. UNDERSTAND THE MARKET AND THE INDUSTRY.

Understanding the market and the industry of the company is essential in order to find your business’s place within it, and in order to disrupt the industry. This also means understanding and anticipating consumer needs in this industry: What’s missing? What’s needed? What will the future look like?

3. MAKE YOURSELF KNOWN.

Affogata attends relevant conferences and events to increase awareness of our product and team. We also put a lot of emphasis on content creation and on our organic social media accounts and make sure we spread the word about Affogata to the right people.

4. STAY ALERT FOR OPPORTUNITIES.

By constantly talking to our investors, advisors, managers and employees, we make sure to stay alert for opportunities. Simultaneously, we also try to create opportunities on our own. Here are three examples.

Affogata was chosen with eight other Israeli startups to participate in A Deloitte special program intended to help Israeli hi-tech companies to better penetrate the American market and expand our business there.

Affogata has created a series of professional podcasts, discussing customer feedback from the customer viewpoint (It is reps from our own customers who have been interviewed in these podcasts, discussing their own experiences in handling customer feedback).

Finally, we created special industry and use cases reports to showcase how our platform massively transformed brands and services, by observing how companies used our platform for improvement.

5. HAVE CLEAR GOALS.

Our mission is to land and expand — land on a certain team in a company and show the value Affogata can bring to the entire organization and from there expand (upsells) through other teams in the organization.

In the gaming world, this means signing up with a specific game product team, and once they are happy with our platform, they recommend it to other game product teams within the same organizations.

Also, our ability to provide different teams with their own specific customer data needs, carried us from starting with one company team (product), and via their satisfaction from our offering and recommendations to their management, to upsell our product to other teams (CS, Marketing, etc).

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

Always read and stay on top of your company’s feedback. In the content creation world you often hear people saying “never read the comments”, well, if you don’t, you’re putting yourself at a major disadvantage. Listen to everything, analyze everything and use this feedback to help you understand your customers’ wants and needs and make business-decisions driven by useful data that will help you scale.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

Our team has increased from 8 to 50 employees in just two years, as we try to improve our platform and service. Scaling up a business so dramatically means understanding that company structure and culture will change. Pushing against that and trying to prevent change is detrimental to businesses and to company culture also. A business must be clear on its values and goals in order to preserve company culture and ethos when growing, making sure that you are hiring people in the right positions who hold those same values.

In addition, maintaining close relations with the new employees, from their onboarding and through the weekly company updates, as well as by sharing an open and transparent company’s culture, brings them closer to our values and goals.

In the company’s update meetings, as well as in team meetings, I make sure to always remind everyone what our vision and goals are, thus making sure we never lose focus on who and what we are. I keep describing our journey in similar fashion to a ship, which takes a long cruise in stormy waters, but through the team effort manages to reach its destination.

True to our promise and goals, we listened to our customers and have made constant improvements on our platform. For example, we integrated with Discord and Vanilla Forums in 2021 and we are working on integrating with Steam in 2022 to make sure we provide the ultimate platform for the gaming industry.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

We combine a platform guideline text (it is a sort of our platform bible) that team members can refer to with constant internal team discussions regarding workflow, procedures and areas that need improvements. Then we have cross-org meetings to make sure everyone is on the same page.

I must point out that a lot of intel comes from our customers, via their feedback on all platform and service matters. We consider their feedback with the highest regards, and in fact, they help us make our product and service much better.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

We onboard our new hires in a variety of ways. We introduce them to our platform via videos, content presentations and team sessions. Then we move to OJT (on job training) which includes adding them to customer or prospects’ meetings. We then assign them to supervised tasks, take their feedback and give them ours.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

Helping entrepreneurs build their next big thing, and fulfill their vision to make the world a better place.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow our work online through our blog: https://www.affogata.com/blog, or by following us on social media: https://www.linkedin.com/company/affogata/ and here: https://twitter.com/AffogataTeam

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.


Sharel Omer of Affogata On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Andy Stinnes Of Cloud Apps Capital Partners On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your…

Andy Stinnes Of Cloud Apps Capital Partners On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Ken Babcock

Have deep domain knowledge. Be clear on what you bring to the table. Don’t start a company in an industry if you don’t know that industry inside and out. I see very smart people who target a legitimate industry and business problem, but one they don’t really know enough about. That rarely ends well as they aren’t credible in front of customers, can’t describe the problem in a way that’s compelling to industry insiders. As a result, they struggle to scale and make mistakes and can’t anticipate the obstacles that come their way.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Andy Stinnes.

As General Partner at Cloud Apps Capital Partners, Andy develops investment strategies, sourcing and leading new investments, and serving on the board of directors of portfolio companies. He is an expert in business software, business networks, enterprise-class product strategy and go-to-market. Andy is a creative mentor to entrepreneurs and uses his large network of cloud and customer executives to validate opportunities and help chart the exciting course from difficult problems to category-leading companies.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I’m a first-generation German American. My background is in mechanical and industrial engineering. I’ve built and ran teams on both sides of the Atlantic. I got into software early on in my career, focused on things like factory planning software and how to get the most output out of a factory. I was in sales first but soon discovered I had a knack for translating broad market needs into business-to-business applications. I grew that ability into product leadership roles at several cloud companies which allowed me to build deep domain knowledge and a large network in the cloud space. Ultimately, that led to a career in the cloud software industry, first as a successful operating executive and now as a venture investor.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

A key decision was to move into venture capital. At the time, I had various opportunities to continue my operating career as chief product officer or even CEO of smaller startups. I was also toying with the idea of starting my own company. But I realized I was most passionate about taking all the things I’d learnt over the years and applying them on a broader base to scale myself if you will. Rather than being nose to the grindstone dealing with one business problem or one domain, I wanted to do that for more than one company and more than one category. I wanted to multiply myself, and that’s exactly what being an early stage-focused VC allows you to do. I love that at Cloud Apps Capital Partners, all the partners can bring their experience as operators to our early-stage portfolio companies.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

I’m especially proud of my contribution to the success of GT Nexus, where I served as head product executive for a decade, building the company’s industry-leading product from the ground up. When I started, we had almost no revenue, and we grew it to over $150 million at the time of exit. I built amazing teams globally and ran the entire European operation in addition to my product responsibilities. We signed on such marquee customers in supply chain as P&G, Pfizer, Adidas, HP, and Caterpillar and building those relationships and ensuring their success as the leading product executive was a tremendous opportunity — and an honor. Being able to help build a public-scale company from scratch was an incredible education. It gave me a deep understanding of organization building, of scaling a business, and of anticipating and managing the surprises that await around every corner. It’s an experience which is extremely useful for the role I have today as an investor and board member of similar companies.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

Absolutely: fail fast and learn. I remember once I made a rash decision to take a new job which at the time seemed great. But it was more driven by my unhappiness of where I was at the time and my desire for change. It was a situation where I was running away from something, rather than running toward the right thing. I spent less than two years at that company, and ultimately it wasn’t successful. But I learned a lot about analyzing opportunities better, my leadership style and where my limits were. And I also met some incredible people during that time who continue to have an impact on my career today. In fact, we even invested in two of those people who are part of current portfolio.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

I had great mentors along the way. But I use the word “mentor” broadly. Some of those mentors were my bosses and others were just my peers and friends, and even people who worked for me. I call them mentors because I learned something from all of them, often unbeknownst to them. I believe you can learn from many people if you keep an open mind, and you are humble enough to question yourself. As I grew in my career, I found myself more and more often being the mentor, formally and informally. And if you look at what I do today, I am basically mentoring the founders and C-level executives in the portfolio companies I work with. And that’s very rewarding.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

I don’t have one or two names I model myself after. I believe you must figure out your own style based on who you really are. There is lots you can learn and observe for others, so I’ve picked up many style elements from those around me — people who were above, below and to the side of me. But, at the end of the day, you must stay true to yourself and not try to be someone else. Otherwise, you are playing a role and that just isn’t authentic enough to truly lead. The traits that are most important to me are integrity, humility, and drive. I find most professionals really get inspired by people who make things happen and are always pushing forward.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

1: Be very clear about who you are selling to. Startups live or die based on how well they serve a particular job title, whether it’s Head of Engineering, VP of Sales, Plant Manager in Manufacturing, Chief Compliance Officer — the list goes on. In every meeting we take, we ask the entrepreneur: what buyer title are you selling to and building your business around? We find that businesses that start with a product idea and then look for customers often struggle to scale their business beyond that initial product. But if you are very clear on who your buyer is, it is much easier to build strong relationships, listen, and find layer upon layer of additional value propositions and adjacent product opportunities over time. That’s how you scale more predictably.

2: Have deep domain knowledge. Be clear on what you bring to the table. Don’t start a company in an industry if you don’t know that industry inside and out. I see very smart people who target a legitimate industry and business problem, but one they don’t really know enough about. That rarely ends well as they aren’t credible in front of customers, can’t describe the problem in a way that’s compelling to industry insiders. As a result, they struggle to scale and make mistakes and can’t anticipate the obstacles that come their way.

3: Pick your early customers wisely. It’s so important to know who your early customers are, if and how well they represent the larger market, and how willing they are to work with you and be early adopters. All those things will have an outsized impact on your success and on what kind of company you end up building. If your first customer happens to be a massive brand name, then your whole company will be very different than if you start with a handful of smaller customers and grow from there.

4: Build a professional sales team. Many companies struggle with transitioning from founder-led selling to building a professional sales team. Some founding teams are never able to make that jump. You need to be very deliberate about making the transition and it takes discipline to make it happen. You might end up becoming frustrated with the sales team because they just don’t “get it” like you do. At first, that may be true. But you need to think long term and understand that these are professional salespeople. Don’t get frustrated with them. Get frustrated with yourself for not developing your product in a way that a professional organization can sell it. You can’t scale your business unless you get that transition right.

5: Have a great circle of advisors. Every entrepreneur has limitations. Nobody knows it all. That’s why it’s so important to have a great circle of advisors around you. When you start running into problems, you need to have people on speed dial who you can turn to for trusted advice. That’s also why it’s important to pick investors with real operating experience, who themselves have been company leaders and who can provide that kind of insight and advice needed to solve problems and accelerate growth.

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

A mistake many founders make is not thinking through how they will fund the business at every stage — from the very beginning to the point it reaches escape velocity. Often, entrepreneurs view each funding round in isolation. They think about the Seed round they need right now, but not about the Series A, B, C rounds they’ll raise over the next few years and how each build on the prior. You need to think of funding as a continuum and understand that fundraising is a marathon, not a sprint, and how decisions on terms in the current can become massive obstacles in future rounds. You need to pace yourself properly and think about your trajectory from start to finish.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

I’ve been a believer that culture is extremely important and that it needs to come from the leadership team. What’s interesting, however, is how explicit you should be around promoting your culture. Many companies have posters on the wall trumpeting their values, like “put the customer first” and “always be honest”. This is all well and good. But in some cases, the actual “lived” culture of the company is something very different. Those slogans sound good, but does the company truly live up to them? I’d rather invest in a company that has great values and never talks about them, than a company that never stops talking about their culture, but whose lived culture is terrible. The key to preserving your company culture is not just talking the talk but walking the walk every day, particularly when no one is watching.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

I couldn’t agree with you more. Many high growth companies pay short shrift to managing knowledge internally. That’s a mistake. It leads to a world of tribal knowledge. When you start scaling the business, only the old-timers have that knowledge, but new employees don’t. And that’s when things can go off the rails. Startups need to get creative in how they capture and share knowledge. When I was at GT Nexus, I championed something called GT Nexus University. It was an enterprise social platform that encouraged employees to post short instructional videos, whether it was how a particular product worked, how to sign up for HR benefits, or how a given customer was configured. Anything and everything was captured in these short videos. We called them “knowledge nuggets” and we built a culture around encouraging every employee to submit nuggets and managers to build them into training curriculums for each role. This program was instrumental in scaling the business to nearly a thousand employees globally. When new people came on board, they were blown away by how quickly they could learn everything they needed to do their job.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

There are a lot of great tools for that nowadays. But I am still a big believer in video. One of my favorite knowledge-sharing tools is Biteable, a simple platform that empowers companies — from startups to Fortune 500 companies — to engage and educate their internal audience with video. It is sort of like PowerPoint for video and contains all the footage, animations, and templates you need to create great professional videos very easily and quickly. We like it so much we even invested in Biteable.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

I care a lot about the environment. So, my movement is to stop the production and sale of single-use water bottles. Worldwide, the plastic recycling rate is well less than 10%. Much of the plastic we put in our blue recycling bins never gets recycled. All too often, these plastic water bottles get shipped overseas and then burned or buried or tossed in the ocean. It’s a huge tragedy and almost entirely avoidable. So, please, stop buying single-use water bottles. Get yourself a nice Hydro Flask and drink tap water, which in much of the developed world is of higher quality than what you get in bottles. You might not know this fact: if a water source is not of high enough quality for your local municipal water company, very often the big CPG companies will swoop in and buy that source to bottle the water and sell it to us!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Follow me on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/andystinnes/

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

Appreciate it.

About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.


Andy Stinnes Of Cloud Apps Capital Partners On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Working Well: Anastasia Apostol Of New Apprenticeship On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That…

Working Well: Anastasia Apostol Of New Apprenticeship On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Mentorship Programs. Another trend that’s taking flight are formalized mentorship programs. This serves both social wellness and professional development goals because it enables strong networking and ease of transfer of knowledge. From a bench perspective, this will also help people identify potential homegrown talent within the organization.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Anastasia Apostol.

Anastasia Apostol is the VP of Operations with New Apprenticeship. She has spent over a decade in EdTech, focused on supporting work that transforms lives through learning and education. Her passion though has always been with developing people, building high performing teams, and contributing to a “people first” culture within her organization.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

For me, it was the birth of my son. I didn’t have much balance between work and life prior to that; I mostly prioritized work and wanting to make sure everything was done well. I always encouraged my team to maintain that balance because I knew if they didn’t, they would eventually resent the work — but I didn’t adopt the same attitude. However, when my son was born, I realized the importance of being more present for all aspects of my life and that I should be a model for this attitude to the rest of my team.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

Wellness is ensuring there’s a healthy appreciation and encouragement for proper maintenance and care for one’s — social, mental, physical, spiritual and intellectual needs. Here at NEW, we do our best to make sure our team knows we expect 100% at work, but also to give everyone the flexibility to design their workday around their life priorities. Everyone on our team works hard and meets their objectives / deadlines. As long as we continue to perform, we trust our team to get the work done whenever they need to get it done. In terms of how we measure wellness, we don’t have anything official but we make it a point to temp-check our team’s sentiments every week. Our HR platform also sends a monthly survey out to understand how our team members are feeling about their work, so we can identify red flags and institute improvements where possible.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

We’re a missional company that feels passionately about the contributions we make towards transforming people’s lives, so we’re all intrinsically motivated to perform and give this our best work. As a team, I would consider our productivity to be pretty high; with that said, for me the impact of a well workforce is the fact that despite our high productivity, we all continue to come into the work week, day in and day out, with an attitude to perform. We can only continue our pace if our workforce feels well on all fronts — mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially. So as much as possible, it’s important to me as a leader that we encourage the team to do what they need to do to take care of themselves, and in turn, the work is taken care of by the team.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

As an organization, I think the leadership team has to decide whether or not they believe people are their greatest asset. If an organization agrees that people are their greatest asset, then the next step is to invest into that asset, and these wellness programs are one great investment that a leadership team can make into their people. An organization thrives when people are motivated to give their best, not obligated to get the work done; if people feel refreshed, renewed, cared for, supported — they are more likely to be in the “motivated” bucket than the “obligated” bucket and that could be the difference between being good vs great.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

I believe being remote-first and letting the candidates know that we put a high premium on providing them with the flexibility they need to maintain a healthy work/life balance is a very attractive proposition for incoming hires. We also try to incorporate more team-oriented initiatives like fitness competitions and professional development sessions to help everyone stay inspired and engaged.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

  • Mental Wellness: We have professional coaches in the organization who conduct sessions to help us increase our understanding of mental wellness and professionalism.
  • Emotional Wellness
  • Social Wellness: We are planning to revive quarterly meetings where the whole organization gets to come together, see each other and spend time together (especially in this remote world!).
  • Physical Wellness: We have a fitness competition that we’ll be running once per quarter to help team members stay motivated to stay fit.
  • Financial Wellness

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

I think if we were to amp up the prizes for the health fitness competitions, more people would participate and we could really have a higher impact on helping everyone stay healthy. Also if we can expand the coaching program so we can have a monthly session to help us increase our professional capabilities — or even better, have executive coaches for our manager team, we would see a massive increase in productivity and support.

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

We have our professional development sessions to help keep our team engaged and to teach them skill sets that we’ve learned along the way. I think if we can keep these initiatives going, our teams will feel encouraged because they’ll get to apply these strategies and continue to experience growth.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

I would focus on starting today and just making a difference in your immediate environment first. It’s okay if the ideas you have are implemented just within your team; test it out, learn from it, and improve what you can impact. If it works at that level, then start to pitch it to your management team. At this point, you have anecdotal data — if not quantitative data — to share with them that ideally will help spur the idea onto a larger audience.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. Mental Health Programs. I think more and more organizations will start to provide mental health programs as a wellness perk for employees. Options like free counseling services, discounts for counseling apps (e.g. Betterhelp, Talkspace, etc.), or investing in in-house support to help employees have an outlet when they’re feeling burnt out or overwhelmed will make for a great investment in the future workplace. It will also help people manage their stressors, which will lead to an overall increase in productivity — or at least sustained productivity in the long run.
  2. Fitness Programs. This is already an investment that most companies are making in the form of discounts for gym memberships or having gyms within the building to help people have access to fitness during the workday, but I can see this perk expanding. For instance, maybe providing people with standing desks to encourage standing throughout the day. Or having more competitions to encourage people to stay fit throughout the workday. Or even more, maybe providing virtual fitness sessions to help people stay fit virtually could be other ways to encourage fitness programs.
  3. Social Apps within the Org. With everything being remote nowadays, I can see companies investing more in social programs to help encourage relating with one another remotely. New apps have come out that randomly pair people within the intranet to help them all get to know each other, and network within the organization.
  4. Mentorship Programs. Another trend that’s taking flight are formalized mentorship programs. This serves both social wellness and professional development goals because it enables strong networking and ease of transfer of knowledge. From a bench perspective, this will also help people identify potential homegrown talent within the organization.
  5. Early Dismissal / 4-Day Work Week. Another trend that’s starting to gain traction is early dismissal on Fridays or a straight 4-day work week. This one is pretty self-explanatory, in that it’s giving more time back to people so they can do more with life and feel refreshed when they come back into work. It also encourages a healthy work/life balance.

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

Honestly, it’s just the fact that more and more corporations care now about their employees’ overall wellness and are making it a focus to make sure people have a healthier work/life balance. I remember a time not so long ago when the perks Google provided were seen as incredible because of how much they cared about their people. Today, more and more companies are rivaling the perks that Google provides and more leaders see these perks as ways to edge out their competition when it comes to attracting and retaining talent. I hope the trends above continue and that at least one or two of these perks become as staple as providing health insurance.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Check me out on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/aapostol1211/

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.

About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success A Success From Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Working Well: Anastasia Apostol Of New Apprenticeship On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Working Well: Tammeron Karaim of Inner Lights Alchemy On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That…

Working Well: Tammeron Karaim of Inner Lights Alchemy On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Teach and incorporate more about holistic health and wellness concepts as a daily health practice in the workplace by using the data from each staff member’s unique birth chart.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Tammeron Karaim.

Tammeron is an award-winning business woman, author, shamanic storyteller, who loves empowering women to flourish and step into living a more fulfilling legacy to embrace pure joy. As a spiritual alchemist, astrologer, former radio host and star of the upcoming, “BURNING KARMA: Healing Our Core Mother Wounds COLLECTIVELY” podcast, she has guided hundred of thousands listeners for over 13 years to connect to their SOUL’S VOICE and own their TRUTH.

Two decades ago, she overcame deep depression and suicidal ideation to embrace her spiritual awakening, transforming from her own story from victim to victor.

She has a passion for encouraging women to gather together, especially around a roaring campfire, under the Full Moon.

Tammeron is a genuine foodie, loves volunteering, hiking, sharing her “secret” recipes of holistic remedies, and nature photography.

https://medium.com/media/fb206635ab93eb9707dd316fd5c4af33/href

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

Over 8 years ago back in 2014, I woke up one morning feeling super frustrated as I was getting ready to go to work in my brick-and-mortar retail business. I was a recently divorced, single mother and I had a vision of owning a health and wellness new age school, but I did not have a laid-out plan formulated. I was living in an apartment on top of my retail store area and my two boys were still in high school. Later that morning, I was preparing an organic vegan smoothie for a customer and I just told myself that I was tired of pushing my finger on the blender and not getting paid for the value of my knowledge.

I was running a retail organic take-out bar to bring customers in through the door, but my greatest passion was talking to customers one on one and helping them understand the core issue of their physical health problems. They hadn’t been taught to look at their emotional well-being. I had recently been certified as a Bach Flower Essence Practitioner and I knew I had powerful knowledge that needed to be shared with others. But my certification was outside of the box, at that time.

I decided I was ready to put my building up for sale and I was determined to figure out a way to take my knowledge and transform my business concept into an online business model.

I wanted to live a more balanced and fulfilling lifestyle where I could work from home part-time and still create time in my daily schedule to look after my health and emotional well-being.

I was a workaholic with no time for a healthy personal relationship. I was willing to take my own medicine and implement a healthier lifestyle.

My boys were living on campus at university and college so I took the risk and moved up to my rustic cabin in the woods in Northern, ON that was about 20 hours away by car. I set an intention with a personal goal to revamp my business within one year.

However, the universe had other plans for me. It took me 6 years and way much longer than expected, but I never gave up.

I realized I had a huge vision that needed me to learn other skillsets before I was ready to launch and promote myself. But this time around, I had a real plan and it needed a team of people.

I had to start by asking for support and help from my two boys who blossomed into beautiful young men and then my next step was to call in expert volunteers.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

I love this question because I have lived through the extreme ups and downs of emotional well-being. Over twenty years ago, I was severely depressed and feeling suicidal. I used safe and natural holistic remedies to alleviate my negative feelings and bounce back into stronger more positive emotional health. This is the reason why I became a certified practitioner due to the incredible results that I experienced in my life.

I believe that at the core of every person we all want to experience happiness in success in our lives. But what I learned about myself was determining my definition of success. Once I was able to have an honest conversation through a sacred journaling practice, I realized that my business model was not defined by how much money I was making or how many clients I was able to serve. It was honestly about becoming a healthy role model for my boys who are part of the millennial generation. My intuition told me that if I can create a business model that allows me to work more effectively from my own home without any distractions, then I can move the needle faster than having to waste time driving to a location, fighting traffic, dealing with the ups and downs of nasty weather conditions, etc.

My online business model measures wellness by whether or not I am living up to being a woman in business while I am living a balanced lifestyle that allows time for me to prepare healthy meals from home, adequate time for meditation and reflection, daily exercise and time spent outdoors. I cannot serve anyone else unless I have been able to serve myself first. It is not only an act of love and kindness towards myself but to everyone, I come in contact with every single day.

I spend half of the week working on my own entrepreneurial business bringing in new volunteers on a semi-annual basis. I spend a couple of days in my business as gatherer of information using my private detective skills to help understand the vibe in their business and appearing to work for someone else. I also have carved out time to volunteer in my local community, even if it is just 3–4 hours. The amount of time is minimum but a collaborative effort amongst more people volunteering is helping to make a difference and a significant impact.

A balanced life is happy life! The core essence is all about how we spend our time while here on the planet. Spend more time doing what you love!

Your time matters.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

I believe that everyone has unique talents and also weaknesses. One of my strong points as a leader in my business adventures is using my intuition and getting to know the members of my team so that I can honour the traits in their personalities. Taking time to treat each person the same way can create excellent conditions for the entire team with an opportunity to blossom.

If team members are given projects to work on while focused on their area of expertise, then any task can be completed more effectively. Plus, I also believe that if anyone has a unique talent, they are also capable of passing on their knowledge to someone else. This was a tactic that I used when I volunteered in my local community many years ago as the first female ‘Akela” Scout Leader.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

The leaders have to embrace the courage to be the model and begin to implement new health and wellness practices. They must be willing to take their own medicine so that they create a sense of equality along with other members of the team. If they are uncomfortable with this idea, I would suggest outsourcing certified experts who can guide everyone.

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

I ask for permission to review their astrological birth chart so that I can look for their potential strengths and weaknesses in their personality. As a certified astrologer and Health Coach, I am highly qualified to unveil information that gives me insight into how I can support them to blossom while working with me and my team. I also begin by asking for initial positions as a volunteer for 1–3 months before I am willing to offer them a paid position based on commission. I want to see if they are able to tap into what I see as their own potential and if they have the passion to follow through with allowing me to be their guide as a leader. If the position ends even during this initial period, at least the volunteers walk away with powerful knowledge to help them manifest a new job position that is aligned with their heart.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

Teach and incorporate more about holistic health and wellness concepts as a daily health practice in the workplace by using the data from each staff member’s unique birth chart.

Mental Wellness-Learn the importance of connecting with your intellectual mind and how you logically work with information. This is a key signature placement of the planet Mercury.

Emotional Wellness-Learn the importance of how to use holistic remedies such as Bach Flower Essences, High-Grade Essential Oils and Herbs to re-balance any negative emotions that could be triggered by daily life. Some examples would be the death of a family member, friend or co-worker. Everyone processes emotional trauma differently and will also respond according to their timeframe. No two people are alike and so they will need to be treated differently so that they can heal and feel supported within the workplace. This is a key signature placement of the Moon that can offer how each person processes their emotions.

Social Wellness-Teach how to reach out for help and ask for what you need from your leaders and co-workers. Understand the hierarchy within the organization and who can reach out in confidence if needed. Always make time to volunteer or support others; even if it is only for a small amount of time. Usually, most people intuitively know what they need but they may just need a sounding board to give themselves a voice without feeling ashamed. Problems are normal and finding solutions can bring a whole team together. We are currently in the energy of the ‘Age of Aquarius’ which represents community, humanitarianism, empathy and compassion. I predict more people are seeking to be treated as equals as we move forward in this next generation.

Physical Wellness-Encourage staff members to take a healthy break for at least 30 minutes. Go outside for a brisk walk every day for at least 20 minutes (except under extreme weather conditions)

Financial Wellness-Learn money management skills and remember to continue to educate yourself in new ways. There are many free educational tutorials available at your fingertips. Social media can be a blessing for free education, if used properly.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas above to improve employee wellness?

I would suggest purchasing a personalized digital alchemy guidebook for each potential employee! It includes specific information that uncovers unique signatures about your blended personality that are uncovered from your astrological birth chart. We are all more than just our Sun Sign and this additional information can help anyone feel validated for their unique personality. Plus, upgrade to the use the pre-designed daily/monthly templates to help your employees live a healthier lifestyle so that each person can follow along using specific holistic remedies that are geared for their own well-being. They can work slowly by integrating one new concept at a time each month. By the end of one whole calendar year, your workplace might be a much happier and a more functional place to work.

There is a huge opportunity to incorporate a 4 day work week @ 4 hours a day. Employees might work better in less time with a huge incentive to also have more time for loved ones, families and their friends.

A win-win scenario!

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

Educate your team to learn more ways to manage every day life plus emotional stress triggered by unexpected challenges by using holistic remedies rather than choosing unhealthy addictive behaviour patterns that are commercialized through mainstream media.

Offer weekly group support so that they can begin to implement a new lifestyle that is very different from their parent’s generation. Keep the focus on asking for what you need to be referred to as a superpower and not a something to feel ashamed of. We all have the same needs and desires to live a happy and fulfilled life.

Example tv picture

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

It is answered in the video below:

https://youtu.be/TWGRnlzBIqg

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

Astrology is an ancient science that is being recognized more and more to help people embrace their uniqueness and abilities. At the same time safe and natural solutions are on the rise all around the world. Many people want change to happen. Once the information is gathered, anyone can begin to implement small steps to learn how to live a healthier life and create a new lifestyle model for this next generation. Allow this generation learn from our past mistakes and give them permission to be different.

Why would we want to repeat a pattern of 40 hour work week and only have 2 weeks of each year for vacation. This is an old work model that needs to be replaced. We have tools to work smarter, not harder. The world is now in a different level of consciousness and many people are recognizing that we are multidimensional beings and we can adapt by making decisions and living more from our heart and creating a level of inner peace on the planet, This is the core of our massive spiritual awakening that we are currently alive in. The easiest way to move forward is to accept and surrender into our new reality and use a daily spiritual practice as our guidance system. We are going experience so much more LOVE and happiness than ever before.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Feel free to follow me on Linkedin or Instagram to connect to the daily astrological energies and follow my intuitive wisdom and guidance. I post ‘a Daily Owl Note’ that is co-ordinated to the energy of the planets that represent each day of the week in a message to spend at least 22 minutes a day that is very focused.

Plus I curate a weekly video on my YouTube channel: Inner Lights Alchemy TV to help you understand the emotional story that is being played out in the astrological sky and some fantastic tips and holistic remedies to implement in your daily lifestyle.

This is the ‘Age of Aquarius’ and my motto to share is your time here on the planet matters!

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.

About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success A Success From Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Working Well: Tammeron Karaim of Inner Lights Alchemy On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Working Well: Dr Tricia Groff On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental,

Working Well: Dr. Tricia Groff On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness

An Interview with Karen Mangia

Flexible work hours. People have always wanted flexibility, but COVID-19 challenged long-held assumptions about productivity. In some cases, specific work hours will remain a necessity, such as in manufacturing or production environments, but even then, employers will try to give more flexibility to attract and retain talent.

The pandemic pause brought us to a moment of collective reckoning about what it means to live well and to work well. As a result, employees are sending employers an urgent signal that they are no longer willing to choose one — life or work — at the cost of the other. Working from home brought life literally into our work. And as the world now goes hybrid, employees are drawing firmer boundaries about how much of their work comes into their life. Where does this leave employers? And which perspectives and programs contribute most to progress? In our newest interview series, Working Well: How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, Emotional, Social, Physical & Financial Wellness, we are talking to successful executives, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders, and thought leaders across all industries to share ideas about how to shift company cultures in light of this new expectation. We’re discovering strategies and steps employers and employees can take together to live well and to work well.

As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Tricia Groff.

Dr. Tricia Groff is an executive advisor and executive coach who works with high achievers and their organizations. She is also a licensed psychologist who brings 20 years of behind-the-scenes conversations to her recommendations for workplace wellness and profitability. She is the author of Relational Genius: The High Achiever’s Guide to Soft-Skill Confidence in Leadership and Life.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you better. Tell us about a formative experience that prompted you to change your relationship with work and how work shows up in your life.

When I was in my 20s, my organization closed and all employees were eligible for unemployment. I had started working at 16, and it was the first time in my adult life that I didn’t have to start running hard as soon as my feet hit the floor. I learned that I only wanted to be in environments where I could be human first. On the surface, it wasn’t a big change; I simply made sure that I had 20 minutes to relax with coffee so that I could thoughtfully start my day instead of rushing headlong into it. I recognized that while I want to be excellent, I don’t want to live my life as a machine. The change became foundational in helping me to stay positive and focused for those I serve.

Since that time, I’ve worked with many leaders who have had adrenal burn-out, irritable bowel syndrome and other stress-associated physical symptoms from the cumulative inflammation of a nonstop workstyle. I specialize in high achievers, a specific personality style of people who are driven toward excellence, regardless of their role. When leaders or employees have this drive, it’s easy to assume a mind-over-matter and catch-up-on-sleep-later mentality. They tend to be good at problem-solving everything, and so there is a natural tendency to assume they can outsmart their physical constraints as well. I’ve learned, and try to share, that paying attention to our wellness makes us more effective, not less.

Harvard Business Review predicts that wellness will become the newest metric employers will use to analyze and to assess their employees’ mental, physical and financial health. How does your organization define wellness, and how does your organization measure wellness?

Wellness has too many facets to be integrated into a single metric that would yield adequate reliability. It is better to measure people’s self-report about how they feel about starting their workday, whether they have the support of their supervisors, and a rating of their team dynamic. These questions are usually linked to cultural surveys, but they drill down into the one most important aspect of mental health — the presence of supportive human relationships. Social support is strongly associated with decreased depression and increased resilience in the face of other stressors. The absence of supportive relationships at work will increase stress and reduce the effectiveness of any other wellness efforts.

Based on your experience or research, how do you correlate and quantify the impact of a well workforce on your organization’s productivity and profitability?

If we operationally define well-being as low stress, social connectivity, and having a purpose at work, then we have a more focused workforce. Stress is associated with distractibility, short-term memory problems and emotional reactivity that can adversely affect relationships with colleagues. A well workforce helps us develop teams in which people are aligned and moving together as a unit. This cohesion increases the efficiency and the productive brainstorming that drives a company forward. Employee hours can be spent building the company rather than problem-solving relationships or engaging in busywork that looks productive but doesn’t change the bottom line.

Even though most leaders have good intentions when it comes to employee wellness, programs that require funding are beholden to business cases like any other initiative. The World Health Organization estimates for every $1 invested into treatment for common mental health disorders, there is a return of $4 in improved health and productivity. That sounds like a great ROI. And, yet many employers struggle to fund wellness programs that seem to come “at the cost of the business.” What advice do you have to offer to other organizations and leaders who feel stuck between intention and impact?

First, when wellness is viewed as “at the cost of business,” it signals a lack of understanding and feedback about the mediating variables that connect wellness and profit. Spend time connecting the dots to show that wellness is more than a “feel good” initiative or flavor of the month endeavor. For example, showing some research on the connection between health and missed work time can make a case for health-supporting initiatives.

More importantly, and much more nuanced, is recognizing the indirect ROI on profit. For example, when companies actively work to gain feedback from employees and implement that feedback, it sends a strong message that they value the employees. This in turn generates loyalty and reduces turnover. Thus, the significance of say, a gym membership, isn’t simply about health but rather the fact that the company took the time and effort to make the arrangement. What looks like a wellness initiative becomes a talent retention plan.

Ask employees directly what is helpful to them. The mistake that many employers make, is that, with great intentions, they enact initiatives without finding out what their employees really want. They may read great articles and see an idea to implement. The problem is that they don’t really know if it’s the right initiative for their people, company, and culture. Then, when expenses are high, it’s easier to justify cutting the program. On the other hand, if they implement changes based on employee feed-back, it’s easier for them to feel that they are doing something that is appreciated and makes a difference versus wondering if they are throwing money at the wind.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, when employees make positive comments about the wellness initiatives, ask them if you can share the feedback with senior leaders, or better yet, ask them if they can send an email or have a quick chat directly with the decision-maker. Much to my delight and chagrin, I’ve learned that the most logical and data-driven people are still moved by personal stories and emotion in the face of contradictory data. If even 3 people shared positive impact directly with the financial decision-makers in an organization, there is a strong likelihood that at budget time, the conversation will shift to “we can’t cut that program; it’s important to our people.”

Speaking of money matters, a recent Gallup study reveals employees of all generations rank wellbeing as one of their top three employer search criteria. How are you incorporating wellness programs into your talent recruitment and hiring processes?

The companies I advise are discussing flexible hours and unlimited PTO in interviews. I work with highly driven, Type A clientele, who are seeking top level talent. The go-getter employees don’t mind working hard; they just want to know that they can prioritize family if someone is sick. The conversation isn’t simply about specific benefits but more of helping employees understand that the culture is attentive to people’s personal wellness and family priorities.

We’ve all heard of the four-day work week, unlimited PTO, mental health days, and on demand mental health services. What innovative new programs and pilots are you launching to address employee wellness? And, what are you discovering? We would benefit from an example in each of these areas.

The specific initiative that I’m watching is unlimited PTO. It’s very important that companies be transparent in performance expectations apart from expectations of work time. For example, unlimited PTO sounds great, and it may help both employees and HR reduce paperwork. However, if a company is offering unlimited PTO with the expectation of employees doing whatever it takes to get the job done, the overall culture is still very demanding and driven. Sometimes wellness perks are offered to get people in the door, but if the reality of the culture doesn’t confirm the initial promises, people feel misled and doubt the integrity of the leaders.

Similarly, unlimited PTO can breed resentment among colleagues if some people are taking a lot of time off and leaving their co-workers to compensate for the unaddressed workload.

I’m not suggesting that we go back to old ways of accrual, but rather, to be straightforward about the offerings and limitations of all wellness programs. People need to feel that they know where they stand, and the honesty, even when it sounds bad, will outweigh the value of any individual program.

Apart from and more important than specific programs, the #1 initiative that can radically improve mental wellness is a philosophy and behavior of leaders leading by example on two variables:

Their relationship with their own colleagues and

Their own health behaviors.

  1. Senior Leadership Relational Dynamics. The stress, toxicity or health of an organizations starts at the top and flows down. When executives are fighting with each other, their teams feel the stress. People say to me, “Dr. Tricia, it’s like our parents are fighting and all of the meetings are weird and uncomfortable.” When I did counseling, the number 1 career complaint was a strained work environment. When I did career coaching and helped senior leaders quit their jobs, the #1 reason was chaos and distrust in the executive team. If leaders can do the uncomfortable work of creating and maintaining highly communicative and positive relationships, it sets a culture of psychological safety that flows down to the teams. When executive teams thrive and address root causes of stress, employees can optimize wellness programs. Without healthy interpersonal dynamics at the top of an organization, investing into wellness initiatives is like putting expensive decoration on a cardboard cake.
  2. Senior leaders’ own behaviors. This is the most common statement on worklife balance that I’ve heard from both lower-level employees and more senior leaders. “My boss tells me that is fine to stop working at X time, but s/he is on email all night. I’m worried that if I draw better work boundaries that it is going to hurt my chances of a promotion.” Leaders set the tone for an organization with their own health choices. Humans are social creatures, and good (or bad) habits are catching. I texted one of my CEOs and told him to bring sneakers, and that I was going to show up on campus. When I dragged him out for a walk, he said “are we really going to do this?” My response was, “you’ve been inside, at your computer, in back-to-back meetings all day, right? Yes, we are going to do this.” A few weeks later, I noticed that he was taking a walk while on a meeting. It sets the tone for others to do the same. Simple things like prioritizing a drink or bathroom or walking break shows employees that the organization values wellness. It makes employees feel comfortable prioritizing their own wellness without fear of penalty.

Can you please tell us more about a couple of specific ways workplaces would benefit from investing in your ideas to improve employee wellness?

In terms of specific programming, here are some low-cost options that can make a big impact.

  • Mental Wellness: Short workshops on stress, depression and anxiety not only offers information but sends a message that it is okay for people to talk about these concerns. Often the biggest stress created on mental health, is not the mental health issue itself, but rather the feeling that it is shameful and that one needs to keep it a secret.
  • Emotional Wellness: Teach all senior leaders to say, “thank you’ and “You did X well. I really appreciate it.” This single strategy is the cheapest and most underutilized strategy that affects not only wellness, but also employee happiness, productivity and retention.
  • Social Wellness: Simple ways to facilitate community without adding burden: Add 1 hr of fun time into an all-day agenda, hold happy hours (if voted by the team — some teams hate them); well-placed break rooms and communal gathering places with great furniture to enhance spontaneous connections.
  • Physical Wellness: Slightly shortened meetings to promote stretching time and bathroom breaks. If people are traveling, ensure that it is easy for them to access water and whatever type of nutritious food they eat at home.
  • Financial Wellness: Are there items they are personally funding that helps the business? If so, providing reimbursement gains loyalty that goes far beyond a dollar amount. One of the companies I work with reimburses a low-cost item, and they have been flabbergasted by the response in it attracting potential employees. It has nothing to do with finances but shows a level of awareness and caring that is attention-grabbing.

Also, do employees like the pay and bonus schedules or would they prefer an altered arrangement that could be easily integrated without adding undue burden to HR?

How are you reskilling leaders in your organization to support a “Work Well” culture?

Work Well cultures will only truly work when they are modeled from the top. I give leaders permission for self-care. This may mean closing their laptops at a specific time. It may mean holding boundaries on their schedules so they can prioritize time for the strategy that grows their company and decreases their own stress instead of always being available for everyone else.

Ideas take time to implement. What is one small step every individual, team or organization can take to get started on these ideas — to get well?

Stop meetings 5 minutes earlier. It can be surprisingly difficult to do, but it gives everyone a chance to stretch or take a bathroom break before the next meeting. This tiny change is one, that if carried through the culture, shows how one can work in high-demand and time-constrained settings while still maintaining attention to human needs.

What are your “Top 5 Trends To Track In the Future of Workplace Wellness?”

  1. The remote-working debate. Both employers and employees are still experimenting to see what blend of in-person versus remote work is best. While there have been many articles written from all sides, we need time to see what maximizes wellness, relational cohesion and productivity for each industry and culture.
  2. Flexible work hours. People have always wanted flexibility, but COVID-19 challenged long-held assumptions about productivity. In some cases, specific work hours will remain a necessity, such as in manufacturing or production environments, but even then, employers will try to give more flexibility to attract and retain talent.
  3. Gen Z’s impact on conscious capitalism. The idea that people should separate work from personal values was on its way out before COVID-19 and it became a dinosaur in the face of children and pets entering video screens. Gen Z admires what is real, and what is congruent. They will demand work that aligns with their values and worldview.
  4. The format of off-site programming. With more remote work, 1 or 2-day yearly team-building events will not provide enough contact to build cohesion. Workplaces will be assessing easy and short off-site activities that help maximize in-person connection.
  5. Salary transparency. Will Gen Z’s desire for transparency change the traditional methods of salary negotiations? How will employers handle salary inequity, especially that which results from the higher incentives to attract talent during the employee shortage?

What is your greatest source of optimism about the future of workplace wellness?

The intersection of Gen Z, COVID-19, and the Talent Shortage/Great Resignation — Workplace wellness and worklife integration have been problems for a long time. Historically though, employees felt forced into a choice between their own health and providing for their families. I am wildly excited about Gen Z, to see highly motivated young people who want to work hard AND maintain a sense of purpose and happiness in their lives. COVID-19 broke many assumptions about the ideas of traditional work, and the current talent shortage forces companies to compete on more than salary. Because of the current power shift to the employee, Gen Z (and others) have the power to demand healthier cultures.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

www.drtriciagroff.com

linkedin.com/in/dr-tricia-groff-phd-2781b866

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and wellness.

About The Interviewer: Karen Mangia is one of the most sought-after keynote speakers in the world, sharing her thought leadership with over 10,000 organizations during the course of her career. As Vice President of Customer and Market Insights at Salesforce, she helps individuals and organizations define, design and deliver the future. Discover her proven strategies to access your own success in her fourth book Success A Success From Anywhere and by connecting with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Working Well: Dr Tricia Groff On How Companies Are Creating Cultures That Support & Sustain Mental, was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Pavel Stepanov Of Virtudesk On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business

An Interview With Ken Babcock

One of the top mistakes I’ve seen companies make starting out is not hiring the right people. Again, candidates may be qualified on paper, but it’s oftentimes the mistake that companies don’t assess whether or not they are a good fit for the company. You can have the perfect candidate on paper, but they will not be successful in your company if they don’t hold the same values, have certain essential soft skills, and don’t feel tied to the mission of your company.

Startups usually start with a small cohort of close colleagues. But what happens when you add a bunch of new people into this close cohort? How do you maintain the company culture? In addition, what is needed to successfully scale a business to increase market share or to increase offerings? How can a small startup grow successfully to a midsize and then large company? To address these questions, we are talking to successful business leaders who can share stories and insights from their experiences about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”. As a part of this series, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Pavel Stepanov.

Pavel Stepanov has become a renowned business owner in the outsourcing and virtual assistant industry. In 2016, he founded Virtudesk, a virtual assistant company that focuses on supplying business owners who want to scale their businesses with highly-trained virtual assistants from the Philippines. He has turned Virtudesk into an Inc. 5000 company, and is also the founder of Tymbl Technologies.

Thank you for joining us in this interview series. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Let me start from the very beginning. I was born in Siberia. In Ulan-Ude, Russia. I decided to emigrate to the United States in 1997 to look for better opportunities and pursue my dreams of achieving financial freedom. After I came to the States, I planned on going to a four-year college, but I wasn’t quite sure what to study. I initially picked journalism, but switched to law when I realized journalism wasn’t for me. While I was in Law school, I took some real estate classes and was fascinated with the concept of property ownership and the opportunities it could unlock. After graduating from law school and passing the bar exam, I discovered that real estate was more in tune with my entrepreneurial mode and DNA. So, I became a real estate broker.

For three years, I practiced real estate at a 100% commission brokerage. At the time, I was working 12–16 hour days with no real break. I was doing everything from marketing, scheduling appointments, outbound calling, meeting with clients, going to showings, and more. After spending so much time working in my business, I finally decided to hire my first virtual assistant. My virtual assistant would be responsible for doing outbound calling and setting up appointments for me. I decided to hire a VA from the Philippines through a VA company because I had heard about the benefits of outsourcing.

The results were dramatic. I could barely keep up, because she was setting so many appointments for me. After hiring her, I spent a lot of my time just simply going to these appointments. My sales that year tripled! No joke. I started to realize the value of virtual assistants, the power of delegating, and the cost savings this unique business model enabled me.

After those three years, I started my own brokerage, Nexus Realty, in 2015. As I brought on more brokers, I realized they had the same problem too — time. Just like I did. I discovered they needed virtual assistants as much as I did, and they started asking me about it. That’s when the idea of Virtudesk came on. I realized most of the agents around me desperately needed help, so I started Virtudesk to assist Nexus, and saw how I could expand past my brokerage due to this common pain point that all agents and entrepreneurs face.

A couple of years after starting Virtudesk, I started building a new product, called Tymbl. This autodialer was designed to automate outbound calling for real estate agents, sales agents, and other business owners in need. I designed this platform so I could help agents keep track of all of their leads, create campaigns around their lead status, and bulk analyze the calling metrics. It is still in its start-up phase, but it has helped Virtudesk and other agents so much already!

Now, that it has been six years since I started Virtudesk, I’m proud to say that we have grown tremendously. Just last year, we made the Inc. 5000 for achieving 454% growth in a 3-year period. This has enabled us to win many other recognitions, including growth awards from the Titan Business Awards, Stevie Business Awards, and Growjo. We have big plans for the future. We don’t plan on stopping our growth. The best is yet to come.

You’ve had a remarkable career journey. Can you highlight a key decision in your career that helped you get to where you are today?

That’s an easy answer. One of the key decisions I’ve made is hiring my first virtual assistant back when I had my own real estate business. Because it taught me some valuable lessons. It made me realize that you can’t do everything yourself if you want to grow and scale your business.

Definitely, you can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Hiring my first virtual assistant taught me the necessity and the power of delegating properly and hiring the right people for the right roles. This particular lesson and skill only improved when I had to grow Virtudesk, and started to build teams.

It’s also not just about hiring the right people, but where to hire them from. Outsourcing to the Philippines showed me a cost-effective way to delegate business tasks, and scale my business faster than what I could do with 100% local hires. Because of the lower cost of living in the Philippines and the high value of the USD to the Filipino peso, it allowed me to pay a lower wage for the same work done. Plus, I wasn’t paying for the infrastructure of an office building and equipment. The virtual assistants were supplying that equipment themselves. These savings allowed me to re-invest it back into the business to grow it.

I’ve also learned that you have to consult other people who are experts in their fields or specialties and who are more skilled than you. They will help you and act as your consultants to move your company forward in the right direction. They will also take responsibility for all of those time-consuming tasks you were trying to do yourself.

Deciding to hire my first virtual assistant, who is now the Director of Operations at Virtudesk today, got me to where I am. I could never take that experience back. It taught me the fundamental model of scaling a successful business.

What’s the most impactful initiative you’ve led that you’re particularly proud of?

I would have to say Virtudesk. When I hired my first virtual assistant, it really taught me about the power and importance of delegation. It gave me the strategy I needed to unlock unlimited growth and revenue potential in my own business.

To be able to share that with others through Virtudesk has been amazing. The growth and scale we have achieved is something I’m really proud of because this business model is something I’m really passionate about. I’m proud and very happy about how we have helped our clients scale their businesses as well. To know that my team and I have helped make that happen for them is great.

Sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you’ve made and the lesson you took away from it?

Especially in the beginning of Virtudesk, I was too fast to hire and slow to fire. I onboarded people quickly, because I needed help, but didn’t take the proper time to truly evaluate their skills, their intentions for the company, and their background.

I didn’t take the time to determine whether or not they would be a good fit for the job or with the company. I believe this is paramount to a successful working relationship and the employee’s success as well. You can hire 100 qualified people, but if they don’t think similarly to you on where to take the business or they don’t get along with the teams already on staff, then progress can be slowed. Less will get done to benefit the company overall and in the long term.

Even firing slowly was a problem I had to overcome. Hiring someone can be scary, as you are taking the leap to trust them with part of your company. That’s why in the beginning it was hard for me to fire, as you do invest and put faith in them that they’ll do well. When you let someone go, you’re letting them and yourself down. At least that’s how it felt in the beginning.

I would say this is still something I struggle with even today, but I’ve gotten a lot better and I’ve learned a lot from making these mistakes. You learn what questions to ask candidates. You learn to be more selective and careful about who your hire — even if you’re spending time interviewing a lot of candidates.

I always go with my gut too. If I get a good feeling about them in the interview, I never regret hiring them.

How has mentorship played a role in your career, whether receiving mentorship or offering it to others?

I’ve never really had a mentor figure in my life, especially on a professional level. When I moved to the United States, I didn’t know anyone. I was kind of alone to figure it out on my own. Of course, there were people who helped me by giving me advice, especially in my first few years living in the United States. I would ask questions about how to find a job and get scholarships. Throughout my life, I would find people I could ask questions too.. However, overall, much of the business stuff I just figured out.

If anyone was a mentor to me during my life, it’s been my mom. She’s very supportive, but she has also instilled internal accountability into me. She has had a big impact on my life and how I make decisions.

In terms of giving mentorship to others, I definitely don’t seek it out. However, I’m always there for my family, friends, and employees when they need me. And I definitely see my employees like family. They can ask me anything. I love spending time with them, and giving them my advice.

Developing your leadership style takes time and practice. Who do you model your leadership style after? What are some key character traits you try to emulate?

I guess I would try to emulate some traits from Gary Vaynerchuk, especially when it comes to kindness. I’m a huge fan of his. I even met him once. He’s a good leader, and has a lot of great advice when it comes to building businesses and managing others.

I also want to give my employees the autonomy and feeling that they can implement any idea that makes sense or flies with me. There shouldn’t be a lot of barriers to implementing ideas if it makes sense to implement. I have the mindset of just doing it. Don’t overanalyze, because it will waste time. Making mistakes trumps inaction. When you sit on an idea analyzing how to execute it perfectly, your competitors start getting ahead of you.

You have to rely on your employees as consultants to give you ideas to move the company forward.

Thank you for sharing that with us. Let’s talk about scaling a business from a small startup to a midsize and then large company. Based on your experience, can you share with our readers the “5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business”? Please give a story or example for each.

#1 Hire a virtual executive admin

If you’re a start-up or solopreneur, then start scaling by starting small. Just hire one virtual assistant, who will be your executive admin. Again, I recommend hiring a virtual assistant over an in-house person, because it’s going to help you conserve costs while you’re still in the start-up phase.

This will allow you to save money that you can put into other channels and initiatives. Your first virtual assistant will be assigned all of your task overflow, or assigned the tasks you don’t want to do, aren’t good at, or don’t have time for. They’re going to be pretty busy. They will act as your go-to person for everything in the business.

Your executive admin will run the day-to-day operations of your business and act as your Director of Operations. They will set the tone for your business and allow you to focus on the 20% of the work that produces 80% of the results.

#2 Hire for your second and third roles

Once you’ve had your executive admin on board for a while, and you and your executive admin start feeling overwhelmed again, it’s time to start looking at a second and third hire. You’ll want to start looking for a second hire when both you and your executive admin are getting overwhelmed with tasks again, and don’t have the bandwidth to complete all the tasks needed or work on new initiatives.

Your second hire should be someone that can take care of that task overflow. However, I recommend hiring someone that is specialized in some kind of work. Usually, I recommend hiring a marketing virtual assistant after hiring an executive admin, so you can have a designated person for all marketing activities, and then any overflow from the business.

However, you don’t necessarily have to start with marketing. You can start with prospecting or customer service. Just identify what areas of the business need the most help and attention.

As your company experiences greater brand awareness and you start to increase the number of leads you are generating, you will need to make a third hire. You can hire an Inside Sales Agent (ISA) in order to reach out to your growing contact database. They will manage a lot of your company’s outbound efforts. Or, you can hire a video editor to edit all of the content that you produce. Again, it just really depends on the needs of your business. Hire someone who can address a gap in your business.

#3 Designate in-house staff to manage teams or departments of virtual assistants

As you start to grow your business, and you move from start-up to midsize company, first, congratulate yourself. You did a good job, and you made it this far.

Next, focus on how you will scale your employee base and structure. I recommend mapping out organizational charts for different departments or functions within your company. When you create those org charts, map out the chain of command, the specific roles you would hire for, and the main responsibilities of each role. This will act as a roadmap for you as you build your teams gradually with more people.

Then, once you have this roadmap, you can continue hiring, but in a more informed manner. For all department and/or team leads, I recommend designating in-house staff. For every role under department heads or team leads, hire virtual assistants. This will give you the perfect blend of employee background, diversity, and perspective to give your business an edge in moving forward and making decisions that grow it.

Plus, by hiring virtual assistants for most of the roles in your org charts, you will be able to scale your savings as you grow. This gives you the real power in being able to scale your company faster, because you’re conserving the cost that is usually a company’s biggest expense — payroll.

The department heads who are in-house staff will report to you. They will report on how their departments are doing, what decisions and ideas they want to implement to grow the company, and how their virtual assistants are performing.

#4 Hire a virtual call center for scaling customer interaction

Now, you may be entering the stage of a large company. Congratulate yourself again, this isn’t easy.

You can continue growing large teams and departments with a mixture of in-house staff and virtual assistants. I recommend you do this. But you should also look at how you can scale customer interaction and lead generation. Hiring a virtual call center from the Philippines managed by an in-house department head will allow you to do just this.

Start by hiring 5–10 virtual assistants to act as your call center agents. Set your business number with a VOIP, so all your inbound calls come in through this VOIP, and straight to your virtual assistants abroad. You won’t need your virtual assistants to go to a physical location, they will be in their homes. But, their functionalities will be the same, and collectively they will act as a call center.

Not only will they be able to take your inbound calls 24/7, but they will be able to answer inbound website inquiries, text messages, emails, and more. They can manage your chatbots and even send outbound emails and make outbound calls.

#5 Overall, focus expenses on virtual assistants and technology

Overall, you should focus on your strategy of scaling virtual assistants and technology. Again, virtual assistants will allow you to scale your cost savings so you can scale your operations. Integrating as much technology into your business will allow you to automate and increase the efficiency of your workflows and systems. This is big.

In my advice above, I focus a lot on hiring virtual assistants to conserve costs, but focusing your systems on automation and technology integration will help you with this too. Combined, your company will be unstoppable.

Focus on getting a robust CRM that has a ton of integration capabilities with other apps and platforms. This will set up the foundation for automation. Make sure you have a company database that centralizes all of your company data and information.

If you want to go above and beyond, and you have the resources, build out your systems internally. Build your own CRM, company database, and other software you use, instead of buying the ones in the market. This is what we do at Virtudesk. We’ve built our own CRM, time tracker, and VOIP system so we have more control and creative flexibility with the features these systems offer, and how our employees use these platforms.

Can you share a few of the mistakes that companies make when they try to scale a business? What would you suggest to address those errors?

One of the top mistakes I’ve seen companies make starting out is not hiring the right people. Again, candidates may be qualified on paper, but it’s oftentimes the mistake that companies don’t assess whether or not they are a good fit for the company. You can have the perfect candidate on paper, but they will not be successful in your company if they don’t hold the same values, have certain essential soft skills, and don’t feel tied to the mission of your company.

When you’re hiring, you also want to make sure that people always have the best interest of your company in mind. In my experience, I’ve learned that when you hire people who don’t think similarly to you, it can be harder to take on new projects together. I believe this is very important in the early stages of a company. You have to bring on hard-working people who have a vision for your company as well.

Another mistake I see companies making in the start-up phase when they are trying to scale is that they will allocate money towards unnecessary places. For example, can you afford to cater lunches weekly or daily for your employees as a start-up? Probably not. You may want to give your employees a sense of good culture, but there are more effective and cheaper ways of doing that.

I also see companies spending a lot of money on physical infrastructure like office buildings, office equipment, office supplies, and more. That’s why I’m such a big fan of virtual assistants. In today’s age, you don’t need to be in a physical location every day, especially when you’re just starting out. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we can get a lot done from home — more than we ever thought. Take advantage of that, especially when you’re small. Even large companies can conserve a lot of costs by requiring employees to work from home.

Scaling includes bringing new people into the organization. How can a company preserve its company culture and ethos when new people are brought in?

It starts with having strong company values, and knowing what those are. Pick 3–5 core values your company stands for. These values should inform everything everyone does in your company.

Keep these core values, explanations of these values, and what acting them out looks like in a physical document. Keep this internally, and bring it out every time you hire a new person. I even recommend discussing these values with people during the interview process. That’s because, if they don’t resonate with them, they can leave before they accidentally get hired. Because, again, you want to find and hire people who align with your company’s core values and mission.

Then, it’s all a matter of communicating those values regularly to your employees and holding them accountable too. That’s because, if your current employees aren’t consistent in enacting those values and reflecting their behavior and decisions on these values, it’s going to be impossible to integrate new employees into this culture — and essentially sustain the culture itself.

In my work, I focus on helping companies to simplify the process of creating documentation of their workflow, so I am particularly passionate about this question. Many times, a key aspect of scaling your business is scaling your team’s knowledge and internal procedures. What tools or techniques have helped your teams be successful at scaling internally?

I try my best to give my employees the tools and strategies they need to scale internally, as that helps everyone in the organization. I start by encouraging the creation of checklists and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). This helps new hires and current employees understand the standardized processes we have for everything in the company. The checklists help individual employees know exactly what they are responsible for, and what their daily and weekly tasks are.

We create and house a lot of training documents and videos. This way, if a current employee needs a refresher on how to do something, or we’re training a new employee, it’s more efficient.

We also do corporate training for departments on a need basis. If department heads express a need for corporate training to improve operations, workflow, or team skills, then we get someone in-house or outside to facilitate that training. For some departments upon request, we also offer online training courses for the skills that a department is needed or expected to know. This gives our employees more tools and knowledge to come up with and implement new ideas.

Besides that, we also have our in-house online academy, Virtudesk Academy, for all the virtual assistants we employ. This is managed and facilitated by our training department, and provides further opportunity for our employees to learn new skills as needed.

If you want to give your employees the autonomy to scale internally, then you should reduce the barriers to hiring new people, especially for department heads. That’s what I do at Virtudesk. If a department head wants to hire more people to their department, they should come to me with an expressed need for help, and the ability to show me an outline of the job title and description. Once they demonstrated that help is needed, 9/10 I let them start the hiring process. I want to make it easy for the company leaders to grow their teams as they need. Depending on their need, new hires can be in-house or virtual assistants. I also have the same mentality regarding new technology our department heads express we need.

What software or tools do you recommend to help onboard new hires?

Right off the bat, I recommend using a project management tool, at least one communication tool, and a cloud storage platform to help get your employees onboarded to the company. At Virtudesk, different departments use different methods for tracking projects. Our marketing department uses a project management tool, Clickup. Whereas our operations department uses our in-house time tracker. As a whole company, we mostly use Skype and Zoom for our all communication, as you can text, call, and host virtual meetings.

We also onboard our new employees to our shared drive and company databases and CRM, so they are equipped with the knowledge of how to navigate the company internally. I recommend doing the same.

We don’t do this at Virtudesk, but I know of many companies that have special onboarding software for HR and training. Softwares like intelliHR, Sapling, and Eddy can help give guided onboarding to new employees that save HR time, and automates the process. It can be very helpful and increase your efficiency. There’s even training software, like Lessonly, where companies can build e-lessons for new employees to go through on their own.

Because of your role, you are a person of significant influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be? You never know what your ideas can trigger.

I feel like I’m kind of already doing that with Virtudesk. Although it’s not a non-profit organization that’s saving millions of lives every year, I still feel like Virtudesk is helping and impacting a lot of people. Ever since I hired my first virtual assistant, I’ve been passionate about scaling businesses with virtual assistants and sharing that good news with other entrepreneurs. It’s exciting to help them out and see them experience growth as I did.

It’s encouraging to see how this business model has allowed businesses to not only survive but thrive.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can follow me on my social media accounts and visit my company website to learn more about me and virtual assistants. I also encourage you to follow my LinkedIn newsletter. You can learn more about me this way, and how I’ve leveraged virtual assistants, technology, and outsourcing to scale my business. Plus, you can get my thoughts on what’s happening in the industry.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pavelgstepanov/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pavelStepanov77

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thepavelstepanov/

LinkedIn Newsletter: https://www.linkedin.com/newsletters/6928489178179518464/

Website: https://www.myvirtudesk.com/

My company’s social media:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/virtudesk

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/virtudesk/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/virtudeskcom

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/13385012

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/Virtudesk2021/_created/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/VirtudeskVirtualAssistants

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

This was truly meaningful! Thank you so much for your time and for sharing your expertise!

About the interviewer. Ken Babcock is the CEO and Co-Founder of Tango. Prior to his mission of celebrating how work is executed, Ken spent over 4 years at Uber riding the rollercoaster of a generational company. After gaining hands-on experience with entrepreneurship at Atomic VC, Ken went on to HBS. It was at HBS that Ken met his Co-Founders, Dan Giovacchini and Brian Shultz and they founded Tango.


Pavel Stepanov Of Virtudesk On 5 Things You Need To Know To Successfully Scale Your Business was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Author Jodie Jackson On How We Can Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant…

Author Jodie Jackson On How We Can Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant Place

It is easy to feel distant from the person whom you are commenting on. It is easy to be negative and it is easy to feel entitled to be so because of our outrage, offense or dislike we feel towards someone or something they have said. But words are powerful — even from a stranger. Not only this but they are an invitation for others to comment and if it starts trending, people can become buried under the weight of this negativity. I think a good question to ask before you post is ”what am I trying to achieve?”. If the answer is ever to shame someone, embarrass them or hurt them, it is probably best avoided.

As a part of my interview series about the things we can each do to make social media and the internet a kinder and more tolerant place, I had the pleasure to interview Jodie Jackson.

Jodie Jackson is on a mission to change the media; her recent book “You Are What You Read” is an invitation to become a part of this movement.

Jodie Jackson is a news consumer-turned-author, who has spent the last decade researching the psychological impact of the news. Through her work, she has shown that the excessive negativity in the news creates a distorted and harmful picture of the world. Jodie believes that we need a better balance in the news and shows why we must widen the media lens to include stories of solutions, progress and development in order to improve our psychological & sociological wellbeing, the news industry and, ultimately, the world.

Jodie holds a Master’s in Positive Psychology and is a partner at The Constructive Journalism Project. Her widely cited research has led to speaking engagements at universities, organisations and media conferences around the world.

Jodie’s journey to author of You Are What You Read began in 2011, when she decided she could not bear to hear another depressing news story.

“I would switch radio stations as soon as I heard the beeps introducing the news bulletin. They sounded to me like alarm bells, warning me that something awful was coming.”

Some saw this decision not to listen to the news and see the world in all of its ugly existence as naïve, weak or extreme.

“This reaction that others had towards me made me feel that I must be damaged in some way, that there was something in me that was not strong enough or brave enough to see the world in all of its ugly existence”.

But Jodie did not — and still doesn’t — see the world as simply ugly.

“My experience of the world is that it is a remarkable and complex place, filled with adventure, imagination and kindness as well as cruelty, suffering, and injustice. I could understand that the world had its flaws but I did not and could not agree with the picture that I was being given by reading the news. I came to realise it was not me but the news industry that was damaged”.

It was at this point, that Jodie asked “How could I remain informed on what’s going on in the world without being totally overwhelmed and depressed by it?”

It was this question that led to Jodie’s increasing involvement in the Constructive Journalism movement.

Over the past ten years Jodie has contributed to that movement in various ways, including: running a website collating solutions-focused journalism; organising events and crowdfunding campaigns; writing for established and emerging platforms; speaking on panels with leading thinkers, academics and journalists; conducting her own widely-referenced research into the effects of the news bias on consumers; and now writing You Are What You Read.

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

In 2011, I got to the point where I could no longer bear to hear another news story. The reason that I got to that point was because I found it so negative. I became so disheartened about the state of the world and so disappointed in humanity. Although I had had enough of the news, I still wanted to remain informed but in a different way; I started searching for stories of people, groups and organisations who were attempting to solve some of the biggest problems and challenges that we face; I was inspired by the solutions being implemented to creatively tackle these problems that we are so well informed on. This helped me feel more connected to the news and, more importantly, more connected to society and my potential within it. I have since spent the last decade researching the psychological impact of the negativity bias on our mental health, the health of our democracy and society, as well as investigating the effects of solutions journalism as an antidote to the helpless, hateful and hopeless effects of this negativity bias.

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

I have recently published my book, “You Are What You Read: why changing your media diet can change the world”. This book helps us understand how our current twenty-four-hour news cycle is produced, who decides what stories are selected, why the news is mostly negative, and what effect this has on us as individuals and as a society. Combining the latest research from psychology, sociology, and the media, she builds a powerful case for including solutions into our news narrative as an antidote to the effects of the negativity bias. This timely book is not a call for us to ignore the negative; rather, it asks us to not ignore the positive. It asks us to change the way we consume the news and shows us how, through our choices, we have the power to improve our media diet, our mental health and just possibly the world.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. Have you ever been publicly shamed or embarrassed on social media? Can you share with our readers what that experience felt like?

Yes. After speaking at a conference about the power of solutions journalism — someone took it upon themselves to continually and fairly aggressively attack my talk and me. They painted me to be naïve and extreme. Neither of which I consider myself to be. And if this gentleman had taken the time to read my work, he would not consider it either. However, the caricature he painted of me online was hurtful and embarrassing. I had lost control of the narrative; my work and identity felt misrepresented and it is upsetting when someone is being so harsh. There is the temptation to engage to try and resolve but I did not, fortunately others (whom I did not know) jumped to my defense online and this meant more to me than my own words would have.

What did you do to shake off that negative feeling?

I reminded myself of all of the nice things people whom I respect and whose opinions I value have said regarding my work and my character. It is important to remember to value different voices differently. Even if a voice shouts loudly, it does not always deserve your attention. I also did not look at it again. The best way to shake it off is to not remind yourself of it.

Have you ever posted a comment on social media that you regretted because you felt it was too harsh or mean?

No — I am careful to think before I type. I am also a passionate advocate for constructive conversation — this isn’t to say that you can’t be critical but being harsh or mean is rarely constructive.

When one reads the comments on Youtube or Instagram, or the trending topics on Twitter, a great percentage of them are critical, harsh, and hurtful. The people writing the comments may feel like they are simply tapping buttons on a keyboard, but to the one on the receiving end of the comment, it is very different. This may be intuitive, but I feel that it will be instructive to spell it out. Can you help illustrate to our readers what the recipient of a public online critique might be feeling?

It is easy to feel distant from the person whom you are commenting on. It is easy to be negative and it is easy to feel entitled to be so because of our outrage, offense or dislike we feel towards someone or something they have said. But words are powerful — even from a stranger. Not only this but they are an invitation for others to comment and if it starts trending, people can become buried under the weight of this negativity. I think a good question to ask before you post is ”what am I trying to achieve?”. If the answer is ever to shame someone, embarrass them or hurt them, it is probably best avoided.

Do you think a verbal online attack feels worse or less than a verbal argument in “real life”? How are the two different?

It is difficult to compare but verbal arguments in real life are usually more private, more easily resolved and one is able to distance themselves from them while still socialising with others in “real life”. Online attacks can be worse as they are so public, they are difficult to resolve as it becomes mob mentality and there are too many people to cope with and they are impossible to disconnect from without distancing yourself from your whole social network.

What long term effects can happen to someone who was shamed online?

IT can lead to lower self-esteem, increased anxiety, increased likelihood of depression, isolation and self loathing. Shame is not a constructive human emotion. It is the feeling of guilt pushed to its extreme. Guilt is a constructive human emotion that enables us to be active in seeking change or self-improvement but shame is a fairly immobilizing emotion that makes us passive and unresponsive. We become paralyzed by the pain of this experience.

Thank you so much for these insights! This was so inspiring!


Author Jodie Jackson On How We Can Make Social Media And The Internet A Kinder And More Tolerant… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Victoria Staten of Famolare: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become…

Victoria Staten of Famolare: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become More Sustainable

I’m a leader and a doer with high expectations for myself and others. Sometimes, at the start of a project, my energy and drive can be offsetting, but over time as people jump on board, they realize that they are on a train going to a good place.

As part of our series about how companies are becoming more sustainable, we had the pleasure of interviewing Victoria Staten.

A fashion industry veteran, the former Group Vice President of Kenneth Cole started her company to bring the iconic Seventies fashion brand, Famolare, back to life. She’s always had a passion for popular lifestyle elements rooted in the ‘70’s, namely ecology, health food, civil rights, female empowerment, and of course fashion rooted in rock-n-roll and freedom of expression. She’s the kind of woman who drives her Thunderbird with the top down.

https://medium.com/media/285040b35c5c186e9e7686d8b134669e/href

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

After many years at the helm of some big fashion houses and businesses, I wanted to execute my vision of a different kind of fashion company with a unique reverse engineered business model focused on how things should work in the future rather than how we’ve always done things in the past. I’ve always loved Famolare and the special DNA focused on sustainability and female empowerment.

What is the mission of your company? What problems are you aiming to solve?

Our mission is to build products and operate our business as sustainably as possible, to provide products that inspire women to make waves in their community and to spread good vibes in everything we do.

Many, if not most, stylish “non-sneaker” shoes are uncomfortable. Our authentic seventies styled shoes also are a healthy aid to human movement. Feet weren’t designed to walk on city streets. Our soles serve as a mediator between feet and pavement. As we walk different parts of our feet absorb shock and move us forward. Our shoes naturalize that movement. The first wave absorbs shock to the heel and ankle, the second wave absorbs shock to the arch, the third wave rolls you forward and the fourth pushes you off. Walking on Famolare waves is better for our bodies, and therefore better for our mindset.

Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?

We’re focused on three areas; waste reduction, low-carbon footprint, and cradle to cradle materials and production.

In our unique business model, we design uppers that fit on one of our four soles, and use the same leathers and buckles across the entire collection. We store these components at the factory and when they are about to be used up, we buy more and keep the cycle moving. This model reduces a lot of waste compared to typical footwear production.

We purchase our components from makers located within a few miles in the same city as our two factories, and the finished product is only trucked about 900 miles to our warehouse, located in the center of the country. These efforts keep our carbon footprint to a bare minimum for footwear production and sales through our website www.famolare.com.

Virtually all of our products are either made from recycled materials (packaging, padding), can be recycled, (sole, buckles, packaging) or are biodegradable (vegetable tanned leather, insoles) and many consider Famolares as prime upcycle candidates due to the high-quality materials and craftsmanship, not to mention timeless heritage design that has inspired women for decades to pass on their shoes as heirlooms to their daughters.

How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?

Reducing waste, saves the environment and increases the bottom line.

Fashion trends no longer change drastically season to season, so there is no need to ditch the old and in with new.

Buying more than you need just to meet factory MOQ’s creates enormous waste. We produce in factories with MOQ’s that work for our business, so we only need to buy what we know we can sell within our planned time frame. Every extra item that a business purchases beyond that will likely be sold at reduced prices, which is a significant drain on profit margins. Therefore, a business will make MORE money from their purchasing and production strategies (focusing on reducing waste and selling at full retail) than going the typical route.

If a company sold 1000 units for future delivery and based on a like item from the season before, they think they will sell 250 more units during the selling season. Therefore, their total need for the planned sales timeline is 1250 units. The total cost at $15 per unit is $18,750 and the selling price $30 per unit for a planned sales of $37,500, for a profit of $18,750.

However, if the factory has MOQ’s of 2000 units, this purchase example will result in a purchase cost of $30,000 and 750 unsold units/net position. Let’s assume that 1250 units will be sold at full price as planned, generating $37,500 in full price sales. We can also assume that of the remaining 750 units, 10% will be sold at 30% off (75 units sold for $21 per unit, totaling $1,500) another 25% will be sold at 50% off (188 units sold for $15 per unit, totaling $2,820) and the balance 487 units will be sold at 75% off/$7.50 per unit, totaling $3,653. Therefore, in the second scenario, the total sales generated off the $30,000 purchase order would be $37,500 + $1,500 + $2,820 + $3,653 = $45,473, the profit only $15,473, not to mention the money spent on the higher purchase order being out of commission depleting your cash flow.

Waste chews at the bottom line like rust on a classic car. If you want your business to run forever, eliminate waste.

The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion, what is something parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement?

Parents can teach their children to care about the environment through leading by example and by creating traditions that they will remember once they become adults.

My father taught me to “leave the world better than we found it” and he led by example nearly everywhere we went, whether it was grocery store parking lot where he’d pick up the trash blown by the wind, or when he made us clean up the woods around us after a weekend camping. I passed on that same value and philosophy to my daughters and started a tradition. We were one of the few families who showed up each year for “clean the roads” trash pick-up day. I also got my kids involved from time to time picking up trash on public beaches, lakes, and streets outside of our neighborhood, and even recently in neighborhoods across the city of Chicago. I believe that trash is a sign of lack of self-respect that manifests into lack of respect for others (crime) and the environment. When neighborhoods are clean, nature has room to take hold, people feel better about themselves, where they live, and treat others with respect. Cleaning up our neighborhoods, especially in blighted areas, is the first step toward a systemic shift to climate caring citizens, an appreciation of nature, and a deeper understanding of how we relate to our entire planet.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started”?

  1. How long the runway would be without V.C. funding.
  2. How important it is to have a partner with opposite skill sets committed to the business.
  3. How everything with the startup will take longer than you are accustomed to when you had the power of a big company and team to aid in the execution.
  4. The importance of prioritizing different marketing strategies because you can’t do everything well at once.
  5. Don’t count on suppliers who aren’t emotionally and financially invested in moving forward toward building a bigger business.

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

Glen and Simran. Glen signed up to be my partner on Zerotie, another footwear innovation, and Famolare the first day I met him. I had just started the business a few months prior, and he agreed to fund the business for the first year. That funding enabled us to build the foundation we needed to develop and launch the new products and create the initial marketing assets. He continues to be a great sounding board, partner, and dear friend.

Simran Kathruia jumped in running Iconic Fashion Brands, the business responsible for the website www.famolare.com and our entire direct-to-consumer approach. Her knowledge, strategies, and effort has made a tremendous difference. She is a beautiful soul and in addition to a perfect marketing partner, I found a best friend.

You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I touched on that earlier and it centers on ensuring we sustain Mother Earth as we know it today. I believe that when people feel more connected to the earth, animals, and nature, they are better citizens, kinder to those around them, and have more self-respect. Respect for others begins with self-respect. I’ve learned through a couple of studies that high crime areas usually are mostly void of nature. My movement would be to clean up the trash in blighted areas, with help from members of the community, (I’ve done some of this already) and then convince politicians to create incentives and put pressure on owners of empty land to be responsible for cleaning up their land and doing something productive with their vacant properties. Put them on a timeline and give them a deadline, and if they don’t make it, then the land takes on a different status. It could be “leased” to a non-profit for use as a public garden, tree growers and sellers could donate trees for tax incentives or free advertising. With my business acumen skills combined with a strong desire to always find the win-win, I know that me and my friend Shamica, who lives in the neighborhood we need to douse with Mother Earth’s love and natural elements, could dramatically improve the community, reduce crime, raise standards of behavior, feed the impoverished with their self-grown food, brighten the community and help people to become more connected to those around them and our planet.

What are some of your favorite life lesson quotes?

“Where there is a will, there is a way.”

“Do it right the first time, or don’t do it all.”

“We are only limited by our capacity to see

what no one else thinks exist,

and our personal beliefs that guide our actions”

“My dream is that

In my lifetime

Most leaders will be women,

Peace will prevail across the world,

Climate change will be healthy,

Inclusion will be normal,

Equality will be expected,

And love will reign supreme.

Instead of marching for a cause,

We will all be dancing

In our Famolares”

Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?

I’m a leader and a doer with high expectations for myself and others. Sometimes, at the start of a project, my energy and drive can be offsetting, but over time as people jump on board, they realize that they are on a train going to a good place.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

Readers can continue following our work online by visiting our website www.famolare.com or by following Famolare on social media.

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


Victoria Staten of Famolare: Five Strategies Our Company Is Using To Tackle Climate Change & Become… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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