Growing with Purpose Podcast
On the Growing with Purpose Podcast, Small Giants Community Co-Founder, Paul Spiegelman, goes behind the scenes with purpose-driven business leaders to learn about what shaped them in business and in life.
On the Growing with Purpose Podcast, Small Giants Community Co-Founder, Paul Spiegelman, goes behind the scenes with purpose-driven business leaders to learn about what shaped them in business and in life.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Carl Erickson, the recently retired Executive Chairman of Atomic Object, a design and development software consultancy he co-founded in 2001.
Previously a tenured professor at Grand Valley State University, he enjoyed teaching, but didn’t so much appreciate the affinity in academia for sticking to the status quo. So, when a former student asked him to help manage a team for a startup, Carl took a sabbatical, and eventually resigned, to pursue the new opportunity. The innovation happening in such a new industry was thrilling. When that startup didn’t make it, Carl took the ashes of that business and created Atomic Object.
Carl takes pride in having formed a team of longstanding Atoms who have helped him to shape the company from the early years into what it is today (their first intern, Mike Marsiglia, is now a co-CEO of the company). And part of that is due to Carl’s self regard, combined with his lack of business training – unburdened, he simply created a company that he wanted to work at.
Tune in for this episode as Carl and Paul discuss Atomic’s handcrafted employee ownership structure, how moving states as a child shaped Carl’s personality, and the humbling lessons he’s learned on the company’s aspirational journey to becoming 100 years old.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Lauren Adams, the Director of Operations at the Center for Financial Planning, a privately held wealth management firm.
Lauren has always had a strong work ethic that combines with a passion for working towards a greater good. Even as she pursued education, and then a career, in financials, she wasn’t interested in the large public firms and the Wall Street culture. Rather, she focused on finding a work environment that fit her mission of working towards a greater purpose. And in the two companies she’s worked for since graduating – Morningstar and the Center for Financial Planning – she’s found just that.
Tune in for this episode as Lauren and Paul discuss why Lauren shifted from being a stock analyst to a personal financial planner, how the Center for Financial Planning is unique in its industry, and what helped Lauren to get through the early days of the pandemic – all while she was creating new company policies, going through the Small Giants Leadership Academy, and raising a newborn.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Taylor Vanden Hoek, a delivery lead at Atomic Object, a custom software consultancy. Along with one of her colleagues, Taylor is currently working towards opening and managing Atomic Object’s fourth office, which will be located in Raleigh, NC.
From a young age, Taylor had a love for art, largely thanks to her dad’s own passion for creativity. But it wasn’t until her senior year in high school, when she enrolled in a graphic design program at a tech center, when she really hit her stride. After studying at the Art Institute of Chicago, Taylor went on to have design jobs at various companies with different angles on the role of designer. Through this diverse experience, she was able to learn that she loved the parts of design that prioritized the end user and strove to problem solve with them in mind (also known as human-centered design). With this self-awareness in mind, she found a place where she could thrive and pursue her purpose in Atomic Object.
“Being able to know myself really well is something that has helped me figure out the systems I need to build for myself in order to be successful.”
Tune in for this episode as Taylor and Paul discuss how Taylor came to lead the charge on Atomic Object’s fourth office opening, her passion for gardening (and how it relates to her leadership journey), and finding her own leadership style in the tech community.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Devyn Bachman, Vice President of Research at John Burns Real Estate Consulting.
Devyn grew up surrounded by the entrepreneurial spirit. While her parents ran a 20-seat hair salon in Colorado, Devyn grew to love the idea of creating something on one’s own, but also to respect the relentless hard work that it takes to make a business a success.
Devyn was the first in her family to attend college, and, for the majority of her academic career, was also a dancer on the Denver Nuggets dance team. This terrific opportunity allowed to travel the world, all while pursuing her passion for dance.
And she didn’t stop traveling after that. When Devyn’s now-husband proposed to her during their senior year of college, he was also just about to begin his career in the NHL. This meant moving houses, cities, and even states, at an alarming rate for over a decade.
“You wouldn’t believe the people I have met along the way. It’s absolutely been a thrilling adventure at every turn.”
Now, Devyn has been a part of the JBREC team for seven years, and she credits the company’s founder, John Burns, with his innovative approach to remote work – or rather, what they call connected work – in part for her ability to remain at one company and develop her leadership skills over those years.
Tune in for this episode as Devyn and Paul discuss her experience on student council in high school, the ups and downs of constantly being on the move, and the merits of working at a company that values leadership in a variety of ways.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Lauren Eckhardt, founder and CEO of Burning Soul Collective.
Lauren grew up in rural Missouri with plenty of space to let her imagination roam. She took a detour from her creativity in college, and began her career in HR roles. And while she enjoyed certain aspects of Human Resources, like identifying and celebrating individual’s strengths, her priorities shifted after the birth of her first child, and she knew she wanted to do something different.
After a scary bout of covid in the early days of the pandemic, Lauren was forced to look at her life path and where she wanted to take it into the future. By this point, she had already published her own books and done some ghost writing, and people would often ask her to help them with their own stories. So, in the wake of a pandemic, Lauren decided to take her skills and passions, and turn them into a business aimed at helping people write their own life stories.
Tune in as Lauren and Paul discuss the merits of being an introvert who’s good at listening, tips on how someone can begin writing their story, and Lauren’s ongoing journey to discover her identity as a leader.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Aaron Montgomery, the CEO of Montgomery Development Group, Co-Founder of CarLotz and author of Suspend Your Disbelief: Short Stories That Are Long On Wisdom.
Aaron grew up in Detroit, raised by his mother, as well as her large family. From them, he learned the value of education and stories, and even got a lifelong, prophecy-filling nickname: Mr. President.
After going to a private high school thanks to a scholarship, and eventually Harvard Business School, Aaron recognizes that he’s benefited from experiences and environments that aren’t available to everybody. But he’s also seized opportunities when they’re available. In high school, he asked a friend’s dad if he could work at the man’s car dealership during his summer holidays. Through this, Aaron was able to learn the ins and outs of car sales, which eventually led to him co-founding CarLotz. He and his co-founders strove to make CarLotz a different kind of dealership, for customers and employees alike. Those changes quickly proved to be beneficial for business; but more than the numbers, Aaron is proud of the culture they created.
“The real impact to me was felt when you saw the difference.”
Now, Aaron’s written a book, structured in stories – an homage to his grandpa – and hopes to reach young people through it so that they can learn from his experiences. He’s also working on himself, practicing patience, and focusing on the journey rather than the destination.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Hai Nguyen, Co-Founder and Head of Product at Text-Em-All, an automated call and text company. For a man with such a calm, even presence, Hai’s life began with a lot of turbulence. When he was very young, and with the fall of Saigon, he and his family fled Vietnam. It was a dangerous journey to get to America, and one that took longer than anticipated, but fortunately, he and his family made it safely to Pennsylvania. While he only remembers the journey through the stories told by his older relatives, Hai does believe that the experience was a formative one. “Now, as I’m older and hopefully wiser, I look back and it does give me a lot of strength. When I’m going through something tough, I think back at what my parents went through and it doesn’t seem to measure in comparison.” Listen to this episode to discover how Hai and his opposites-attract business partner have worked together to create a meaningful culture at Text-Em-All. Plus, get an insight into Hai’s enthusiasm for being an amateur and how being humbled by learning something new helps to open up his worldview.
On this episode of the Growing with Purpose podcast, host Paul Spiegelman speaks with Massimo Backus, Chief Coaching Officer of Massimo Backus Leadership.
Massimo’s path to leadership was not a straightforward one, and was heavily influenced by his struggles with dyslexia growing up. As he says, “that challenge both motivated me and put a chip on my shoulder.”
Despite having a supportive family, he felt “othered” in school, and so, understandably, his relationship with academia was fraught with resistance. After entering and then dropping out of college, he picked up several jobs which led him to his curiosity in psychology and how teams organize themselves. He then went on to get an undergraduate degree in Psychology, and a master’s degree in Organizational Behavior Psychology. This eventually led to his passion for working with leaders to fulfill their potential, and practice self compassion.
Listen to this episode to discover the three components of self compassion Massimo lives by, and how, when his own leadership was viewed negatively, he took the time to look internally at how he could improve himself for his own benefit, and that of his team.
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.
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 (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). 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 where 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.
Listen as Eric discusses with Paul how WEBIT makes technology with a human-centered mission, the importance of both mental and physical health for being the best leader possible, and being conscious of making both ‘yes’ and ‘no’ decisions.
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 on 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.