Legacy Features: CEOs Making A Difference
The evolution of businesses and leadership have been characterized by dramatic changes involving shifts in business methodology. Key to the development of leadership in businesses is the evolution of industry; from the industrial revolution to science-based companies to the digital business operations. Throughout this journey, what has played out is the role of the business leaders in ensuring a successful transition of company and leadership strategies. In any industry, business leaders must demonstrate their commitment to the inclusion, diversity, and successes of their respective firms. However, not all companies’ (including small and medium enterprises) CEOs cultivate the culture of business excellence. Therefore, it is essential to appreciate and present to the world some of the great CEOs who have made a difference in their respective companies. To find out how and why, we interviewed four CEOs who have started their companies and or ran companies, earning for themselves a reputation of business prowess and excellence. The choice of the three companies we selected was considered to represent a range of industries and highlight different paths to success. Therefore, providing critical lessons on how to create our own unique path to success as business leaders. The interviews also focus on how these CEOs execute their strategic business goals and the reception of their leadership skills amongst their employees and clients. The role of personal experience in business start-ups: The case of Martijn Atell (CEO/Founder of VoteBash)
Martijn has an admirable ability and skills as a free-thinking adventurer, an Amazon jungle survivor, and a firm believer in diversity and resilience. He has Computer Science and Electrical Engineering Degrees with honors from Rotterdam University, with experience in software technology and global business, a career that spans over 13 years, reflecting a diverse experience base. As the CEO and founder, Martijn started an emerging global digital media marketing research platform, which offers a new space of engagement, providing unique and excellent real-time feedback for brands, organizations, and businesses. VoteBash, Inc., a privately held company located in Wilmington, Delaware-USA, was founded in 2011 with the mission of providing social voting service on the internet. The company is a free social voting site that rallies for support or retaining an audience base. VoteBash brings a new dynamic into voting, where it makes the voting process interesting by rewarding the consumer for their vote. Thus, through this company, Martijn found a way that Fortune 500 companies were connected directly to the consumers, helping them save hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars by bypassing the focus groups and turning to consumer voting. The greatest achievement of Martijn and the VoteBash family on the global stage was in 2017, where the CEO was ranked number 29 in the 2017 Entrepreneur Magazine's 360, as well as winning a spot in the Red Herring Top 100 Global Award, Dublin Tech Summit 2017’s STARTUP100 Program among other top global awards. Martijn was born in Suriname (South America) but grew up in the Netherlands. Life in Holland was good, where he enjoyed the neighborhood and culture together with his parents and two older sisters. At 18 years old, he had no clear goal in mind for what he would become or do in life. That year, his parents took him back to Suriname, to help him appreciate the opportunities he had that others didn't. His parents dropped him off in the jungle after providing him with life skill training, and he survived! Of course, they were watching over him the whole time, but he didn't find that out until later. In the jungle He learned three crucial lessons which changed his life forever: “You need to focus in life - if you don't focus in the jungle, you will not survive. Adaptation (The Power to Pivot) - If you are in an overwhelming environment, you can't change it, you need to adapt. You should never give up-Giving up is easy, but a challenge should be accepted. NO matter how hard it gets don't give up. If you give up in the Amazon Jungle, you die. So that mentality is important to survival.” Martijn Atell, CEO/Founder of VoteBash. At this point, it is essential to appreciate the role of personal experience towards venturing into a successful business. The lessons that Martijn learned helped him to produce concrete work, where he did everything with conviction, becoming an electrical engineer and computer scientist. Also, Martijn appreciated the fact that everyone is limitless in life and if there is an opportunity to act and the skills to survive, then nothing can stop anyone from achieving their dreams. In his words; “You can always move forward; you will arrive sooner or later. A step is a closer step to the destination. But if I stop moving, I will never arrive.” Martijn Atell, CEO/Founder of VoteBash. At 21 years old, Martijn wanted to work in Silicon Valley. After writing 100 letters, only two companies responded. He was rewarded for being relentless with his goal and moved to Silicon Valley as an intern for a start-up. The experience he got from working for a start-up company exposed him to an international sensation. Upon completion of the internship and graduation from school, he moved to Germany to study for his Master’s Thesis with the German automaker BMW, where he designed several systems. This led to him seizing a job with the company at one of their US plants, where he worked till 2008. While working for BMW, he gathered an idea on how he could help companies obtained feedback from customers, as a way of ensuring that a company progresses while giving people a chance to voice their opinions. This was the beginning of the journey towards the actualization of the VoteBash vision. He left a well-paying job, company car and retirement benefits to pursue his dream. He had to in a sense put himself back in the jungle. He started by designing systems and eventually launching VoteBash, Inc. in 2014. Even though Martijn has run into various difficulties, he has kept moving forward. VoteBash presently has over a thousand brands as clients and works in 30 countries. It’s indeed a lesson learned on how to start a successful business. So, never give up too early, have the mindset of a survivor and push forward against insurmountable odds. Networking as a culture: The story of Marvin Epstein (Founder and President of I.A.T Capital/Co-founder and Executive Vice President of Karma International)
Marvin is an accomplished serial entrepreneur, with over 20 years experience in business development and finance, as well as investment banking, sales, marketing, and management. He has a BS degree in Business Administration, majoring in Marketing and Advertising from California State University and Long Beach State University. He served in various companies of repute at different capacities, including Vice President of Business Development at XL Video, Member of Board of Advisors at Hutch Media, LLC and Celebvidy LLC, Founder and President of a boutique event marketing company, I.A.T. Enterprises and Senior Vice President of M.A.G. Capital. He currently leverages his talents and skills in various activities benefiting several non-profit children organizations. With his experience as a coordinator of several disciplines of operation, he has contributed immensely to securing strategic partners, mentors, donors, and valued media resources to help organizations grow. He is rightly regarded as a true modern-day philanthropist, committed to providing the young generation with the opportunity to succeed in entrepreneurship regardless of difficulties. As a founder and leader of various successful companies in the world, what lessons can young entrepreneurs learn from Marvin? We conducted an interview with this model leader to try appreciating how his life and entrepreneurial success have shaped his success as a founder of companies and a leader. His success stories began in his late 20’s, having worked with different organizations such as Coca-Cola for a product tour. The experience he got from working with Coca Cola’s promotion team helped built his marketing prowess. While working with the promotional team, He took this opportunity to contact the Vice President of Marketing, gave him some notes, and eventually had an opportunity to become an independent contractor to promote their products. He first had to think of a name for his new “company.” Having worked for various companies in marketing, he saw this as his time to prove to others what he could do. Not surprisingly, he selected the name; “It's About Time! (IAT) ”. He put the company together in a few days and secured the contract. He gathered together a team very quickly and eventually did the Coca-Cola Olympic Torch Relay for the Olympics. Founding a company and ensuring that it runs and becomes successful are the sole responsibilities of the founder and the management team (Merson, 2011; Yaverbaum & Bly, 2016). It, therefore, means that Marvin had to excel at his new start-up and make it a giant global business through effective leadership and management skills. Inasmuch as Marvin succeeded in his new venture, he says that he experienced various obstacles in his journey. It was difficult to find a team and dedicate enough to help the company excel. He firmly believes in working as a team.
“No matter who they are and how much they know, any information they give you is going to be valuable.” (Marvin Epstein: Founder and President of I.A.T Capital) The culture of working together, belief in the team and hearing from the employees, serves a great deal in excelling in the business (Katzenbach & Smith, 2015). Carrying along this vital lesson, Marvin managed to run IAT successfully. In 2005 he co-founded Karma together with Eric Stotz and Dylan Marer Karma is “an exclusive, private membership organization dedicated to connecting exceptional & inspirational individuals both socially & professionally” (https://www.karmainternational.com/aboutkarma/). The organization deals in the development of many high-profile themed events and member experiences as well as several charities, hospitality, and media relationships, empowering its members to forge lasting friendships and bonds while sharing business and enhancing philanthropic causes. The creation of Karma was based mainly on finding business partners. The formation of Karma provides valuable insight into how young entrepreneurs can engage in business start-ups through finding the right partners. First, Marvin appreciated the act of finding and building a great network.
“I created a people inventory. Every 30 days I take a look at who are the new people that have come into my life. Are they kind, wise, and are they necessary? Reduce the network and increase the frequency. Now you have to invest in this relationship. You have to schedule, plan, organize and commit to it.” Marvin Epstein, Co-founder and Executive Vice President of Karma International In everything he does, he carries along his colleagues. In motivational speeches that he often gives at various institutions, on the topic he crafted “HIP”, Humility, Integrity and Passion, he engages his peers, especially the Karma members to join him including one of his most memorable speaking engagements at Harvard University In any company, teamwork environment promotes the most important atmosphere that allows friendship and loyalty to thrive (Ulrich et al., 2010). The close-knit relationships motivate the team, encouraging cooperation and support for one another. Second, Marvin appreciates learning from self. He says that it is extremely important that we learn from ourselves, where we should not be defined by the past. “Good, bad or otherwise, you've learned something. Take all of the experiences.” Marvin Epstein. Third, we should all start with a WHY. Building a company begins with knowing the foundation to build on. The more you try things out, the more you enjoy those things and the more productive you will become. Overall, Marvin says that building a business starts with investing in the people and not the product. “Figuring out, there something you can do together in business. Spend 4 or 5 hours talking about life and figure each other out.” Marvin Epstein. Inclusion That Make the Difference: Deb Fortin and John Gregory Vincent, Best Selling Authors of Diversity and Inclusion-The Submarine Way
Deb Fortin and John Gregory Vincent started writing articles in 2014 and 2016 respectively. The motivation behind their writings was personal convictions, particularly upon realizing how people were victimized, bullied or harassed within their various organizations. They are diversity and inclusion experts with a #1 ranking book published and sold on the platform of one of the leading booksellers in the world, Amazon. They speak at conferences and provide company training on inclusion and diversity, through their trademarked Submarine Way philosophy. According to John, the statistics in the US shows that 96% of the CEOs still don't incorporate the strategy of inclusion, which at the end of the day negatively impacts the bottom line of a company. Both John and Deb, therefore, focus on training and advocating for the CEOs to turn inclusion into an organizational strategy. The business value behind inclusion is real, correlating with measured increased work output and productivity. Having embraced the power of engagement, diversity, and inclusion in running their business, Deb Fortin and John Gregory Vincent have both succeeded in modeling effective leadership and training effective leaders. These best selling authors acknowledge that inclusion is not only the right thing to do, but it is also a strategy for business success. Their methodology is both unique and practical, aiding business leaders with the skills to utilize and motivate employees to performer at top capacity. Deb has succeeded in managing people and leading diversity teams in the world of business for over 25 years. Throughout her career, she has come to understand that inclusion issues lead to human performance issues which negatively impact a company's bottom line. Also, John has over 20 years experience in the Navy, retiring as a Command Master Chief. During his time in the service, he saw firsthand how inclusion contributed to peace and order on the submarines he worked on. Currently, Deb and John are building a curriculum which will involve training managers around the world to embrace inclusion and engagement as a strategy to help their organizations grow.
Through Life's Fires a Business Fortune Emerges
Janet Jackson, Ariana Grande, and James Franco are among a growing number of stars that have come out about their mental health issues. From depression to anxiety these stars are a small percentage of the 450 million people throughout the world that suffer from mental illness (World Health Organization, 2017).
Retired fireman and actor, Irvin N. Lewis became CEO of Star Care Cali; Los Angeles in 2017 after a chance meeting with Star Care founder, Dr. Denyse Ray.
Star Care was founded in North Carolina in 2004 to serve as the premier provider of holistic emotional wellness services to actors, athletes, and other high profile individuals. Irvin's meeting with Dr. Ray led to a mental health diagnosis that was a direct result of his 31 years of service as a lifesaver and skilled fireman for the Baltimore County Fire Department. After successfully treating Mr. Lewis’s stress induced prostate issues and identifying the need to create a west coast facility for the high population of actors and entertainers suffering from mental health issues, Irvin was tapped to lead the launch of Star Care:Los Angeles in February 2017.
“We believe to be healthy as a whole; mental wellness must play a role.” Irvin N. Lewis
Various lessons can be learned in the formation of Star Care:Los Angeles and the role that Irvin plays as the CEO of this great organization. Through the approach of implementing his personal experience and unique style of leadership, the CEO has managed to enhance the fortunes of Star Care, where they are building a new facility in California. The story of his perseverance is a reminder that personal life challenges, such as a mental health diagnosis, can be translated into a business fortune.
Every successful company has an extraordinary journey with excellent leaders behind it. Through engagement (Deb Fortin and John Gregory Vincent- leadership strategy), adopting networking as a culture (Marvin Epstein- success story), putting into practice your personal life experience in a business start-up and management style ( Martijn Atell) or transforming a medical condition into a career and business fortune (Dr Irvin N. Lewis), these CEOs created business methodologies that have propelled their success in their respective markets. These top leaders provide a fascinating and educative model that entrepreneurs around the world would do well to imitate.
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World Health Organization. (2017). Depression and other common mental disorders: global health estimates. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/254610/WHOMSD?sequence=1
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