Growing with Purpose

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April 24, 2022  

Valerie Webster: Learning Through the Ups and Downs

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Valerie Webster, President of HealthWorks, a Cincinnati based health and well-being company. 

 

When Valerie first stepped into the role of president in a new company, she took it upon herself to meet with every employee for a one-to-one conversation within the first 30 days. For her, trust is one of the most important aspects of being a good leader and building a successful team.

 

Even though Valerie is still fairly new to her current position, she’s had a long road of ups and downs that have led her to be a formidable and compassionate leader. From being one of the youngest of seven siblings, to deciding early on that she did not want to fit into the mold of working in the automotive industry like most in her Metro-Detroit community, Valerie knew since high school that she wanted to carve out a career that gave her purpose.

 

Fast forward to now, and she’s doing just that. Valerie talks to Paul about the eight dimensions of wellness that HealthWorks both embodies and promotes, as well as the challenges she faces, being the leader of a growing organization. But her biggest message of all is that nobody knows what lies ahead, and to keep turning every corner, because you never know what you’ll learn along the way. 

March 20, 2022  

Eric Rieger: Unpacking the Past

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks to Eric Rieger, founder and CEO of WEBIT Services, a people-focused IT strategy, service, and support company based in Naperville, IL. 

 

After working for other software companies with poor culture, Eric decided to take matters into his own hands and start his own company. 25 years later, WEBIT Services is a Better Business Bureau accredited company, and has made it onto the Inc. Best Workplaces list.

 

“There’s harmony and vision and unity with the leadership team, which then translates down to the rest of the company,” says Eric. “The gears are really starting to align, and we’re gaining traction because of it.”

 

Eric moved his company to open book management in 2016, and as of last year, transformed WEBIT into an ESOP. He wanted to make sure that he had an exit strategy in place that would benefit the people who have made his company a success over the years. 

 

“My purpose for starting the company was to help make lives better, not enrich my own pockets.” 

With the help of mentors, peer groups, and being involved in therapy, Eric has come to recognize the impact his parents have had on both his personal and professional life, both good and bad. His father was a huge positive influence in his early life. As a truck driver (that’s ‘transportation engineer’ to you) with very little education, Eric’s father broke down stereotypes and took great pride in the role his job had in maintaining the country’s economy. And he did this all while upholding his morals and being generous with those around him. Eric’s mother, on the other hand, was a narcissist who expected perfection, and it took Eric some time to realize that he was perpetuating that onto his colleagues and employees, and so had to make a change to end the cycle. 

 

Eric’s life has been full of instances when he’s had the courage to take action. From cutting ties with his mother, to taking control of his health after an unwelcome diagnosis, to forming the ESOP, Eric has learned the importance of taking care of oneself in order to take care of others. 

 

In this episode, listen as Eric discusses with Paul how WEBIT makes technology that works for people (not the other way around), the importance of both mental and physical health to be the best leader possible, and being conscious of making both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions.

February 20, 2022  

Andy Fowler: The Accidental Entrepreneur

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Andy Fowler, CEO of Nutshell, an all-in-one CRM and email marketing platform based in Ann Arbor, MI.  

“My trajectory in life was never to start a business, or even to lead a business,” says Andy. “I was always motivated by my own curiosity and making things, that’s what always made me tick.”

This curiosity for learning was instilled in Andy at an early age. He was homeschooled by his mother all the way through high school, which gave him the flexibility to really dive into topics that he was most curious about. One of these was computers, which led him to intern, and later work at a local dialup internet company. It was there that he learned the fundamentals of computers and software, and where he met three friends who ended up being his co-founders in eventually creating Nutshell.

One of these friends, Guy Suter, was CEO until other business ventures took more of his time. They then brought in a CEO from the outside, and just a couple of years ago, Andy stepped into the role. He claims that even ten years at the company didn’t fully prepare him for the responsibilities, but that his passion for continued learning and for helping people through his problem-solving are what drive him on his leadership journey.

“The reason I ended up starting companies and being a part of them in early stages was because of what I like doing, and that was solving problems, and often for businesses.”

Andy had the impeccable timing of becoming CEO just a couple months before the start of the pandemic, which has brought about its own challenges and questions, such as the concept of remote work after having developed a strong office culture over the past decade. But Andy said it’s also allowed them the space to hunker down and develop new products, and start redeveloping their company vision. Some things that Andy will always keep at the core of his leadership and of Nutshell, is the integrity of their products, and developing people with potential. After all, the owner of the dialup internet company back in his hometown took a chance of Andy based solely on potential. 

“When you find someone who is interested in what you’re doing, and you treat them well, and they stick around because they’re excited about the mission and what’s happening, you can go far.”

In this episode, listen as Andy tells Paul about his early days of getting into the world of CRM when it was just beginning, how his lifelong curiosity led to him being an accidental entrepreneur, and why everything at Nutshell starts with a well-designed product. 

January 30, 2022  

Kate McCrea: The Sweet Side of Leadership

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Kate McCrea, CEO and “Chief Caramel Visionary” of McCrea’s, a quality candy confectioner. Kate is also a longstanding member of the Small Giants Community. 

At a glance, Kate’s road may be a very windy one. From being an avid dancer as a child, to training as a scientist and living in places like remote Alaska to conduct fieldwork, to now being at the helm of a rapidly growing candy company, Kate has worn a lot of hats in her life. But to her, these transitions haven’t been huge leaps, but rather, stepping stones.

After Kate’s husband, Jason, a fellow scientist, lost his job in 2008, he started making caramel in his kitchen, working with sugar molecules to stabilize the candy rather than using preservatives. Before long, it turned into a family business.

“It’s easy to look back now, and see we had this itch to step into the business world to be makers,” says Kate. “Once Jason had this amazing formulation… it was not a huge step to taking it to markets.”

In this episode, listen as Kate discusses with Paul how she and her husband successfully run a business together, how their scientist background prepared them to have an innovation mindset in their company, and how recently creating a human-centric vision for McCrea’s has gotten her excited for their future. 

October 27, 2021  

Angela Barbash: Empowerment Through Financial Literacy

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Angela Barbash, CEO of Revalue Investing, a values-based investment advisory firm.  She is also a current participant in the Small Giants Leadership Academy as well as a recipient of our inaugural LIFT scholarship.

For Angela, all roads lead to making an impact. Growing up, she observed how her separated parents both struggled financially to navigate a society that didn’t allow them access to resources or knowledge. This, along with her love for math and the stories from her activist grandmother, Maria Elena Lucas, set Angela on a clear path. She wanted to work in finance, but she wanted to do it differently. She wanted to make the industry accessible for people of all different socioeconomic backgrounds.

After years of traversing the industry to understand how it worked from the inside out, and then more time researching and developing, Angela and her team launched Revalue Investing in 2013. They are a boutique investment firm, with three types of clients: entrepreneurs, multigenerational inheritors, and individuals who have been otherwise excluded from the industry and want to gain financial literacy. No matter how much or how little wealth they are handling, each of Revalue Investing’s clients chose the firm because they are a socioeconomic inclusive business. 

“We’re just one little mark on the map and we try to have the best impact we can.”

In this episode, listen to Angela tell Paul how she and her team prioritize mental health so they can be the best advisors to their clients, what she learned (or didn’t) from working within a traditional firm, and how she believes the sharing of knowledge is one of the most important ways she can make an impact. 

September 27, 2021  

Mel Gravely: Reframing How We Think and Talk About Race

On this episode of the Growing With Purpose podcast, Paul Spiegelman talks with Mel Gravely, majority owner and CEO of TriVersity Construction. He is also the author of nine books, including his most recent, Dear White Friend.

As a self-proclaimed product of Affirmative Action, from an early age Mel understood not only that his presence as a black man in professional settings was met with negative perceptions, but also that the intentionality of inclusion offered him opportunities that the systems in this country would not have naturally led to. After a successful career at IBM, earning his PhD, and starting several other companies, Mel went on to lead TriVersity Construction, which is a consistent member of the Deloitte 100 list of the largest privately owned companies. 

After writing eight business books relating to his PhD in entrepreneurship focused on African Americans, Mel felt compelled to contribute to the social justice movement with his book Dear White Friend (in which he intentionally left out his PhD). Through a series of letters to his white friends, Mel cites extensive research and data to support his own sentiments around race, and how our country’s history and systems have led us to this point in history, but has not prepared us for it. As he says, “If we can’t figure out how to talk about what we’re feeling and experiencing and what we see, how can we hope to solve it?”

In this episode, hear Mel tell Paul his approach to this book and what kind of impact he hopes it can have on future discussions around race. Plus, hear how Mel’s parents helped prepare him to be a successful leader, and what his definition of success is for his company.

Listen to Mel’s story below: 

August 23, 2021  

Conni Reed: From ”Un” to Fun

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Conni Reed, founder and CEO of Consuela. 

Starting with a computer science degree, Conni had a steady career in the corporate tech world. But she was feeling uninspired, unhappy, and, in her own words, “I was pretty much just un.” After a self-proclaimed “early mid-life crisis at 35,” she left her job to start her own business. What began as making one-of-a-kind art in her garage has grown into a multi-million dollar company selling joyously colorful handbags, as well as the mission “make today ridiculously awesome!”.

In this episode, Connie explains how hearing many “no’s” helped her to understand her values even more, the personal importance of working with artisans in Mexico, and the strength that empathy has given her throughout her life. After you listen, head on over to the Consuela website for some accessory eye candy and heartwarming messages. 

July 18, 2021  

Drew Patrick: The Company Is Yours Now

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Drew Patrick, owner and CEO of Skidmore Studio in Detroit, Michigan. In March 2020, Drew also founded Michigan Fields, an online specialty market that delivers the best of Michigan food and beverage directly to Metro Detroit homes.

 
Drew's story is one of passion, resilience, and a feeling that all entrepreneurs can identify with: shit happens. On this episode, Paul sits down with Drew to delve into his winding road into entrepreneurship, which culminated in him becoming the owner of Skidmore Studio under the worst of all possible circumstances: the owner — and Drew's personal friend — Tim Smith passed away suddenly in 2018. Not only that, Tim passed away shortly after Drew told Tim that he planned to leave the company. But the soul of Skidmore — its people and values — kept Drew on board, as he recommitted himself to a company that has been part of the creative fabric of Detroit for decades. 
 
In this episode, listen along as Paul and Drew explore some of the most pivotal moments of Drew's career, from the year when Skidmore lost 70% of its revenue in a matter of 3 weeks, to the change of heart that led to Drew taking the reins of a company he planned to leave. You'll also hear why (and how) Drew started a brand-new company at the height of the pandemic — and it actually succeeded.
June 14, 2021  

Leslie DeMent & Sabrina White: Dodgeball, Friendship, and Shonda Rhimes

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Sabrina White, Head of People & Customer Experience at Text-Em-All, and Leslie DeMent, Managing Director at Tailwind. Sabrina and Leslie are graduates of the Small Giants Leadership Academy who found lifelong friendship in one another and with the other leaders in their class.

 
On this episode, Paul sits down with Sabrina and Leslie to dive into what makes their friendship so special. Sabrina and Leslie were in the same class of the Small Giants Leadership Academy, but they didn't really get to know one another until six months into the program, when they spent time together at the Small Giants Summit, which is included in the Leadership Academy experience. The two hit it off right away, and went on to form a friendship that has only grown since they graduated from the Academy.
 
Today, Sabrina and Leslie rely on one another as friends and as leadership mentors. As Sabrina prepared to become a new mom – and also the first person in her organization to ever become pregnant — Leslie drew on her experience as a working mother to help Sabrina plan for maternity leave and map out a blueprint for her team. And the support is mutual: Leslie loves to remind Sabrina that they're going to be "friends forever" and that she relies on Sabrina as a trusted sounding board for her leadership and personal challenges.
 
In this episode, listen along as Paul, Sabrina, and Leslie have a fun, inspiring conversation about the friendships that emerge from the Small Giants Leadership Academy and the Small Giants Community at large. You'll hear Leslie and Sabrina's reflections on the importance of peer relationships in leadership, and learn why all three of them believe that accountability is a cornerstone of Small Giants leadership.
May 16, 2021  

Torey Carter-Conneen: Our Work Continues

On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman talks with Torey Carter-Conneen, CEO of the The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and a graduate of the Small Giants Leadership Academy, to talk about his leadership journey, his experiences as a Black leader, and his perspective on the important role business can play in our nation's fight for racial justice.

Like all of us, Torey and his colleagues at ASLA were deeply impacted by the murder of George Floyd last summer. "The 8 minutes and 46 seconds murder of George Floyd brought ASLA — and the world, quite frankly — to a full stop and reminded us all that the road to a more just and fair society is long and winding," says Torey. 

For many, a period of deep self-reflection followed. For host Paul Spiegelman, this social justice movement moved him to start a new initiative within the Small Giants Community, the LIFT Scholarship Program (Leaders for Inclusion, Fairness & Transparency). Paul and his family will personally fund enrollment in the Small Giants Leadership Academy for business leaders of color, particularly leaders in underserved communities.
 
As CEO of ASLA, Torey turned his attention to his own organization and the industry to which it belongs, releasing a racial equity plan of action titled “Our Work Continues…” in hopes that the landscape architecture profession and global design community will join them on this important journey.
 
In this episode, Paul and Torey have a frank conversation about the role of race in business, leadership, and life, and they reflect on the unique challenges and opportunities of the moment our nation finds itself in. You'll hear Paul and Torey's perspectives on why people find it so hard to talk about race, and learn why Torey thinks it's less about the conversation and more about listening.
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